Let me start off by saying that (bucking the stereotype) I’m not a huge fan of Broadway musicals. I’ve seen my fair share of shows, but if I’m in New York, I’d much rather go out to a great restaurant for dinner or a fun bar than to spend a lot of money to see a show. I’ve got a good friend who will see two or three shows every time she’s in New York, and she’s been trying to convince me to change my ways. “You’ve got to see ‘Promises, Promises”, she’ll say, (or “Memphis” or “Wicked” or “La Cage aux Folles” or any of the latest shows she’s recently seen.)
Here’s my rundown of some of the shows I’ve seen:
- “Chorus Line” (thrilling. saw it on my first trip to New York City.)
- Les Miserables” (ruined by a woman behind me sucking on hard candy. In the lobby on the way out, I heard another woman ask her husband, “So, what did you think?” He replied, “Well, it was good, but it was no “Cats”)
- “Phantom of the Opera” (tiresome)
- “Damn Yankees” (starring everyone’s “favorite funnyman”, Jerry Lewis. Dreadful.)
- “Rent” (Jonathan Larson’s score is amazing – like a big jigsaw puzzle that keeps being put together in wonderful, different ways. Treat yourself to the final performance, which was filmed and is available on Netflix.)
- “The Lion King” (meh)
- “Mama Mia” (ABBA songs are weaved into a very loose story line. OK, I get it, I get it! And don’t even get me started on the movie version starring Meryl Streep. I lasted about three minutes.)
- “Spring Awakening” (saw it because I got a half-price ticket and it had just won a Tony Award for Best Musical – but really disliked it. I was very tempted to leave at intermission, but I had a great seat in the front row of the balcony. The experience would have been more interesting if I had known I was watching a pre-“Glee” Lea Michele in the starring role.)
- “Jersey Boys” (high energy and a lot of fun)
So it’s kind of funny to me that the past week, I’ve been listening to (and really enjoying) the music from a CD I had long ago relegated to the bottom of the CD rack. Quite by accident, I came across the original cast recording of “They’re Playing Our Song”, a musical that opened on Broadway in 1979. Starring Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz (yup, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz), this was a two-person show about a composer (Klein) and a lyricist (Arnaz) whose professional and personal worlds collide. Written by Neil Simon with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and music by Marvin Hamlisch (I’ve met him, but that’s a story for another time), this show features really simple, straight-forward music: nothing fancy or over the top. And there’s a beauty to its simplicity.
And here’s the kicker: I’ve never seen the show. And I can’t even remember how I came to own the CD. But letting it spin around and around in my car this week, the music is transporting me back nearly 30 years (!). I’m remembering most all of the lyrics, and it’s making me wish Klein and Arnaz would reprise their roles on stage just one more time, so I could see this music and story come to life. That’s one show I wouldn’t miss. Here’s a clip of Klein and Arnaz performing at the Tony Awards.
So am I being too hard on Broadway, or does anyone else out there feel the same way? Let me know what you think!
PS: does anybody know if Lucie Arnaz is still around? I wonder what she's up to?
PPS: Peter just reminded me (I had blocked it out of my memory) of a horribly pretentious show we saw on Broadway several years back. It was called "Metamorphosis" and it was just an excuse for the actors to prance around and into a pool of water that was located center stage. Ooooh, watch you, you front row people...you might get splashed!