Review - If It Only Even Runs A Minute
If Mike Nichols and Elaine May ever had a routine about two theatre geeks discussing their favorite unsuccessful musicals, it probably would have resembled the kind of banter that goes on between Jennifer Tepper and Kevin Michael Murphy as creators/producers/hosts of the concert series, If It Only Even Runs A Minute. Monday night's edition, their seventh, was my third visit to their collection of one-nighters where musical theatre well-knowns and not so well-knowns join music director/pianist Caleb Hoyer to sing selections from underappreciated and/or forgotten musicals between quick histories of each production by Tepper and Murphy. Frequently, original cast members will be on hand to give first-person accounts of the bumpy roads to opening night.
The uninitiaTed May be drawn by the inclusion of guests like Jim Walton, who played piano and wistfully lullabied Merrily We Roll Along's "Good Thing Going," and Randy Graff, who showed off a copy of the official A... My Name Is Alice nude calendar before her entrancing return to "I Sure Like The Boys," which she explained was about a girl's first orgasm.
But to the insiders, ...Runs A Minute is just as much about the names you may have forgotten sharing their claims to their own little corners of the wall at Joe Allen. What musical theatre junkie wouldn't want to spend a few minutes with Perry Kroeger, bookwriter/lyricist of Senator Joe, which closed when its money-mismanaging producer was arrested after the third preview, and hear a few songs from the score performed by Kristen Gray, who was cast as Mamie Eisenhower and a Fatty Deposit inside the notorious Joe McCarthy. Or be treated to a tune from the score of Got Tu Go Disco, sung by its original leading man, Patrick Jude, who told us how his leading lady, Irene Cara, let her understudy go on for opening night because she was busy working on the movie, Fame.
As would be expected, the series has taken on its own personality; that of a casual gathering where Tepper, the perky, excitable fangirl, and Murphy, the more mellow and to-the-point of the pair, read scripted narration revealing fun facts like why Senator Joe's first preview was held in a theatre with a marquee for Kenny Loggins on Broadway and how when Gwen Verdon was tired she would sometimes skip over as many as seven songs while starring in Redhead. But there are also impromptu moments when one of the hosts may share some personal experiences and opinions. This is where we learn things like how teenage Tepper once spent a week in her room continuously listening to her brand new Merrily We Roll Along cast recording.
Add the extemporaneous remembrances from original cast members and the evening can be a bit lengthy. With sixteen musical selections and no intermission, Monday night's concert ran as long as the first preview of Legs Diamond (3½ hours). And while you certainly don't want to miss Don Stitt's impersonation of union rep Ron Holgate reporting grievances to the producers of the Chita Rivera Can-Can tour, nor any of the misadventures described by Jose Llana during the "pre-Broadway" tour of Martin Guerre ("One of the most beloved stories in France, except for the way we told it."), these moments can afford to be a little less wordy.
The night's biggest surprise came when Randy Graff, seated in the audience, interrupted Tepper and Murphy's introduction to Legs Diamond to let them know that the show's director, Robert Allan Ackerman, was there at her table. The looks on the hosts' faces expressed both delight and concern, perhaps trying to recall if there was anything in their presentation that might offend their surprise guest. They were better prepared for an expected guest, Lonny Price, who enthusiastically applauded Josh Grisetti's rendition of "Franklin Shepard, Inc."
Young Adam Riegler, who will probably have a Broadway revival of Promises, Promises built around him by 2025, knocked out the cynical humor in High Fidelity's "Top 5 Desert Island Breakups" and Carly Rose Sonenclar, who might very well be returning to the series to talk about her adventures playing the young daughter in Wonderland, followed with a strong and poised rendering of "The Money Tree" from The Act. Ann Harada was on hand for a lovely "We All Fall Down" from Romance In Hard Times and Ali Stroker, with a female ensemble, offered some vocal thrills in one of Irene Cara's Got Tu Go Disco numbers; a song that had the audience laughing when her character sang the lyric, "I'm gonna live forever."
Quite frankly, I used to think of The Rum House, that little bar inside the Edison Hotel on 47th Street between Broadway and 8th, as a last ditch dive to visit for a late-night cocktail only when everyplace else in the area was either closed or too crowded. But new owners have rebuilt the place into a cozy little hideaway where friendly tourists mix with Broadway denizens.
It's also an amazing bargain for post-theatre revelers looking for some entertainment to go with their nightcaps. On many evenings, from 9:30 to 12:30, The Rum House offers some top-notch musical entertainment with no cover charge and no minimum. (But remember to tip the performers.) The acts serve primarily as background music for the chatty crowd, but grab yourself a seat close to the piano and you'll have no trouble digging the sound.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anyplace on the Internet where the space offers a schedule, but let me recommend some favorites of mine with upcoming engagements.
Hilariously quirky cabaret couple Michael Garin and Mardie Millit, specialists in "Standards from Around the World.....and Beyond," can mix it up in any language (or at least Italian and Hebrew) with a play list that goes anywhere from Bessie Smith to Eydie Gorme and from Sarit Hadad to MR. Rogers. In the late night hours, as I discovered one night, Garin might even encourage you to "Do The Freddie!"
Millit can vouch for the eclectic mix of characters you might find at The Rum House, some of whom have been known to step up to the mic for a solo or two, including former CIA Director James Woolsey ("His specialty is Little Feat's 'Dixie Chicken.'") and downtown entertainment legend Murray Hill ("He swatted my ass and said, 'You guys are slaughtering in here!' High praise from Mister Showbiz."). Michael and Mardie can be enjoyed at The Rum House on the first Saturday of each month.
Broadway Brassy, known for bringing her red hot mama vocals to New York's burlesque circuit, drops by the The Rum House with versatile pianist Broc Hempel on August 12th and 26th, performing classic showtunes and pop hits with her captivating bluesy belt. Brassy agrees the place draws a fun, if sometimes unusual crowd. Along with the tourists who want to take a picture with her as a souvenir, there was also that one couple from Oklahoma who had her tattoo them with a Sharpie.
Photo of Broadway Brassy and Broc Hempel by Dusty Dustmann.