Cabaret


Concerts of Great Underexposed Musical Theater Songs
"Flopz 2" & "Cutz" at Joe's Pub - Sunday, February 26

by Rob Lester

Want to hear a never-recorded Stephen Sondheim song cut during previews of Merrily We Roll Along? How about a lush love lament lost when The Sweet Smell of Success was going through rewrites?  Even if you have the cast album of Bye Bye Birdie's short-lived sequel, Bring Back Birdie (on Original Cast Records, the recording label for many  such scores), you don't often get a chance to see one of its songs performed.  Many songs are cut from shows because they didn't work for a certain moment or didn't have quite the flavor needed, but are wonderful on their own. And musical theater history is filled with shows that closed quickly and had fascinating songs buried with them. Others have had a life beyond the posting of the closing notice.

This Sunday, February 26, at Joe's Pub, audiences can enjoy a glut of these rarer numbers in a unique evening of back-to-back concerts. Flopz 2 (as the title implies, the second in such a series) features tunes from shows that were not commercially successful, some closing in record time (and without a record). Cutz focuses on songs trimmed from musicals, including big hit shows like the current 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Although it's a double header, tickets can be purchased to either show separately.

Jamie McGonnigal
Jamie McGonnigal
Photo © BenStrothmann.com
Performers from current shows, including three from Sweeney Todd (Donna Lynne Champlin, Lauren Molina and Alexander Gemignani) as well as rising stars from theater and cabaret will participate (see below for more cast information). Director-producer Jamie McGonnigal's interest in such material, he says, began early. "When I was 13 years old, there was a local summer theatre that would do shows that weren't originally successful on Broadway. That summer we did It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman. It was so much fun - one of the first shows I'd ever done. I was hooked." That show's composer, Charles Strouse, is represented on Sunday with a melody he tried in three musicals: Applause and both versions of a sequel to Annie.

Jamie reflects, "I've seen a lot of shows come and go," but he has a special affection for musicals that were "less-than-hits" but had music well worth preserving. "And I'd be remiss not to mention Bruce Kimmel's fantastic recordings of Unsung Musicals which I would be waiting outside Tower Records in Boston for at midnight, while everyone else was waiting for the newest New Kids on the Block album." (A companion series, Lost in Boston rescued many gems cut during pre-Broadway previews in Jamie's youthful stomping grounds.) Followers of such rescue missions will be rewarded doubly on Sunday. The evening is described as having "some of the hidden gems from the darkest corners of the musical theatre vault."

Musical director for both shows is Michael Lavine, who shares a love and enthusiasm for the underexposed songs and says, "I want to share them with the world." As the owner of one of the largest sheet music collections extant, he has file upon file of appropriate Broadway material.

If the few numbers I saw in rehearsal are a representative sample of what's in store, this looks to be a feast.  Not by any means a presentation of inaccessible esoteric obscurities, the emphasis is solidly on entertainment. Not all the selections will be unknown, as some songs from short runs and cut numbers have already proved the theory of the survival of the fittest. Others are ripe for dusting off and discovery. You may find yourself saying, "How could that song have gotten lost in the shuffle?"

Flopz 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge - The Best Songs From Egregiously Overlooked Shows at 7 pm; Cutz: Songs You Don't Know From Shows You Love follows at 9 pm.  this Sunday, February 26, at Joe's Pub at The Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette St.  Tickets: Telecharge: www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200. Price: $25 for either (or $40 for both - at box office only).  A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation and CAMP TLC. Cast includes Laura Benanti, Christopher Hanke, John Cariani, Lisa Howard, Steve Ross, Alex Gemignani, Max Von Essen, Leo Ash Evens, Lauren Molina, Donna Lynn Champlin, Natascia Diaz, Marty Thomas, Natalie Joy Johnson, Adam Fleming, D.B. Bonds, Rashad Naylor, Nick Cearley, Brooke Sunny Moriber, Eric Michael Gillett, and Tom DeGrezia.