Saturday, June 5, 2021


Priscilla Lopez, Barry Michlin, Sam Freed, Mary Nealie, Bill LaVallee. (Photo: Bert Andrews.)
WHAT’S A NICE COUNTRY LIKE YOU DOING IN A STATE LIKE THIS? [Musical Revue/Politics] CN: Ira Gasman, Cary Hoffman, and Bernie Travis; M: Cary Hoffman; LY: Ira Gasman; D/CH: Miriam Ford; S: Billy Puzo; C: Danny Morgan; L: Richard Delehanty; P: Budd Friedman; T: Upstage at Jimmy’s (OB): 4/19/73-5/12/74 (543)

A long-running Off-Broadway cabaret revue made up largely of political satire. It moved from Off-Off to Off Broadway and opened to good reviews. Political satire being relatively rare in New York theatre, the critics welcomed it despite its failure to slice as deeply into its subjects as many would have desired.

The well-staged show, with its talent-laden cast, poked at a number of topics, not all overtly political, like fem lib, massage parlors, mayoral races, the commie “menace,” Henry Kissinger, street crime, and theatregoing. The New York company included Sam Freed, Bill La Vallee, Barry Michlin, and—get this—Priscilla Lopez and Betty [Lynn] Buckley, the latter succeeded by Mary Nealie. Several other productions opened elsewhere in the U.S.A. and Canada, with such budding comic stars as Andrea Martin and Martin Short onboard.

Despite its being “too bland” and a “not . . . unduly brilliant example” of the genre, Clive Barnes got a kick out of most of it, while John Simon thought “almost all the laughter . . . , meaningful, therapeutic, even heuristic” (heuristic: enabling someone to discover or learn something for themselves). In Edith Oliver’s opinion, it was “fresh, acute, spirited, and without any second-hand Brechtian bitterness or depression.”

Do you enjoy Theatre’s Leiter Side? As you may know, since New York’s theatres were forced into hibernation by Covid-19, this blog has provided daily posts on the hundreds of shows that opened in the city, Off and on Broadway, between 1970 and 1975. These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through 1950. Unfortunately, the publisher, Greenwood Press, decided it was too expensive to continue the project beyond 1950.

Before I began offering these 1970-1975 entries, however, Theatre’s Leiter Side posted over 1,600 of my actual reviews for shows from 2012 through 2020. The first two years of that experience were published in separate volumes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (the latter split into two volumes). The 2012-2013 edition also includes a memoir in which I describe how, when I was 72, I used the opportunity of suddenly being granted free access to every New York show to begin writing reviews of everything I saw. Interested readers can find these collections on by clicking here. 

Next up: When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?