Harry Chapin, the then popular folk-rock balladeer from Brooklyn, was the star of this extravagantly staged presentation of about 30 songs he’d written, well known through his hit recordings. The show employed a company of nine backup singers and dancers, as well as three soloists in addition to Chapin himself. The trio was Kelly Garrett, Delores Hall, and Gilbert Price, all recognized artists. The critics chose Garrett as the show’s knockout presence. She and Price each received a Tony nomination for their supporting performances in a musical.
Spectacular multimedia effects, including closed-circuit TV, giant slide projections, huge masks, and unusual costumes, along with elaborate lighting, created by Joshua White of the Joshua Light Show, accompanied the tunes.
|Delores Hall, Harry Chapin, Kelly Garrett.|
Among the parade of songs were "Six String Orchestra," "Give Me a Road," Sunday Morning Sunshine," "Welfare Ray," "Peace Teachers," "Changing of the Guard," "Taxi," "Battleground Bummer," "Cat's in the Cradle," "Cockeyed John, Give Me a Dream," "Beginning of rhe End," and "The Night That Made America Famous."
The music, unfortunately, found few takers among the critics, although Martin Gottfried, often a negative outlier, demurred: “you will rarely find such musical values in the theatre. There are melody and rhythm, breath-catching voices and gorgeous orchestrations, all magnificently performed and handsomely staged.” More representative, however, was another frequent naysayer, John Simon, who said that the songs told “banal or pretentious stories, and [were] set to variations on one basic tune with minor changes in rhythm, or even without.” The poor rhymes led Brendan Gill to state that Chapin had a “tin ear.” “[T]he material was pretty flat,” inserted Douglas Watt, who described Chapin’s voice as “hoarse but enthusiastic.” “His music is somewhat monotonous and stereotyped,” chimed in Clive Barnes, for whom the show was “more like an animated record album than a musical.”