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Beautiful Losers

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July 11, 2003

More new releases, this time featuring three shows that were only modest success (well, actually, one was pretty much a flop) on Broadway.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Redhead (1959) was unusual in many respects. To begin with, it completely original (rather than adapted from a play, novel, or film, as most Broadway shows were at the time) and an example of a pretty under-populated sub-genre: the musical whodunit. It was in development for nearly 10 years, beginning with Dorothy Fields and her brother Herbert in 1950. David Shaw was added to the team in 1956 and, when Herbert died in 1958, future pulp fiction writer Sidney Sheldon joined the team. The lead role was originally written with Beatrice Lille in mind but when Redhead finally got to the casting stage she turned the role down. Eventually the settled on Gwen Verdon, who had made a name for herself in Damn Yankees (1955) and Can-Can (1953), among others. Verdon plays Essie Whimple, an employee of the Simpson Sisters Waxworks in early 19th-century London, who sets out the solve the murder of a young woman whose image is displayed at the waxworks with the help of the murdered woman's brother, Tom Baxter (Richard Kiley). The music is by Albert Hague (whose only other hit was 1955's Plain and Fancy)
The Uncle Sam Rag Redhead (OC 1959) Leonard Stone, Company On stage at the Odeon Theatre, Tom Baxter's friend, music hall comic George Poppet (Stone), rehearses a new American-style dance number (choreographed by Bob Fosse, who also directed).
Erbie Fitch's Twitch Gwen Verdon Still at the Odeon, Essie demonstrates that number that her dad used to do on the music hall stage. It's was a brilliant show-stopper for Verdon. Unfortunately, Verdon sprained her ankle during the run and attendance began to fall off. Despite seven Tony nominations, the show closed on March 9, 1960, after 455 performances.
I'll Try Gwen Verdon, Richard Kiley A sort-of romantic number for Essie and Tom
Fade Out Fade In (1964) was another show undone by a leading lady's injury, despite some heavy-duty talent on the creative end (book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Jule Styne and direction by George Abbott). In this case Carol Burnett suffered whiplash in a taxicab acccident a little over a month after the show opened and missed a number of performances as a result. The producers tried replacing her temporarily with Betty Hutton, but at age 43 Hutton was too old to be convincing as a twentysomething star-struck movie usherette, and in any case the role was tailor-made for Burnett's musical and comic talents. Burnett retured briefly on August 3 but by then she had signed to do a TV series (The Entertainers) and continued to miss shows. Fade Out Fade In finally closed on November 13, 1964, after only 199 performances. Unlike Burnett's earlier hit, Once Upon a Mattress (1959), it has never been revived
Lila Tremaine Fade Out Fade In (OC 1964) Carol Burnett Hope Springfield (Burnett), suddenly thrust into Hollywood stardom, decides it's time for a new name befitting her new status.
You Musn't Be Discouraged Carol Burnett, Tiger Haynes Reversals of fortune undo Hope's Hollywood dreams and she's reduced to pounding the pavements in a Shirley Temple outfit advertising a school for would-be child stars. She meets up with former co-worker Lou (Haynes) and together they do a parody of Shirley Temple/Bill "Bojangles" Robinson song-and-dance numbers.
The biggest flop of the bunch is also the most recent. Amour (2002) is an English adaptation (by Jeremy Sams) of a French musical by Michel Legrand (music) and Didier Van Cauwelaert (libretto). Set in post -WW II France, the story concerns a timid civil servant, Dusoleil (Malcolm Gets), who is infatuated with Isabelle (Melissa Errico), the unhappy wife of a tyrannical judge (Lewis Cleale). One night during a blackout, Dusoleil suddenly develops the power to walk through walls and becomes a master criminal in hopes of attracting Isabelle's attention - with complicated results. Amour opened on October 20, 2002 at the Music Box Theatre and closed after only 31 previews and 17 performances. This recording was made six months later.
Amour Amour (OC 2002) Meilssa Errico, Malcolm Gets The title song occurs near the end of the show, after Dusoleil and Isabelle are finally united.
An Ordinary Guy Michel Legrand Dusoleil tries to come to grips with his newfound power. This performance by Legrand is a "bonus track" on the CD.

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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