Encores! Considering Birdie, Flora, Can-Can and Others for 2004

News   Encores! Considering Birdie, Flora, Can-Can and Others for 2004
City Center's Encores! series of musicals in concert is considering a half dozen possibilities for its 2004 season, including well known works by Cole Porter, Charles Strouse and Lerner and Loewe.

Among the shows which may end up on the three-title spring roster are Bye Bye Birdie, Can-Can, Flora, the Red Menace, Paint Your Wagon, Pardon My English and 70, Girls, 70, confirmed an Encores! spokesperson.

Birdie is arguably the best known of the six. The Strouse and Lee Adams musical about the media frenzy surrounding the departure into the Army of an Elvis-like pop star was a smash in 1960, producing the standards "Kids," "A Lot of Lovin' to Do" and "Put on a Happy Face" and helped make stars out of Chita Rivera, Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde. It has since become a staple of regional and community theatre.

Can-Can, by Cole Porter and Abe Burrows, was an even bigger hit, opening in 1953 and running two years. It was Porter's last big success and, though many critics don't consider it among his best work, the score features the classic tunes "C'est Magnifique," "I Love Paris," "It's All Right With Me" and the title song. The original cast featured Gwen Verdon in her first major role. There was a short-lived Broadway revival in 1980.

The American West-set Paint Your Wagon was one of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's lesser credits, running less than a year over the 1951-52 Broadway season and opening between the solid hit Brigadoon and the phenomenon My Fair Lady. The tale of the California Gold Rush introduced the outdoorsy numbers "I Talk to the Trees" and "They Call the Wind Maria." The book (an original story) is generally thought to be a mess.

Pardon My English, the oldest show under consideration, opened in 1933. Though the George and Ira Gershwin musical lasted for only 46 performances, it produced the songs "My Cousin in Milwaukee" and "Isn't It a Pity?" The book is by Herbert Fields, who replaced Morrie Ryskind out of town. A treasured-by-fans studio recording was produced in the last decade, with John Cullum among performers. The tale is set in Europe and its hero is a man who changes personalities. Among the odder songs in the show are "Fatherland, Mother of the Band," "Freud and Jung and Adler" and "He's Oversexed!" John Kander and Fred Ebb's 1965 Flora, the Red Menace is best known as a Liza Minnelli vehicle which won the actress a Tony Award. The show ran only 87 performances.

Another little known Kander and Ebb effort is 1971's 70, Girls, 70, which played a mere 35 performances (fans know is cast album, which includes "Go Visit Your Grandmother," "Yes," "Coffee in a Cardboard Cop" and "Home"). The story revolved around a crime caper and residents of an old-folks building who did vaudeville numbers.

Encores! had its biggest success with the Kander and Ebb work, Chicago. The revival transferred to Broadway, where it is still running, and renewed interest in a film of the show—a movie which won the 2003 Oscar for Best Picture. The goal of the series, however, is not to spawn commercial productions but to bring light to "great American musicals," particularly those that may not be well known.

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