Thursday, July 1, 2021

608. YOU NEVER KNOW. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Jamie Thomas, Dan Held, Lynn Fitzpatrick, Esteban Chalbaud, Grace Theveny, Rod Loomis. (Photo: Kenn Duncan.)
YOU NEVER KNOW [Musical Revival] B: Rowland Leigh; M/LY: Cole Porter; D/DS: Robert Troie; P: Stanley H. Handman; T: Eastside Playhouse (OB) 3/12/73-3/18/73 (8)

Cole Porter’s 1938 drawing-room musical is based on a Viennese play, Candle Light, by Siegfried Geyer and Robert Katscher, which had starred Gertrude Lawrence and Leslie Howard on Broadway in 1929, following its London production (as By Candle-Light), starring Yvonne Arnaud. Candle Light was a mild success, running for 129 performances, but Porter's musical was a 78-performance flop. so the reasons for this 1973 Off-Broadway revival are unclear. Porter himself famously disliked his work.

Pared down from the original’s cast of 12, among which were Libby Holman, Clifton Webb, and Lupe Velez, this six-actor version made many changes in the script and characters, and there were also adjustments to the score. These included the insertion of “Ridin’ High” from Red, Hot and Blue. The hit numbers “At Long Last Love” and “From Alpha to Omega” were intact, but there were too few graces present to keep the show from repeating the fate of the first production.

Clive Barnes reported that “it revolves around—and around and around—a master and servant, and mistress and maid, exchanging roles. The possibilities for such humor, easily dampened are quickly extinguished by the quality of the writing.”

The performers, none of them considered up to the task, were Dan Held, Esteban Chaband, Grace Theveny, Lynn Fitzpatrick, Rod Loomis, and Jamie Thomas.

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 These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through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: You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.