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Broadway Time Capsule 1965-1966 Season

September 24, 2011

WHAT STUFF COST

Average Annual Income: $6,450

Tickets cost: Balcony $2.85-3.80, Orchestra $6.25 – $7.50

Gas $.31 a gallon

Milk $1.05 a gallon

President: Lyndon B. Johnson

This feature of the blog represents:

a) a way to get to know your Broadway history by plopping you down in a particular season and poking around there

b) an easy way to see video clips and audio clips of year-specific shows and

c) a hand guide for T.V.’s time traveling Scott Bakula to what shows to see when he visits New York.

THE HOT TICKET

 

 

Man of La Mancha

This retelling of Don Quixote through the frame of Cervantes imprisonment in the Spanish Inquisition started out as a television drama, then was fleshed out into a musical. It’s notable for having no violins, violas or cellos in the pit, instead filling out the band with traditional flamenco instrumentation. It has a reputation for the stirring and popular anthems The Impossible Dream, and The Man Of LaMancha (popularly known as I, Don Quixote), and even though it has been revived on Broadway 4 times, it doesn’t appeal to Theatre snobs very much. Things might have been different with the original lineup, which included W.H. Auden writing lyrics, and Rex Harrison as Don Quixote. But Auden’s lyrics were considered too biting, and Harrison couldn’t cut the singing, so we got the populist lyrics of Joe Darion, and the lead went to Richard Kiley, seen here:

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Open A New Window, pages 200-204

Sweet Charity

This is a Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon show. Oh, and book by some guy named Neil Simon. Somehow, Bob Fosse’s theatrical sense overwhelms every other collaborator. Whether it’s Kander and Ebb, Adler and Ross, or this time, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, it’s always a punchy, kind of raunchy sound, with lots of pauses for movement. As brilliant as Big Spender is, compare it to Kander and Ebb’s music for the Cell Block Tango. All the coolest things are clearly Fosse’s ideas. I sometimes feel like the big moments are all written by Fosse himself, with the composer called in at the last minute to put the finishing touches on the thing. This is a little documentary footage of the original production including some footage of the movie.

Want to hear more?

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Open A New Window, pages 219-223 Rewrites, pp. 214-218

Mame

Mame is one of the shows which is slowly dropping out of the canon. Like Hello Dolly!, it has great music, some broad comedy, and a role for a glamorous and perhaps older woman. It’s not as clean as Hello Dolly!, so it isn’t quite as good for schools, and the treatment comes off as dated now. It does have great numbers, and Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur were fantastic:

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Open A New Window, pp. 114-119

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever

This show (like all Alan Jay Lerner’s shows after My Fair Lady) ran into some trouble. It was first supposed to be written by Richard Rodgers, who after the death of Oscar Hammerstein went flitting from partner to partner. Their collaboration was to be called I Picked A Daisy But Rodgers found Lerner’s working methods unworkable, so the collaboration fell apart, and Lerner turned to Burton Lane to write the music. (to my knowledge, none of Rodgers material is in the final product) Like many of Lerner’s shows, the book is problematic. Like many of Lerner’s shows, and all of his marriages, it involved an older man attempting to transform a younger woman. Lane hadn’t had a show on Broadway since 1947’s Irish Finian’s Rainbow. (the same year of Lerner’s Scottish Brigadoon) Mark Steyn relates a story about James Kirkwood, who said that since the musical was an original story, when he saw the show,  at intermission he was delighted that he didn’t know how the show was going to end. Lerner later said, “I didn’t either. That was the trouble.” In this set of clips, you’ll see the amazingly quirky Barbara Harris, who you may recognize from her work in The Apple Tree, which would open 4 months after this show closed.

Want to Hear more?

Want to Read more?

The Wordsmiths, pp. 329-342. Broadway Babies Say Goodnight p. 119 Open A New Window, pp. 243-244

THE SMART TICKET

Drat! The Cat!

Okay, you’d never know it from listening to this bootleg clip, but this show is really well respected by the pointy headed musical theatre geek crowd! It’s about this burglar, you see, and the overture is staged with her white gloves stealing stuff all over town. Remember that Streisand hit He Touched Me? Well, it’s from this show, and she recorded it to drum up business for the show. Her then-husband Elliot Gould (best known now as Ross and Monica’s dad on Friends) was in the show. Enthusiasts of this show managed to get the show recorded, with Elaine Stritch, Judy Kaye, Susan Egan and Jason Graee, among others.

Want to hear more? Really, you should listen to some of the clips of the studio cast. I’m not being fair by showing you only this clip…

Want to read more?

Open A New Window, pp. 217-218, Not Since Carrie, pp. 296-297

THE FLOPS

The Zulu and the Zayda

Who could go wrong with a show about an unlikely friendship between a Yiddish grandfather and a young Zulu in South Africa? They could… But the underappreciated Harold Rome wrote a decent score, and because this show was a flop, he was able to reuse a lot of the material. Sadly, he wouldn’t use it on Broadway. This was his last score for Broadway.

Want to hear more?

Skyscraper

This show has some lovely moments, but people in the know say they are few and not enough to make it a worthwhile evening. The show limped into NY in trouble and was being rewritten every evening when Dorothy Kilgallen saw it in previews around Thanksgiving and announced ‘I had my turkey early this year’ But people still came to see it for Julie Harris. BTW, does this number start out like “Guys and Dolls” or what?

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Open A New Window, pp. 216-218, Not Since Carrie, pp. 86-89 Notes on Broadway, pp. 41-43

Pickwick

Hey, Oliver! worked. How about more Dickens? No thank you. Closed after 56 performances.

Couldn’t find anything from the original cast on the you tube, but this is Jan Peerce singing a song from the show, in the year it came out:

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

You can’t.

Anya

Wright and Forrest spent a career retooling the melodies of great composers into new operetta. They did it most successfully to the music of Borodin in Kismet, but they also did it to Grieg in Song of Norway, and to Villa Lobos in Magdalena. Here they’re telling the story of Anastasia, the woman thought to be the last surviving Romanov, using the music of Rachmaninoff! So basically we have the story of the movie Anastasia, which everybody loves, told using the glorious music of one of Russia’s greatest composers. Sadly, it was a big flop, running only 2 weeks. The era of operetta was over, and it wouldn’t really come back until20 years later, when we were treated to Phantom of the Opera, and by that time everybody had forgotten what operetta was. Wright and Forrest evidently kept bringing the show back over and over again in various cities and companies, hoping to fix whatever might have been wrong with it, but it remains a mostly forgotten show. I couldn’t even find a clip of it!

Want to hear more?

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Not Since Carrie, pp. 235-236, Open A New Window, pp. 86-87

NERD POINTS

 

 

Wait a Minim!

A South African Revue, with music by Jeremy Taylor, which included his big hit, Ag Pleez Daddy, which must have gone right over the heads of the New York crowd in 1966. But then they kept coming for 456 performances…

Warning: contains what may be considered a slur, although I’m not sure I’m understanding it correctly…

Want to hear more?

Pousse Café

This Duke Ellington show lasted only 3 performances. I really like Duke Ellington, but when he was writing for film or for the musical theatre, it seems like he was stepping out of his element. He evidently wrote a ridiculous amount of music for the show. The lyrics are by Marshall Barer, better known for his lyrics for Once Upon a Mattress. Pousse Café is mentioned in almost none of the Broadway reference books, and I had difficulty finding out any information at all about it. Prime territory for theatre nerds.

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Not Since Carrie, pp. 177-178

It’s A Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!

Hal Prince’s last musical comedy. His next show would be Cabaret. The score was by Adams and Strouse, they of Bye Bye Birdie fame. Superman flew on wires and the set included cartoon boxes in which the action took place. I think there was a time when you could honestly hope to bring this show back, but after the recent Spider Man fiasco, it’s starting to look like superheroes really have no place in musical theatre! If you love the original Christopher Reeve Superman as much as I do, you may be interested to know that the librettists of this show co-wrote the screenplay to the movie (with some guy named Mario Puzo)

Now, you occasionally read people saying that the creators of the show were being very serious with their material, and that this show represented a break from the campy treatment of superheroes. I think this number from the 1975 television version of the musical puts the lie to that…

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Not Sine Carrie, pp. 135-136 Open A New Window, 239-241 Broadway Babies Say Goodnight pp. 119-120

3 comments

  1. This list is disappointly incomplete! I moved to New York in October of 1965 (arriving the day after “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” opened), to join the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. I saw the original productions of “Mame,” “Pickwick” and “Anya,” but other musicals that season included “Half a Sixpence,’ “La Grosse Valise,” “Hotel Paradiso,” and “A Time For Singing.” I think this was the last season so many musicals opened. After that, they dwindled down to nothing in 1985.


  2. Addendum to Original Comment: The clip of Barbara Harris etc. from “On a Clear Day” is wonderful. What a treasure!


  3. Kelly-
    Thanks for your input! Half a Sixpence opened April 15, 1965, which I believe puts it in the 1964-1965 season. My references have Hotel Paradiso listed as a play. Are they mistaken? A Time For Singing should be here, you’re right! La Grosse Valise was only open for 5 days. I’ll have to include it in the flops when I revise the page. Thanks for keeping me honest! Glad you liked the Barbara Harris clip. They don’t make them like that any more.



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