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When the Saints Go Marchin' In

Filichia sets the record straight on what songs should be played in honor of All Saints' Day.

Halloween's here. I could do a column that tells you which musical theater songs to play in honor of this October holiday, but you know them already: "One Halloween" from Applause, "Halloween" from Rent, "Halloween Hayride" from Now Is the Time for All Good Men. Instead, I'm going to suggest what should be on your CD player or turntable for the holiday that occurs a day after Halloween. Don't know what that is? Those of you who didn't grow up Catholic aren't expected to. Those who did, though, may remember that November 1 is All Saints' Day. So how about honoring the saints who have shown up in musical theater?

Sister Mary Leo's "Growing Up Catholic" from Nunsense would seem an ideal place to start. That's where she tells what happened while she was studying at St. Claire's school -- "where the nuns appeared in black and white, and so did every rule." Then you can segue to Mame, in which Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell) asks St. Bridget to get her to Beekman Place. Then go to "St. Pierre," Kander and Ebb's stirring anthem in The Happy Time.

St. Lazarus is mentioned in The Capeman, but Lord knows if we'll ever hear that original cast album. Rumor has it that Paul Simon just wants to forget about the whole project and not subject himself or the show to any future scrutiny. Too bad, for his only mistake was choosing a common criminal with none of Roxie Hart's charm as the subject for his musical; there was nothing wrong with the songs he wrote for it.

If you're really ambitious, you'll listen to the musical that the New York Drama Critics Circle named as the 1954-55 season's best. No, it's not Damn Yankees -- which sure doesn't have a saint in it -- or even Fanny, Peter Pan, or Plain and Fancy. It's Gian Carlo Menotti's The Saint of Bleecker Street, which lasted 92 performances at the Broadway. This is a full-fledged opera that won't much entertain those whose knowledge of opera is Phantom-like or only worth three pennies. The RCA Victor original cast album hasn't yet made it to CD, but there is a recording on Chandos of the 2001 Spoleto production.

While we're on the subject of opera with a Broadway pedigree, how about Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts, first produced in 1934 and revived in 1952? Actually, by my count, there are 15 saints in the piece. In addition to a generically named Male and Female Saint, there's St. Cecilia, St. Chavez, St. Electra (this can't be the same lady who appears in Gypsy, can it?), St. Eustace, St. Ignatius, St. Jan, St. Plan, St. Sara, St. Settlement, St. Stephen, and St. Vincent -- not to mention St. Teresa I, who's not to be confused with St. Teresa II. I don't know which St. Teresa is the subject of the show's two big breakout hits, "Saint Teresa Could Be Photographed" and "Saint Teresa as a Young Girl Being Widowed."

There are also four saints in the two acts of The Scarlet Pimpernel: Armand and Marguerite St. Just, as well as Monsieur and Madame St. Cyr. As for another St. Cyr, Lily is mentioned in one song each in Pal Joey and The Rocky Horror Show. She is not to be confused with Lily St. Regis, who wants to get to "Easy Street" in Annie. Give her a listen, too.

You could play the entire cast album of New Girl in Town, for when composer-lyricist Bob Merrill originally conceived the show as an MGM movie musical, he entitled it A Saint She Ain't. Because I haven't seen Dick Vosburgh since his musical Windy City was revived at the Marriott Lincolnshire in 1994, I haven't had the opportunity to ask him if he had this aborted title in mind when he named his 1999 London musical A Saint She Ain't. (Vosburgh knows his musical theater history, so I'll bet that he did.) The cast album offers a number of felicitous tunes but none better than the title song. As for Henry St. James in Oh Captain!, a saint he ain't. He has a woman in Paris and another in London. Wonder if Eliza Doolittle has a thing for him? After all, she expresses an interest in going "to St. James so often."

Take time to listen to both the original, abridged St. Louis Woman album and the fuller Encores! recording. Each features "Cakewalk Your Lady," which Sondheim used as a model for "Comedy Tonight" when A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was in terrible trouble in Washington. Play Ann Reinking's songs from Goodtime Charley, since she plays a future saint (Joan); but don't play Sammy Glick's big eleven o'clock number from What Makes Sammy Run?, for he says he's "not a plaster saint," and is therefore ineligible for today's festival.

Do play "You Can Always Count on Me," Miss Oolie's big number in City of Angels in which she describes herself as "faithful and true as a Saint Bernard barkin' up the wrong damn tree." Try Maurice Chevalier on the soundtrack of Gigi and Alfred Drake on the cast album, singing that "Methuselah is my patron saint." And did you know that there's a song devoted to "Patron Saints" in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Reflect Up? You would if, in the early '80s, you lived in Chicago, where the show ran more than three years.

Finally, you can listen to the entire original cast albums of Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy, and West Side Story. From what we've heard, every single performer in those shows had to be a saint to work with Jerome Robbins.


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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