Thursday, February 11, 2021

468. 70, GIRLS, 70. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Gil Lamb, Mildred Natwick, Hans Conreid.
70, GIRLS, 70 [Musical/Crime/Old Age] B: F,red Ebb and Norman L. Martin (AD: Joe Masteroff); M: John Kander; LY: Fred Ebb; D: Paul Aaron; CH: Onna White; S/L: Robert Randolph; C: Jane Greenwood; P: Arthur Whitelaw i/a/w Seth Harrison; T: Broadhurst Theatre; 4/15/71-5/15/71 (36)

Jay Velie, Coley Worth, Lillian Roth, Thomas Anderson, Joey Faye.

One of several 1970s shows that focused on elderly people, 70, Girls, 70 had a plot that reflected that of the movie Make Mine Mink (although not credited as such). A group of septuagenarians residing in a seedy Upper West Side retirement hotel are inspired by one of their number (Mildred Natwick) to become a gang of shop-lifting thieves. Natwick’s character eventually is caught and dies. She returns for the finale, however, seated on a crescent moon in heaven. (No, she did not say, "The Great Work Begins.")

Most of the cast was Social Security-eligible, but one reviewer thought Natwick, 66, looked too young for her role. She was good enough, however, to earn a Tony nomination for Best Actress, Musical. Supporting her were names such as Hans Conreid, Sally De May, Henrietta Jacobson, Lillian Roth, Joey Faye, Tommy Breslin, Coley Worth, Lucie Lancaster, Jay Velie, among others.

Coley Worth, Lucie Lancaster, Mildred Natwick, Joey Faye.

Reviews were mixed, but no one was over that crescent moon for it. Harold Clurman shook his head at this “loony, corny, untidy affair,” yet noted that it had “a freshness of feeling, . . . an elation of craftsmanship. . . . One must be marvelously uptight not to enjoy the fling.” Clive Barnes also had reservations, but appreciated the show’s “refreshingly unsentimental attitude to . . . the aged,” its occasionally “bright music and lyrics, and “natural warmth and happiness.”

The downside carried the day, however. Douglas Watt, for one, called the show “about as enlivening an affair as a New Year’s Eve party thrown by the members of the St. Petersburg shuffle board club.” Martin Gottfried even walked out, claiming it was “the sloppiest musical” he had ever seen.

Henrietta Jacobson, Tommy Breslin.

Kander and Ebb, the score writers, were already Broadway stars, especially for Cabaret. Here they offered 15 songs, some of their titles being “Old Folks,” “Broadway, My Street,” “The Caper,” “Hit It, Lorraine,” “Boom, Ditty Boom,” “70, Girls, 70,” and “Yes.” Most are still known mainly by show biz geeks, who appear--from initial reactions to this entry--to be more abundant than one might have imagined.