Tag Archives: 1958

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 440: 70, Girls, 70

29 Jun

MI0001583844
70, Girls, 70
Broadway 1971, 35 föreställningar
West End 1991
Stockholm 1998

Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Book: Fred Ebb, Norman L. Martin baserad på filmen Make Mine Mink (1960) i sin tur baserad på pjäsen Breath of Spring (1958) av Pete Coke.

The show concerns a group of senior citizens living on New York’s Upper West Side who learn that the long-term hotel they live in will be sold off to developers – making the seniors homeless. To save the hotel, the seniors form a ring of unlikely thieves, wreaking havoc in stores from Sadies’ Second Hand Furs to Bloomingdales. In the process, they regain their zest for life. The seniors proceed to use their ill-gotten gains to spruce up their digs and to provide safe harbor for other poor seniors.

Detta är lite av en meta-föreställning för på scen står ett gäng gamla skådespelare som spelar att de är gamla skådespelare som gör come back på Broadway genom att spela upp en föreställning om ett gäng gamla skådespelare som begår brott.
Ibland så stannar ”pjäsen” upp för att nån i ensemblen framför ett kommenterande nummer eller en Broadwayshowpastisch som inte för handlingen vidare. Detta ”lager på lager”spel var tydligen väldigt förvirrande för publiken och en av orsakerna till att föreställningen floppade.
Och det är förvirrande när man lyssnar på skivan också för ena sekunden så sjunger de en sång där de kommenterar publiken i salongen för att i nästa framföra en sång som helt klart har en dramatisk funktion i ”pjäsen”. Nu spelar inte det här så stor roll när man bara lyssnar hemma för det är en bitvis härlig samling låtar det bjuds på. Som vanligt när det gäller John Kander så har han låtit sig inspireras av en annan era när han skrev sin musik, här är det mycket Vaudeville och 40-tals känsla. 
Den enda låten som jag kände igen när jag lyssnade på plattan var numret Yes som även Liza Minnelli sjöng i sin klassiska tv-show Liza with a Z (1972). 

En annan anledning till att showen floppade var det faktum att 3 månader innan den fick sin premiär så hade den sanslöst framgångsrika reviveln av No, No, Nanette premiär – även den fylld med gamla, kända skådespelare som gjorde Broadway come back. 
Och spiken i kistan blev nog att Stephen Sondheims och James Goldmans briljanta musikal Follies hade premiär bara 7 dagar innan Girls. Och även i Follies kryllade det av gamla skådisar som framförde pastischer på gamla Broadwaystilar och hade ”lager-på-lager” berättande. Det blev liksom en show för mycket med snarlikt tema.

Musikalen sattes upp i London 1991 i en kraftigt reviderad version. Man bytte ut flera låtar, lät hela handlingen utspela sig i en fast scenografi utan scenbyten och orkestern ersattes med ett 5-mannaband som satt med på scenen.
Regissören till denna version, Paul Kerryson, rättfärdigade sina ändringar så här: ”Part of the problem of  70, Girls, 70 on Broadway … must have been that it was done so big, which doesn’t suit this particular musical. Its charm here is that it is so intimate”.

70, Girls, 70 spelades på Parkteatern i Stockholm 1998 med bl a Berit Carlberg och Inga Gill.
Jag såg den och tror mig minnas att det var Londonversionen av musikalen som man använde sig av

Kuriosa:
Titeln 70, girls, 70 är dubbeltydig, dels syftar den på det sätt man på 20-, 30- och 40-talen marknadsförde Burlesqueshower, där man tryckte hårt på hur många tjejer man hade på scenen för att locka en stor publik, och dels så syftar den på den höga åldern på kvinnorna i denna musikal.

Varietys reporter refererade till ensemblen som Medicare Minstrals.

Broadway aktören David Burns (Hello, Dollys! första Vandergelder, Pseudolus ägare i A Funny Thing m fl roller) dog efter att ha utfört ett, som det beskrevs, hysteriskt roligt nummer i föreställningen där han spelade på en xylophone utan att egentligen röra det. När han var klar med sitt nummer tog han sig för hjärtat och segnade ner. Publiken trodde att detta ingick i numret och skrattade hysteriskt. Det tog lång tid innan nån förstod att han faktiskt fått en hjärtattack. Han dog på vägen till sjukhuset.  

När man satte upp den på West End i början på 90-talet så hade man bytt ut stöldgodset. I originalet – pjäsen, filmen och musikalen – så stal man pälsar men i denna version så bytte man ut pälsarna mot juveler.

Press:
In its technical quality, 70, Girls, 70 is hardly unprofessional, but as a whole (should I say as a half?) it is probably the sloppiest musical I have ever seen. Its creators have concentrated on every detail of the standard Broadway musical structure – the look, the sound, the sense – without once (seeming to) wonder what the whole thing was about. Evidently, the only reason for this story was to cast the production with 70-year-olds to explore the (rather condescending) theme that people that age can be energetic and vital, presumably thrilling us with that spectacle.

The pity is that the talens of Kander and Ebb were not just wasted on such nonsense – they were degraded. … Now, at least, they know the humiliation of being a part of a mindless Broadway musical machine.
– Martin Gottfried, Women’s Wear Daily

(Headline: ”Please, No 80, Girls, 80”)
Someone connected with 70, Girls, 70 has an almost mathematical genius for taking risks that are certain to fail.

The very form that the show takes is, I think, a misunderstanding. Approximately half of the songs are sung inside the storyline … and the other half are deliberately out-of-frame, disconneted. … The effect is merely schizoid, not a cunning trick of style.
– Walter Kerr, Times

About as enlivening an affair as a New Year’s Eve party thrown by the members of a St. Petersburg shuffleboard club. For that’s exactly what this musical is up to, trying to reasure us that old age can be fun, by golly. The message was so encouraging that it had me squirming in my seat. (The pit musicians all wear colored jerseys, by the way.)
– Douglas Watt, Daily News

Videosar:
High Lights från konsertversion at 54 Below
Old Folks
Yes
The Caper
Broadway, My Street
Coffee in a Cardboard Cup

81rEk+X2dgL._SL1500_.jpg
Peter Gröning, Inga Gill och okänd i 70, Girls, 70 på Parkteatern 1998.

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