Tag Archives: ghetto

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 437: The Rothschilds

15 Feb

The Rothschilds (1970)
Broadway 1970, 505 föreställningar
Off-Broadway, 1990, 435 föreställningar
Off-Broadway (som Rothschild & Sons), 2015

Music: Jerry Bock
Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick
Book: Sherman Yellen baserad på biografin The Rothschilds (1962) av Frederic Morton.

In 1772 Frankfurt, Germany, Jews are restricted to living in the ghetto and frequently are the victims of violence. Mayer Amschel Rothschild returns from Hanover, where he was an apprentice banker, to make his fortune in his home town. Because only twelve Jewish marriages are permitted in a given year, he is forced to come up with a plan in order to marry his fiancée Gutele. He reopens his shop, carrying goods and rare coins. At the Frankfurt Fair, he entices Prince William of Hesse with fanciful tales about rare coins, then bribes the prince in order to marry Gutele. Later, Mayer becomes agent for the court bankers, but he wants more.

By 1778, Mayer and Gutele have five sons, each of whom enters the business as soon as he is old enough. As they age, they and their father chafe at the many restrictions and indignities heaped upon Jews. In 1804, their success and their chutzpah take them to Denmark as superior court agents to the Danish king when Hesse must loan money to him to help fight a war. However, Hesse is overthrown by Napoleon, and Minister of Police Joseph Fouché takes over. When Mayer and his sons return to Germany, they find no court for which they can be agents. Mayer sends his older sons off to collect Hesse’s debts before the French can get them, and sends his younger son, Nathan, to London to invest the money.
Initially awkward in England, Nathan soon displays considerable investing talents. He falls in love with Hannah Cohen, an aristocratic English ”Jewish Joan of Arc” devoted to charitable works. He eventually wins her over by pledging to loan money to England to help win their war against Napoleon if the Chancellor of the Exchequer Herries pledges to make Germany and Austria lift their restrictions on Jews.
In Germany, Prince Metternich promises roughly the same thing if the Rothschilds make the loan. In 1818, Metternich reneges on his bargain, and old Mayer dies, broken-hearted. His sons scheme to force Metternich to come to terms by continually undercutting his price for peace bonds, although the plan brings them to the brink of bankruptcy. Metternich not only concedes but is forced to guarantee that all state bonds will be handled by the House of Rothschild. The ghetto walls are torn down, and Mayer’s dream is realized.

Den här musikalen hör till en av mina absoluta favoriter – rent musikaliskt. Har tyvärr aldrig fått chansen att se den.
I början på 1990-talet så släppte Sony ut ett stort antal av sina gamla musikaltitlar för första gången på CD, digitalt uppfräschade och ett ordentlig faktaspäckad häfte följde med i konvolutet. Jag köpte typ alla titlar som de gav ut. Just den här plattan såg ju väldigt sober ut och jag vet inte vad jag hade förväntat mig för typ av musik men inte var det denna semi pastisch på klassisk musik med tydliga judiska inslag. Jag älskade den från min första genomlyssning. Här finns strålande ensemblenummer, gripande solon och till och med lite komiska sånger mitt i allt allvar.
Just det här kompositörsparet (Harnick & Bock) har skrivit flera av mina favvomusikaler som Fiddler on the Roof och She Loves Me så det var väl inte så otippat att jag skulle gilla den här showens musik också, det som förvånade mig var snarare att det skulle ta så lång tid (2 år) innan jag öppnade CD:n…

 

Kuriosa:
Föreställningen vann 2 Tony Awards: Bästa manliga huvudroll och bästa manliga biroll i en musikal.

Detta blev den sista musikalen för partnerskapet Sheldon Harnick (text) och Jerry Bock (musik). De hade samarbetat sen 1958 och skapat mästerverk som Spelman på Taket, She Loves Me och Fiorello! Anledningen till att samarbetet dog med denna produktion var att regissören som anlitades för att regissera musikalen, Derek Goldby, fick sparken från produktionen innan den hade sin premiär. Goldby var en god vän till Bock. När Harnick tog  producenternas sida och höll med om att Goldby skulle kickas så kände sig Bock sviken av sin partner och de började glida ifrån varandra.

2015 så hade en kraftigt bearbetad version av verket premiär Off-Broadway. Nu presenterades den som enaktsföreställning och koncentrerade sig mer på relationen mellan Mayer och hans söner än grundandet av deras bankvälde. Även några tidigare strukna sånger lades till.
En anledning till att man valde att bearbeta revivaln av verket så kraftigt  var att folk hade klagat på att bara första akten i originaluppsättningen, som koncentrerade sig just på Mayer, var intressant. Sönernas öden under andra akten ansågs inte så engagerande och man saknade även Hal Linden som spelade Mayer. Detta ledde till att man skrev in en sång åt Hal i andra akten och lät sönerna hela tiden skriva brev till honom så man fick anledning till att ta in honom på scen. Detta trots att Mayer rent historiskt var död under den tid andra akten utspelade sig.

Den Oscarnominerade skådespelerskan Jill Clayburgh gjorde sin Broadway debut i rollen som Hannah Cohen.

Press:
För originaluppsättningen:
This lead-footed and overstuffed musical, oldest of old fashioned, only represents the vulgarity of money and the vulgarization of Jewishness. It also represents the vulgarization of musical theatre.

It is ludicrously expensive, naive and misled.

Not only is there no coordination between dance and drama, there isn’t even a connection. There is nothing musical about the dramatic sequences and nothing dramatic about the musical ones.
– Martin Gottfried, Women¨s Wear Daily

 

Yet it is interesting, in parts very witty, has a certain moral force and, best of all, it has style.

The Rothschilds is a good and solid start for the musical season. Wonder of wonder I think it might even make money. But the Rothschilds always have.
– Clive Barnes, The New York Times

 

It is possible that The Rothschilds has succeeded in becoming exactly what it meant to be: an unhappy musical comedy. Do your eyebrowes lift? What else was to be got out of an account, very lightly dusted by powdered wigs and twirled parasols, of a Jewish family that fought its way up out of the ghetto, servile blow by servile blow, until it had amassed enough money to help finance the Napoleonic wars and to extract promises (of freedom) that would never be kept? Joy unconfined, or even temporary satisfaction? And that is the truth of the matter. But is it a truth with much music in it?
– Walter Kerr, Times

För 2015 års revival:
Sherman Yellen’s book looks hard for heart and warmth, but this is still the story of a man who decides that the only way to escape oppression is to make lots of money. And the way to get even with powerful people who betray you is by sabotaging their bond offering. Bankers are not particularly fashionable as heroes right now.

Mayer’s musical number “In My Own Lifetime” comes close to thrilling, and “Everything” is at least rousing, but most of the songs are only pretty. Maybe it’s too much to expect another “Sunrise, Sunset” or “If I Were a Rich Man,” but what’s a musical for?
– Anita Gates, The New York Times

Videosar:
Trailer till Rothschild & Sons
Meet The Creators
Hal Linden om sin Tony vinnande roll i 1970 års uppsättning
In My Own Lifetime med Sammy Davies Jr.
I’m in Love

 

 

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