The Adventure Continues

TT in the Blue Mountains and Sheldy in New York.

Culture Shock.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If it only even runs a minute

(tt)   This town is full of quirky events which have wonderful resonance and  seemingly endless sources to keep them alive for years. Such is that entitled as above.  It was created and compered by two ingenuous musical devotees, Jennifer Ashley Tepper and Kevin Michael Murphy who also share hyphenated brains.
The premise is simple...take interesting theatrical box office failures, find out what they were all about, locate any existing cast members, directors, designers, etc and fashion a show with songs and trivia centred around these oddities, many of which have not seen the light of day since they shuttered.  This latest evening was number 7 in the series and I loved it. Each of the shows were given introductions via photographs on two telescreens and tantalizing information was provided on the making  and  ultimate demise of each.  An invited guest or two would tell wonderful tales of their involvement including some scurrilous dish and then sing  numbers from the score.

 The irrepressible Randy Graff  gave life to her hit number from 'A-- My Name is Alice' for the first time in 25 years.  It was a wonderfully deep ballad entitled, 'I Sure Like The Boys Who Dance Real Slow' which she followed by an hilarious story of her asking the orchestrator to provide appropriate mood to enhance what was obviously a teenage orgasm. On opening night at intermission a dishy waiter appeared in the dressing room with 4 glasses of champagne on a tray. The excited man who had fallen in love with the show was Gregory Hines and he'd borrowed the outfit to pull off the stunt.

Jose Llana was bursting with stories about the disastrous pre-Broadway tryout (now a cursed phrase) of "Martin Guerre"  helmed by a drunken Irish director and beset  by everything from downed actors to food poisoning. Mr Llana missed three shows with said ailment only to awaken from his sickbed to this newspaper headline - " Actor's Diarrhea Shutters Guthrie"  He then went into a wildly mad version of the title number, his tongue firmly stuck in his impish cheek.

Puckish Don Stitt took us through his experiences  in the 1988 revival of "Can Can" which Sheldon and I saw in Los Angeles minus its star,  La Diva Chita.  Maybe she was licking her wounds from being chastised about bringing a talking  Pee Wee Herman doll onstage and making him perform his distinctive laugh at the most inappropriate moments.  His tales about life on the the road with a bus and truck show were horribly funny. While stranded in a blizzard he watched police shepherd all the glamorous Rockettes off into warm safety while he and his fellows were herded into a filthy cattle truck.  There's no business.....

Patrick Jude told horror tales of the"Got Tu Go Disco" bomb including one about a multi-thousand  dollar flying prop bubble that never made its balcony bound ascent because management hadn't cleared it with the fire department.  It just lay there on the side of the stage promising nothing. Much like the show it seems.
"Legs Diamond"'s corpse was exhumed and spat on. Sheldon and I saw one of the many previews. In fact his ability to read upside down came into use when we passed the sound desk in the stalls and he was able to whisper to me, "Bob Stillman is out of the show" cos he'd seen all his numbers excised in red. We'd been told by friends the night before that Stillman was the best thing in the production, far overshadowing Peter Allen. Christine Andreas had gotten the chop the week before. Ms Tepper was in the middle of a story about peeling cast names revealing ex-players on the poster when someone yelled out, "The director is in tonight".  It momentarily phased her but she boldly carried on dishing more dirt..and nobody refuted a word.
The show that actually spawned the series and lies closest to Ms Tepper's heart is "Merrily We Roll Along". Apart from telling the story.. a very difficult task.. our comperes waxed lyrical about the effect this flawed gem had on their lives as artists and historians. Ms Tepper donned a printed sweater to pay homage to the costumes and admitted her annual ritual, dressed in black, of standing outside the Alvin (now Simon) Theatre on the anniversaries of its opening and closing.  A true champion if not a tad obsessive.
Josh Grisetti showed how right he would be to be cast as Charlie by his stunning rendition of "Franklin Shepherd Inc"

Mana Allen told two wonderful stories. One was about her creating the off key audition moment in "Who Wants To Live In New York" It was a desperate attempt to cover a crisis (she was a soprano having major vocal problems) but was so loved that it has been preserved forever on the cast album. She then described a nightmare in which she witnessed a truly epic theatrical car crash. Following the departure of Ron Field and his replacement by Larry Fuller only half the orchestra had been handed a vital music cut and a bewildered cast had not been told of a major set change. Lights crashed into two banks of lockers spilling all their contents onto the stage, the cast were singing one thing and the orchestra battling another while in panic Miss Allen whipped a director's chair round so fast that a caster flew off  into the pit and nearly brained Paul Gemignani, the musical director.

The evening ended with the original Franklin, Jim Walton,  telling a wonderful story of how Sondheim had tricked Jason Alexander into tackling the art of singing chromatic music and then closed by accompanying himself in "Good Thing Going"

Other shows to come out  into the sun before disappearing again were   "The Act", "High Fidelity", "Redhead", "Two Gentlemen of Verona", "Romance in Hard Times" and the only one never to have opened (and not even in its advertised  theatre),  never  to have been reviewed and whose criminal producer paid the cast from garbage bags full of cash - "Senator Joe"     Well done Ms Tepper  (please slow your delivery down a bit!) and Mr Murphy.

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