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Crime and Punishment, Part 1

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October 3, 2001

Crooks, cops, detectives, judges and jail on stage.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
The Ballad of Sweeney Todd Sweeney Todd (OC 1979) Len Cariou, Company Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, based on Christopher Bond’s 1973 play of the same name. The story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was first shown on stage in London in 1847 with George Dibdin Pitt’s A String of Pearls, or the Fiend of Fleet Street.
The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York Guys and Dolls (OC 1950) Johnny Silver, Stubby Kaye, Sam Levene, Men’s Chorus Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, freely adapted from Damon Runyon’s short story “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown”. Crime has never been so loveable.
It’s a Simple Little System Bells Are Ringing (OC 1956) Eddie Lawrence, Company Equally affectionate is this portrayal of another gambling operation. Now enjoying a moderately successful Broadway revival, Bells Are Ringing has music by Jule Styne and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two Oliver! (OC 1963) Clive Revill, Bruce Prochnik, Company Originally staged in London in 1960 (where it held the West End long-run record until Jesus Christ Superstar), Oliver! has music, lyrics and book by Lionel Bart. The latter presents a somewhat sanitized version of Oliver Twist’s adventures, including a much less repulsive Fagin.
Crime of the Century Songs from Ragtime – The Musical (1996) Lynette Perry, Chorus Girls, Company From the original "concept album" of Ragtime (music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Terrence McNally based on the E.L. Doctorow novel). Evelyn Nesbit actually was a model (the original "Gibson Girl", in fact) and vaudeville performer who married the “eccentric” millionaire Harry K. Thaw (if he had been poor, he’ d simply have been insane), who actually did murder Nesbit’s lover, the architect Sanford White. Read the whole lurid story at
Cell Block Tango Chicago (Revival Cast, 1996) Bebe Neuwirth and The Girls The celebrity murderesses of Chicago (music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, based on a 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins) justify everything (“If you’d have been here/ If you’d have seen it/ I betcha you would have done the same.”).
Double Talk City of Angels (London cast 1993) Roger Allam, Susannah Felows From 1989, City of Angels has music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel and an ingenious book by Larry Gelbart that tells two parallel stories: a Chandleresque mystery featuring detective Stone and the rapidly deteriorating personal life of Stone’s creator, Stine. As the show progresses the two stories become intertwined and several actors play roles in both. In this song Stone and his client distrust each other....
Double Talk City of Angels (London cast 1993) Martin Smith, Henry Goodman Stine and his agent do in this one.
Little Blue Riding Hood Tip of the Freeberg (1999) Stan Freeberg, Daws Butler, June Foray This was the “B” side of the quintessential Dragnet parody “St. George and the Dragonet” from 1953. It’s not heard as often but may actually be funnier.
It’s So Simple Baker Street (1965) Peter Sallis, Fritz Weaver, Patrick Horgan, Daniel Keyes Sherlock Holmes explains the science of deduction. Baker Street has music and lyrics by Marian Grudeff and Raymond Jessel, with additional music and lyrics (not credited) by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and a book by Jerome Coopersmith loosely based on "A Scandal in Bohemia".
When the Felon’s Not Engaged in His Employment The Ultimate Gilbert and Sullivan Collection (1998) Owen Brannigan, D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Isidore Godfrey From The Pirates of Penzance (1879), the only G&S opera to premier in New York City rather than London. The Chief Constable and his men confess that “a policeman’s lot is no an ‘appy one”.
I’ve Got a Little List The Mikado (1986) Eric Idle, English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Peter Robinson The 1885 Gilbert and Sullivan classic, inspired by a group of Japanese who set up a exhibition Japanese village in Knightsbridge. This is one of those G&S patter songs in which some of the original topical lyrics – now hopelessly obscure – are often replaced with contemporary ones. This is the only version I know in which ALL of the lyrics have been replaced (possibly by ex-Monty Pythoner Idle himself). For more on The Mikado, see
The Judge’s Song Gilbert and Sullivan: Great Patter Songs (1978) John Reed, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Royston Nash Could this be President Junior’s next Supreme Court nominee? From Trial by Jury (1875), this satirical shot at the judicial system are still mostly accurate.
When I Went to the Bar Gilbert and Sullivan: Great Patter Songs (1978) John Reed, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Royston Nash From Iolanthe (1882), which ends with the entire House of Lords turning into fairies and flying off into the wings. The late John Reed was one of the great G&S “principal comedians”. For more info on Gilbert and Sullivan, see
Over the Wall I Kiss of the Spider Woman (OC 1993) Company Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, book by Terrence McNally, based on Manual Puig’s novel (which also inspired the film of the same name). The prisoners contemplate life on the outside.
Prisoners of Love The Producers (OC 2001) Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Company Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks. The Producers has copped 15 Tony nominations, placing it in a tie with Company (1970) for most nominations by a single show.
Goodbye! The Producers (OC 2001) Company We let the cast of The Producers say goodbye for us.

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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