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BWW Reviews: If It Only Even Runs a Minute 4

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There is something truly thrilling about being in a room filled with young people-many looking like they're not yet out of college-who cheer when they hear the titles Henry Sweet Henry,  The Happy Time and Merrily We Roll Along. While concerts featuring songs from hit shows, or at least hit songs, will always draw crowds, it is comforting to know that the next generation of musical theater fans is willing to look beyond the most famous shows to find the hidden gems.

Taking a cue from Scott Siegel's Broadway by the Year series at Town Hall, Jennifer Ashley Tepper and Kevin Michael Murphy launched a multimedia concert series this year entitled "If It Only Even Runs a Minute" (from a line in Merrily) that celebrates memorable songs, stories and pictures from underappreciated musicals.

Oh, yes-don't use the "f" word when discussing these shows. While many of them may have closed within a few weeks of opening, others had very healthy runs, but their popularity didn't last after they closed. And as Tepper and Murphy have demonstrated in the series' five concerts at various locations in the city, there is reAl Gold in these scores.

Smaller, more intimate and more rough-hewn (in the best possible way) than Broadway by the  Year, these concerts do not focus on the hits or hitmakers, or even on any specific year. There is no particular arc or theme to any of the evenings. Instead, worthy songs are performed by young up-and-coming singers, sometimes even by the original actors recreating moments from their past. A notable upside of this format is the stories that the artists can share about the shows, sometimes discussing what went wrong and sometimes just recalling fun anecdotes.

At the fourth If It Only... concert, presented this past week as part of the New York Musical Theater Festival under the music direction of Caleb Hoyer, Tim Jerome-in full old-man drag-sang "Golden Oldie" from The Moony Shapiro Songbook, a London hit that didn't work on Broadway 30 years ago. Before the song, he talked about some unique accidental opening-night choreography that might have been repeated if the show had had a second night. Murphy and Anna Stone sang the Brechtian "Don't Make Me Laugh" from Roza, and Andrew Kober sang the deceptively titled "Sensitive Song" from the never-completed musical Cops (and really, that song's been done in enough cabarets to make it at least popular, if not a hit). Peter Link talked about creating both Salvation and King of Hearts, and Tim Shea sang a rousing "Mrs. Draba from the latter show.

Ryan Driscol shared an embarrassing anecdote about how food poisoning affected a performance of Summer of '42 before singing "I Think I Like Her." Donna Lynne Champlin brought the house down with the story of her audition for 3hree, a series of one-act musicals that ran at the late, lamented Prince Music Theater, before launching into the rousing "The Air is Free" from the show.

No word yet on where or when the next If It Only... will be, but with luck there will be many more editions that bring attention to many forgotten musicals. It's through concerts like this that these shows are kept alive, and it is wonderful to know that so many people are getting to experience at least a minute of these lost treasures.

 


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From This Author Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox is a lifelong theatre addict who has worked as an actress, a singer, a playwright, a director, a lyricist, a librettist, and (read more...)