Tuesday, February 23, 2021

480. SISTERS OF MERCY. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Michael Calkins, Emily Bindiger, Gale Garnett, Nicholas Surovy, Leonard Cohen, Pamela Paluzzi, Rosemary Radcliffe. 

SISTERS OF MERCY [Musical Revue] CN/D: Gene Lesser; M/LY: Leonard Cohen; ADD. M: Zizi Mueller; S: Robert U. Taylor; C: Carrie F. Robbins; L: Spence Mosse; P: Martin J Machat b/s/a/w Lucille Lortel Productions; T: Theatre de Lys (OB); 9/25/73-10/7/73 (15)

Described as “a musical journey into the words of Leonard Cohen,” Sisters of Mercy, based on the writings of the contemporary Canadian poet, singer, and songwriter, received tepid notices and quickly vanished. The material was arranged in a way that made the evening appear an autobiographical excursion into the hip young entertainer’s life, with its focus on the irresistible attraction he had for women, and his remarkable sexual powers.

This “ego trip” of a revue (what would later be called a “juke box musical”), wrote Clive Barnes, displayed what many then thought was Cohen’s doubtful prowess as a writer and composer, although Barnes acknowledged that he greatly enjoyed the production. To Brendan Gill it was “a droopy show,” and to John Simon there was “a paucity of insight and genuine feeling,” a dearth of wit and musicality.

The six-member cast included Gale Garnett, Emily Bindiger, Michael Calkins, Nicholas Surovy, Pamela Paluzzi, and Rosemary Radcliffe. Among the 20 songs were “”Winter Lady,” “War Song,” “Bird on a Wire,” “TonightWill Be Fine,” “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong,” “The Singer Must Die,” “Suzanne,” “Love Calls You By Your Name,” “Dress Rehearsal Rag,” “Sisters of Mercy,” and “So Long, Marianne.”

Respect for Cohen’s talent, of course, would grow and, when he died in 2016, his work was regarded with reverence, particular affection being expressed for his ubiquitous song, “Hallelujah ” which was first recorded in 1984, more than a decade after Sisters of Mercy closed.