Tag Archives: Broadway

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 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 454: Big Fish (2014)

2 Nov

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Big Fish (2014)
Broadway, 98 föreställningar

Sverigepremiär på Uppsala Stadsteater 2019
Music & Lyrics: Andrew Lippa
Book: John August baserad på hans manus till filmen med samma namn från 2003, i sin tur baserad på  Daniel Wallaces roman  Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions från 1998.

Edward Bloom is a traveling salesman who lives life to its fullest… and then some! Edward’s incredible, larger-than-life stories thrill everyone around him – most of all, his devoted wife Sandra. But their son Will, about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales.
The story shifts between two timelines.
In the present-day real world, sixty-year-old Edward Bloom faces his mortality while Will prepares to become a father himself.
In the storybook past, Edward ages from teenager, encountering a Witch, a Giant, a Mermaid, and the love of his life, Sandra.
The stories meet in the present-day as Will discovers the secret his father never revealed.

En musikal som jag inte riktigt blir klok på.
Gillade Broadwayversionen och var förvånad över att den floppade men samtidigt så ogillade jag verkligen den svenska varianten som jag tyckte var ofokuserad, luddig och ganska så ointressant.
På Broadway charmad och i Uppsala lite uttråkad.
Så en musikal som genom olika uppsättningar ger 2 totalt olika intryck.
Och det är ju lite intressant i sig.

Musiken är av typen klassisk Broadwaymusikal men med lite countryinspiration. Några catchiga bitar, inte dålig på nått sätt men inte heller så intressant att den fastnar eller inspirerar till omlyssning.

Press:
Norbert Leo Butz is cutting loose in another one of his don’t-dare-miss-this perfs in ‘Big Fish,’ a show that speaks to anyone pining for a studiously heart-warming musical about the efforts of a dying man to justify a lifetime of lousy parenting to his alienated son.
– Marilyn Stasio, Variety

This final Broadway version of ”Big Fish” has changed considerably, and improved in leaps and bounds, from the version audiences saw in Chicago, especially in the radically different first act.
. . .
With the indefatigable, deeply engaged and seemingly irreplaceable Norbert Leo Butz driving its storytelling and willing the show’s crucial emotional subtext into being by sheer force of talent and will, ”Big Fish” arrives on Broadway as an earnest, family-friendly, heart-warming and mostly successful new American musical-
– Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune

Here, though, [Director Susan Stroman] seems to be drawing almost randomly from her bottomless bag of tricks. Yes, her use of dancers to embody an enchanted forest and a campfire is delightful. And it’s hard not to chuckle when those two-stepping elephants make a cameo appearance. But if the show is all about the need for personal myths, it has to let its leading mythmaker take charge.
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Wholesomeness gets a bad rap on Broadway these days, usually regarded as the kind of unbearably sweet and inoffensive entertainment that sophisticated theatergoers must endure while taking their conservative grandmas out for a night on the town. […] But Big Fish, the new musical that tattoos its heart on its arm, displays no fear in plopping its unabashed wholesomeness right in your lap. Its spirit is steeped in Rodgers and Hammerstein decency that propels an evening that’s adventurous, romantic and, yeah, kinda hip.
– Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld.com

It’s no spoiler to say that imagination wins out, particularly in director-choreographer Susan Stroman’s visually lavish production, which boasts dancing circus elephants, a mermaid who pops up from the orchestra pit, and tree trunks that ingeniously morph into a coven of witches. Don Holder’s lighting, William Ivey Long’s costumes, and Benjamin Pearcy’s projections are often wondrous to behold
. . .
For the most part, though, Big Fish finds theatrically inventive ways to reel audiences into its central love story. In this case, it isn’t boy-meets-girl but father-hooks-son. And Edward Bloom is quite a catch.
– Thom Geler, Entertainment Weekly

Om den svenska versionen skrev pressen:

Ytterst professionellt iscensatt, men sockrat sentimental – ”Big fish” på Uppsala stadsteater öser på med allt. Det uppstår en mättnadskänsla i denna fantasimusikal om konflikten mellan en fabulerande far och en sanningssökande son.
– Karin Helander, Svenska Dagbladet

Om filmen och den ursprungliga boken är en folksaga om en son som på klassiskt vis söker en frånvarande far, är detta en betydligt vardagligare historia. Det är en vinst.

Kanske skulle någon invända att huvudtemat – pappan som hittade på sitt liv – går förlorat i den mer realistiska infattning som förkroppsligas av Gustav Levins och Åsa Forsblad Morisses garanterat barntillåtna äktenskapsskildring. Inte mig emot när de sjunger så bra och visar att det går utmärkt att fabulera under ett par nöjsamma timmar.
– Leif Zern, Dagens Nyheter

Videosar:
Trailer för Uppsala Stadsteaterversionen
High Lights Broadway
Time Stops
Daffodils
Be The Hero

Nr 452: Street Scene (1946)

21 Sep

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Street Scene (1946)

Produktioner i urval:
1947: Broadway, 148 föreställningar
1989: English National Opera (ENO)
1990: New York City Opera

Music: Kurt Weill
Lyrics: Langston Hughes
Book: Elmer Rice, baserad på hans pjäs med samma namn från 1929

The opera takes place on the doorstep of a tenement on the East Side of Manhattan on two brutally hot days in 1946. The story focuses on two plotlines: the romance between Rose Maurrant and her neighbor Sam Kaplan; and on the extramarital affair of Rose’s mother, Anna, which is eventually discovered by Rose’s irritable father, Frank. The show portrays the ordinary romances, squabbles and gossips of the neighbors, as the mounting tensions involving the Maurrant family eventually build into a tragedy of epic proportions.

Skvaller, lekande barn, vardag, examensfest, kärlekspar, barnafödande, spirande romanser, förförelse, passionerad kärlek, otrohet, besvikelser och slutligen mord. Kontrasterna är många och det är tvära kast mellan de olika små berättelserna som samsas och utspelar sig framför några hyreshus i New York i denna opera/musikal.  
Weill kallade själv verket för en amerikansk opera och med det menade han att den innehöll element både från traditionell europeisk opera och amerikansk musikal. 
Det är en skickligt skriven berättelse som trots den fragmenterade berättarstilen lyckas skapa spänning och begripliga handlingsbågar för alla intriger som ska samsas. 

Musiken pendlar mellan Pucciniliknande arior, duetter, sextetter och ensembler och blues, jazz och ett par rena Broadwaynummer varav den ena även innehåller verkets enda riktiga dansnummer. Just det numret Moon-faced, Starry-eyed är ett kul nummer men sticker ut lite för mycket från alla andra nummer och känns nästan mer ditlagd för oss musikalare som inte är operafrälsta. Fast å andra sidan så är väl just den livsglädje, sexualitet och humor som det paret visar upp en bra kontrast mot den gråare, tråkigare vardag som de andra i huset lever i, så den har en funktion att fylla.

Jag personligen är inte helt förtjust i musikaler som behöver framföras av operasolister men tycker ändå att musiken i just denna opera – för ja, den bör ses mer som opera än musikal och den sätts numera endast upp av operahus – är ovanligt dynamisk, melodiös och intressant och fungerar även för en sån som mig.

Kommer kanske inte att återvända till detta verk så ofta men om och när jag gör det så kommer jag nog gå direkt till favoriter som What Good Would the Moon Be, Ice Cream Sextett, I Got a Marble and a Star, Wouldn’t You Like To Be on Broadway, Lonely House, Moon faced – Starry eyed och… Woops, det finns visst rätt mycket musik som jag gillar här så kanske att jag kommer lyssna igenom hela verket ett par gånger till i alla fall.

Har varit dålig på att lyssna på Weills verk hitintills men har plötsligt börjat plöja igenom både hans tidiga tyska sceniska verk och hans amerikanska musikaler och upptäckt en mirakulöst bra och varierad kompositör.
Hur jag inte har kunnat förstå hans storhet förrän nu är lite förbluffande för mig.
Men nu när jag har upptäckt honom så kan jag bara konstatera att han genast har placerat sig bland mina absoluta favorit kompositörer.
Vill ni höra bra och spännande scenisk musik? Då kan jag numera säga att ni kan aldrig gå fel med Weill!
Så är det och om ni inte känner till honom så har ni en fantastisk och fantastiskt varierad kompositör att upptäcka!

Kuriosa:
Den första Tony Awardsgalan hölls 1947 och Kurt Weill var den första kompositör som fick priset för Best Original Score. Street Scene vann även en Tony för bästa kostym.

Kurt skrev alltid orkestreringarna till sina verk själv. Något som var väldigt ovanligt för en kompositör att göra på Broadway på denna tid.

Press:
Add to the text of Elmer Rice’s Street Scene a fresh and eloquent score by Kurt Weill and you have a musical play of magnificence and glory. 


Now, Mr Weill, the foremost music maker in the American theatre, has found notes to express the myriad impulses of Mr. Rice’s poem and transmuted it into a sidewalk opera.

In these songs, and in the omninous orchestrations (by Weill) that accent the basic moods of the drama, Mr Weill is writing serious music enkindled by the excitement of New York.
– Brooks Atkinson, Times

From Elmer Rice’s bitter and compassionate dram, Mr. Rice, Langston Hughes, and Kurt Weill have made a moving, remarable opera – a work of great individuality which makes no compromise with the Broadway formula. The authors call their work a dramatic musical, but it may well be called a metropolitan opera…

Street Scene is a far from ordinary event in the theatre, and I salute the courage, imagination, and skill of those who have made it.
– John Chapman, Daily News

Curiously enough, though the evening is in general a success, Mr. Weill’s music, judged by its precise intentions, is partly a failure.

Some of it is rather pretentious, and some of it as facilely florid as movie music. Moreover, Mr Weill has given musical expression to a good deal of fairly casual dialogue … Going by results, Street Scene, would have been better off had some things that are sung been spoken.
– Louis Kronenberger, PM

Elmer Rice’s famous play, Street Scene, represented a kind of historic peak in the drama of sheer, meticulous realism. There can certainly be no question of the musical version’s fidelity. It may, as a matter of fact, be too faithful for its own good. At least, the current Street Scene is certainly at its best when it forgets about its loftier ambitions and gets around to being a good Broadway musical show, proud and unashamed.
– Richard Watts Jr., Post

Video:
Lonely House
What Good Would the Moon Be?
Moon-faced, Starry-eyed
Ice Cream Sextet

 

Nr 451: No Strings (1962)

14 Sep

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No Strings (1962)
1962: Broadway, 580 föreställningar
1963: West End
2003: New York City Center Encores!

Music & Lyrics: Richard Rodgers
Book: Samuel A Taylor

A successful high-fashion model meets and falls in love with a writer in Paris.
While this Pulitzer prizewinner has been trying to recover from a prolonged case of writer’s block, he’s assumed the dubious role of charming intellectual-in-residence at some of the Continent’s more luxurious watering holes.
As the model’s work takes them on a whirlwind tour of the most exclusive European playgrounds, their romance develops into the first deeply-felt, honest relationship either has ever known.
The model, however, ruefully comes to realize that the life-style demanded by her career is stifling the writer, and if he’s ever to fulfill the promise of his earlier work, he must take responsibility for himself, go home, and write.
Reluctantly, but with no strings, they part, each having discovered anew their capacity to love.

Det här var Richard Rodgers första musikal efter att Oscar Hammerstein 2nd dött. Han var mycket nervös inför premiären inte bara för att han stod som upphovsman till både musik och sångtexter utan också för att han fått för sig att han kanske hade tappat sin förmåga att skriva starka melodier.
En del kritiker ansåg att musiken inte hörde till det bästa han skrivit och att flera av sångtexterna bara var sådär. Men jag tror de var färgade av hans arbete med just Hammerstein och redan hade bestämt sig för att det här bara skulle vara sisådär.
Men för en sån som jag,
 som hittade den här plattan i en second hand butik och inte ens tänkte på vem som hade skrivit musiken blev det å andra sidan en underbar överraskning. För se jag, jag älskade musiken från första stund. Hur kan man inte fastna för sånger som inledningsnumret The Sweetest Sounds, Loads of Love, Be My Host eller How Sad.
Visst är inte alla texter top notch men de duger fint i sammanhanget och vissa är faktiskt riktigt bra. Och Rodgers visar upp en humor och fräckhet i dem som åtminstone jag inte hade förväntat mig att han hade.
Musiken är en återgång för Rodgers till hans mer jazziga sida. Den stil han hade tillsammans med Lorentz Hart innan den mer lyriska Rodgers började blomma tillsammans med Hammerstein. Och jag gillar den jazzigare Rodgers. Mycket!
Manuset sägs vara nått helt otroligt dåligt men musiken är fantastisk, så räkna inte med att showen kommer sättas upp i framtiden.
Men plocka ner plattan från Spotify och njut!

Kuriosa:
Föreställningen vann 3 Tony Awards: Bästa score (musik & sångtexter), kvinnliga huvudroll och koreografi.

Showens titel är en slags ordvits som dels syftar på att förhållandet som huvudpersonerna inleder är helt kravfritt och utan förpliktelser (no strings attached) och på det faktum att inga stråkinstrument förekommer i orkestern.

Orkestern satt inte i orkesterdiket på teatern utan var placerad på scenen. Vid flera tillfällen så kunde även musiker gå runt på scenen och liksom flätas ihop med rollfigurerna och handlingen. De kunde dyka upp på olika platser och i olika konstellationer allt efter behov och/eller den stämning de skulle skapa.
Detta var nått helt nytt på Broadway och ska ha skapat en helt magisk känsla.

Det här är den enda Broadway show där Richard Rodgers är ensam upphovsman till  både musik och sångtexter.

Medborgarrättsrörelsen hade börjat få ordentlig fart i USA när denna musikal hade sin premiär och man kan tycka att det var vågat att skildra ett förhållande mellan en färgad kvinna och en vit man på Broadway. Men ingenstans i manuset så tar man upp detta faktum, eller de eventuella problem som ett sånt förhållande kunde leda till på den tiden. Faktum är att det finns inget som säger att hon skulle vara just en afro-amerikansk kvinna. Alla roller skulle kunna spelas av folk från vilken etnicitet som helst utan att det skulle påverka handlingen det minsta.
Det var dock för tiden väldigt progressivt att rollsätta den kvinnliga huvudrollen med en färgad kvinna. Det var tydligen Rodgers som kom på idén med att ge rollen till Diahann Carroll efter att ha sett henne på The Tonight Show.

”He felt that the casting spoke for itself and any specific references to race in the play were unnecessary. Rodgers said: ‘Rather than shrinking from the issue of race, such an approach would demonstrate our respect for the audience’s ability to accept our theme free from rhetoric or sermons.’, skriver Geoffrey Block i sin biografi över Rodgers.

På 60-talet var det vanligt att olika orkestrar gjorde coverplattor på Broadwayshowers musik och på nätet hittade jag en sån version som hette No Strings (with strings!) med Ralph Burns & His Orchestra.

Press:
Om original uppsättningen 1962:
Rodgers just can’t think of any wrong notes, so his melodies are beguiling – and the lyrics ha has written for them are pleasant and graceful. Joe Layton has directed No Strings as if his life depended upon it, and has staged some odd and twitchy dances for the mannequins and their boy friends. I do wish somebody had thought of some jokes.
– John Chapman, Daily News

The nicest thing to be said about No Strings is Diahann Carroll. … Otherwise, the new musical is a show in which the actors never have to go anywhere. Everything comes to them. Everything exept an idea.
– Walter Kerr, Herald Tribune

By this time, the good people who are responsible for No Strings must be starting to suspect that a book, not a dog, is man’s best friend. No Strings  has a book – by the distinguished playwright, Samuel Taylor. It is not, however, a good book. The persistence of its inadequacy undermines what otherwise might have been an impressively original and occasionally striking musical play.
– Norman Nadel, World-Telegram & Sun

 

Om Encores! konsertversion 2003:
No Strings” is one of those productions that make you want to rush out and buy a cast recording. It also makes you wonder, for a second anyway, why ”No Strings” isn’t revived with regularity. Then you sober up between songs, when Samuel Taylor’s book reminds you that few things date more quickly than yesterday’s standards of sophistication.
This is the kind of show in which its drop-dead beautiful heroine is mentored by a French connoisseur of women who demands no sexual favors in return. And in which the heroine says sincerely, ”I still have so much to learn about wine and art.”

The revelation of ”No Strings” is that one of songwriting’s greatest collaborators had it in him to fly high on his own.
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Entertaining as this lively go at No Strings is, it’s got one drawback as wide as Paris’s Place de Mars, near which a lot of the action takes place. This terminal flaw, which will keep the snazzy production from moving anywhere else anytime soon, is Samuel Taylor’s libretto. An urbane fellow whose biggest prior B’way credit was the lightweight but charming Sabrina Fair, Taylor here introduces writer’s-blocked David Jordan  to Barbara Woodruff , Paris’s top model. Although neither of them has much appeal for an audience — he’s a wastrel, while she’s spoiled by life and has a wealthy French mentor — they seem to see something in each other.
If anything can be said in Taylor’s favor other than his having provided Rodgers with opportunities for running up such a beguiling score, it’s that he distracts attention from his tepid lovers with a number of diverting secondary figures, many of whom could be termed Ameri-trash. 

 If the show as a whole has less than everything, it still has enough to keep the madding musical comedy crowd happy, with no strings attached.
– David Finkle, TheaterMania.com

Video:
The Sweetest Sounds
Salute to the 1962 Broadway season (en medley där sånger ur No Strings ingår)

Nr 450: Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed – (2016)

7 Sep


shuffle-along
Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
(2016)

2016: Broadway, 100 föreställningar

Music & Lyrics: Noble Sissle  & Eubie Blake
Book:  George C. Wolfe med delar baserade på originalmanuset till musikalen Shuffle Along (1921) av Flournoy Miller och Aubrey Lyles

What makes Broadway Broadway is the price of the ticket!

The story focuses on the challenges of mounting the original production of Shuffle Along and its effect on Broadway and race relations.

F. E. Miller and his vaudeville partner Aubrey Lyles conceive the show that was to become Shuffle Along. They meet fellow vaudevillians Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake and decide to team up to create the all-black production.
They tour the show, playing one-night stands in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, packing the cast into cheap motels and selling their personal possessions to pay for train fare.
A romance develops between the married Eubie Blake and the show’s leading lady, Lottie Gee, a veteran vaudeville performer who finally got her chance to star in the show.
The creatives discuss whether or not to include a love song and embrace between the two black leads, a controversial experiment that had been received with tar and feathers in the few instances where it had been tried before; fortunately, the audiences accept it. Arriving in New York during the Depression of 1920–21, Shuffle Along is deep in debt and struggles to raise money. It faces stiff competition on Broadway in a season that includes surefire hits from Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. and George White, and it was relegated to a remote theater on West 63rd Street with no orchestra pit.
Opening night is a hit!
Shuffle Along becomes a long-running success, with popular songs like ”I’m Just Wild About Harry”.
The partners do not have the same success during the following years and argue about royalties. Lyles announces that he is moving to Africa, and the creators go their separate ways.
The romance between Blake and Gee ends.
Everyone wants to be remembered for having done something important, but over the decades, the show fades into obscurity.

Vill ni veta mer om Shuffle Along, original showen från 1921, så läs mitt blogginlägg om den (Nr 147), länk här.

Det här är en knepig show. Första akten om hur musikalen Shuffle Along skapades är rappt och roligt berättat med mycket humor och ett gäng rent spektakulära steppnummer.
Andra akten om hur det gick för upphovsmännen efter showens premiär och framgång är mer dramaturgiskt ointressant. För det går mer eller mindre åt helvete för alla, de misslyckas med sina följande uppsättningar, de blir ovänner och till sist är dom inte bara  i det närmaste bortglömda utan det är även deras förut så framgångsrika show.
Och tyvärr så har alla de fem stora rollerna fått varsin sammanbrotts/ångest låt i andra akten och det blir lite för mycket av elände för att bibehålla mitt intresse. För det blir inte bara enformigt utan dessutom ointressant eftersom allt ältas om och om igen.
Man vill liksom bara snabbspola förbi.
Fortfarande är det grymt snyggt iscensatt och även andra akten innehåller sanslösa steppnummer men det blir ändå inte bra.
Eubie Blakes musik, steppen och de snygga shownumren är den stora behållningen och om föreställningen slutat efter första akten så hade den varit en hit men tyvärr så kom det en andra akt…
Ingen cast skiva gavs ut och den lär knappas sättas upp igen.
Men steppnumren… Jag säger bara steppnumren! Wow!

Kuriosa:
Föreställningen vann:
4 Drama Desk Awards: Bästa musikal, koreografi, kostym och peruk och hår design.
3 Fred and Adele Astaire Awards: Bästa koreografi,  manlig dansare och ensemble i en Broadway show.
1 New York Drama Critics Circle Award för Bästa musikal.

Den fantastiska steppkoreografin gjores av Savion Glover som anses vara en av världens bästa steppare. Han vann 1996 en Tony Award för sin koreografi i Bring in ‘da Noice, Bring in ‘da Funk.

Audra McDonald, som spelade den kvinnliga huvudrollen är en klassiskt utbildad sångerska. Hon har varit en av Broadways mest lysande och prisbelönta artister sen debuten 1992.
1994 fick hon sin första Tony för sin tolkning av Carrie Pipperidge i revivaln av Carousel.
1996 fick hon en Tony för bästa biroll i en pjäs för Master Class.
1998 fick hon en musikalbirolls-Tony för sin tolkning av Sarah i Ragtime.
2004 fick hon ännu en biroll i en pjäs Tony för revivaln av A Raisin In The Sun.
2012 fick hon en Tony för bästa kvinnliga huvudroll i en musikal för revivaln av Porgy and Bess.
2014 fick hon en Tony för Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.
Eftersom man ansåg att Lady Day var en pjäs med musik snarare än en musikal så fick hon alltså Tonyn för bästa kvinnliga huvudroll i en pjäs. Detta medförde att hon inte bara är den mest Tony belönde skådespelaren i Broadways historia utan också den enda som vunnit en Tony i alla fyra kvinnliga rollkategorierna: Bästa kvinnliga huvudroll i en pjäs, bästa kvinnliga huvudroll i en musikal, bästa kvinnliga biroll i en pjäs och bästa kvinnliga biroll i en musikal. Imponerande!

Press:
The first half of … Shuffle Along is to 2016 what Hamilton was to 2015: It’s the musical you’ve got to see. … The cast, led by Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter, is as charismatic as you’d expect, and Savion Glover’s near-nonstop choreography explodes off the stage with the unrelenting impact of a flamethrower. But then comes intermission, and what had looked like a masterpiece goes flat and stays that way.
– Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

…As staged by Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Glover…routines first performed nearly a century ago come across as defiantly fresh…Often you sense that Mr. Wolfe has a checklist of historic points he must, but must, cover before the show’s end…The clunky, shoehorned-in exposition doesn’t overwhelm the sweeping grace of Shuffle Along whenever it sings or dances…The show’s principals…all more or less manage to bend their distinctive charismas into the sinuous contours of early Broadway jazz. But Ms. McDonald is a one-woman time machine de luxe, who translates the precise stylistic quirks of a bygone era into a melting immediacy. She also provides the most fully fleshed character in the show.
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

There is a bit of bloat, too much exposition and with five stars who each need a backstory, the plot sometimes slows, but Wolfe nicely captures the timeless craziness of creation and the glory days of a special show.
– Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

The new Broadway musical Shuffle Along dazzles like no other show this season — but it also disappoints…When the cast is singing and tearing up the floor with choreographer Savion Glover’s muscular and thrilling tap-dancing it’s pure unmitigated heaven. But between numbers, biographies are sketched out and behind-the-scenes blow-by-blows are shared. The narration turns entertainment into dull lecture hall…
– Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News

The first half is sensational; the second is difficult, in terms of our heroes’ postsuccess fates and how engagingly their narratives play out. But with a cast this incandescent and Wolfe staging a constant flow of miracles, there’s an overflow of joy and style that smooths over stylistic rough edges and knotty stitching of history to myth. … Above all, we can luxuriate in a breathtaking piece of showmanship, featuring more talent crowding a stage than pretty much any other Broadway show at present (and yes, that includes Hamilton)…Oh, and there’s dance-miles and miles of ecstatic, syncopated genius courtesy of Savion Glover.
– David Cote, Time Out NY

Video:
The Tony Awards
High Lights
I’m Simply Filled With Jazz
Act One Finale
Kiss Me
Behind The Scenes

 

 

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