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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"

Jarethan
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How Angela Lansbury got #26
Posted: 1/7/20 at 10:35am

BrodyFosse123 said: "David10086 said: "WOW! Rogers was pushing 60 at this time, and what a dancer she still was - incredible!"

This ageism still surprises me. Anyone who keeps in shape can still move like a 20 year old at 60. Chita Rivera was 60 when she did KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. Kicking her leg behind her head, being carried and flipped, spinning in a cage, climbing a mesh spider web several feet off the stagewith a harness. Madonna is over 60 and doing more physically challenging movements and dances in her current tour. Cheris in her mid 70s touring the world and on stage almost 2 hours with complex costume changes interspersed plus Bette Midler in her early 70sdid her entire run of HELLO, DOLLY! only missing 1 performance. Ginger Rogers, a dancer, could easily play MAME with no physical issues as it’s not a demanding dance role.

THIS is a 60 year old Chita Rivera.


Mame was not Dolly.  I saw Angela Lansbury in Mame 6 times (3 in 1966-67, 3 in 1981) and she danced the hell out of the role.  There was dancing in It'sToday, Open A New Window, the title song (major),That's How Young I feel, and, to a lesser extent, Bosom Buddies and We Need a Little Christmas.  She may not have been Chita Rivera in the dancing department, but Chita Rivera was not Angela Lansbury in the singing and acting department.  I have always found Rivera's voice too sharp to be really pleasant.  

I have liked Chita Rivera in any number of shows, but her biggest strengths were always different from Lansbury's.

"

 

 
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How Angela Lansbury got #27
Posted: 1/7/20 at 10:53am

David10086 said: "WOW! Rogers was pushing 60 at this time, and what a dancer she still was - incredible!"

 

My seat was near the stage, and all these years later I have a vivid memory of how muscular and defined her legs were.  I believe she helped keep fit by playing tennis (and she may have had a tennis court at one of her homes).

And just a personal memory.  In the early 1990's, a couple of years before Miss Rogers' passing, I met her at a book signing of her autobiography.  I took along the program from "Mame" and asked if she would sign it.  I told her that when I saw her in London, I was a young sailor stationed onboard a U.S. Navy ship in Scotland, and had come down to London specifically to see her in "Mame".  She extended her hand, shook my hand, and said "Thank you for serving our country".  She is the only person ever to have said that to me, and I thought it was a very classy moment.

 

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How Angela Lansbury got #28
Posted: 1/7/20 at 10:53am

David10086 said: "What you're neglecting is the fact that we've come a long way today from 50 years ago as far as health and exercise. A very long way in advancing in the health and medical fields, nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and exercise.

60 years old in 1969 is not even remotely the same as being 60 years old in 2020. To compare Rogers to Madonna or Cher is ridiculous. Even to compare her to Rivera in the mid 90s is ridiculous - again, healthy living, modern medicine, and exercise came a very long way in those 25 years.
"

Not to mention that for every Chita Rivera, who defied the odds in terms of career longevity for a dancer, there are numerous dancers who had to retire as dancers by the time they hit their 40s, often through no fault of their own. There's a reason that Career Transition for Dancers was founded in the first place and still continues to be a much used and needed resource.

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Posted: 1/7/20 at 10:57am

And here are Ginger, Angela and Lucy all dancing "Mame".

 

 

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How Angela Lansbury got #30
Posted: 1/8/20 at 12:53pm

Patti LuPone FANatic said: "At the beginning, which other ladies were in the running for the lead role in "Mame"?"

In Bea Arthur's 2002 Intimate Portrait on Lifetime, Angela Lansbury and Bea discuss how Bea wanted the part of Mame, and how Gene Saks (the director), Bea's husband at the time, put Bea forward as Mame.  But they decided on Angela instead and Bea got the Vera Charles role.

Here's the link to the video, at the 16 minute mark is where they discuss Mame:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqaE8AD0qHo

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How Angela Lansbury got #31
Posted: 1/8/20 at 3:25pm

The casting of Dame Lansbury was discussed numerous times by Mr Herman, you can hear it in this other short documentary from 2002, at the 6 minute mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YOu0SMtyxM&feature=youtu.be Perhaps owing to some poetic licence, he did portray the scene as being her audition and subsequent immediate casting, but as AADA81 explained the audition process for her was much more prolonged, to the extent that she travelled from her home in Malibu to New York as many as six times over a number of several months (if memory serves me right). It was at the final audition that she put her foot down and said, "you have to make up your mind now", and has later described this as one of the few times she really pursued a role. 

One of these auditions was even captured for prosperity, either by Jerry Herman himself or Don Pippin, in December of 1965 in New York, with both Kaye Ballard and Dame Lansbury. The recording is housed at the R&H archive, but has also snuggled it way out...

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How Angela Lansbury got #32
Posted: 1/8/20 at 3:33pm

joevitus said: "GavestonPS said: "I saw thoseTony Awards and I think "attack" is a bit strong. Herman's remark was more defensive than aggressive, as I heard it. Yeah, I was offended on Sondheim's behalf, but looking back it seems rather silly of me.

Herman told a mutual friend many times that he wrote MAME for Judy Garland, but she was uninsurable. That he "discovered"Angela in WHISTLEmakes sense. She wasn't yet a star of Garland's wattage, but after HELLO, DOLLY!, Herman himself was the only "star" required in his next show. (And of course the property itself was well-known from the novel, play and film of AUNTIE MAME, perhaps even better known than THE MATCHMAKER.)
"

Are you sure about this as regards Garland? I know she really wanted to do Hello, Dolly! after seeing it (no idea if Channing was still in the show or had already been replaced)and he really wanted her to do it, and ALL Garland's people warned him not to hire her because they knew the problems she was having, but I never heard of her in relation to Mame.
"

I'm sure. My friend is short and, though she once played Mame brilliantly in stock, she got tired of being told she was "too short" at auditions for the role. (FTR, I don't think Ann Miller was much taller, though her long legs made her seem taller than she was.) But Jerry Herman always demanded that directors of top tier productions audition my friend and the Garland story was always his response to the idea that Mame needs to be tall.

In fact, I believe the HELLO, DOLLY! story you heard about Garland confused DOLLY with MAME. Not blaming you, of course.

(None of this, I trust, is to take anything away from Angela. I worked with her in MAME for a 1970s tour and it was one of the most thrilling evenings I've spent in a theater.)

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How Angela Lansbury got #33
Posted: 1/8/20 at 3:39pm

cfbrrr said: "Of course Jerry Herman’s comment about “hummable tunes” at the 1984 Tony Awards was a direct, unsubtle jab at Sondheim and, in particular, at “Sunday in the Park with George,” the main Tony competition that year for “La Cage aux folles.” Herman’s show may have bested Sondheim’s at the awards ceremony, but “Sunday” had been the clear preference of the “important crowd,” prime among them The New York Times, whose relentless promotion of the show toward a Pulitzer Prize, which it did receive (despite Frank Rich’s not-quite-rave review), led to the sarcastic labeling of the campaign as “Sunday In the Times with George.”

One senses that Mr. Rich’s review, if written today, would be stronger, and that at least several of the Tony decisions, if arrived at 35 years later, would be reversed.

"

What review are you talking about? Frank Rich single-handedly made SUNDAY a hit. I was at the opening night and people were snoring during Act II. The lady next to me actually yelled, "Maybe this would be fun if I were stoned!" The buzz at Charlie's afterwards was very "WTF was that?!" Then the Rich review came out the following day and made a hit out of a seeming disaster.

SUNDAY was the most important step in Rich's campaign to make the intelligentsia re-evaluate Sondheim's entire career. Rich "revisited" every one of Sondheim's shows, prompting many a reevaluation and not a few revivals.

ETA: Here's a link to the 1984 Rich review:

https://www.nytimes.com/1984/05/03/theater/stage-sunday-in-the-park-with-george.html

It's true Rich acknowledges the thinness of the second act plot. (And how could he not?) But brief references to the mechanics of Act II are buried in accolades such as "lovely", "brilliant", "uncompromising", "audacious", "haunting", "touching", "tour de force", etc.

Updated On: 1/8/20 at 03:39 PM
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How Angela Lansbury got #34
Posted: 1/8/20 at 7:57pm
Why was the 1983 Mame revival with Angela - its only B'way revival to date - so short lived?
Oliver! with Patti suffered a similar fate the same season.
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How Angela Lansbury got #35
Posted: 1/8/20 at 9:08pm

GavestonPS said: "cfbrrr said: "Of course Jerry Herman’s comment about “hummable tunes” at the 1984 Tony Awards was a direct, unsubtle jab at Sondheim and, in particular, at “Sunday in the Park with George,” the main Tony competition that year for “La Cage aux folles.” Herman’s show may have bested Sondheim’s at the awards ceremony, but “Sunday” had been the clear preference of the “important crowd,” prime among them The New York Times, whose relentless promotion of the show toward a Pulitzer Prize, which it did receive (despite Frank Rich’s not-quite-rave review), led to the sarcastic labeling of the campaign as “Sunday In the Times with George.”

One senses that Mr. Rich’s review, if written today, would be stronger, and that at least several of the Tony decisions, if arrived at 35 years later, would be reversed.

"

What review are you talking about? Frank Rich single-handedly made SUNDAY a hit. I was at the opening night and people were snoring during Act II. The lady next to me actually yelled, "Maybe this would be fun if I were stoned!"The buzz at Charlie's afterwards was very "WTF was that?!" Then the Rich review came out the following day and made a hit out of a seeming disaster.

SUNDAY was the most important step in Rich's campaign to make the intelligentsia re-evaluate Sondheim's entire career. Rich "revisited" every one of Sondheim's shows, prompting many a reevaluation and not a few revivals.

ETA: Here's a link to the 1984 Rich review:

https://www.nytimes.com/1984/05/03/theater/stage-sunday-in-the-park-with-george.html

It's true Rich acknowledges the thinness of the second act plot. (And how could he not?) But brief references to the mechanics of Act II are buried in accolades such as "lovely", "brilliant", "uncompromising", "audacious", "haunting", "touching", "tour de force", etc.
"

Funny to read that, as I thought that the second Act was atrociously pretentious when I saw it originally.  It was only after I saw the Roundabout production a decade ago (in which the approach to the chromolume was more than ffective) that I did enjoy it.  I don’t think it was because of the new chromolume.  I thought the.production was better, and actually liked Act 2 better than Act 1 (and in a production I saw it n Boston on about 3 years ago).

i have always thought that the second half of Act 1 drags a Little, when they are featuring some of the other characters in the picture.  Act 2 never drags for me now (I have seen it a few additional times in less brilliant versions than the Roundabout and Boston versions).

 

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How Angela Lansbury got #36
Posted: 1/8/20 at 9:14pm

markypoo said: "Why was the 1983 Mame revival with Angela - its only B'way revival to date - so short lived?
Oliver! with Patti suffered a similar fate the same season.
"

Opened in dead of summer with really bad advanced publicity (out of town Philadelphia engagement shortened, so they rushed to NY, with very little advanced notice).  Tourism wasn’t what it is today (and summer wasn’t what it is today), and revivals were a much harder sell.  

The production values were a little deficient, but the performances were great and audiences that did come loved it (I saw it three full times and had to leave at intermission a fourth).  Such a shame because it was a joyous production.

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How Angela Lansbury got #37
Posted: 1/9/20 at 12:38am

You're entirely correct GavestonPS, I was confusing the two. 

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Posted: 1/9/20 at 1:00pm

Jarethan said: "markypoo said: "Why was the 1983 Mame revival with Angela - its only B'way revival to date - so short lived?
Oliver! with Patti suffered a similar fate the same season.
"

Opened in dead of summer with really bad advancedpublicity (out of town Philadelphia engagement shortened, so they rushed to NY, with very little advanced notice).Tourism wasn’t what it is today (and summer wasn’t whatit istoday), and revivals were a much hardersell.


I think it was the Wang Center booking in Boston that was cut short, but for all I know maybe it was both. It moved to Broadway with little advance notice. Frank RIch's review didn't help either. I recall he liked Lansbury, but little else about the revival calling it a tired businessman's type of musical.......



 

Updated On: 1/9/20 at 01:00 PM
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How Angela Lansbury got #39
Posted: 1/9/20 at 11:38pm

I saw Ginger Rogers in MAME sometime in the late 60s / early 70s in a summer stock theater inn the round production. Audrey Christie was Vera. Production was wonderful. Our seats were very close to the stage and Rogers looked gorgeous and was terrific in the role.

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How Angela Lansbury got #40
Posted: 1/10/20 at 4:08pm

Susan Hayward played "Mame" with Loretta Swit?!?!? I never knew this...and I generally know everything! Just kidding! 

 

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Updated On: 1/10/20 at 04:08 PM
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Posted: 1/10/20 at 9:12pm

Jarethan said: "Funny to read that, as I thought that the second Act was atrociously pretentious when I saw it originally. It was only after I saw the Roundabout production a decade ago (in which the approach to the chromolume was more than ffective) that Idid enjoy it. I don’t think it was because of the new chromolume. I thought the.production was better, and actuallyliked Act 2 better than Act 1 (and in a production I saw it n Boston on about 3 years ago).

i have always thought that the second half of Act1dragsa Little, when they are featuring some of the other characters in the picture. Act 2never drags formenow (I have seen it a few additional times in less brilliant versions than the Roundabout and Boston versions).


"

I found the whole exercise incredibly self-indulgent. (It didn't help that it originally starred two of our most indulgent musical actors. And I say that despite loving Miss Peters.)

I saw Act I at Playwright's Horizon originally (before they started performing Act II) and, despite some lovely music, thought it was 60 minutes of waiting for them to make the painting.

My response to Act II was the same as yours.

I haven't bothered to see it since (except on DVD), but I found the recent off-Broadway recording a surprising delight, thanks to the two stars. Maybe it's time I give the piece another try. After all, I'm the one who absolutely loves PASSION. LOL.

Updated On: 1/10/20 at 09:12 PM
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Posted: 1/10/20 at 9:19pm

markypoo said: "Why was the 1983 Mame revival with Angela - its only B'way revival to date - so short lived?
Oliver! with Patti suffered a similar fate the same season.
"

I'm not sure. Maybe Broadway audiences weren't ready to revisit MAME after its long Broadway run. It was a huge hit on the road in many places; in Miami Beach where I worked on it, we had a line around the block waiting for cancellations for the final Sunday matinee. (There was one, single ticket released at show time and we very nearly had a riot.)

Or maybe NYC audiences were too enthralled by the then-current rage for British poperettas to appreciate what is a fairly traditional American musical comedy.

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Posted: 1/10/20 at 9:30pm

Cora Hoover Hooper said: "
I think it was the Wang Center booking in Boston that was cut short, but for all I know maybe it was both. It moved to Broadway with little advance notice. Frank RIch's review didn't help either. I recall he liked Lansbury, but little else about the revival calling it a tired businessman's type of musical.......



"

Now that we're on the subject, Lansbury's GYPSY--a life-changing evening in the theater for me and a personal triumph for her--only ran about 4 months on Broadway. Maybe it was meant to be a limited run; I wasn't in NYC at the time.

I remember being told--prior to MURDER, SHE WROTE, which made her an international star--that Angela was a huge b.o. draw in some cities (including Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, where she packed houses in MAME and GYPSY), but not as much in others. She would sell out in Kansas City, but play to 2/3 houses in St. Louis, or maybe it was the other way around. The point is that despite her brilliant performances in films and in the original production of MAME, she wasn't yet a money maker on the scale of Carol Channing in DOLLY or Yul Brynner in THE KING AND I.

 

 

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How Angela Lansbury got #44
Posted: 1/11/20 at 9:34am

GavestonPS said: "Cora Hoover Hooper said: "
I think it was the Wang Center booking in Boston that was cut short, but for all I know maybe it was both. It moved to Broadway with little advance notice. Frank RIch's review didn't help either. I recall he liked Lansbury, but little else about the revival calling it a tired businessman's type of musical.......



"

Now that we're on the subject, Lansbury's GYPSY--a life-changing evening in the theater for me and a personal triumph for her--only ran about 4 months on Broadway. Maybe it was meant to be a limited run; I wasn't in NYC at the time.

I remember being told--prior to MURDER, SHE WROTE, which made her an international star--that Angela was a huge b.o. draw in some cities (including Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, where she packed houses in MAME and GYPSY), but not as much in others. She would sell out in Kansas City, but play to 2/3 houses in St. Louis, or maybe it was the other way around. The point is that despite her brilliant performances in films and in the original production of MAME, she wasn't yet a money maker on the scale of Carol Channing in DOLLY or Yul Brynner in THE KING AND I.


When the tour of Sweeney Todd played Chicago with Lansbury and Hearn in early 1981, it was a hard sell at the huge Arie Crown Theatre.

"

 

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How Angela Lansbury got #45
Posted: 1/11/20 at 12:54pm

BWAY Baby2 said: "Judy in Dolly- Judy in Mame- so many possibilities- and such a tragic end fora great star."

I just saw Traci Bennett in Mame and one of my first thoughts was that I’m seeing Traci as Judy in Mame!!!

"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
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How Angela Lansbury got #46
Posted: 1/11/20 at 3:39pm

GavestonPS said: "markypoo said: "Why was the 1983 Mame revival with Angela - its only B'way revival to date - so short lived?
Oliver! with Patti suffered a similar fate the same season.
"

I'm not sure. Maybe Broadway audiences weren't ready to revisit MAME after its long Broadway run. It was a huge hit on the road in many places; in Miami Beach where I worked on it, we had a line around the block waiting for cancellations for the finalSunday matinee. (There was one, single ticket released at show time and we very nearly had a riot.)

Or maybe NYC audiences were too enthralled by the then-current rage for British poperettas to appreciate what is a fairly traditional American musical comedy.
"

The mega-British 'poperettas' hadn't really started when the revival failed.  The revival was 1983 and Les Mis -- the first one IMO, although an argument could be made for Evita being the start -- opened in London in March 1986.  I really think little advanced notice, no publicity, summer opening, little tourism in those days, barn of a Uris Theatre, somewhat tacky production values, meant that it started with a huge disadvantage; also, despite 3 Tonys by then, I am not sure that Lansbury was as big a box office draw as the show needed to overcome the above obstacles.  

NOTE: Personally, her performances on Broadway have given me more memorable evenings in the theatre than any other performer I have seen on the stage in 55+ years; but I remember that Prettybelle closed out of town (although she was the best thing about it); Dear World lasted about 5 - 6 months (although she was responsible for a lot of the run it did have); when Gypsy extended 5 lousy weeks in 1975, after doing great business in the first 10 weeks, the last five weeks did poor business.  She had had a career triumph in Sweeney Todd, but a lot of audience members expecting to see Mame or Mama Rose were disappointed, she was not doing much in the movies, and had not 'discovered' Murder She Wrote.  I think I read that that the limited movie work was a key contributor to her decision revive Mame.  And maybe it was just too soon.  Who knows in the final analysis.  But I go with 'little advanced notice, etc.'

 
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Posted: 1/11/20 at 8:13pm

Jarethan said: "GavestonPS said: "markypoo said: "Why was the 1983 Mame revival with Angela - its only B'way revival to date - so short lived?
Oliver! with Patti suffered a similar fate the same season.
"

I'm not sure. Maybe Broadway audiences weren't ready to revisit MAME after its long Broadway run. It was a huge hit on the road in many places; in Miami Beach where I worked on it, we had a line around the block waiting for cancellations for the finalSunday matinee. (There was one, single ticket released at show time and we very nearly had a riot.)

Or maybe NYC audiences were too enthralled by the then-current rage for British poperettas to appreciate what is a fairly traditional American musical comedy.
"

The mega-British 'poperettas' hadn't really started when the revival failed. The revival was 1983 and Les Mis -- the first one IMO, although an argument could be made for Evita being the start -- opened in London in March 1986. I really think little advanced notice, no publicity, summer opening, little tourism in those days, barn of a Uris Theatre, somewhat tacky production values,meant that it started with a huge disadvantage;also, despite 3 Tonys by then, I am not sure that Lansbury was as big a box office draw as the show needed to overcome the above obstacles.

NOTE:Personally, her performances on Broadway have given me more memorable evenings in the theatre than any other performerI have seen on the stage in 55+ years;but I remember that Prettybelle closed out of town (although she was the best thing about it);Dear World lasted about 5 - 6 months (although she was responsible for a lot of the run it did have); when Gypsy extended 5 lousy weeks in 1975, after doing great business in the first 10 weeks, the last five weeks did poor business. She had had a career triumph in Sweeney Todd, but a lot of audience members expecting to see Mame or Mama Rose were disappointed,she was not doing much in the movies, and had not 'discovered' Murder She Wrote. I think I read that that the limited movie work was a key contributor to her decision revive Mame. And maybe it was just too soon. Who knows in the final analysis. But I go with 'little advanced notice, etc.'

 

"Going off on a tangent here, but the very experience of seeing her for the very first time on a January 1969 trip to NYC in Dear World - and at the Hellinger (the first of two memorable experiences there ) -  is something I still cherish.

I was 13.

 

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Posted: 1/11/20 at 8:29pm

markypoo said: "...
When the tour of Sweeney Todd played Chicago with Lansbury and Hearn in early 1981, it was a hard sell at the huge Arie Crown Theatre.

"

I saw SWEENEY at least a dozen times on Broadway and always got good seats at TKTS.

As I mentioned above, MURDER, SHE WROTE increased Angela's fame immensely. But she had long been a critical and "insider's" darling.

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Posted: 1/11/20 at 8:30pm

joevitus said: "You're entirely correct GavestonPS, I was confusing the two."

Easy to do, Joe, easy to do.

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Posted: 1/11/20 at 8:41pm

Jarethan said: "The mega-British 'poperettas' hadn't really started when the revival failed. The revival was 1983 and Les Mis -- the first one IMO, although an argument could be made for Evita being the start -- opened in London in March 1986....

"

Jarethan, I don't pretend to be an expert on why some lousy shows sell and why some excellent shows don't, so I'm not quarreling with any of the factors you mention. Though I agree with the poster above who wrote that Angela has given me more thrilling evenings in the theater than any other performer, I didn't see the MAME revival in NYC. I had worked on it with her several years before, didn't have a lot of money, etc.

But as for the "British poperetta" craze, I would date it to EVITA (1979 in NYC), as you say, and CATS in 1982. There was also a separate tendency toward dance musicals (mostly revues) on Broadway, thanks to A CHORUS LINE back in 1975.

P.S. I sent you a PM re HELLO, DOLLY! which may interest you.

 


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