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Friday, May 9, 2014

1960's Broadway Musical Underground Piracy.

When I was in college, I was already a Broadway Musical Theater geek.
What I didn't know, until I was exposed to it, was that there were geeks far geekier than moi.
They lived in my neighborhood in Flushing, Queens.
I suppose you could call them a Little Theater Group.
And I mean little in the littlest sense.
Before I met them, my acting career was restricted to college, and the occasional Summer Stock Dinner Theater tour.
None of these people in the group were untalented.
But their geekiness was unparalleled.
They regularly sat around a room and performed, a capella, with gusto, show tunes that were too embarrassing to know.
Like the title number from "I Had A Ball", which starred Buddy Hackett.
The leader of the group, an aggressive young woman, had seen me in one of the college musicals I had appeared in, and made an active attempt to recruit me into this group.
Several things had me on the fence about it.
The geekiness was not really one of them.
There was a sleaziness issue, coupled with a morality issue.
They had already performed a handful of musicals.
In basements and meeting rooms of various apartment buildings in our neighborhood.
Major musicals.
And there was money to be made..
They charged real, if not Broadway prices.
And the deal was that we'd all split the take.
But they wanted to get away with not paying royalties to those who created the shows.
So they created a little loophole for themselves.
They changed the titles of the shows in the flyers that were distributed, hung up in lobbies, and laundry rooms, and hand-delivered door-to-door.
This was something I was adamant about opting out of.
I met with only minor resistance.
The shows were titled things like, I kid you not, "The Car-a-sel Waltz", "Peddler On The Stoop",
and "Guys and Gals".
The shows were well-attended, and the audiences knew what they were getting.
I saw the first two.
They were actually very well performed.
This sort of thing also went on in Manhattan.
I went to a production of "Something Funny Happened On My Way To The Forum" in a hotel ballroom on 23rd street.
It was very good too.
Certainly a lot better than when Mickey Rooney did it.
But this whole form of enterprise smacked of cheating.
Creators were being robbed of their royalties.
It didn't sit well with me on that level.
The geeks were then about to put "Guys and Gals" into production.
They wanted me in it.
And I was at the crossroads.
Part of me was very wary.
Another part of me said "Gee, wouldn't it be nice to play Sky Masterson or Nathan Detroit".
That's the part that won out.
Then I learned that the part they wanted me for was Arvide Abernathy, the old man who was the head of the Salvation Army, who sings "More I Cannot Wish You" to Sarah Brown.
"More I Cannot Wish You may be the best song in "Guys and Dolls", oh, forgive me, "Guys and Gals".
So I was at least a little bit tempted.
But before I committed one way or another, they told me that "More I Cannot Wish You" was going to be cut.
So I passed.
Not on moral grounds.
But because of creative differences.
Now, here it is, fifty year later.
I wonder if the Underground still exists.......    

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2 comments:

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Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at macchus999@aol.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."