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Feb
10

From This Day On

In honor of Valentine’s Day the topic is romance in musical theatre. We might as well be discussing the importance of air and water to life on earth. Searching for a handle, the idea of love at first sight popped into my head. It’s certainly ubiquitous in the early days of the genre, both in operetta and musical comedy. But what about once musicals grew up?

I decided to take a look at the work of some of our major musical theatre writers in the post–Oklahoma! world. Did they make use of love at first sight? And if so, how? What follows is by no means exhaustive, but I think it nevertheless instructive.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Let’s start at the very beginning, as it were. What did Rodgers and Hammerstein do? Well, interestingly, they didn’t use the concept very much, a mere three times. It’s there in the TV musical Cinderella, memorably articulated in the song “10 Minutes Ago,” but that, of course, is a fairy tale. It is arguably one of the weaker points of South Pacific, as Lieutenant Cable’s sudden, overpowering love for Liat, a young Tonkinese girl with no education who can barely communicate with him, seems awfully convenient (“Younger Than Springtime” is a gorgeous song but hardly a compelling basis for a long-term relationship). However, it is front and center in the dysfunctional coupling of Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow in Carousel, and the result is tragic. I would argue that Carousel is a pretty good argument against love at first sight.

Frank Loesser
Loesser makes use of the idea in two shows, and both treatments are memorable. In The Most Happy Fella, middle-aged vintner Tony Esposito is immediately taken with a youngish waitress he meets in a diner. Too shy to speak up, he leaves her a note and his “genuine amethyst tie pin” as a token of his feelings. But when she travels to meet him at his Napa Valley ranch, fantasy quickly runs headlong into reality, and they only make a successful marriage by starting from scratch and getting to know one another. In the satirical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, secretary Rosemary Pilkington falls hard and fast for young go-getting would-be executive J. Pierrepont Finch, though he is initially oblivious. But when she fantasizes about being “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm,” her love starts to sound awfully transactional.

Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick
In seven Broadway musicals, Bock and Harnick made use of the device in only two of them. In their final show, The Rothschilds, young Nathan Rothschild falls in love (“it happened in a trice”) in Act 2 with an aristocratic English woman who initially resists his advances. Both authors are on record as considering its inclusion as a subplot a mistake, a sop to the prevailing view in 1970 that a musical needed a heterosexual romantic interest to succeed commercially. Indeed, when Harnick and book writer Sherman Yellen reconceived the piece in 2015 (after Bock’s death), under the title Rothschild and Sons, the romance—along with Hannah—was eliminated. She Loves Me neatly subverted the concept. Parfumerie clerks Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash are at each other’s throats from the moment she is hired, but the real reason is their tremendous romantic attraction, which it takes the whole show for them to discover, though other characters identify it early on. And of course by that time they know each other well enough to embark upon a pretty grounded marriage.

Jerry Herman
As perhaps befits one of the sunniest of musical theatre songwriters, Herman uses love at first sight in several Broadway shows. In his first, Milk and Honey, which I just saw this past weekend in a fine concert presentation at the York Theatre, it happens late in Act 2, when the man-starved widow Clara Weiss (a part created by Molly Picon) meets Israeli widower Sol Horowitz and ends up remarried before you can say mazel tov. My immediate reaction was to hope that he isn’t a serial killer. In his second, Hello, Dolly! (heading back to Broadway this spring starring Bette Midler), lowly store clerks Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker fall for milliner Irene Molloy and her assistant, Minnie Fay, respectively, in the course of a day. Of course, the show is pure fantasy, based on Thornton Wilder’s romantic period farce The Matchmaker. In his third, Mame, the instant love is between a bohemian blueblood aunt and her young orphaned nephew and is the most persuasive bond of the three. It is not, however, romantic love. Herman’s final four Broadway book shows—Dear World, Mack and Mabel, The Grand Tour, and La Cage aux Folles—eschew the notion entirely. A sign of maturation, perhaps?

John Kander and Fred Ebb
In the course of writing 14 Broadway musicals over a period of 50 years, Kander and Ebb rarely resorted to using love at first sight. Only two shows—Zorbá and Steel Pier—traffic in it at all. In Zorbá, based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ classic novel Zorbá the Greek, the two central romantic relationships both develop speedily. However, that between Zorbá and the aging prostitute Hortense seems less a product of love and more one of mutual need, while the connection between the young outsider intellectual, Nikos, and a socially ostracized unnamed Cretan widow, is both hesitant and doomed. In Steel Pier we get love at first sight on steroids: Stunt pilot Bill Kelly actually comes back from the dead to pursue his instantaneous feelings for down-on-her-luck performer Rita Racine, though David Thompson’s unwieldy original book withholds his otherworldly status from the audience for most of the show. It’s entirely unpersuasive, which is in part why Steel Pier folded after only 76 performances. In both musicals we’re a long way from Margot and the Red Shadow aching for each other.

Stephen Sondheim
Surprisingly for the musical theatre’s reigning iconoclast, there are a number of examples of variations on love at first sight in his canon, the majority of them early in his career. The most iconic is West Side Story, which is based on Romeo and Juliet, so it came with the territory. Sondheim is, of course, on record as to how uncomfortable he is with the lyrics for the two songs that most dramatize the situation: “Maria” and “Tonight.” In Gypsy Rose and Herbie combine pretty instantaneously in “Small World,” but as with Zorbá and Hortense, it feels more like a seduction of calculated self-interest than love. In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, however, young noble-born Hero goes gaga at the simple sight of the prostitute Philia and explains himself in the charming “Love, I Hear,” one of the most convincing expressions of love at first sight I’ve ever heard. Of course, it helps that the source material is the Roman comedies of Plautus. In Sondheim’s very first professional musical, Saturday Night, which went unproduced for more than 40 years, the romantic leads, Gene and Helen, are attracted quickly due to both of them being con artists. And in the TV musical Evening Primrose, poet Charles, who has taken up refuge living in a department store, sleeping by day and writing at night, is immediately drawn to the lovely Ella, imprisoned there since the age of six by others who had the same idea as Charles. However, she’s the only possible romantic partner for our scribe, so maybe it’s just a case of what’s available. And it doesn’t end well.

Once Sondheim reaches his maturity with Company in 1970, however, incidences of love at first sight decrease. It happens to the juveniles in Sweeney Todd, Anthony and Joanna, but the musical is based on a melodrama and Sondheim doesn’t take their love very seriously, using them mostly for comic relief. Mary Flynn falls for Franklin Shepard the first time she meets him in Merrily We Roll Along, on the rooftop gazing at Sputnik, but all that leads to is frustration, heartache, and alcoholism. The sickly Fosca develops her Passion for Giorgio even before they meet, but the unlikeliness of it being reciprocated coupled with her needy obsessiveness is hardly a traditional take on the situation. In Bounce and Road Show, Addison Mizner is immediately entranced by the young aristocrat Hollis Bessemer, who doesn’t return the feeling until he realizes what Addison can do for him. Ultimately, it dissolves in recriminations, though the relationship does allow for one of Sondheim’s most sincere and touching love songs, “The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened,” repurposed most effectively from a slangy and breezy evocation of heterosexual lust in Bounce.

Alan Jay Lerner
I left Lerner for last because he is unquestionably the most starry-eyed romantic of all the writers being discussed. Much to my astonishment, though, he trails Sondheim in his employment of love at first sight. There is Freddy Eynsford-Hill’s attachment to Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, which is a bit of a problem for contemporary productions, as the show simply accepts the situation without explanation. My favorite Freddy was Robert Sella, in director Howard Davies’ otherwise unsatisfying 1993 Broadway revival. Rather than play the expected clear-eyed, apple-cheeked juvenile, Sella rooted his nerdy Freddie’s attraction to Eliza in the realization, caused by her behavior at Ascot, that she is just as much a social misfit as he is. He was like a suffocating man given a sudden hit of oxygen and gasping gratefully. Lise and Gerry combust predictably in An American in Paris, but if your assignment is to write a 1951 MGM film vehicle for Gene Kelly constructed around the Gershwin songbook, isn’t that awfully inevitable? In Carmelina, our titular Italian war widow complains about her inexplicable attraction to the annoyingly importuning Vittorio in “Why Him?,” which is amusing but really doesn’t help the romance. And in Lerner’s final show, Dance a Little Closer, we see a flashback in which cheesy song-and-dance man Harry Aikens implodes like a ton of bricks for a brassy American singer who subsequently reappears years later as the haughty English mistress of a diplomat who denies that she knows him. That, however, is pretty much it for love at first sight and Lerner, with one glaring exception.

That would be Brigadoon, his 1947 musical fantasy about a Scottish town that only comes to life for one day every hundred years. American Tommy Albright meets and is drawn to the lovely Fiona MacLaren, who has earlier told us in “Waitin’ for My Dearie” that she would rather be a spinster than marry the wrong man. Fiona is equally smitten, but once Tommy discovers the truth about Brigadoon, he must decide before day is out whether to commit to the feeling or not. Unsurprisingly, he can’t and must return home to his hard-shelled fiancée before realizing that Fiona is the one and only woman for him. Rushing back to Scotland, he manages to awaken the town through his love, proving that “when ye love someone deeply, anything is possible.” It’s absolutely over-the-top romantic, but when done with conviction it soars. One of the most memorable theatrical moments I’ve experienced in more than 50 years of theatregoing occurred in director Vivian Matalon’s 1980 Broadway revival: As Tommy and Fiona finished singing their song of parting, “From This Day On,” the set split in two and waves of fog rushed in as the lovers were violently separated, hands grasping for each other in vain. It was glorious. In Brigadoon the 29-year-old Lerner set himself the task of making love at first sight believable, and he succeeded. Whenever I get too cynical, I remember that.

Of course, Brigadoon is now 70 years old and seems more a tip of the hat to the operettas that preceded it than a musical theatre innovation. That said, a 2014 production at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, which featured a somewhat rewritten book by Brian Hill, charmed even the New York Times’ curmudgeonly Charles Isherwood (who just left the paper this week) and proved that the show can still sway contemporary audiences. And any Broadway season that has Aladdin, Wicked, Waitress, and The Phantom of the Opera still running can hardly be said to disown love at first sight. Nevertheless, the admittedly anecdotal evidence submitted here suggests to me that the Broadway musical is at least a bit more adult than it is often given credit for being.

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Jan
27

Musical Theatre Mavericks

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a maverick is “a person who shows independence of thought and action, especially by refusing to adhere to the policies of a group to which he or she belongs.” I guess that means that we are not discussing James Garner musicals, which is good, as I’m only aware of one (Victor/Victoria), and he doesn’t even sing in it.

I will take that definition and move it one step further. For me, a maverick is someone whose work is so idiosyncratic that it resides strikingly outside the mainstream. Some mavericks reinvent the mainstream, others affect it in various ways, while others remain apart and often unknown. Here’s a sampling of all three kinds.

Oscar Hammerstein II
At first glance Hammerstein would seem an unlikely choice. After all, he was born into theatrical royalty and spent his early career toiling in the highly commercial, sweetly scented world of operetta. Nevertheless, he staked his claim to the title with Show Boat in 1927, which addressed the fraught topic of race in America head on and thoroughly upended all notions of what musical theatre could and could not do.

It took him another 16 years before he could establish the character-oriented, plot-driven, musically integrated book musical as the dominant commercial form, which he did with Oklahoma!, though along the way shows such as the anti-authoritarian Rainbow and the operetta-musical hybrid Music in the Air attempted to expand boundaries. And even once Rodgers and Hammerstein became a cottage industry, his willingness to unflinchingly address such serious topics as spousal abuse (Carousel), racism again (South Pacific), and feminism (The King and I) in complacent post-WWII America kept his maverick status intact.

Bertolt Brecht
When I attended Northwestern University in the early 1970s, Brecht was the god of the theatre department. I didn’t like what I knew of his work, so I decided to choose him as my subject in directing class. I had to give two one-hour lectures about him and his oeuvre, and I figured that by immersing myself in it I might come to see what everybody else was seeing. At the end I remained unpersuaded that the alienation effect would work on audiences as he intended (I continue to believe that people are more vulnerable emotionally than intellectually), but I also came to see it as a powerful tool that could be used in conjunction with other means of ensnaring an audience.

Certainly The Threepenny Opera, which he wrote with composer Kurt Weill in 1928, has influenced a host of more mainstream musical theatre writers, including Stephen Sondheim (Assassins, Pacific Overtures, hell, even “Rose’s Turn”), which is odd as he claims not to be a fan. There are also the lighter but equally cynical Happy End, the thunderous Mahagonny, and the waspish ballet cantata The Seven Deadly Sins, all written with Weill, to reckon with. Brecht’s musical theatre works still feel idiosyncratic today. He was definitely sui generis.

Marc Blitzstein
Indisputably a child of Brecht (his biggest success was his 1954 off-Broadway translation of Threepenny), Blitzstein may not loom as large, but what he accomplished remains both singular and vital. Indeed, his signature work, the scorching 1937 The Cradle Will Rock, employs Brechtian alienation to look at all forms of prostitution—sexual, moral, political, religious—an approach suggested by Brecht himself. Regina, his 1949 opera based on Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, improves on the play while still making for an utterly uncompromising look at the rancid side of American machismo and untrammeled capitalism. Even Juno, his unsuccessful 1959 Broadway musical adaptation of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock, for which he only wrote the songs, features a powerful dramatic score unique in the annals of the Great White Way.

Blitzstein began his career as an experimental “serious” composer only to decide that he’d rather reach the masses after becoming a Communist. He knew what made a great popular tune, but that wasn’t in his wheelhouse, as he himself lamented more than once. I’m glad that it wasn’t. His spiky, thorny, yet often rapturously beautiful musical vocabulary married to outstanding verbal felicity and fervent political commitment stands by itself.

John Latouche
When I was asked by the York Theatre Company in 1999 to create a musical revue based on the life and work of Latouche, I knew next to nothing about him. Most of his work had never been recorded or published and little was known about his life. Research rectified the situation, and I was stunned that someone so gifted and original could be largely lost in the mists of time, thanks to his sudden death at age 41 in 1956 from a heart attack.

A bit of a Blitzstein acolyte and openly gay at a time when that was nearly impossible, he was equally at home with avant garde artists and Broadway veterans. He wrote scripts and/or lyrics to everything from musical comedies (Cabin in the Sky) to operettas (Candide) to dance cantatas (Ballet Ballads) to musical dramas (Beggar’s Holiday, a then-contemporary interracial gloss on Threepenny) to operas (The Golden Apple and The Ballad of Baby Doe). He contributed a song, "The Girl With the Prefabricated Heart" (watch it on YouTube), inspired by his divorce from a lesbian, to the first full-length surrealist film (Dreams That Money Can Buy). Indeed, he worked constantly, but his intellectual bent and iconoclastic philosophy of life consistently undercut his chances for popular success, despite repeated critical encomiums. Encores! has recently started to rediscover him, first with its wonderful reconstruction last year of Cabin and later this year with The Golden Apple. Award-winning biographer Howard Pollack’s latest book, The Ballad of John Latouche: An American Lyricist’s Life and Work, comes out from Oxford University Press this September. Don’t miss it.

Al Carmines
Between 1962 and 1977, the Rev. Carmines composed, with a variety of collaborators, a string of off-off-Broadway musicals that, as the Village Voice put it upon his death in 2005, explored “polymorphous perversity” and “render[ed] conventional realism out of style if not obsolete.” Minister at the Judson Memorial Church just off Washington Square, he started Judson Poets Theater, which joined La Mama ETC and the Café Cino as hotbeds of theatrical experimentation. Ten of his musicals transferred to off-Broadway commercial runs, including Peace (based on Aristophanes), Joan (the story of St. Joan), The Faggot (gay life in 1973 NYC), In Circles (the poetry of Gertrude Stein), and Promenade (a surreal fable about race, class, and money in America), and he won five Obie Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. All of the above shows were recorded (I have them all), but only the last remains available. A brain aneurysm pretty much put a stop to his composing career.

As New York Times critic Clive Barnes, a Carmines champion, put it: “There is literally nothing Mr. Carmines will not use—gallops, waltzes, polkas, circus blares and musical bumps and grinds—to get his work done.” His one show for Broadway, W.C., based on the life of W.C. Fields and starring Mickey Rooney and Bernadette Peters, closed on the road. Eclectic, freewheeling, extravagant, and marvelously messy, his work remains ripe for rediscovery, especially Promenade, which couldn’t be timelier in the age of the one percent and President Donald Trump.

Elizabeth Swados
Swados, a student of Peter Brook, began a white-hot streak of critical acclaim with her off-Broadway musical revue Nightclub Cantata at the Village Gate in January of 1977. Swados set poems by people such as Sylvia Plath, Frank O’Hara, Carson McCullers, and herself to dizzyingly eclectic international musical styles and even had the company imitating birdcalls. Clive Barnes, in the New York Times, “adored it.” I wanted to see it but couldn’t, because as the sole box office treasurer for Starting Here, Starting Now I worked the exact same performance schedule. I first encountered Swados as incidental composer for Andrei Serbain’s Lincoln Center productions of The Cherry Orchard and Agamemnon, both intriguing. Then came her biggest success, Runaways, which moved to Broadway and brought her five Tony nominations (for musical, score, book, direction, and choreography), and she lost me. When the company marched downstage at the end of Act 1 and blamed the entire audience for the problem of teenage homelessness, my 24-year-old self marched out of the Plymouth Theatre incensed at such a blanket condemnation. My guess is she would have liked that.

Her streak continued with Dispatches (about the Vietnam War) and The Haggadah, a Passover Cantata, only to founder with an ill-received 1980 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland starring brand-new film star Meryl Streep, all produced by Joe Papp at the Public Theater, the last of which you can see done for PBS on video. Two forays into commercial musical theatre with political cartoonist Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury on Broadway in 1983 and Rap Master Ronnie (as in Reagan) off-Broadway in 1984, both failed, and the critical bloom was off the rose. Swados, however, just kept going, creating fiercely uncompromising shows in whatever venues were available. Being financially independent probably helped. But when she died of cancer in 2016 at age 64, only months before Runaways was to be revived by Encores! Off-Center, legions of her students and collaborators testified to her importance in their lives and careers. She was much loved, and I daresay had as great an effect on musical theatre artists as many a commercial writer.

Jeanine Tesori
I see Tesori’s career as split between pay-the-rent gigs (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek the Musical) and passion projects (Violet; Caroline, or Change; Fun Home). I’ve never been able to warm to the former, but I am astounded by the intelligence and artistry of the latter. Ultimately, I see her as a maverick because, when not taking the check, she so thoroughly commits to whatever the dramatic requirements may be to both create the necessary universe and tell the story well, all else be damned. I find it hard to imagine three more different scores than the above passion projects, yet each is extraordinary in its own way. Now that Fun Home has been both an artistic and a commercial Broadway success, even generating a national tour, let’s hope that her days of artistic bifurcation are behind her.

Dave Malloy
Of course it’s too early to know whether Malloy, creator and composer-lyricist of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, is a maverick or not. However, I think the signs are there. His through-composed off-Broadway hit, based on a section of War and Peace, offered reams of sung narrative and self-conscious commentary rife with verbal anachronisms all wrapped up in a playful immersive staging in what passed for a Russian café, complete with dinner and drinks. It wasn’t my thing (I found the constant narration distancing and the pierogis too doughy), but I respected it and Malloy’s strikingly original sensibility, and audiences had fun. It’s too bad that in the journey to Broadway, where pop singer Josh Groban replaced Malloy as the hapless, passionless Pierre, director Rachel Chavkin has pushed its cheeky downtown attitude into overdriven, calcified shtick.

Malloy’s follow-up show, Preludes, part of Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 series of new works, was a “musical fantasia set in the hypnotized mind of Sergei Rachmaninoff” and even more experimental than Natasha, looking at three years in the composer’s life when he suffered from writer’s block. I missed it, as Drama Desk voters were not invited and the show sold out the tiny theatre almost at once after Ben Brantley’s bravura rave in the New York Times. (The rest of the notices were far more measured and decidedly mixed.) The OCR CD is puzzling, with text but no synopsis or liner notes, but there is a great deal of arresting music, some by Malloy, some by Rachmaninoff, and some by both of them. However, Kismet for the 21st century this is not. My guess is you had to be there, though I did greatly enjoy a dramatic set piece about the premiere of Rachmaninoff’s first symphony and its spectacular failure under the guidance of a drunk conductor. Malloy currently has the Times in his corner, both Brantley and Isherwood, but Swados also had the Times in hers—for a time. It will be interesting to see whether this clearly talented man, who has just been named the first musical theatre playwright in residence for NYC’s Signature Theatre, can broaden his palette or even has any desire to do so. And that will ultimately decide his maverick status.

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Jan
13

A Spider on the Ceiling

Songs about superstition and luck are plentiful in the musical theatre canon. Three that come to mind almost immediately are “Luck Be a Lady,” from Guys and Dolls; “Lucky to Be Me,” from On the Town; and “’Till Good Luck Comes My Way,” from Show Boat. But there have to be less obvious examples. How to find them? I decided to think in terms of characters who subscribe to superstitions or for whom luck looms large in their stories. I figured that would lead me to songs – and it did, from 10 shows.

Gideon Briggs, in Greenwillow
Frank Loesser’s 1960 musical adaptation (with an assist on the book from Lesser Samuels) of B.J. Chute’s hit 1956 novel wasn’t a box office success, but it features an enchanting score. Chute’s fable, set in the titular village, has young Gideon Briggs worried that his love for the gentle Dorrie Whitbred will only hurt her. That’s because the eldest son in the Briggs family is cursed with the call to wander far and wide, as Gideon’s own father has done. This superstitious belief is given voice in the soaring “The Music of Home,” sung when Gideon’s father makes one of his brief visits home and his son and the townspeople try to convince him to stay, and the tortured “Never Will I Marry,” in which Gideon, having failed with his father, vows not to ruin Dorrie’s life. Anthony Perkins, making his musical debut on Broadway right after shooting Psycho, is terrific in both songs. I’d love to see this programmed by Encores!; Nicholas Barasch, about to play Huck Finn in Big River for the company this season, would be an ideal Gideon.

Ottilie, in House of Flowers
An incandescent 19-year-old Diahann Carroll made her Broadway debut as a naive young West Indies prostitute longing for true love in this 1954 musical by Truman Capote (book and lyrics) and Harold Arlen (music and lyrics). Ottilie claims not to believe in magic and voodoo, but in the yearning “A Sleepin’ Bee” she sings of the superstition she does believe, one that will let her know when that longed-for love has arrived. Alas, Capote proved to be a better lyricist than book writer; though the songs are uniformly good, the plot line on which they were hung proved far too thin, and the show closed after only 165 performances. Nikki M. James, while still an NYU student, played Ottilie for Encores! in 2003 and was lovely, but the show itself still didn’t work.

Wilson Mizner, in Wise Guys (1999)/Bounce (2003)/Road Show (2008)
This real-life con artist, as played by Victor Garber/Howard McGillin/Michael Cerveris, was all about the scam and getting rich quick, and several of Stephen Sondheim’s songs for him in this long-gestating, oft-retitled show contain references to and incidents of luck. These would include “Gold!,” during which Willie loses an Alaska gold-mine claim in a card game (the fullest version is on the Road Show OCR), “The Game” (which can be heard in different versions on both Road Show and Bounce), and “I Love This Town” (only on Bounce). I have heard a live audio recording of Wise Guys (I had tix for the workshop, but my performance was canceled) and saw Bounce and Road Show, and while I don’t think any version really works, my favorite was director Harold Prince’s musical comedy vision of the show, Bounce, particularly for the performances of McGillin and the wonderful Richard Kind as Willie’s more cautious brother, Addison.

Miss Horoscope and Miss Mysticism, in Love Life
These two ladies are trotted out by the Interlocutor of a meta minstrel show to offer the grumpily divorced Sam and Susan Cooper, still youthful at the age of about 180, a way to happiness. “For cards and fate/Rule what you do/So why should you be sad?/Oh, come and be relieved with Madame Zuzu,” plead the misses. It doesn’t work. The Kurt Weill–Alan Jay Lerner score for this 1948 concept musical is top drawer, but a recording strike prevented a cast album. However, you can hear a shortened version of “The Illusion Minstrel Show” on the OBCR of Harold Prince and Alfred Uhry’s LoveMusik, a 2007 bio-musical about Weill and his wife, Lotte Lenya, where it is recast as “The Illusion Wedding Show.”

Porgy, in Porgy and Bess
DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin, and George Gershwin’s landmark 1935 Broadway opera contains plenty of superstitious beliefs and crap games, but for most of its length its hero, the goodhearted “cripple” Porgy, eschews such things. However, in Act III, when a coroner and a detective arrive and arbitrarily choose Porgy to identify the body of the villainous Crown, he is suddenly terrified. Why? Because Porgy killed Crown while defending the woman he loves, Bess, and he believes that if he looks on the body of his victim, Crown’s wounds will begin to bleed, giving Porgy away. You can hear the gripping sequence on the track labeled “What Is Your Name?,” which also displays one of the creators’ inspired ideas: the white characters don’t sing; their bigotry and racism won’t allow it.

Tamate, in Pacific Overtures
Pre-Broadway, in Boston, this wife of Kayama Yesaemon, “a samurai, but one of little consequence,” responded to her husband being suddenly summoned by the Shogun by singing “Prayers,” in which she begged the gods to let her see good omens, such as “a spider o