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Q & A: 2/28/05

Q: I was wondering about the musical Goya...A Life in Music by Maury Yeston. I know there was a concept CD is it still in print? and one of the songs became a hit with Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson, but was there ever a production of the show?---C. Wong

A: On August 28, 1988, a gala concert entitled Broadway at the Bowl was presented at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The first half of the evening featured performers recreating their Broadway songs, with appearances by Mary Martin, Tommy Tune, Elaine Stritch, Carol Channing, Melba Moore, Kelly Bishop, Bea Arthur, Dolores Gray, and Patti LuPone.

In addition to "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Cock-Eyed Optimist," Martin sang "Some Enchanted Evening" with Placido Domingo at the end of the first half. Domingo returned for the second half of the evening, which consisted of a concert presentation of Yeston's Goya, which was billed as "a work in progress." Gloria Estefan also from the concept album and a large chorus joined Domingo in Goya. As far as I know, this live presentation of Goya was the only public staging of the piece.

Q: About a year ago, Savion Glover took a new cast out on a national tour of his Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. At that time it was reported all over, with quotes by Glover himself, that the tour was being recorded for a PBS broadcast after the tour closed. Later on it was even reported that the filming had taken place. Then nothing. It's been almost 2 years now and I was wondering what the status of this project was and will it ever be broadcast on PBS.--Carl Krickmire

A: I recently came across the brochure for the 2003-2004 season of PBS's "Great Performances," and saw that Noise/Funk was listed for a spring 2004 telecast. I'd also be curious to know whether or not the show was, in fact, taped, and whether or not it will ever be aired.

The same season brochure announced a December 22, 2003 "Great Performances" telecast of a London concert version of Wonderful Town, starring the principals of the EMI recording Kim Criswell, Audra McDonald, Thomas Hamptson, Brent Barrett. That telecast was obviously cancelled when it became clear that Wonderful Town was to have a Broadway revival at the same time.

Q: I recall that Kiss of the Spider Woman had its world premiere at SUNY Purchase in a fully staged production where John Rubinstein played Molina. Who played the other principal roles in that production? Also, I recall that this was part of a new project developed by Harold Prince where musicals could try out in fully staged productions without critical opinion. Was Spider Woman the only show seen in this project?--JV Curtis

A: In early 1990, the ambitious project known as New Musicals was announced. With Marty Bell as the producing director, the company's goal was to create, develop, and provide a working home for sixteen new musicals over the next four years, with the venue the Performing Arts Center of the State University of New York at Purchase in Westchester.

Four musicals were announced for the first season, which kicked off with Kiss of the Spider Woman, presented from May 1 to June 10, 1990. Directed by Harold Prince and choreographed by Susan Stroman, Spider Woman starred John Rubinstein Molina, Kevin Gray Valentin, Lauren Mitchell Aurora/Spider Woman, Barbara Andres Senora Molina, Donn Simione Armando, and Harry Goz Monster.

An attempt to persuade New York critics not to review this initial production failed, with Frank Rich in The New York Times and other critics covering the production and filing mostly negative reviews.

With disappointing business and reviews for its initial attraction, New Musicals folded after Spider Woman. The first season of New Musicals was to have included The Secret Garden October, 1990, My Favorite Year January, 1991, and Fanny Hackabout Jones March. The Secret Garden and My Favorite Year wound up on Broadway not long after, although Fanny Hackabout Jones by Erica Jong, Susan Birkenhead, and Lucy Simon did not.

Other shows initially announced for New Musicals included Knock On Wood, a contemporary version of Pinocchio with a score by Jimmy Webb; Liberty's Taken, an American Revolutionary War fantasy by Julie Taymor and Elliott Goldenthal, to be directed by Taymor; and A Fabulous Party, a musical about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford.

Q: I have questions about two television versions of plays which were created for British television. In the early 1970s in England, I saw a television production of Charley's Aunt which starred legendary British female impersonator Danny La Rue. Rather than wear the traditional "little old lady" outfit, La Rue wore a series of glamorous and spectacular full-drag gowns and wigs. It was a very interesting and different interpretation of the role and I would love to see it again. I have also heard about a television version of She Loves Me that ran in England, I think in the 1980s.---Michael McLane

A: Danny La Rue in Charley's Aunt offered a highly entertaining take on a classic farce. In one sense, casting La Rue in the play is incorrect: The character is supposed to be at least somewhat ill at ease impersonating Charley's aunt from Brazil, and La Rue couldn't be more at ease slipping into female impersonation. But La Rue attempts to play it more or less straight, and it works. The production features a couple of songs by The Boy Friend's Sandy Wilson.

Because La Rue is unknown in the U.S., this Charley's Aunt was never televised here. But the BBC's She Loves Me was aired by PBS in 1979. This production has one major liability: In order to keep the running time to under two hours, a couple of songs have been omitted, and there are integral cuts in several others. Still, the handsome-looking studio production features superb performances by Gemma Craven, Robin Ellis, Diane Langton, David Kernan, and Peter Sallis, the latter recreating the role he played in the London production of She Loves Me.

Q: While channel surfing the other evening. I came across an old "Columbo" rerun, circa 1970. It featured Anne Baxter wearing her hairstyle from her replacement role in Applause. Which brought back my memories of the musical with Bacall and a later visit to see Baxter. I still can recall a scene when Baxter was on her living room stairs as the set was being pulled back, her arms outstretched for her blackout, scene-closing line. That image is still truly magical 30 years later. Did you see Baxter in the role and what was your opinion seeing the film Eve play Margo on stage?---Steve Lieberman

A: Baxter in Applause ranks as one of the best replacements I've ever seen. Bacall was indeed the right lady to open the show with. But in addition to all the requisite glamour and temperament, Baxter offered a subtler performance than Bacall's, and also had a more attractive, if modest, singing voice. And of course, there was the additional fun of seeing the film's Eve now playing Margo. During Baxter's run, the film's Margo, Bette Davis, attended a performance of Applause and was said to have heartily approved of Baxter's work.

Q: I was wondering if we were ever going to see a U.S. production of The Witches of Eastwick. I know that there have been productions in Russia, Japan, Australia and of course London, but I have never heard of a production stateside. Love the music, and heard positive things from people who saw the London production. Any thoughts?---Brett Kashanitz

A: Thanks for writing. I was not aware that The Witches of Eastwick had played Russia and Japan. The truth of the matter is that both the London and Australian productions of Eastwick were commercial failures. The 2000 London production opened to mixed but encouraging reviews, but Theatre Royal, Drury Lane proved to be a larger venue than necessary. In 2001, the show was substantially revised and recast for its re-opening at the more intimate Prince of Wales Theatre. Once again, though, it appears that the show failed to catch on. There have been New York readings with an eye toward a local production, but no production thus far. Still, I would assume that The Witches of Eastwick will eventually get a U.S. premiere somewhere.

Q: Seesaw is one of my favorite scores from the seventies. I find it amazing that it seems to have disappeared into obscurity. I realize that the original production was fraught with problems and ultimately a flawed piece, making it an unlikely bet for a full revival. However, doesn't this great score seem like a no-brainer for an organizaton like Encores? And wouldn't Idina Menzel sing the hell out of Gittel? Maybe even Tom Wopat or John Dossett as Jerry Ryan?---Bruce Roach

A: Agreed. I would assume that the show is under consideration for Encores!, which has yet to do a Cy Coleman musical. And Idina Menzel might make a fine Gittel.

Q: I recently came across the LP of a musical called Lola, with a rather interesting cast Judy Kaye, David Carroll, Christine Andreas. What can you tell me about this show?---David Russell

A: Lola was about Lola Montez, the nineteeth-century, Irish-born, self-invented "Spanish" dancer and courtesan. Lola was written by the talented team of Kenward Elmslie book and lyrics and Claibe Richardson music, the pair responsible for The Grass Harp. Lola was first performed in 1982 by the York Theatre Company. The cast included Jane White, Leigh Beery, Kevin Gray, and Robert Stillman. The Painted Smiles disc you refer to was a studio-cast recording, produced by Ben Bagley.

There was a separate Australian musical called Lola Montez, produced in 1959 and possessing a rather fascinating score.

Q: I know that Annie Get Your Gun has had two Broadway productions not counting Ethel Merman's revival at Lincoln Center, which later moved to Broadway. How many times has it been produced in London?---M. Moore

A: There have been three West End productions of Annie Get Your Gun. The smash-hit 1947 original starred Dolores Gray and Bill Johnson and ran over three years.

In 1986, the show was revived at the regional Chichester Festival Theatre, and that production transferred to London's Aldwych Theatre. It starred pop singer Suzi Quatro, along with Eric Flynn and Edmund Hockridge.

In 1992, there was a revival at the Prince of Wales Theatre, starring Kim Criswell, who had recently recorded the show for EMI. Criswell's co-star was John Diedrich, star of the first London revival of Oklahoma! and of the Australian production of Nine.

Q: I recently noticed a song on an old Tony Awards program said to be from a Jule Styne musical based on Treasure Island. Was this musical ever produced?---Howard Scharfman

A: Yes. Under the title Pieces of Eight, a musical based on Treasure Island with book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, and music by Styne was presented during the 1985-'86 season at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Canada. Joe Layton was the director and choreographer, and the cast included George Hearn, George Lee Andrews, Robert Fitch, Graeme Campbell, Brian McKay, and Jonathan Ross. As far as I know, Pieces of Eight did not get beyond its Edmonton world premiere.

Q: I am a fan of Judy Kaye, and wonder if you can tell me anything about The Moony Shapiro Songbook, a musical she starred in on Broadway. I know it ran only one performance.---M. Stevens

A: The Moony Shapiro Songbook was the last show to play the Morosco Theatre on West 45th Street prior to its demolition, which made way for the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The work of Monty Norman and Julian More Irma La Douce, Expresso Bongo, the show was an import from London. In London, the show had gone by the title Songbook, and its cast featured Gemma Craven, Diane Langton, Anton Rodgers, David Healy, and Andrew C. Wadsworth.

In both London and New York, Songbook was a clever spoof of song-catalogue revues, relating the life story and offering the songs of one Moony Shapiro. But Shapiro, his story, and the songs were all invented by Norman and More, and the show seemed to bewilder New York critics and audiences. There is a highly entertaining London cast recording of Songbook. The New York production, featuring Judy Kaye, Jeff Goldblum, Gary Beach, Timothy Jerome, and Annie McGreevey, was understandably not preserved after its one-night run.

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