LVPBlues got through four cuts before giving up on the fifth: "Just You Wait" from the 1987 studio cast album of My Fair Lady. "Oh, my God," he wrote, "talk about unbearable. I've never heard anything as horrifying as an opera singer tackling the role of Eliza Doolittle. Kiri Te Kanawa sounds off pitch and out of place throughout most of the song and really should stick to interpretations of Puccini. I made it through to the end but it was such a bomb that I had to stop playing the game." LVPBlues went on to explain that he only bought this recording for the complete "Get Me to the Church on Time" and had never listened to the entire album "because I did listen to the next track, 'Show Me,' and she murdered it so brutally -- especially with that needless transposition up to A." Needless to say, his rating was many notes lower. But he ultimately was glad he played, because his second selection was "On the Side of the Angels" from Fiorello!! "and I never realized how the percussion in the orchestration sounded before this listen. So thanks!"
Meanwhile, Mark Robinson went through 11 songs before he got to what he considered his bullet: "My Big Mistake" from The Will Rogers Follies. So he's the winner, for everyone else reached an unbearable song (hey, that sounds like a Man of La Mancha lyric!) long before that. So I guess Mark's the winner.
My panegyric on the cast album of Avenue Q brought tons of responses, from those who agreed with me in toto as well as from those who said they'd get the album post-haste. Many commented on my three levels of cast album nirvana. The first, of course, is when you hear an album and you like it. The second is when you've been listening so long that, upon hearing the vamp of a song, you recognize it and think, "Ah, yes, this one!" But the third stage is that, as soon as one song ends, you're hearing the beginning of the next song in your head before it starts. I mentioned that, for me, this had happened in the '60s with Funny Girl, in the '70s with A Chorus Line, in the '80s with Les Miserables, and in the '90s with the first Ragtime album. So Robert Diamant wrote to ask, "What would have been your original cast album of the decade in the '40s and '50s? Mine would have been Carousel and Gypsy." Well, Bob, we certainly agree on Gypsy, but I think I'd go with Finian's Rainbow -- and may you, God, and Rodgers and Hammerstein forgive me.
I was amused by Josh Ellis's mentioning that, in the '50s, his third-level albums were The King and I, Peter Pan, My Fair Lady, Gypsy, Fiorello!, and The Sound of Music. In the '60s, Hello, Dolly!, Funny Girl, High Spirits, Fiddler on the Roof, Mame, the Lincoln Center Annie Get Your Gun, Jacques Brel, and Darling of the Day. In the '70s, Applause, Follies, The Grass Harp, and On the Twentieth Century. In the 1980s, La Cage aux Folles, Barnum, and Rags. And what of the '90s? Wrote Ellis: "I just played albums from the 1950s through the 1980s over again." (Actually, Josh, I think that's when you first played Rags -- for if memory serves, it wasn't released until that decade.)
Plenty of readers also commented on my diatribe about audiences that respond the wrong way to what they're seeing. This was prompted by my experience of Nathan Lane in Trumbo: Many audience members wouldn't stop laughing, even during the serious moments in the play, just because (I assume) they're used to laughing at Lane and can't make the leap to drama even when he's playing an incarcerated, blacklisted writer. Wrote Wayman Wong, "I've seen Avenue Q a number of times now. One of my favorite moments occurs when Kate Monster sings 'There's a Fine, Fine Line,' a heartbreaking ballad that's usually greeted with a hush. At one performance, though, there were people in my audience laughing. Perhaps it was only a few dozen, but it was enough to ruin the song for me. Maybe it was nervous laughter. Apparently, that's the not the first time it happened, because Stephanie D'Abruzzo commented in an interview that perhaps some audience members aren't willing to go to that emotional place with a puppet, so they laugh."
In response to my mentioning that "I hate the lack of applause at 42nd Street when Julian Marsh declares 'musical comedy' to be 'the two most glorious words in the English language,'" Hpmaraka wrote about a production of the show during which he did applaud the line. Not only did no one join him but the actor playing Julian Marsh turned to the audience, spotted him, and gave him a look that could kill. "Quite frankly," Hpmaraka added, "it was the only emotion Julian showed all afternoon."
Michael Dale told a story with a good point: "At Brighton Beach Memoirs on Broadway, one soft-voiced actor was inaudible, so a theatergoer yelled out, 'Speak up! We can't hear you!' Some of the people around him applauded in agreement. Obviously, it must have been humiliating for the actor, but I can also sympathize with an audience member who goes to a Broadway play and expects the actors to be audible. Was he rude or justified?" (I think he most certainly was not justified. There's only one time when you're allowed to do something like this, and that's when you're at a show in which either Louise Troy or Merle Louise can't be heard. Then you may yell, "Sing out, Louise!" )
Jerry Brewington had a good story about audience behavior: "It was with great anticipation that I, as well as the rest of the audience, looked forward to seeing Glenn Close, Gene Hackman and Richard Dreyfuss in Death and the Maiden. Although I'm usually wary of star-studded affairs, the thought of three of my favorite actors on the same stage together was irresistible. Therefore, my heart was broken when the following announcement came over the P.A. as the lights dimmed: 'Ladies and Gentlemen, due to unforeseen circumstances, the management regrets to inform you that Mr. Hackman, Mr. Dreyfuss, and Ms. Close have been detained and will be unable to make this evening's performance.' A very loud groan emerged from the audience. A momentary silence was broken only by the announcer's follow-up: 'April Fool.' I have never been so completely taken and, from their reaction, the same could be said of everybody else. The show was terrific, by the way, and the applause at the conclusion was long and heartfelt. This was one audience that did know how to behave."
Oh, by the way -- I heard from Nathan Lane, too. He informed me that he meant for people to laugh at each and every one of those moments in Trumbo. Oh. My apologies, Mr. L.
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]