| Lee Adams|
William F. Brown
| William F. Brown|
| Charles Strouse plays, Musicals|
A Broadway Musical is a musical with a book by William F. Brown, lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse. The Broadway production closed after 14 previews and only one performance on December 21, 1978.
The plot about a sleazy white theatre producer's attempt to adapt an African-American writer's serious play for a commercial stage musical was inspired by Adams and Strouse's real-life experiences with their 1964 Broadway production of Golden Boy. The star of the musical-within-the-musical (Sneakers, about a basketball star) closely resembles Golden Boy star Sammy Davis, Jr. When the star opts to leave the show, the playwright - who from the start had resisted turning his work into a musical - steps in and takes on the lead role in order to save the production.
A Broadway Musical Wikipedia
The creators hoped that the backstage story about the making of a musical would cash in on the success of A Chorus Line as well as the popularity of the black-themed musical, including Brown's own The Wiz, which was still running at the time. But Brown's much-criticized book is a clichéd spoof of show business lawyers, idealistic young playwrights, glitzy Las Vegas performers, blue-haired matinée ladies, and the black-themed musical itself. The Wiz proved to be Brown's only success.
Following a dismal October–November tryout with Helen Gallagher and Julius LaRosa at the theatre in the Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, the producers fired most of the cast and creative personnel, including director/choreographer George Faison. Gower Champion was called in to rescue the Broadway-bound production with only a month to go, but he feared that the show's defects were too serious to remedy and insisted on receiving a "Production supervised by" credit only.
After 14 previews, the Broadway production opened and closed the same night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on December 21, 1978. It lost $1 million. The cast included Patti Karr (replacing Gallagher), Alan Weeks, Larry Marshall, Warren Berlinger (replacing LaRosa), Loretta Devine, Jackée Harry, and Tiger Haynes.
A cast album was recorded before an audience during a live performance in December 1978.Richie Taylor's Lawyer - Sydney Anderson
Rehearsal Pianist - Gwen Arment
Policeman, Nathaniel - Nate Barnett
Eddie Bell - Warren Berlinger
Stephanie Bell - Gwyda DonHowe
Shirley Wolfe - Anne Francine
Richie Taylor's Lawyer - Michael Gallagher
Melinda Bernard - Jackée Harry
Sylvester Lee - Tiger Haynes
Louie - Reggie Jackson
Maggie Simpson - Patti Karr
Kumi-Kumi - Christina Kumi Kimball
James Lincoln - Irving Allen Lee
Richie Taylor - Larry Marshall
Junior - Robert Melvin
Richie's Secretary - Jo Ann Ogawa
Jake - Martin Rabbett
Lonnie Paul - Larry Riley
Big Jake - Albert Stephenson
Stan Howard - Alan Weeks
Smoke & Fire Back-Up Singer - Loretta Devine
Strouse wrote (in his memoir) that this was a "show he was proud of" because he and Adams had wanted to write a musical about their experiences with Sammy Davis, Jr., about white people writing for a "big, black musical star". They envisioned it as "funny, ironic... and filled with life's imbalances."
Mel Gussow, in his review for the New York Times, wrote that the idea was to write a spoof of Broadway intrigue and duplicity; "cynicism is rampant." There are jokes about blacks on Broadway, Jewish theater party women and lawyers with "steel clauses." The lyrics are not funny. Finally, Gussow wrote: "The cast performs with eagerness, even as the show sinks."
Julius Novick of The Village Voice called it "the best Broadway musical since Platinum," a disaster that had opened the month before. Critic and theatre historian Ken Mandelbaum has described the show as "a genuine turkey... hopeless... [a] well-meaning but fatally underpowered evening. The Charles Strouse-Lee Adams score had its moments...." Mandelbaum noted that "...the characters were all cliches... A shallow treatment of a theme with potential... was capped with an absurd ending"