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Nr 466: Inner City (1971)

13 Mar

Inner City – A street cantata
1971: Broadway, 97 perf.


Music: Helen Miller
Lyrics: Eva Merriam based on her book The Inner City Mother Goose (1969)

Boys and girls come out to play
The moon doth shine as bright as day
Leave your supper and leave your sleep
And join your playfellows on the street
Come with a whoop come with a a call
Up, motherfuckers, against the wall

– The first 6 lines from the book.


This is the musical that rocked Broadway with its distinctly untraditional take on modern urban life. A series of nursery-rhyme parodies highlighting the diminishing quality of life in the center of America’s cities are presented in song. 
As Inner City lacked a proper book, it was dominated, revue-style, by wall-to-wall music. The songs brought to life the contemporary vignettes taking place in locales from a welfare center to an overcrowded urban school.

The subtitle to Inner City, “A Street Cantata,” pretty much describes what the revue that opened was all about – a celebration of urban life as seen through the eyes of its ghetto citizens, but with a twist. Based on Eve Merriam’s The Inner City Mother Goose, it dealt with the classic nursery rhymes repertory, suffused with social protest attitudes that were not in the original, the whole thing set to music by Helen Miller.

The show won 2 awards: Both The Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical and The Drama Desk Award for outstanding performance went to Linda Hopkins.

This is a score that I’ve always liked a lot ever since I found the lovely gate-fold album in a thrift shop in the early eighties. The music doesn’t belong to the kind that is soothing to the ear but rather to the kind that shakes you up because it feels quite hard, angry and ”street” and therefore the perfect match to the rhymes. It’s an angry album but also one filled with hope and dreams. The music is very diverse and just becomes better with every listening. The only track that I really don’t like is the Street Sermon that comes as the next to last track. It’s an spoken word piece that feels very dated and doesn’t become better with repeated listening. Nowadays I always skip that track when I put on the record. But the rest of the score is really great .

It’s unfortunate that the single-LP cast recording trimmed the expansive, eclectic score from over 50 songs to a mere 29, spread over 15 tracks, 6 of them are medleys with a about 3 songs a piece. I wish they’d given us a double-LP instead or perhaps reinstated the lost tracks when they issued the cd – if those tracks were ever recorded.
The score consists of pop music, soul, gospel, R & B, calypso, the tried-and-true showtune and rock.


Inner City contains what is believed to be the first score written solely by women for the Broadway stage.

The show was musically updated in 1982 and got a new title: Street Dreams: The Inner City Musical.

Miller was a Brill Building tunesmith who had composed such hit songs as Gene Pitney’s It Hurts to Be in Love and the Shirelles’ Foolish Little Girl.

Brill Building (also known as Brill Building pop or the Brill Building sound) is a subgenre of pop music that took its name from the Brill Building in New York City, where numerous teams of professional songwriters penned material for girl groups and teen idols during the early 1960s.

The show’s Associate Producer was Harvey Milk, who went on to become the San Francisco political icon who was tragically murdered in 1978.

The song Deep in the Night, got covered by Barbra Streisand on her Songbird album from 1978. The song was also recorded by Etta James, Sarah Vaughan and The Shirelles.

Videos:
If Wishes Were Horses
From a backer’s audition for Inner City
Etta James’ cover of Deep in the Night

The cover of the 1969 book.

Nr 465: Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1978)

6 Mar

Ain’t Misbevavin’
1978: Broadway, 1 604 perfs.
1979: West End
1982: Tv-version
1988: Broadway Revival, 176 perfs.
1995: West End Revival

Book: Murray Horwitz, Richard Maltby, Jr.,
Music & Lyrics: Various composers and lyricists

The musical is a tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of growing creativity, cultural awareness, and ethnic pride, and takes its title from the 1929 Waller song ”Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It was a time when Manhattan nightclubs like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of high society and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out the new beat known as swing.
Five performers present an evening of rowdy, raunchy, and humorous songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller’s view of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.

This is one swinging show. If you don’t start tapping your toes, snapping your fingers and break out in a goofy happy smile while listening to the cast recording you’re in serious trouble, my friend. Because this is an infectious, melodious, well sung, well arranged and overall brilliantly staged masterpiece of a show. Without a doubt one of the best, if not the best revue ever to be presented on Broadway. At least in my opinion.
Now, I must admit that I saw the original London production in 1979 and not the Broadway one, but both André DeShields and Charlayne Woodard from the Broadway show were in it – and it was a brilliant production. I was totally blown away.
Just the way they delivered the songs… They weren’t just singing the words they were telling a story, really telling it and not just singing beautiful notes (although they sang beautifully, all of them) and they were acting the songs. They made every song come to life and it was heaven to me. I hadn’t realized, till then, that you could deliver a song in this way, with so much passion, engaging storytelling and with total audience contact. I was sucked into the world of Fats Waller, his time and his music.
And another first for me was when André sang The Vipers Drag, lightning up a reefer on stage, slithering around, ”getting high” and at one point started to flirt with some girls on the first row and offering them a toke. When they reached for the joint he pulled it away from them with an evil smile and wagged his finger in a ”no, no” sign which had the entire audience screaming with laughter. I had never seen an actor interact with the audience that way before. I loved it. I wanted more of it and I always think of that moment when I’m on stage myself because that’s the kind of contact I want to have with the public too.
I was in my teens when I saw this show and it was one of my first visits to a musical all by myself and that was an adventure in it self.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s East 73rd Street cabaret on February 8, 1978. It became such a smash hit that they decided to develop it into a full-scale production that opened on Broadway in may that same year.
The cast at the Manhattan Theatre Club included  Nell Carter, André DeShields, Ken Page, Armelia McQueen, and Irene Cara. Yep, that’s the same Irene Cara who went on to play ”Coco Hernandez” in the 1980 film Fame and recorded the film’s Academy Award and Golden Globe winning title song ”Fame”. She also sang and co-wrote the song ”Flashdance… What a Feeling” (from the 1983 film Flashdance), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1984. 
On Broadway Irene was replaced with Charlayne Woodard.

There is also a sixth very importend cast member in the production and that is the orchestrator Luther Henderson (1919 – 2003), who’s orchestrations and vocal arrangement are one of the resons why this is such a brilliant and joyful show. They are absolutely brilliant! And he appeared as the on stage pianist in the original production.
Luther served as orchestrator, arranger, and musical director on more than fifty Broadway musicals from Beggar’s Holiday (1946) to Jelly’s Last Jam (1992).

In 1995 there was a national tour of the show starring The Pointer Sisters. Although it never reached Broadway, as originally planned, a recording of highlights from the show was released.

The Broadway show won:
3 Tony Awards: Best musical, Featured Actress in a musical (Nell Carter) and Best Direction of a musical (Richard Maltby, Jr.).
3 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Actor and Actress in a musical (Ken Page and Nell Carter)
2 Theatre World Awards for Nell Carter and Armelia McQueen.
The Tv-version from 1982 won 2 Primetime Emmy Awards for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for Nell Cater and André DeShields.

Reviews:
A joyous celebration. … This really is Fats Waller on Broadway. It is a memorial that breathes. It is a testament to a curious genius – one of the few people you seem to know from the memories of their recorded voice. … simply a Broadway show that you will never forget. And it is really Waller. It really is.
– Clive Barnes, New York Post

What whistles, hoots, throws off sparks and moves at about 180 miles an hour, even though it is continually stopped? Ain’t Misbehavin’.
– Richard Eder, New York Times

To put it as judiciously as possible, Ain’t Misbehavin’ has a first act that will knock your ears off and a second that will come back for the rest of you.
– Walter Kerr, Times

Since this is Broadway, the land of bristling microphones and loudspeakers by the carload, there is a tape deck and a pair of sound consoles at the rear of the theatre that look elaborate and complicated enough to send the show into space. But that’s just what the cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’ does all by itself. Wow!
– Douglas Watt, Daily News

Videos:
At the Tony Awards
Nell Carter singing I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling
Lounging at the Waldorf
2018 Highlights reel
The Complete Tv-version of the show
Fats Waller sings Ain’t Misbehavin’

Nr 464: Oh, Brother!(1981)

27 Jan

Oh, Brother!
Broadway 1981, 3 perf.

Music: Michael Valenti
Lyrics: Donald Driver
Book: Donald Driver based on William Shakespeare’s The Comedy Of Errors (1591) which in turn was based on Plautus (254 B.C. – 182 B.C) play Menaechmi.

Tag line: Musical Comedy breaks out in the Middle East!

OH, BROTHER! takes place during a revolution in an oil rich Middle Eastern country on the Persian Gulf in a quaint resort town where its populace of merchants and revolutionaries mix Eastern tradition with Western consumerism. Into this volatile environment unwittingly stumbles a sweet old American named Lew. He is immediately surrounded by revolutionaries demanding he explain his presence. And the show starts with him telling his story:
Years ago, travelling in the Middle East with his wife, Lillian, she gave birth to identical twin boys. At the same time a dear black woman also gave birth to identical twin boys, but she died. Lew and Lillian adopted the orphaned twin boys to raise as brothers to their own. And for some inexplicable reason they only give each pair of twins one name so we have 2 boys named Habim and 2 named Mousada. When Lillian was well they booked separate flights home, separate flights to lessen the chance an air disaster might orphan any of their infant sons. Each parent took one twin from each set and departed for home. Disaster struck! The plane on which Lillian and her two charges were flying was hijacked to Iraq.
Lew tried to find them, but he never saw Lillian or the two boys again.
When Lew’s two boys grew to manhood, curious about their lost twins they prevailed upon old Lew to let them search the world to find them. Lew consented.
That was two years ago. Now they are lost too and he is searching for them.
And now the real story begins: of course Lew’s sons are in the same town at the same time as their father (unbeknownst to him) and, as faith would have it, it is in this very town their lost twin brothers live…

This leads to a series of mistaken identities where nobody knows which brother is which (they have the same name, remember) and that in turn leads to wrongful beatings, a near-seduction, the arrest of of one brother, false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness, and lots and lots of confusion and hilarious situations and a big chase. But all is solved in the end and they even find their long lost mother Lillian.

Well, that sounds like it could be a lot of fun, right? And it is quite funny for a half hour or so, but the whole ”mistaken identity” thing gets old and very predictable rather fast, and what’s left is a loooong wait for the cast to start the finale.
Thankfully the music is good. Some songs are even very good. And that saves the show from being a total waste. We have an old fashioned opening number that sets your toes tapping along (We Love An Old Story), a beautiful quartet for the two pair of twins (I Too The World), a romantic anthem that sounds like something Rodgers & Hammerstein could have written (That’s Him) and a very funny and definitely not politically correct song (How Do You Want Me).

And there was so much talent on the stage: Judy Kaye (the Phantom of the Opera, Mama Mia), Harry Groener (Cats, Crazy for You) and David James Carroll (Chess, Grand Hotel), just to mention a few of the more well known, who all went on to bigger and better things. It’s the book that let’s this show down. And the staging. And the sets. And the choreography. And the costumes. And… well, everything.

But as I mentioned before the music is worth a listening. Unfortunately you can’t find it on Spotify but maybe on Apple Music? But if you listen to the cast album you’ll get a couple of bonus songs. They probably recorded the album during try outs for two of the songs didn’t make it to the final show, and they’re good songs. A 60s flavored rock song called My World’s Coming’s Unwrapped and a funny ensemble number simply called Revolution. You could hear a little from the latter in the Entr’acte. Now, if you’ve read about this show somewhere else you may find my last statement a bit confusing: how could there be an Entr’acte as the show was in one act. Well, now it is, but during try outs it wasn’t. So therefore there was an entr’acte. But that one is not included on the cast album. Sorry, but the musical geek in me just had to point this out…

This isn’t the first musical version of The Comedy Of Errors, that was The Boys from Syracuse (1938) with book by George Abbott, lyrics by Lorenz Hart and music by Richard Rodgers. That show had the same problems as this one has, as far as the mistaken identity plot goes, but is all in all a better put together show and the music… Oh, the score is a real classic. You can read more about The Boys on this blog, search for entry no: 198.

This wasn’t Donald Drivers first attempt at musicalizing a Shakespeare play, he made Twelfth Night into the rock musical Your Own Thing in 1968. That show was a hit. Read about it at no: 438.

The composer of Oh. Brother! Michael Valenti, was actually one of the performers on Your Own Thing and he was also the understudy for the lead in the original Broadway production of How To Succeed in Business Without Even Trying (1961)

Press:
”Nonstop zaniness with perpetual motion belly dancers, burlesque turns, bad puns, gun toting Arab revolutionary chorus boys and other assorted sight gags, from a sneaker shod camel to a self propelled skateboard.”
– Women’s Wear Daily

… ‘‘Oh, Brother!” may be the only current Broadway musical that is discreetly amplified: we hear music instead of an electronic buzz. Let other producers note that this show’s sound system was designed by Richard Fitzgerald.
The rest of ”Oh, Brother!” – its book, lyrics, direction and ”staging” – is the work of Donald Driver. With the exception of the lyrics, which are adequate, Mr. Driver’s contributions encase the show in cement. It is his idea to reset a Plautus-Shakespeare longlost brothers farce in the contemporary Middle East, and a most misguided idea it is.
What’s funny about the Middle East today? Not much – unless you want to be completely tasteless. … but why bother to set a show in a region where there’s no room, right now, for humor? Thanks to its concept, ‘‘Oh, Brother!” is crippled before it even begins. Because he can’t bite any satirical teeth into his topical setting, Mr. Driver loads the show instead with hoary double-entendre gags and stale parodies of Hollywood’s old Arabian Nights movies. … some of them look and sound as though they were culled from 15-year-old back issues of Mad magazine. 

Mr. Driver doesn’t know how to pace or build his convoluted story of mistaken identities – it’s all conveyed frenetically in the same numbing shriek. The direction is of the same style. Mr. Driver has staged this show at a speed that kills. ”Oh, Brother!” runs one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission, and the actors are running the whole time. Energy is one thing -a relay race is another. Whiplash direction, much of it modeled on ”Three Stooges” comedies, is not a substitute for well-written fun.
– Frank Rich, The New York Times

Videos:

Tv review + We Love An Old Story + How Do You Want Me
A Loud and Funny Song

Nr 463: The First Nudie Musical (1976)

16 Jan

The First Nudie Musical (movie)
Screenplay, Music & Lyrics: Bruce Kimmel

Gotta sing, Gotta dance
While I’m Taking of my pants


The son of an almost famous studio owner is forced to make porno films to keep the bankrupt studio from being made into a shopping center. The films have titels like Teenage Sexmutants and Stewardesses in Cages. But lately these films have started to flop. In an attempt to get back on the high ground he decides to make a new kind of porno, a musical comedy porno. He makes a bet with the debtors who wish to take ownership of the studio, that if they finance the musical and he can’t complete it within two weeks, they can foreclose.
Ribald humor, bawdy songs and plenty of skin abounds in this sophomoric satire that while unabashedly trashy, has developed a bit of a cult following.

I found the films soundtrack album in a record store in Sweden when I was a teenager and I found it deliciously smutty. I loved going around town and with a loud voice sing the songs in the hope that I would shock people. But it was the seventies so people, at least in Sweden, weren’t that easily shocked about sexual stuff. I was a bit disappointed, I mean there I was singing about Dancing Dildos, cunnilingus and Orgasms and people just thought it cute or absolutely normal… Ah, the seventies…
I loved the songs then and I still do. But I didn’t actually get a chance to see the film itself until it came out on DVD in the early noughties. I have just revisited it so it would be fresh in my mind for this blog and I can tell you that it still holds up pretty well. Some of the physical comedy feels a little forced and dated, but the dialogue is still funny and had me laughing out loud quite a few times and some of the show numbers are pure delights. It’s pretty crude and has a low-budget feel with a ”musical-within-a-movie” theme, but with satirical sexual humor and if you like that kind of thing (and I do), it’s definitely worth seeking out!
They’ve added a very funny hour long retrospective documentary as a bonus on the DVD.

The budget for the picture was $125 000. It got picked up by Paramount Pictures for distribution. But when the studio saw the finished product they thought it dragged a bit in the middle and they asked Bruce to shoot some new scenes. So he came up with the Dancing Dildos number. The studio asked ”Are there nude girls in the number?” ”Yes”, he answered and they gave him $75 000 just to shoot that scene!

There are som great future stars in this movie:
Cindy Williams who already had a nice little movie career going on, got her big break through on tv the same year the film premiered in the tv-series Laverne & Shirley. She played Shirley for 8 seasons. Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off of the sitcom Happy Days (1974-84).
Future director Ron Howard was the star of Happy Days and he did a cameo in this movie.
Cindy and Ron also played girlfriend and boyfriend in the George Lucas film American Graffiti (1973).
Diana Canova went on to play Corinne Tate in the sitcom Soap (Lödder in Sweden).
And director, actor, author, composer and lyric writer Bruce Kimmel has starred in and directed a lot of films and tv-series. He has also written plays and musicals (among them The Brain from Planet X, which you can find on this blogg, it’s nr 200). From 1988 to 1993, Kimmel co-owned the specialty label, Bay Cities, releasing over 100 albums that included American classical music, cast albums, and soundtracks. In 1993, Kimmel became a full time record producer with his own division at Varese Sarabande, producing many cast albums (Broadway and off-Broadway), Broadway singers, and musical theater concept albums, first for the Varese Sarabande, and then for a company he founded, Fynsworth Alley. His current label Kritzerland has issued close to 400 albums including cast albums, singers, and a series of reissues of limited edition soundtracks.

The film actually got some great reviews and became a minor hit. The first week of its wide release, it was the fourth highest-grossing picture in the country, behind Star Wars, You Light Up My Life, and The Spy Who Loved Me.

The actual first nudie musical is considered to be the 1963 nudie-cutie Goldilocks and the Three Bares (1963)

Press:
Chockful of youthful talent, well spiced by outrageousness and sparked by invention. The three stars are simply irresistible. Cindy Williams is enchanting, Kimmel is the ultimate appealing schnook. Fresh and funny and funky. Made for about 1 percent of the budget of New York, New York, but a hundred times funnier and more perceptive. It’s the Star Wars of nudie musicals.
– Judith Crist, New York Post

More vitality, imagination, zany comedy and stellar performances than most movies. It’s one of the most memorable movies of this year. A raunchy delight. Cindy Williams is a marvel! Kimmel is a joy to watch!
– Joseph Gelmiş, Newsday

A Mel Brooksian salute to porno chic.
– Bruce Williamson, Playboy

Silly, sophomoric, at times downright inept, this little low-budget venture picked up by Paramount is more often than not hilarious, offering good, tonic laughter to those not offended by nudity and blunt language.
– Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

Basically a one-joke idea that wears thin despite an air of amiability.
– Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide (two stars out of four)

A few clever bits are downed in a larger sea of silliness, forced gags and predictable cliche.
– Arthur D Murphy, Variety

Videos:
C’mon Honey
The Red Band Trailer
Audition scene
A ”naked” tv-review of the movie from 1976

Nr 462: American Psycho (2013)

13 Jan

American Psycho
2013: London
2016: Broadway, 54 perf
2019: Sydney

Music & Lyrics: Duncan Sheik
Book: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis

Based on the best-selling novel by Bret Easton Ellis, and set in the epicenter of excess: 1980s Manhattan, American Psycho tells the story of 26-year-old Wall Street investment banker Patrick Bateman, young and handsome with impeccable taste and unquenchable desires. Patrick and his elite group of friends spend their days in chic restaurants, exclusive clubs and designer labels. It’s a world where appearance trumps substance, greed is good, and one’s purpose in life is to crush the competition at all costs. But underneath his smooth and suave exterior lies a psychopath with bottomless blood-lust for getting what he wants and wanting what he can’t get.
When he finds out that one of his coworkers, Paul Owen, not only has secured the exclusive and highly sought after Fisher account, but also has managed to get a reservation at the new elite restaurant Dorsia, AND has a better looking business card, the inner monster flashes his teeth. 
Patrick invites Paul to his apartment before a party. Patrick spikes Owen’s drink, puts on a raincoat and begins a long one-sided analysis of the artistic and commercial merits of the band Huey Lewis and the News. After stating that ”the world is better off with some people gone”, Patrick slaughters Owen with an ax.
Afterwards, he lets himself into Paul’s apartment and stages his disappearance by resetting his voicemail and packing many of his possessions into a suitcase.
Months pass. Having made sure to make people believe that Paul is in London Patrick appropriates Paul’s apartment as a place to host and kill more victims, beginning with 2 hookers…

 This is a rather uneven show. I found the first act to be laugh out funny, sharp, edgy, witty, a little scary, and at the same time a little nostalgic since I lived through that era, and with a perfect first act finale: the bloody murder of Paul Owens. I really couldn’t wait for the second act to begin but… I didn’t really like that act. The music was still good, some numbers amazing but the murdering got a bit tedious and the piece didn’t really go anywhere. And I hated the end of the musical which has him marrying his girlfriend and resigning himself to a pointless existence in which the punishment and notoriety that he craves will forever be denied him. While the book ends as it began, with Bateman and his colleagues at a new club on a Friday night, engaging in banal conversation. A much more cynical and frightening end, I think.

The music is, of course, for the most part synth music, and quite hard synth I might add, which I love. I think mr Sheik has done a brilliant jobb in giving us a batch of new synth hits. There are also some covers of 80s hits like Hip to Be Square, Don’t You Love Me Baby and In the Air Tonight all performed in new exiting versions that differ quite a lot from the originals.
All in all, I like the cast album a lot, the show itself… well, it isn’t bad but there could be improvements made…


And speaking of American psychos… Patrick Bateman and his friends idolize Donald Trump…

Duncan Sheik is perhaps best known for writing the music to the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Spring Awakening (2006).

In London the part of Patrick Bateman was played by Matt Smith, maybe most famous for being the youngest actor ever to portray the title character in the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who and he also portrayed Prince Philip in the two first seasons of the Netflix series The Crown.

The Broadway version of the show won 3 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Lighting Design, Projection Design and Sound Design in a musical.
And 2 Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Lighting Design and Projection Design.
It was nominated for two Tony Awards but didn’t win.

Press:
Though it is spattered with stage blood from beginning to end and features the sort of carnage associated with Eli Roth movies, “American Psycho” turns out to be one of those musicals that send your thoughts awandering, even as you watch them. So while this show’s title character takes a gleaming ax or chain saw to his co-stars, you may find yourself fixating on the following questions: Collectively, how many hours   of gym time per week does the incredibly buff cast embody? … Did those auditioning for “American Psycho” have to submit ab shots instead of head shots? And before they set foot onstage each night, are they required to pass a body mass index test?
If such queries do indeed fill your head during the long and decoratively gory duration of “American Psycho,” … then it could be argued that the show’s creators have done their job.

Of course, it could be argued that the “American Psycho” team has done its job too well, since you’re also likely to identify with Patrick when, shortly before he crucifies a young woman with a nail gun, he concludes solemnly that there’s “not one clear, identifiable emotion within me.”

Characters snort cocaine in dance clubs; have meaningless sex; order silly-sounding, elaborately named fusion dishes at overpriced restaurants; and recite designer clothing labels as if they were holy mantras, and make fun of those who are less of-the-minute than they are.
In other words, New York hasn’t changed all that much. Yet “American Psycho” treats the ’80s with the condescending nostalgia associated with decade-defining clip-compilation shows on lesser cable channels. And with a couple of signal exceptions, this musical treats its inhabitants as shrill cartoons (to laugh at) and sculpted sides of meat (to ogle).

Mostly, though, this psycho is neither scary nor sexy, nor is the show in which he appears. This may be good news for concerned citizens who feared the musical might present a nastily irresistible role model to impressionable young ’uns. Not to worry. In “American Psycho,” there’s little that’s lusty in blood lust.
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

If you can resign yourself to the story’s innate ambiguity, you’re in for a perversely enjoyable experience.

The music is totally ’80s as well: Sheik’s bizarrely catchy, entirely electronic score – far from the usual Broadway fare….

And as for the violence – it’s simply part of the story, usually a joke, and often part of a stunning stage picture.
– Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly

The second act flags…but the score is strong…Duncan Sheik’s synthesizer-heavy music – radical by Broadway standards…finally delivers a worthy follow-up to his ”Spring Awakening.” A comic ”American Psycho” you can dance to? Somehow, it works.
– Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Post

Videos:
Selling Out
You Are What You Wear
Cards
Hip To Be Square
Killing Spree
Trailer

Nr 461: Goldilocks (1958)

9 Jan

Goldilocks
Broadway 1958, 161 perf.

Music: Leroy Anderson
Lyrics: Joan Ford, Walter & Jean Kerr
Book: Walter & Jean Kerr

Set in 1913, during the silent film era, the musical is about a stage actress named Maggie Harris who is ready to get out of show business and settle into marriage to a wealthy man. Unfortunately for Maggie, she has forgotten that she is under contract to appear in the film Frontier Woman, directed by Max Grady. Begrudgingly, she shows up to make the film, which evolves from a simple production into an epic about Ancient Egypt. The production timeline stretches out, delays, edits and rewrites keeping Maggie captive and constantly at odds with Grady, with whom she has a tempestuous working relationship.
Of course, in true musical comedy fashion, Maggie and Max end up falling in love. 

This is one of those shows that has a truly delightful score, and if you judge it by the cast album alone you simply can’t understand why it wasn’t a hit.
So why wasn’t it a hit? Well, let me name 3 of the things that they got wrong:

1. The book. Max and Maggie were funny but not especially likable characters, and their romance was never entirely convincing.
2. The moviemaking spoofs were uproarious but the other scenes were less interesting.
3. The show’s title, obscure in its relationship to the story, was off-putting.
Walter Kerr later said that the biggest mistake they made was constantly beefing up the comedy: What we should have done was forget all about working for any more comedy whatsoever, and straighten out the emotional line instead. I mean, making something real seem to happen between the principals, emotionally. And that we didn’t do.
But the music is fantastic. I mean really fantastic! And the lyrics are good too. There’s so much to love here. So give it a try. It’s a more or less forgotten little treasure trove of fabulouls songs.

Leroy Andersson (1908 – 1975) who wrote the music, was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, of which many were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra. The film composer John Williams described him as ”one of the great American masters of light orchestral music.”
One of his famous compositions is ”The Typewriter” – see video link below.
He had Swedish parents and therefore spoke both English and Swedish during his youth. He eventually

became fluent in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

Walter Kerr who cowrote and directed the show was also one of New Yorks leading theatre critics. There was some concern that critics would bend over backwards to praise the show because it was the work of a collegue, but those concerns proved unfounded – see press quotes below.

If you saw the show you had the chance to see Margaret Hamilton live on stage. If that name doesn’t ring any bells I’m sure you’ll know who she is when I tell you that she played ”The Wicked Witch of the West” in the 1939 filmversion of The Wizard of Oz.

The show was awarded 2 Tony Awards: Best supporting Actor and Best supporting Actress in a musical.


Noël Coward was curious about the production and came to see it in Philadelphia during try outs. He didn’t like what he saw. He wrote in his diary: ”How does an eminent critic of his caliber have the impertinence to dish out such inept, amateurish nonsense?”
He thought the show was ”idiotic and formless”, Agnes de Milles ballets ”not really good enough”. He marveled at the extravagance of the production’s reported $500,000 cost. ”I must say I couldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. It will probably get kindly reviews from his gallant colleagues when it opens on Broadway, but I don’t think anything could save it. Serve him and his giggling wife bloody well right!”
The one member of the cast that he did not find ”lamentable” was Elaine Stritch. After the show he went backstage to her dressing room, where she was having ”a very, very, very large Scotch”, and said: ”Any leading lady who doesn’t do a double take when a nine-foot bear asks her to dance is my kind of actress.”

Press:
Since drama critics and their wives are notoriously more brilliant than most people, a great deal is expected of them. And, when they are daring enough to challenge an envious world with a show of their own, nothing less than a masterpiece will satisfy the eager anticipation. Because Goldilocks seemed, to put it conservatively, rather short of that status in its debut, it was a disappointment. What made the dissatisfaction all the more upsetting was that the weakness of Goldilocks appeared to be chiefly in the writing contribution of the Kerrs.
– Richard Watt Jr., The New York Post

Frankly, Goldilocks is no gem of a show. It has faults, but the Kerrs have slickly glossed them over.
– Robert Coleman, Daily Mirror

A bountiful, handsome musical comedy with an uninteresting book. The book undoes what the actors and collaborating artists accomplish, which is a pity.

But, like the book, the direction is not vigorous or versatile. Apart from the spectacle and the music, Goldilocks is an unexciting show.
Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times

It has mass, glitter. glare, and blare, not to mention heavenly looking girls. But it is so lacking in a sense of direction that it never develops a personality of its own.
– Frank Aston, World-Telegram & Sun

Videos:
“Goldilocks” performed by
Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra
Give a Little Lady (a Great Big Hand)
The Beast in You
The University of Sheffield presents Leroy Anderson’s ”Goldilocks” in concert
The Typewriter performed Iceland Symphony Orchestra

Nr 460: The SpongeBob Musical (2016)

6 Jan

Chicago: 2016
Broadway: 2017 (327 perf.)
Tv version: 2019

Book: Kyle Jarrow, based on SpongeBob SquarePants by Stephen Hillenburg
Music & Lyrics: David Bowie, Brian Eno, Panic at the Disco, Tom Kitt, Jonathan Coulton, Cyndi Lauper, Rob Hyman, Alex Ebert, Sara Bareilles, Andy Paley, Tom Kenny, Lady Antebellum, Yolanda Adams, The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Plain White T’s, T.I., They Might Be Giants

Just so you know, if you’re not a SpongeBob fan, it all takes place underwater.
The story: SpongeBob, a relentlessly cheery fast-food worker with self-esteem issues, learns that his beloved Bikini Bottom is in danger of being destroyed by an undersea volcano called Mount Humongous that’s threatening to blow sky-high. So he, his BFF Patrick Star, a starfish, and the brilliant scientist Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel (don’t ask), must come up with a plan to save their world.
Among the obstacles on the path to hero-hood: xenophobic prejudice (Sandy is disdained as a mammal), the bureaucratic paralysis of the mayor, panic-rousing media coverage and the villainous obstructions of the evil Sheldon Plankton and his wife, Karen the Computer.

I actually thought I was going to hate this musical. I mean come on, SpongeBob the Musical???? And because the cast album contained songs by a lot of different pop composers I also thought this was something of a juke box musical.
But, boy, was I wrong!
Nickleodeon, the cable channel for kids where SpongBob the animated series airs, brought a live version of the Broadway show to our home screens.
Lucky us! For this is an absolute marvel of a show. Just 5 minutes in and I was hooked. The music is so good, the sets and costumes are amazing, the cast is perfect down to the smallest planktons and sardines and the choreography is utterly brilliant. I was totally enthralled.
The show is totally bonkers – in a very good way. Don’t let adult thoughts of ”that isn’t even logic” or ”this is so unrealistic” disturb you from enjoying this show. Indulge yourself in the madness and pleasures of Bikini Bottom (just that name, aargh, love it, and yes they make fun of it in the show). Do what I did: I just sat in my recliner and laughed, cheered and even shed a little tear.
This show is so sunny, positive and life affirming, just what we need right now.
The cast album was on repeat in my flat for a long, long time afterwards. And every time I feel a little blue I play Best Day Ever, the best pick-me-up-song ever!

The show was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won one: Best Scenic Design of a Musical.
It also won 6 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Musical, Actor, Featured Actor, Director, Sets, Wigs and Hair of a Musical.
And 4 Outer Critics Circle Awards: Outstanding New Musical, New Score, Director and Actor in a Musical.

The show was retitled for Broadway and the North American tour, now it’s SpongeBob Squarepants – the Broadway Musical.

Press:
For what it’s worth — and we’re talking millions of dollars here — you are never going to see as convincing an impersonation of a two-dimensional cartoon by a three-dimensional human as that provided by Ethan Slater at the Palace Theater. Mr. Slater plays the title role in SpongeBob SquarePants the Broadway Musical the ginormous giggle of a show that opened on Monday night.

…you will probably adore this musical if: a) “SpongeBob” was a formative influence of your childhood; b) you are a stoner who tokes up to watch reruns of the show on YouTube (categories a and b are not mutually exclusive); or c) if you are (like my date for this show) a parent of “SpongeBob”-bingeing progeny and found its sensibility crept into, and wallpapered, your weary mind.

… you may indeed enjoy such improbable spectacles as a misanthropic squid named Squidward (Gavin Lee, wearing four-legged pants) doing a virtuosic four-footed tap dance with a Busby Berkeley kick line of pink-sequined sea anemones. Or a heavy-metal boy band made up of sea skates on skateboards, with music by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith. Oh, I forget to tell you. The show’s songs (supervised, arranged and orchestrated by the composer Tom Kitt) have been written by a plethora of pop-rock eminences…

Christopher Gattelli’s choreography of his sexually ambiguous ensemble (genders blur when wet) is perversely brilliant, suggesting piscine movement through breakdance and vogueing gestures instead of the expected swimming motions. But no one matches Mr. Slater in conveying the physicality of the life aquatic.
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Children should feel free to take their parents to Tina Landau’s psychedelically inspired version of the whimsical kiddie cartoon show … But Landau’s hallucinogenic stagecraft transcends the show’s television origins by speaking a visual language that’s three-dimensional and boldly theatrical.

(The plot) … is actually a lot scarier than any of the problems that arise in the TV show, but this is Broadway, where things tend to get inflated.
Here, that inflation surfaces in the score. Instead of working with a simpatico composer and lyricist, Landau, in the adventurous spirit of a Steppenwolf director, has stacked the show with individual pop songs written by individual songwriters … It’s not as much of a gimmick as it seems, but without a signature sound, there’s no signature style. What there is, though, is plenty of giddy, goofy fun for all.
– Marilyn Stasio, Variety

(Resulting in a show that) ”is as perfunctorily entertaining as it is insistently forgettable”.
– Alexis Soloski, The Guardian

Videos:

BFF
Bikini Bottom Day/Super Sea Star Savior/Best Day Ever
When The Going Gets Tough
At the Tony Awards: I’m Not a Looser
Gavin Lee (Squidward), Ethan Slater (SpongeBob), and Wesley Taylor (Sheldon Plankton) perform ”You Could Drive a Person Crazy” from COMPANY

Nr 458: Shock Treatment (1981)

17 Jun

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Shock Treatment (film)
Music:
Richard O’Brien

Lyrics: Richard O’Brien
Screenplay: Richard O’Brien

”It’s not a sequel… it’s not a prequel… it’s an equal”
”Trust me, I’m a doctor!”
– 2 olika taglines till filmen.

A sort of follow up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, continuing from that film are the characters of Brad and Janet, now married, and the film takes place several years later in their hometown of Denton, USA.
Denton  has been taken over by fast food magnate Farley Flavors. The town is entirely encased within a television studio for the DTV (Denton Television) network. Residents are either stars and regulars on a show, cast, crew, or audience members.
Brad and Janet, seated in the audience, are chosen to participate in the game show Marriage Maze by the kooky, supposedly blind host Bert Schnick. As a ”prize”, Brad is imprisoned on Dentonvale, the channel’s bizarre medical soap opera that centers upon the local mental hospital and is run by brother and sister Cosmo and Nation McKinley.
Janet is given a taste of showbiz as Farley molds her into the singing diva superstar  of Denton Dossier, a show that tells people how great Denton is. Her compliance is assured through the use of drugs supplied by the McKinleys.
*OBS, Spoilers!!!*
Meanwhile: Betty Hapschatt and Judge Oliver Wright investigate Farley and other people involved in DTV and eventually discover that Cosmo and Nation are not doctors, but merely character actors, and Farley Flavors is Brad’s jealous, long-lost twin brother, seeking to destroy Brad and take Janet for himself.
The pair rescue Brad from Dentonvale and have him confront his twin on his new show Farley Flavor’s Faith Factory. Farley imprisons the three and Janet, but they manage to escape in a car along with a local band while the remainder of Denton’s citizens follow Farley and commit themselves to Dentonvale.

Den här filmen kom 5 år efter The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rocky Horror filmen floppade till en början men blev sakta men säkert ett kultfenomen som kom att visas på fredag- och lördagskvällar kring midnatt på biografer i USA. Folk kom dit utklädda till sina favoritkaraktärer och man slängde sarkastiska svar  till repliker som sas i filmen, man dansade med i shownumren, man hade en uppsjö av rekvisita med sig som användes vid specielle tillfällen under föreställningen etc. Detta pågår fortfarande än i dag över 40 år senare. Så floppen blev en succé.
Shock Treatment tänkte man skulle upprepa den förras fenomenala framgång och kultstatus men… Rocky Horror förvandlades av sin publik från flop till kult, här försökte man istället vara kult redan från premiärdagen och det misslyckades. Filmen fick förödande dåliga recensioner och publiken gillade den inte alls.
Nu är den inte riktigt så dålig som ryktet kan få en att tro. Hatat kom nog från det faktum att folk ogillade att man på kommersiella vägar försökte skapa en kultfilm. Det kändes som en ”cop out” av Rocky’s fan base och de mer eller mindre bojkottade filmen. Och om ni har läst sammanfattningen ovanför så förstår ni hur krystat och hysteriskt man jobbade för att få till kultfaktorn. Men som man säger: ”camp is found, not made”.
Sen hjälpte det inte heller att filmen aldrig fick en bredare biopremiär i USA utan man visade den fråmst på midnattsvisningar. Detta faktum gjorde att många missade att filmen ens existerade innan den kom ut på video.
Jag har dock för mig att den fick premiär på bio här i Sverige och att det var där jag såg den första gången.

Men som sagt, om man ser den utan några större förväntningar så får man en film som bitvis är riktigt rolig även om den tappar fart på tok för snabbt och ibland mest bara går på tomgång.
Här finns en hel del kul musik och en del av sångerna är minst lika catch-iga som låtarna från Rocky Horror – ibland också förvillande lika, lyssna bara på Little Black Dress  och sen på Time Warp….  Det är rock, det är lite new wave, lite synt, lite ska, lite show, lite allt möjligt – lite som Rocky Horror alltså.
Sen är det ju intressant med det faktum att alla ”reality shower” som i filmen ses som en osannolik utveckling av tv-mediet (ren science fiction på sin tid) idag i högsta grad är verklighet. Så de var definitivt före sin tid och kanske är det också en anledning till att filmen ändå håller hyfsat idag.
Har ni inte sett den så gör det, speciellt om ni är Rocky H fans, och har ni inte hört musiken så ska ni definitivt ge den en chans.

Kuriosa:
1978 så hade Richard O’Brien börjat jobba på en uppföljare till Rocky Horror, den skulle heta Rocky Horror Shows His Heels. I den skulle bland annat Frank och Rocky återförenas, både Brad och Dr Scott skulle bli gay och Janet skulle föda Franks barn. Men det blev inget med det.
Men Richard hade redan skrivit en del musik så han bestämde sig för att återanvända musiken i en ny story som skulle heta The Brad & Janet Show som sen skulle byta titel till Shock Treatment.
Från början var det tänkt att Tim Curry (original Frnk ‘ n’ Furter) skulle spela Farley men när han förstod att han också skulle behöva spela rollen som Brad så hoppade han av, anledningen var att han inte trodde sig kunna bemästra en övertygande amerikansk accent.

En del av de medverkande i Rocky Horror var även med i denna film:
Charles Grey (berättaren i första rullen spelar en domare här).
Richard O’Brien och Patricia Quinn som var syskonparet Riff-Raff och Magenta i Rocky är syskonparet Cosmo och Nation McKinley här.
Även Little Nell (Columbia i Rocky) gör en liten insats som sjuksystern Ansalong i denna rulle.
Brad och Janet spelas dock av nya skådisar: Jessica Harper och Cliff De Young. Jessica är kanske mest känd som huvudpersonen i Dario Argentos skräckfilmsklassiker Suspiria (Flykten från helvetet) från 1977.

Den framtida Dame Edna Everage, även känd som skådespelaren Barry Humphries, medverkar i filmen som den ”blinda” tyska läkaren.

Bland övriga medverkande hittar man bland annat komikerna Ruby Wax och Rik Mayall.

Filmen förvandlades till en scenproduktion i London 2015.

Videorecenssioner:
The Cinema Snob
Musical Hell Review

Videosar:
Bitchin’ In The Kitchen
Denton!
Little Black Dress
Lullaby
Me of Me
Farley’s Song
Trailer o Titelsången

 

 

Nr 457: Reefer Madness! (1998)

6 Jun

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Reefer Madness!
1998: Los Angeles
2001: Off-Broadway
2005: Tv-version
2009: London

Music: Dan Studney
Lyrics: Kevin Murphy
Book: Kevin Murphy based on the 1936 film Reefer Madness

Creeping like a communist it’s knocking at our doors
Turning all our children into hooligans and whores
Voraciously devouring the way things are today
Savagely deflowering the good ol’ USA
It’s… Reefer madness! Reefer madness!

As the play opens, an evangelical lecturer addresses an audience which is supposedly composed of concerned parents. His goal is to warn them of a new menace that is sweeping the nation, a leafy green assassin ready to ensnare and seduce the youth and drag them down into a life of sin: marijuana.
He starts to tell the true story of the Harper Affair: 15 year old Jimmy Harper, was a fine, upstanding, clean-cut, All-American boy whose life fell apart because of the evil reefer. Jimmy was a good kid, with a bright future ahead of him. He had a sweetheart whom he loved, the wholesome and sweet Mary Lane. But when Jimmy is tricked into taking his first puff of reefer, his life quickly spirals downward. He begins to neglect his family, his schoolwork, even Mary, in order to spend all his time smoking at the Reefer Den. His addiction leads him to evil jazz music, dance, debauchery, sin, theft, violence and, eventually, murder. Along the way he also meets Jesus, the devil, some zombies, a cannibalistic, constant giggling manic dope fiend, an angel, some overly friendly inmates at the local penetentuary who just want to take a shower with him and a surprise visit from president Franklin D. Roosevelt…
On top of all that he also finds time to recite a little Shakespeare!
What’s not to like?
It’s a musical filled with camp, hilarity, mayhem, and madness.

Detta är en riktigt underhållande och grymt kul musikal med smittande musik. Jag är oerhört förtjust i den och har lite svårt att fatta att den inte har blivit kult. När den spelades i Los Angeles i originaluppsättningen så blev det lite ”Rocky Horror” varning på den för folk såg föreställningen om och om igen och klädde ut sig till sina favvofigurer och lärde sig replikerna etc. 
Men i New York så las den ner rätt fort och filmversionen är nog relativt bortglömd. Men om ni kan hitta DVDn så köp den direkt. Ni får en galen musikal med stora shownummer, catchiga låtar, absurd och garanterat icke-PK handling, ”over the top” skådespeleri från väldigt bra skådisar, lite sex, lite våld och ni får, som bonus, även originalfilmen från 1936 som musikalen är baserad på. 

Musiken är en blandning av rock, swing, jazz, gospell och musikalpasticher. Det finns några stora skillnader mellan scenversionens musik och den i filmen, man bytte bl a ut några sånger och skrev om andra. Men jag gillar bägge versionerna.

Kuriosa:
The film from 1936 was originally made as Tell Your Children and sometimes titled as The Burning Question, Dope Addict, Doped Youth, and Love Madness but is best known as Reefer Madness.

Originally the film was produced as a warning to parents about the use of cannabis, the film was later recut by Dwain Esper and gained notoriety as an education-exploitation film, the typically low-budget genre known for excessively hyping trends and news through lurid and trashy scenes intended to be more entertaining than enlightening. Over the years, some of these films have been artistic or revolutionary enough to become culturally significant, such as Night of the Living Dead. However, Reefer Madness has been declared the worst film ever made; Leonard Maltin gave it zero out of four stars, calling it “the granddaddy of all ‘worst’ movies.”

Christian Campbell som spelar Jimmy i filmen spelade samma roll redan i originaluppsättningen i Los Angeles.
Han är storebror till Neve Campbell som spelade huvudrollen i alla 4 Screamfilmerna. Hon är också med i denna musikalfilm. Man tyckte det var så kul att kunna ha med bägge syskonen i filmen att man skrev om en av rollerna så man kunde casta henne i den. 

Videosar:
Trailer for the original 1936 Reefer Madness film.
Trailer for the movie musical Reefer Madness from 2005
Title song with Alan Cumming
Little Mary Sunshine with Kristen Bell
Listen To Jesus Jimmy
Jimmy Takes a Hit/The Orgy
The Truth – Finale

613FJJnJjfL._AC_  ny_ad_color Reefer_Madness_(1936)
Filmaffisch.

 

Nr 456: Bye Bye Birdie (1960)

30 Maj

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Bye Bye, Birdie
1960: Broadway 607 föreställningar
1961: London  268 föreställningar
1963: Film
1995: Tv-version
2009: Broadway Revival

Music: Charles Strouse
Lyrics: Lee Adams
Book: Michael Stewart

We love you, Conrad, oh, yes, we do!
We love you, Conrad, and we’ll be true
When you’re not near us, we’re blue
Oh, Conrad, we love you!
———–
Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Kids! Who can understand anything they say?
Kids! They are so ridiculous and immature!
I don’t see why anybody wants ‘em!
And while we’re on the subject
Kids! They are just impossible to control!

Kids! With their awful clothes and their rock an’ roll!
Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?

The year is 1958.
Rock star Conrad Birdie is the biggest thing to top the charts. Women love him, men want to be him and teenage girls around the country scream with glee at the mere mention of his name. But when the United States Army drafts Birdie, manager Albert Peterson sees his meal ticket preparing to fly the coop. Much to the delight of his long-suffering secretary and sometimes but not-quite-fiancée, Rosie Alvarez, who can’t wait for Albert to ditch the music biz and become something respectable, like an English teacher.
Desperate for a publicity stunt big enough to help them survive Birdie’s departure, Albert and Rose hatch a plan: Albert will write a song called One Last Kiss and send Conrad to small-town America where he will sing the song and then plant his goodbye kiss on one lucky fan for the entire world to see.
They select super fan Kim Macafee of Sweet Apple, Ohio and the whole thing will be televised on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Their selection of Kim Macafee sends the wholesome enclave of Sweet Apple, Ohio into chaos and things start to unravel.
Kim’s father is starstruck at the thought of being on The Ed Sullivan Show with his daughter.
Kim’s boyfriend, Hugo, can’t take the humiliation of his lady love’s televised lip-lock.
Rose can’t take another minute of Albert’s distracted ways or his very cracked, clinging and bigoted mother, who makes a surprise appearance in Sweet Apple.
And Sweet Apple can’t take its teens’ riotous rebellion, inspired by the arrival of bad-boy Birdie.
Will Sweet Apple ever be the same?

Oj, oj, oj så charmigt det här är.
Mossig? Visst, men känslan jag får är kanske snarare nostalgisk än omodern eller uråldrig.
Rockig? Kanske inte så mycket men den svänger och den gör en danssugen och glad.
Det är en otroligt underhållande och rolig musikal med fantastiskt bra musik.
Jag har älskat den här plattan sen den dag jag köpte den. Det här en musikal som man  faller handlöst för på direkten. Blandningen av bubblig, lätt och väldigt melodiös gammaldags Broadway och tidig sextiotals ”middle of the road” pop/rock är fullständigt oemotståndlig.
Vill ni höra riktigt underbar sextiotalsdoftande musikalmusik så ska ni ge den här en chans. Jag tror ni kommer älska den.

Kuriosa:
Föreställningen vann 4 Tony Awards 1961: Bästa musikal, manliga biroll, regi och koreografi. 
Det var Dick Van Dyke som spelade huvudrollen som fick en Tony för bästa biroll. Anledningen till att han fick för bästa biroll och inte huvudroll var att hans namn stod under musikalens titel på affischerna och av nån outgrundlig anledning så gällde på denna tiden regeln: namn ovanför titel = huvudroll, namn under titeln = biroll.

Man fick idén till föreställningen när Elvis Presley blev inkallad till det militära 1957. För det är ju självklart Elvis som är den stora förebilden för Conrad Birdie.

Från början ville man ha Fred Astaire som regissör, men han tackade nej.

Detta var musikalen som inte bara var först med att bjuda på Rock’n’Roll-musik i en Broadwaymusikal utan också den första där tonåringar och deras värld var i centrum. Visst, gängen i West Side Story är tonåringar dem med men här har vi mer tidstypiska ”äkta” amerikanska medelklass helylle tonåringar av det slag som man såg på tv och lästa om i Life Magazine till exempel och det här var första gången som man hade en musikal som handlade om dem och deras musik.

När man lyssnar på musiken nu och hör ”rocken” så är det ganska lamt men på sin tid var det nästan chockerande att höra sånt här. Glöm inte att de som gick på en Broadwayshow på den tiden var de som var vana vid shower som My Fair Lady och liknande.

De flesta som var inblandade i showen var noviser för Broadway.
Chita Rivera hade gjort ett flertal musikaler innan och var definitivt den mesta kända av de inblandade.
Gower Champion som regiseerrade och koreograferade verket hade dansat i många musikalfilmer på 50-talet och även koreograferat på Broadway innan men detta var hans första försök som både koreograf och regissör.
Det var även debutshowen för Charles Strouse och Lee Adams som skrev sångerna. Strouse som hade utbildat sig vid ett musikkonservatorium var inte ens riktigt säker på hur ”rock” musik lät och började studera musikformen. Första resultatet av hans studier och försök blev singeln Born To Late som spelades in av tjejgruppen The Poni-Tails 1958 och blev en stor hit, #7 på Billboard Hot 100 och #1 på Billboards R&B lista. Så man kan väl lugnt säga att han lärde sig fort.
Dick Van Dyke fick sitt genombrott i showen vilket skulle leda till att han bland mycket annat fick både en egen tv-serie (The Dick Van Dyke Show 1961-66 och 1971-74) ) och rollen som sotaren och gatumålaren Bert i filmen Mary Poppins.

När man gjorde filmversionen så valde man att behålla Dick Van Dyke och Paul Lynde från Broadwayversionen men i rollen som Rosie ville man ha Rita Moreno som precis hade vunnit en Oscar för sin insats som Anita i filmversionen av West Side Story. Men Rita tackade nej till rollen eftersom hon var trött på att konstant bli type-castad som ”latina”. Om hon hade sagt ja så skulle det ha blivit andra gången som hon fått filma en roll som Chita Rivera kreerat på Broadway – för det var Chita som var original Anita i West Side Story 1957.
Det blev i slutändan Janet Leigh (hon som spelade Marion Crane, som mördas i duschen,  i Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho) som fick rollen som Rosie.

Man hade tänkt att Elvis Presley skulle ha spelat rollen som Conrad Birdie i filmen men hans maneger, Colonel Tom Parker, ville inte det. Han var rädd att Conrad, som trots allt framställs väldigt satiriskt och som kanske inte den bäste av förebilder för ”dagens unga” – han både röker, dricker och har ett aktivt sexliv – skulle kunna verka negativt på Elvis publika image.

Det finns en svenskkoppling till Bye Bye Birdie också. Åtminstone vad gäller filmversionen.  För rollen som den utvalda tonåringen som ska få kyssen av Conrad spelades nämligen av Ann-Margret. Hon hette från början Ann-Margret Olsson och föddes i Stockholm 1941 men flyttade till USA 1946 där hon fick en strålande karriär som sångerska, dansare och skådespelare.
Hade Elvis sagt ”ja” till Bye Bye så hade hon fått spela mot honom men så blev det ju inte –  just då i alla fall…
Regissören till Birdie, George Sidney, blev väldigt förtjust i Ann-Margret och valde att ha med henne i 2 filmer till: The Swinger (1966) och Viva Las Vegas (1964) och i den senare fick hon just Elvis som motspelare. Hon sjöng in 3 duetter med honom men bara en kom med i filmen och den valde man att inte ge ut som singel. Det var åter Colonel Tom Parker som fattade det beslutet, denna gång var han rädd att Ann-Margret skulle överskugga Elvis.

Det gjordes en uppföljare 1981 som hette Bring Back Birdie och utspelade sig 20 år efter Bye Bye Birdie. Den floppade nått otroligt och lades ned efter 4 föreställningar!
Mer om den hittar du här på bloggen. Sök på titeln i sökrutan högst upp till höger på denna sida.

Press:
”… the audience was beside itself with pleasure but this department was able to contain itself. Bye Bye Birdie is neither fish, fowl, nor good musical comedy. It needs work.”
–  Brooks Atkinson, New York Times

”… the funniest, most captivating, and most expert musical comedy one could hope to see … the show is pure, plain musical comedy, with jokes, dancing, oddball costumes … exceptionally catching orchestrations … and a completely enthusiastic cast. One of the best things about it is that practically nobody is connected to it. Who ever heard of Edward Padula … Charles Strouse and Lee Adams … Gower Champion?”
– John Chapman, Daily News

”Do you know something? The teenagers of America may be attractive after all.
… Mr. Champion has been very much responsible for the gayety (sic), the winsomeness, and the exuberant zing of the occasion … he has not always been given the very best to work with … every once in a while, Michael Stewart’s book starts to break down and cry … Lee Adams’s lyrics lean rather heavily on the new ”talk-out-the-plot” technique, and Charles Strouse’s tunes, though jaunty, are whisper-thin.”
– Walter Kerr, Herald Tribune

”… the peak of the season … Chita Rivera … is triumphant as dancer, comic, and warbler.
– Frank Aston, World-Telegram & Sun

Rare intelligence and taste were shown by closing the show, not on an elaborate chorus number, but on a simple and romantic song [“Rosie”] sung by Van Dyke and Rivera.
– Richard Watts, jr. , New York Post

”Edward Padula put over a sleeper in the Broadway sweepstakes, and it’s going to pay off in big figures … Rivera explodes like a bomb over West 45th Street. Michael Stewart has penned a sassy and fresh book, while Lee Adams and Charles Strouse have matched it with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and music.
– Robert Coleman, Daily Mirror

Videosar:
Ann-Margret sings Bye Bye Birdie movie titelsong
John Hamm  & January Jones fr Mad Men framför Bye Bye Birdie
The Telephone Hour (filmversion)
Lot of Livin’ To Do (filmversion)
Put on a Happy Face med Dick Van Dyke fr Ed Sullivan Show 1960
Honestly Sincere fr 2009 Broadway Revival
Spanish Rose m Chita Rivera fr Ed Sullivan Show 1960
The Shriner Ballet m Chita Rivera
Rosie med Tommy Tune & Ann Reinking fr The Tony’s 1991
Born To Late med The Poni-Tails

Bye_Bye_Birdie-979361474-large

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