Is There Life After High School? -
Original Cast Records
I saw this charmer twice during its brief Broadway run. Craig Carnelia
came up with an excellent score, reflecting on the way high school memories
echo through our adult years. Cheered by audiences, the production soon
surprisingly negative reviews. This recording will make you wonder why.
Such fine songs as "The Kid Inside," "Thousands
of Trumpets" and "Second Thoughts" thrive thanks to a cast
of Broadway favorites, including Harry Groener, Alma Cuervo, Sandy Faison
and Maureen Sillman. Solo moments "Diary of a Homecoming
Queen" and "Nothing Really Happened" are delightful
it is no wonder that several of these songs became cabaret standards.
A nostalgic trip for anyone who has survived life in
an American high school, this is a perfect show for college and community theatres.
The CD edition improves the once-uneven sound quality of the LP, and
includes a bonus track of Carnella performing a solo version of
"The Kid Inside." Lots to love here!
Jennie - RCA
Mary Martin's only musical flop boasts a good Howard Dietz-Arthur
Schwartz score and a great supporting cast. Loosely based on
the early career of actress Laurette Taylor, a weak book and an
over reliance on special stage effects did this one in. Martin's charm shines
through on the recording, especially in "Before I
Kiss the World Goodbye" and the jaunty "Waitin' For the
Evening Train." Ethel Shutta (best remembered for singing
"Broadway Baby" in Follies) is delightful in "For
Better or Worse," and Jack De Lon scores with the rarely heard
"When You're Far Away from New York Town." Probably unrevivable,
but it is always fun to hear Mary Martin doing her thing.
Kelly - 1998 Concert
Talk about awful scores! Based on the true story of an 1800s Bowery con man who tried
to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge for profit, Kelly's costly one-night run back
in 1965 made it a legend. Lyricist/librettist Eddie Lawrence (the original
"Sandor" in Bells Are Ringing) insisted that the show was ruined by
pre-Broadway re-writes, and continued promoting the score after composer Moose
Charlap's death. Lawrence even issued a hideous demo on LP some years ago. When The
York Theatre Company showcased Kelly as part of their fascinating
"Musicals in Mufti" concert series for neglected Broadway scores, the
infamy of the show and a stellar cast led to SRO performances and this CD.
Lawrence's faith has been misplaced. Kelly
has a truly lousy score as bad as its reputation suggests, and then some.
Talented performers and the clarity of digital sound only make the shortcomings
more obvious. The title character opens the show serenading the Brooklyn Bridge
an appalling number sung superbly by Broadway hunk
Brian D'Arcy James. The rhymes stink, the music is awful, the whole concept
simply does not work. "I'll Never Go There Anymore" is the best of a
bad lot, thanks in large part to a charming rendition by Sally Mayes. Stage
veterans Jane Connell, George S. Irving, John Shuck and Marcia Lewis
try their best, but they can only do so much. The tenacious Eddie Lawrence plays one
of the leads, and his acting is still decidedly better than his writing. The most
interesting performance on this disk is provided by Sandy Stewart, who was in
the 1965 production. Her voice has only gained in warmth. Like the rest of this cast,
she is more than this material ever deserved. Dedicated theatre buffs may want to
have this recording for the sheer novelty value.
Kwamina - Angel
Richard Adler's score has merit, but it winds up sounding terribly pretentious.
Sally Ann Howes plays a British doctor running an African clinic. She
clashes with tribal culture while falling in love with Kwamina, a local black
physician. The score teeters between showtunes for Howes and
tribal songs for the black characters an uneasy mix. The supporting
cast includes such solid singers as Brock Peters and Robert
Guillaume, but Terry Carter is forgettable in the title role.
This score has its admirers, but I doubt that a production of this show
would find an audience today.
Late Nite Comic - Original
A musical about a stand up comic trying to establish a successful career
while dealing with a tempestuous romance? Sounds like a good idea. But
backstage turmoil and substantial pre-Broadway revisions took their toll,
and Late Nite Comic was harshly dismissed by the critics in 1987.
However, several of its songs have enjoyed an afterlife in cabaret, and
the composer produced a nicely sung cast LP to preserve the score, now
available on CD.
Composer/lyricist Brian Gari performs most of the
songs himself, ably assisted by cabaret stars Julie Budd, Michael
McAssey and Robin Kaiser. There are few comic numbers
a surprise considering the topic. But the music has a pleasant pop
feel especially the bawdy "Relax With Me Baby." The CD
includes "Late Nite Saga" a self-indulgent but fascinating
reflection on what happens when a show goes wrong. Late Nite Comic
might prove attractive to a company looking for a small show with a contemporary
sound. As for Mr. Gari (grandson of the legendary Eddie Cantor) I would be
willing to bet that we haven't heard the last from this tireless self-promoter.
Legs Diamond - RCA
Listening to the socko opening number "When I Get My Name in Lights,"
you may wonder why this show failed. Don't worry by the time you're
halfway through the otherwise forgettable score, you'll understand why this
disaster ended Peter Allen's hopes for a Broadway career.
The three things you are spared in a pure audio format
Allen's hopeless acting (a screaming Aussie queen as a butch gangster?),
the cumbersome sets, and a chorus so unattractive that it was dubbed
"the Kennel of Broadway." Sensational singer Julie
Wilson doesn't get even the shadow of a memorable song. When this
CD was was discontinued, it took NY stores several years to sell it off,
even at steep discounts. You might enjoy the opening song and the
value, but I would discourage anyone thinking of staging this show
it is beyond repair.
Mack & Mabel
- MCA & Angel
Showbuffs have long
adored the classic MCA 1974 original Broadway cast recording with
knockout performances by Robert Preston, Bernadette
Peters and Lisa Kirk. That album kept the show alive for
decades, and a Torville & Dean routine using the spiffy overture
made the score a cult favorite in Britain. Now we also have a fine 1995
London cast recording on Angel with Howard McGillin, Caroline
O'Connor and Kathryn Evans. The songs are among Jerry Herman's
finest "I Won't Send Roses,"
"Wherever He Ain't" and "Time Heals Everything"
are pure Broadway gold, and I love "When Mabel Comes In the
Room." The London version adds a nifty title song (using the
same melody as the delicious "Look What Happened to Mabel").
Get the Broadway cast first it is irresistible.
After you fall in love with it, get this London cast recording too. Anyone
considering a production should be forewarned to date, no one has
been able to make this show work. The downer ending (Mabel dies and
Mack's career fades) is just too much for any score to overcome.
Magdalena - CBS
Robert Wright and George Forrest, accustomed to
adapting the melodies of long-dead composers (Kismet),
collaborated with Brazil's Heitor Villa-Lobos while he was still alive.
Magdalena is more a ponderous South American opera than a
Broadway musical. The complex plot involved natives in the jungles of
Columbia contending with a gluttonous general who steals their Miracle Madonna
statue. A cast headed by Dorothy Sarnoff and John Raitt could not pull it off,
and the show closed quickly.
Thanks to the popularity of Villa-Lobos, interest in the score
grew over the years, resulting in a 1987 concert version and this recording.
What a collection of voices! Faith Esham and Kevin Gray dazzle in
the romantic leads. George Rose is the evil general, and Judy Kaye
has a blast as the greedy mistress who literally feeds him to death in "Piece de
Resistance." Magdalena is so vocally demanding that even a
top-notch opera company would find it a challenge. This
recording is highly recommended to opera buffs and fans of Villa-Lobos.
Broadway musical fans may enjoy listening to Rose & Kaye, but will probably find
the score hard to appreciate outside of a staged production.
Meet Me in St. Louis -
This production was a bad idea the minimal plot of the classic MGM film
(will a St. Louis family move to New York?) was doomed to fail on stage,
and a wildly lavish staging weighed things down. With the delicious movie version
available on home video, why bother? Producers kept it running at a loss
until it failed to win any Tonys, whereupon it swiftly folded. However,
the DRG cast recording offers plenty of
fun, with a great cast and an expanded Hugh Martin-Ralph Blane score.
Donna Kane is wonderful in the Judy Garland
role, with George Hearn and Charlotte Moore thoroughly
enjoyable as her
parents, Milo O'Shea ingratiating as her grandfather, and Betty Garrett irresistible as their housekeeper. Along with polished renditions
of "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little
Christmas," we get several less familiar but enjoyable numbers.
Jason Workman is especially effective in "Diamonds in the
Starlight," and I confess an inexplicable affection for the silly production
number "Banjos." Much better on disc than on stage,
Meet Me in St. Louis might benefit from a simpler staging.
My Favorite Year -
Lincoln Center Theatre's first original musical had a score by Stephen Flaherty
and Lynn Ahrens, who were fresh from their success with Once On This Island.
There are some fine moments especially the epic opening "Twenty Million
People." This melodious and witty number introduces us to the insane world of a
network comedy show and the major players in the lead character's life. Musical
theatre exposition at its best, this is a pre-echo
of what the same team would do in Ragtime a few years later. The
rest of My Favorite Year's score is not nearly as breathtaking,
but it has some good moments.
Evan Pappas is perfect as a young TV gag writer who
finds himself chaperoning a broken-down movie star he once idolized. Tim Curry tries his damnedest as a thinly veiled parody of the aging Errol Flynn.
Lanie Kazan is hilarious as the writer's
overwhelming Jewish mother (at her best in the amusing "Welcome to
Brooklyn"), and Andrea Martin steals the show as one of the
gag writers. If you are adventurous, this CD is worth having just for
the super opening number. Amateur theatre groups with a solid cast of comic
actors might make this show tick.
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