01 October 2009

On Second Thought...

In a little over a month, 2 currently running Broadway shows have announced changes to their production.  Not cast changes, script changes.  On August 25th WEST SIDE STORY announced that their "expieriement" of having the Sharks occiasionally speak Spanish wasn't really working, and they were going back to English.  (Well, kinda.  My roommate, a Spanish teacher who was upset when I told her this in August because she was looking forward to hearing some of it in Spanish, saw it this past weekend and said "I Feel Pretty" is still mostly "Siento Hermosa", which , incidently, sounds like a brunch cocktail.)

Recently, the folks at SHREK have announced that they will add Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer" to the (lovely) Jeanine Tesori/David Linsday-Abaire score.  The article leads me to believe it will be performed as exit music/during the curtain call.  But really, who knows.  Poor SHREK has so much potential, but it's held hostage by the maniacal and artless DREAMWORKS who seem dead-set on recreating their popular movie verbatim. 

This type of mid-run adjustment isn't without precedent, but it's rare.  Especially lately.  So for it to happen twice in the ammount of time it God to flood the earth...that's odd.  Some previous examples (off the top of my head):

WISH YOU WERE HERE, a show this is largely, and justly, forgotten was notable for 2 things.  1) Having a swimming pool onstage (it was 1952), and (2) closing down after opening and reopening after much revision and improvement.  It also had a score by Harold Rome, the composer time forgot.  Which is and is not deserved.  This song is fun.  It was also directed by Josh "South Pacific" Logan, which means there were probably lots of shirtless men around that pool.  THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL did the same thing twice over.  SEUSSICAL flopped on Broadway, but went on tour with a revised book and became the most licensed show by amature theater groups and schools in America. 

When Liza did a brief stint in CHICAGO the Act I closing duet, "I Am My Own Best Friend" became a solo number.  (click here for an audio-only YouTube video!)  (Chita, cut from the number while Liza was in town, got the last laugh when the did THE RINK together.  Liza left the production early (probably not entirely her choice), being replaced by a better received Stockard Channing and Chita won her first Tony.)

Speaking of Gwen Verdon, somewhere in the run of SWEET CHARITY, the powers that be cut her first number, the fascinating "You Should See Yourself." Legend has it that an audience member wrote Verdon an angry letter after seeing the show, because the number, which exists on the Cast Recording, was not in the show.  She felt slighted.  Gwen verdon responded with a check for $0.12, the cost of 1 track on the Cast Recording.  One can only imagine what that patron would have done upon seeing CAMELOT.  There are so many discrepancies between the script and OCR--and I've heard so many varying accounts--that it's hard to believe what show audience members saw.

A few songs originally cut from HELLO, DOLLY! were put back in when The Merm took over the title role. 

Ultimately, I think that, as a living, breathing art form, theater should be subject to such change.  Provided it's an improvement. 

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