Breaking News: Singular Sensations closes this Sunday unless box office improves
What was intended to be a congratulatory backstage visit turned into discussion among baffled musical theatre lovers as to what exactly went wrong. Despite a glowing review from the New York Times, enthusiastic audiences and positive buzz on the internet, Singular Sensations, Glen Roven's off-Broadway interview show featuring week-long visits by some of musical theatre's greatest living figures is failing at the box office and is set to close this Sunday. Although the possibility of a shortened performance schedule might be considered to continue the series, whose scheduled guests in the upcoming weeks include Kitty Carlisle Hart, Lainie Kazan and Elaine Paige, a sudden surge in weekend ticket sales is needed to give any thought of extension serious consideration.
Two weeks ago audiences were treated to Carol Channing's observations on the art of satire and the serious craft of structuring a lighthearted musical, highlighted by performances of "Diamond's are a Girl's Best Friend" and "Before the Parade Passes By". Last week Donna McKecknie detailed her working relationship with Michael Bennett, explaining his goal to create a seamless transition between dance and drama. Audiences were floored by her performance of all three roles in "Turkey Lurkey Time" and a stunning re-creation of her spectacular dance to "The Music and the Mirror". Supporting both women, Roven's interview style mixed a scholar's knowledge with a fan's wide-eyed enthusiasm.
This week Florence Henderson is being embraced by crowds who'd rather hear stories of Richard Rodgers than of Carol Brady. Those who only know her from TV will be surprised to hear she worked with Rodgers and Hammerstein on three of their biggest successes. Only two months into her Broadway debut as a chorus member in Wish You Were Here, Henderson was cast as Laurey in the last national tour of the original production of Oklahoma!. Later, she would star in the first national tour of The Sound of Music, giving Mary Martin her first look at someone else playing Maria and inspiring the great star to appreciate a bit of stage business she thought was never working. After Hammerstein's death, she starred in the first New York revival of South Pacific, a production she argues was just as groundbreaking as Hair was in its time. Rodgers and Hammerstein were known to be meticulously exacting with their singers, making sure that each note and word was sung the way they intended. So when Florence Henderson highlights her stories with songs from these productions, we're hearing the words and music through the instrument of someone who was taught to sing them by the creators, giving us the truest live connection possible to these great masters.
But despite her career as an ingenue, Ms. Henderson has a delightfully salty sense of humor, so don't be surprised if you hear a few quips about Viagra, open flies or George Burns' sex life. The evening's bawdy finale was an unexpected rendition of "When You're Good to Mama" sung by "Matron Mama Brady". I won't give away the hilarious sight gags.
Earlier this year I had the extraordinary opportunity to hear Kitty Carlisle Hart sing the classic "September Song", which she heard Walter Huston introduce on opening night of Knickerbocker Holiday. It was a moment flooded with history which I wish every lover of musical theatre could have witnessed. That opportunity might have occurred 8 more times next week, as Ms. Carlisle Hart was Glen Roven's next scheduled guest. But unless advance sales increase dramatically in the next few days, such opportunities to connect with Broadway's living history will become a thing of the past.