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Favourite Musical Stuff

February 15, 2012

For both readers who checked in today expecting, as is usual in my blog around the 14th February, to hear about Mr P’s exploits on that day: an apology. I’m afraid I’ve not been able to contact him. I can reassure his fan, though, that it was confirmed that the CPS have decided that taking the matter further ‘is not in the public interest at this time.” Provided it doesn’t happen again, of course…

Moving swiftly on, a posting on the “Dress Circle Showbiz Shop” message board last week gave me the inspiration for today’s entry. Somebody was asking for a CD version of musical “Smike” – a rock piece based on the Smike section of “Nicholas Nickleby.” Since it dates from the late 70s, it was never released on that format – but I was amazed at how many readers treasured the LP version and how warmly remembered the songs were. That got me thinking about other ‘lesser known’ musicals I’ve enjoyed, and I thought I’d share a few here.

So, to start with “Smike”: The “wah, wah, wa wa wa wa wahhhh” thudding intro to the overture, “Warm Light of a Brand New Day,” “Parents” and “The Daily Test” are all fond memories and some of the tunes equal “Oliver!” for sure. Shame the book (of the musical, not the novel itself) doesn’t work quite so well towards the end, but still one schools delight in doing.

On a school-show theme “Captain Stirrick” made a huge impression on me as a child, and I’m lucky enough to still possess a recording of the film version shown once on Channel 4 in 1984 and never seen since. Blending traditional music of the time with searing scenes of child poverty and desperation, it’s fabulous to watch and hear (even though the film leaves out a lot of the stage music). Maybe it could even be updated to today’s troubled inner cities too – the theme of young people with knives, acting out of fear, is still completely relevant today.

A much loved book about childhood is “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” The musical may have been forgotten by all, as were all attempts to film it (there’s too much internal dialogue to ever work visually in any medium I fear), but “Growing Pains” – an alcoholic father giving advice to his daughter – is an audition favourite and is worth a listen.

The fabulous “Lost In Boston” CD series – deleted now, I understand – yields two more ballads which will cause hearts to break. “Who Gave You Permission” was dropped as the opening of “Ballroom,” as a suddenly bereaved wife rails at her late husband’s thoughtlessness – who’ll share a loaf, take that vacation ticket? Later in the show, “The Application” has her applying for a job… and realising the only one she wanted was ‘mother.”

Still on heartbreakers, and on a disc called “Barbara Cook, Live At Sadler’s Wells” a fond memory of an audience so shaken it couldn’t applaud is recorded with “Errol Flynn.” Autobiographical for writer Amanda McBroom, Cook gives the tale of a ‘B’ Movie actor a whole new dimension.

Never failing to lift my mood, from another revue show – “Upstairs At O’Neal’s” comes “Something.” Ever wondered what teacher Karp thought of reluctant student Morales from “A Chorus Line?” These are his thoughts…

As a ‘patter’ number, “Elliot Garfield Grant” from “The  Goodbye Girl” is another sure laugh inducer for me. One of the few surviving songs from the Broadway version to make it to the even less successful London run, Gary Wilmot gives it full joyous blast on the London Cast recording. One show I’m certain could be re-done as a 5 hander, if re-written to more closely follow the film too.

I could also mention “Children of Metropolis” from “Metropolis,” “Don’t Waste The Moon” from “Carrie” and “Mrs Worthington” from “The Story of My Life” just to give you ten… and I’m sure many musical theatre fans can add another thousand to the list.

Point is, it’s the unexpected that always gives most pleasure – just don’t, like Mr P, get seen participating…

  1. Steph permalink
    February 19, 2012 8:26 pm

    Steve, glad you mentioned ‘Elliot Garfield Grant’. I first heard it when Gary Wilmot sang it on ‘Show Stoppers’ (now there’s a TV show due for a revival), loved it so much that soon after when I was in Philidelphia I bought the Broadway soundtrack (pre Amazon days after all). I thought the whole show was great and was very excited when it was revived for the West End. However the show was butchered and sadly, but deservedly, flopped. I saw it again on tour in Southend and it just confirmed that there was a good show in there struggling to get out. Thanks for reminding me I’ll go and dig the CD out.


    • Steve Rich permalink*
      February 20, 2012 1:07 pm

      Welcome Steph. I first heard it on “Show Stoppers” too (agree on a revival!) and so sad the West End version didn’t live up to it – oddly I prefer the London CD to the Broadway one, though. You were lucky to see the tour, I must say.

      “The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be” is the other number that indeed shows there should be a ‘life after’ for this one. It’s certainly a show that if I had the talent / money I’d love to re-work myself.

      BTW: Gary will next be in musical “A Bowl Of Cherries” at the Charing Cross Theatre from 6th to 31st March 2012.

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