Thursday, December 24, 2020

420. RAINBOW. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Kay Cole, Gregory V. Karliss, Janet Powell.

RAINBOW [Musical/Death/Fantasy/Vietnam/Youth] B: James and Ted Rado; M/LY: James Rado; Joe Donovan; S/L: James Tilton; C: Nancy Potts; P: James and Ted Ra2do; T: Orpheum Theatre (OB); 12/18/72-1/28/73 (48)

Created by several of those associated with the hippie musical hit Hair, this new rock musical had a lot going for it but could not overcome a simplistic treatment of the sensitive material driving its dramatic purpose. Practically devoid of a book (like Hair), it had 42 energetic, jubilant, tuneful songs in a variety of modes that outlined the fantastical story of a young man (Gregory V. Karliss), killed in Vietnam, who ascends to a heaven that is really a psychedelic rock radio station in the sky.

He meets such figures as Jesus (Philip A.D.) and Buddha (Meat Loaf, yes!), as well as allegorical characters named Mother (Camille), Stripper "Love Me, Dorothy Lamour La Sarong," "People Stink," "Give Your Heart to Jesus," "Somewhere under the Rainbow," and "Star Song."

Clive Barnes raved that the show was a worthy successor to Hair, with its “joyous and life-assertive” music, zany but “sweet and fresh” lyrics, and “stylistic cohesion and lack of pretensions.” John Simon was impressed by the “musical profusion” in this “bit of innocent, silly trifling,” but Edith Oliver could not bear its “Brainless, heartless, humorless, campy, complacent, gleeful, dirty, and soppy” cavorting. Walter Kerr was appalled by the “gaucherie” of a show that could offer so ridiculous a solution to the Viet Nam War. It suggested to him “an isolation from reality that substituted wishful thinking for genuine strength.”