Monday, June 14, 2021

592. WILD AND WONDERFUL. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Walter Willison, Laura McDuffie. 

WILD AND WONDERFUL [Musical/Politics/Romance] B: Phil Phillips; M/LY: Bob Goodman; SC: an original work by Bob Brotherton and Bob Miller; D: Burry Frerik; CH: Ronn Forella; S: Stephen Hendrickson; C: Frank Thompson; L: Neil Peter Jampolis; P: Rick Hobard i/a/w Raymonde Weil; T: Lyceum Theatre; 12/7/71 (1)

Robert Burr, Walter Willison, Laura McDuffie.

The best thing about this one-performance flop may have been the presence in its chorus of dancers Pamela Blair and Ann Reinking, both of them to figure prominently in later Broadway musicals. The great Reinking, of course, recently passed away. Wild and Wonderful, which was neither, concerns a young, longhaired CIA agent, Charlie (Walter Willison), heir to millions, who has dropped out of West Point, and gets mistakenly involved with a girl, Jenny (Laura McDuffie), he suspects is a bomb-throwing radical. (Bombs away: not only was the show a bomb, and its leading female role a bomb suspect, the show opened on December 7, 1941, 30 years after Pear Harbor. How's that for an explosive Trifecta?)

Jenny is actually a small-town escapee who has come to the Big Apple to get away from the stultifying life at home. After staying at a Roman Catholic shelter, she and Cbarlie fall in love. The boy admits to and relinquishes his espionage connections and wedding bells are in the offing.

The reviews were devastating. Clive Barnes called Wild and Wonderful “wet, windy and wretched.” He asked, “Why did they have the arrogance to imagine that their garrulous wanderings justified two hours of my time, or anyone else’s . . . ? This is a show that insults the intelligence.”

There were only five principals in the cast, the others being Robert Burr, Larry Small, and Ted Thurston.

A few of the song titles: “Wild and Wonderful,” “My First Moment,” “I Spy,” “Desmond’s Dilemma,” “She Should Have Me,” “Jenny,” “Come a Little Closer,” and “You Can Reach the Sun.”

Notwithstanding its single performance, I fully expect—now that I’ve done nearly 600 of these—a reader somewhere out there to inform me that they not only saw the show, but loved it and still listen to its album (if there is one).

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: The Wild Stunt Show.