BWW Review: LOST AND UNSUNG A Musical Night to Remember
It is a well-known fact that during the creation of a new musical, songs will come and go. Rewrites are a painstaking part of the process and there are many reasons why a song – even a good one – may never make it to opening night. As the story develops it might no longer makes sense, the character who sings it could be cut from the show, or a better song may come along to replace it.
So what becomes of these "lost songs?" Many find new life in recordings produced by Bruce Kimmel on his Kritzerland label, and this week, the Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy is featuring thirty of these gems in Lost and Unsung, An Evening of Cut Songs from Great Musicals and Great Songs from Flops, directed and narrated by Kimmel.
Professional artists Alet Taylor, Damon Kirsche, Melody Hollis and Will Collyer join members of the theatre academy, including Brett McMahon, Harrison Meloeny, Tara Collins, Sarah Fontenot, Julia Rose, and Alexis Williams in songs you've never heard from shows like Gypsy, Company, Sweet Charity, Smile, and Drat! The Cat!" Lost and Unsung runs for six performances November 30 - December 3.
The evening's many highlights included Collyer singing a touching "So Little Time" from Barnum, and a heartbreaking interpretation of "Orphan in the Storm" from Celebration. Kimmel's comments about Celebration included an interesting side note that the masks for the production were created by none other than a 16-year old Julie Taymor.
Damon Kirsche was in glorious voice and provided that sparkle of old Broadway/Hollywood glamour that makes every role he takes on magical, as heard in "Ten Percent," the agent's song cut from Chicago, "Multitudes of Amys" cut from Company, and the showstopping finale "Make the Most of Your Music" from Follies. I'm still waiting for someone to write him a role set in the 1920s/'30s that captures all of the things he does so well and lets him put his stamp on an original character.
Taylor channeled her inner Ethel Merman on "Take it in Your Stride," originally meant to be sung by Annie to a poster of herself in Annie Get Your Gun but cut because the star didn't want to learn a new song, and Williams gave us the lovely, haunting "Starfish" from La Strada, which was originally sung by Bernadette Peters in her first big Broadway starring role. Other highlights were McMahon as a young Scrooge singing "Penny By Penny" from A Christmas Carol, Hollis' "I Want to be a Rockette" from The Showgirl Musical, and a humorous, contemporary update of "Man & Wife" and "Guess We May As Well Stay Married Now," both from I Do! I Do!, sung by the company.
A special highlight on opening night was an appearance by Richard M. Sherman, of The Sherman Brothers, who wrote the songs for Walt Disney's Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Happiest Millionaire, and Charlotte's Web. Mr. Sherman performed a comedy song cut from Mary Poppins entitled "Chimpanzoo," complete with kazoo, that brought down the house.
Though some songs never make it to opening through no fault of their own, it isn't hard to see why others are cut from shows, as in the case of "Filbbertigibbit," a song written for Lizzie in 110 in the Shade that was replaced by the much more appealing character piece "Raunchy." "Evening Star," on the other hand, was originally cut from 110 in the Shade but later restored thanks to Kimmel's insistence that the song was just too short and needed a bridge. It's a great story about how he asked his friend Harvey Schmidt to write one and then got him to convince Tom Jones, whom Schmidt was certain would never write a lyric to it, to actually do it. The result is a gorgeous song that is now included in all productions of the show and works beautifully, proving that persistence pays off.
Kimmel told many stories like this throughout the night and it is thanks to him that so many of these great songs have not been lost. They are the true stars of Lost and Unsung and for those that love to hear the inside scoop, and relish a chance to enjoy little known but terrific songs seldom sung live, this is a night to remember.
Performances take place in The Caminito Theatre at Los Angeles City College, 855 N. Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, 90029. For reservations call 323-953-4000 x 2990.