Sunday, May 31, 2020

132. DON'T BOTHER ME, I CAN'T COPE. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Bobby Hill, Micki Grant.
 "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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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.

Hope Clark, Bobby Hill, Micki Grant, Arnold Wilkerson, Alex Bradford.
DON’T BOTHER ME, I CAN’T COPE [Revue/Race] M/L: Micki Grant; D: Vinnette Carroll; CH: George Faison; S: Richard A. Miller; C: Edna Watson; L: B.J. Sammler; P: Edward Padula and Arch Lustberg in Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Corps Production; T: Playhouse Theatre; 4/19/72-10/17/74 (1,065)

Micki Grant’s soul music revue, first seen in several Off-Off Broadway theatres, as well as around the country on tour by the Urban Arts Corps, arrived on Broadway in an expanded version that became a smash hit. Grant wrote the show and starred in it. The critics felt she should have been onstage even more than she was, so warm and appealing did they find her presence. The songs and dances were on a variety of black themes, the overall idea being a plea for racial tolerance.

“It is fresh, fun and black,” wrote Clive Barnes, who equated it with “a flamenco show” and described it as “a mixture of a block party and a revival meeting.” Grant’s music was “delightfully varied and melodic, and her lyrics, whether stirring or tender or funny, are always ingenious,” noted Edith Oliver. “It is proud without boast; it chides but does not rail. . . . It possesses strength without menace. . . . It is entirely healthy,” commented Harold Clurman. Its “witty and intelligent lyrics” and “melodiously winning” music sparked a show that was “a love offering to the Creator and creation,” applauded T.E. Kalem.

Reservations, however, emerged from the pen of John Simon, who quibbled: “Don’t Bother Me is a harmless, well-meaning, enthusiastic Negro musical . . . that runs the gamut from hokum to humdrum.” Despite its “dignified militancy” being appealingly “tempered with judiciousness,” the show couldn’t rise above “simplistic and repetitious” tunes, and Grant’s smugness as a performer. Walter Kerr was even more negative, complaining about the show’s non-book format, banal lyrics, and lack of variety.

The show’s buoyant energy impressed most viewers, though, and George Faison’s simple choreographic inventions, Vinnette Carroll’s fluid and inventive staging, and Alex Bradford’s powerful singing and gospel choir were greatly admired. The show hauled in many honors including Tony nominations for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, and Best Director. Grant also won an OBIE for Distinguished Performance, and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Performance and Most Promising Lyricist. Alex Bradford also got an OBIE for Distinguished Performance.

Previous entries:

Abelard and Helo/ise
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
Diamond Studs
Different Times
The Dirtiest Show in Town
The Divorce of Judy and Jane
Do It Again!
Doctor Jazz
A Doll’s House (2)
Don Juan
Don Juan in Hell