Remembering A Day In Hollywood/A Night In the Ukraine

A musical that we rarely see anything written about, but one that has always fascinated me as a concept is A Day In Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine. Each act of this clever, lighthearted musical is its own play (they are not interconnected), diverse in purpose, subject matter, and execution, and I often find myself wondering at how it came together to be a modest success on Broadway, running 588 performances at the John Golden Theatre. A Day In Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, which brought together two iconic American elements of mainstream entertainment, Hollywood musicals and The Marx Brothers, premiered in London’s West End before crossing the Atlantic for its Broadway berth.

Remembering Pacific Overtures

Composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, particularly when he was paired with director Harold Prince, moved and shaped musical through bold experiments that challenged audiences while unearthing new possibilities. The musicals that this duo together brought to the stage included Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along. Each was innovative in its own way, redefining the Broadway musical as we knew it. There was one other show that they created during this decade (and change) which may have been the most challenging (for audiences), clever (by even Sondheim and Prince standards) and groundbreaking (for posterity) in terms of the possibilities it demonstrated. That musical was the short-lived 1976 Pacific Overtures, which would also employ book writer John Weidman as part of the collaboration. 

Remembering Seesaw

A musical that was plagued with troubles during its gestation, that seemed to solve most of them before officially opening on Broadway, only to fold after approximately five months, was the 1973 Seesaw. Adapted from the William Gibson play Two for the Seesaw, with a book by Michael Bennett and a score by Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman, Seesaw originally had a book by Michael Stewart, direction by Edwin Sherin, and was to star Lainie Kazan. As the musical’s hit song exclaims, however, “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish” and the show would arrive on Broadway with a very different cast of characters involved.

Remembering Minnie’s Boys

Some musicals you just know are going to bomb from the moment they are announced. It’s just clear that it is half-baked idea that is going to struggle. Something just doesn’t feel right about it. Then there are the shows that sound like such a good idea that you cannot help but invest your hopes in them. The premise appears sound and the possibilities of what a musical can do to augment the story and character development is promising. It’s only after our hearts are broken that we begrudgingly accept the show flopped. Minnie’s Boys was one of these heartbreakers.