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September 12, 2001

Four new releases from the Fynsworth Alley label, which specializes in theatre music.

PLAYLIST
Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Lovin’ Al Working (OC 1978) David Langston Smyrl Based on the book of the same name by Studs Terkel, Working has music by several composers. This portrait of a parking attendant is by Micki Grant. Terkel was skeptical about the project at first, but Stephen Schwartz’s adaptation won him over.
Millwork Working (OC 1978) Robin Lamont This somewhat bleak portrait is by James Taylor.
I’m Just Movin’ Working (OC 1978) Kenna Ramsey The song by Stephen Schwartz was added to the how in 1999; this performance is from the LA Theatre Works production.
The Mason Working (OC 1978) Craig Carnelia This is a demo recording of the song by the composer. Most of Carnelia’s songs for Working strike me as a bit patronizing. This one doesn’t, although it may romanticize masonry a bit.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas has music and lyrics by Carol Hall and book by Pete Masterson and journalist Larry L. King (no, not THAT Larry King) – Texans all. The story is based on the rise and fall of the real Chicken Ranch brothel, which was in business from 1840 until 1973, when it was shut down due to the efforts of a self-righteous Houston media “watchdog”. Whorehouse started out as a lab production at the Actors’ Studio, progressed to the off-Broadway Entermedia Theatre (on April 17, 1978) and finally the 46th Street Theatre on Broadway on June 19th. It ran a total of 1,703 performances and spawned numerous road companies. When it played here in St. Louis in 1975, the more right wing of the two daily papery refused to print the complete title of the show! When the revival played here this year, the surviving daily couldn’t print it big enough. The 1982 film version with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds cuts many of the songs, soft-pedals the political and social satire and grafts on a moronic happy ending. Dolly does make a good Miss Mona, though.
A Lil’ Bitty Pissant Country Place The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Revival Cast 2001) Ann-Margret, Company Miss Mona lays down the rules at the Chicken Ranch. The song is based on the very similar rules at the real Chicken Ranch brothel.
Good Old Girl The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Revival Cast 2001) Gary Sandy Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd muses over his long relationship with Miss Mona, which never quite blossoms into romance.
Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin’ The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Revival Cast 2001) Avery Sommers, Company Jewel, Miss Mona’s second-in-command, has the day off – and she describes how she’s going to give away what the girls at the Chicken Ranch have been selling.
Poet Bill Russell (best known for the 1997 show Side Show) was inspired to write the poems for Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens by the unveiling of the Names Project Quilt on the Washington (D.C.) Mall in October of 1987. His model was Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, a collection of free-verse epitaphs for characters in the fictional town of the title. “As Elegies developed over a number of productions in New York and then London [where it was recorded in 1993]”, Russell writes, “we tried to broaden its scope to reflect the wide variety of people AIDS has affected.” Russell describes the piece as “modular, rather than linear” and continues to change and update it with each production. This all-star recording was made on April 2, 2001 at a benefit concert for the Momentum AIDS Project (www.momentumaidsproject.org).
Angels, Punks and Raging Queens Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (2001) Alice Ripley The title song. (Duh.)
Celebrate Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (2001) Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley Ripley also appears on Skinner’s recent Fynsworth Alley CD, and they appeared together in James Joyce’s The Dead (1999).
Heroes All Around Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (2001) Kane Alexander, Robert Gallagher, Kathy Brier, Marie Danvers A tribute to the friends and families of “PWAs” (People With AIDS). It can also be seen as more general salute to everyone who stops to help a fellow human being.
I Can’t Be Bothered Now / Kickin’ the Clouds Away The Ira Gershwin Album (2001) Christiane Noll, orchestra conducted by Lanny Meyers Music by George Gershwin from (respectively) the 1937 film A Damsel in Distress (which has a great Gershwin score but oddly pairs Fred Astaire with the non-musical Joan Fontaine) and the 1925 musical Tell Me More.
Long Ago and Far Away The Ira Gershwin Album (2001) Christiane Noll, orchestra conducted by Lanny Meyers Music by Jerome Kern, from the 1944 film Cover Girl. This was actually the fourth or fifth lyric Ira Gershwin had come up with for the tune and he was planning to scrap it, but the film’s producer Arthur Schwartz said he couldn’t wait for a re-write. The song ended up as Ira’s biggest hit.
Tchaikowsky The Ira Gershwin Album (2001) Christiane Noll, orchestra conducted by Lanny Meyers Music by Kurt Weill, from Lady in the Dark (1941). Dismissed by the show’s co-director Hassard Short as a trifle, “Tchaikowsky” was turned into a showstopper by the then-unknown Danny Kaye, and made him a star almost overnight.
That Moment of Moments The Ira Gershwin Album (2001) Christiane Noll, orchestra conducted by Lanny Meyers Music by Vernon Duke (formerly Vladimir Dukelsky, under which name he shows up in the list of Russian composers in “Tchaikowsky”; how’s THAT for a segue?), from the 1936 edition of Ziegfeld Follies. The cast included Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, Eve Arden, and The Nicholas Brothers.


Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.


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