Thursday, October 1, 2020

337. MUSIC! MUSIC! From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Larry Kert, Gene Nelson, Donna McKechnie.

MUSIC! MUSIC! [Musical Revue] B: Alan Jay Lerner; D: Martin Charnin; CH: Tony Stevens; S: David Chapman; C: Theoni V. Aldredge; L: Martin Aronstein; P: The City Center of Music and Drama, Inc.; T: City Center 55th Street Theatre; 4/11/74-5/12/74 (37)

Robert Guillaume,Karen Morrow, Gene Nelson, Larry Kert, Donna McKechnie, Gail Nelson.

A first-rate company of 10 well-known principals and a singing and dancing ensemble of nine, all exuding star quality, presented this unoriginal compilation of popular standards dating from the turn of the 20th century to the current day. Among the most impressive names were Robert Guillaume, Larry Kert, Will Donna McKechnie, Karen Morrow, Gene Nelson, Arnold Soboloff, and Russ Thacker.

Act one covered 1895-1941, while act two offered 1941-1974. To give the program cohesiveness songwriter Alan Jay Lerner (My Fair Lady) provided a rhymed narrative that gave background information on the musical numbers. “These are sometimes mildly witty,” judged Brendan Gill, “but have a fatal taint of undergraduate self-congratulation about them.” “Where they were not trivial,” commented Clive Barnes, “”they were banal, and I suppose the vice was versa.”

Renee Baughman, Denise Mauthe, Gene Nelson, Trish Garland, Freda Soiffer, Yolanda Raven.

Barely any critics appreciated this historical cavalcade—a sort of proto-juke box musical—in which “Tedium was continually threatening to run riot,” as Barnes put it. The show was compared to a cheap, old-fashioned TV special, and there were nasty things said about the choreography and staging. The performers, dressed in black and white, sang and danced downstage (the orchestra was upstage behind a scrim), and the effect, to Barnes, was like a televised “salute-program.” There was dissatisfaction with what Walter Kerr called “obvious” selections, and those that were hoked up for theatrical interest.