Tuesday, May 26, 2020

122. DIAMOND STUDS. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Jim Wann, Rick Simpson, Tommy Thompson, Jim Watson, Bill Hicks.
 "In Lieu of Reviews"

Reviews of live theatre being impossible during these days of the pandemic, THEATRE'S LEITER SIDE is pleased to provide instead accounts of previous theatre seasons--encompassing the years 1970-1975-for theatre-hungry readers. If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and revival between 1920 and 1950), please check the prefaces to any of the entries beginning with the letter “A.” See the list at the end of the current entry.

Joyce Cohen, Jim Wann.
DIAMOND STUDS [Musical/Biographical/Crime/Period/Western] B: Jim Wann; M/LY: Bland Simpson and Jim Wann; D: John L. Haber; CH: Patricia Birch; P: Chelsea Theatre Center of Brooklyn; T: Westside Theatre (OB); 1/14/75-8/3/75 (232)

A decidedly pleasant diversion, staged in the three-quarters round, in a familiar Off-Broadway venue converted to the semblance of a Western saloon, including several tables and chairs where audience members were served drinks while watching and listening. The saloon “waitresses” were actresses who also figured in the action.

Diamond Studs, which originated in Chapel Hill, NC, and which called itself a “Saloon Musical,” was a loosely put together assortment of old and new country and western songs telling, along with narrative bits and brief sketches, the story of Jesse James’s fabled outlaw exploits after the Civil War. The story was not meant to be taken serious although the suggestion was made that Jesse’s life of crime resulted from contemporary social conditions.

The evening was a rousing, energetic one in which the chief ingredient was fun. The musicians, made up of two bands—the Southern States Fidelity Choir and the Red Clay Ramblers—also constituted the basis of the acting company, with assists from several non-musician performers. An artfully amateurish air hung over the enterprise, but the show was staged with a robust dose of professionalism.

Patricia Birch’s “musical staging” garnered kudos for its invention and skill. “Without showing off fancy dances and smart steps,” wrote Martin Gottfried, “she can make an entire production musical and that is exactly what she has done.” He also remarked that there was “little to fault the production.” His opinion was shared by others, including John Simon, who regretted that the show was “only in the remotest sense theatre,” but nevertheless offered “a passel of innocent pleasures.” Edwin Wilson, unimpressed by the boisterous, knee-slapping music, which he found somewhat inferior to that of similar groups around the country, still recommended the show as “a evening of good, clean fun,” while others sang the music’s praises. Clive Barnes, in fact, rated it as “super,” as well as “funny and sassy.”

Previous Entries:

Abelard and Heloise
Absurd Person Singular
“Acrobats” and “Line”
The Advertisement/
All My Sons
All Over
All Over Town
All the Girls Came Out to Play
Alpha Beta
L’Amante Anglais         
American Gothics
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little       
And They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers
And Whose Little Boy Are You?
Anna K.
Anne of Green Gables
Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead
As You Like It
The Au Pair Man

Baba Goya [Nourish the Beast]
The Ballad of Johnny Pot
Barbary Shore
The Bar that Never Closes
The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel
The Beauty Part
The Beggar’s Opera
Behold! Cometh the Vanderkellens
Be Kind to People Week
Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill
Bette Midler’s Clams on a Half-Shell Revue
Black Girl
Black Light Theatre of Prague
Black Picture Show
Black Sunlight
The Black Terror
Black Visions
Les Blancs
Blasts and Bravos: An Evening with H,L. Mencken
Blue Boys
Bob and Ray—The Two and Only
Boesman and Lena
The Boy Who Came to Leave
A Breeze from the Gulf
Brief Lives
Brother Gorski
Bullshot Crummond
The Burnt Flower Bed
Button, Button
Buy Bonds, Buster

The Cage
Candide (1)
Candide (2)
The Candyapple
Captain Brassbound’s Conversion
The Caretaker
La Carpa de los Raquichis
The Carpenters
The Castro Complex
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Changing Room
Charles Abbott and Son
Charley’s Aunt
Charlie Was Here and Now He’s Gone
Chemin de Fer
The Cherry Orchard
The Chickencoop Chinaman
The Children
Children! Children!
Children in the Rain
Children of the Wind
The Children’s Mass
A Chorus Line
The Chronicle of Henry VI: Part 1, Part II,
The Circle
Clarence Darrow
Cold Feet
Conditions of Agreement
Coney Island Cycle
The Constant Wife
The Contractor
The Contrast
The Constant Wife
The Country Girl
Crazy Now
The Creation of the World and Other Business
The Crucible
Crystal and Fox

Dames at Sea
The Dance of Death
Dance wi’Me/Dance with Me
A Day in the Life of Just about Everyone
Dear Nobody
Dear Oscar
The Desert Song