ORLANDO – ”… Since Carrie: A Celebration of (Recent) Broadway Bombs!’’ is a great idea for a Fringe show: revive songs from musicals that opened – and then just as quickly bombed and closed – on Manhattan’s big stages.
Take 14 songs from long forgotten shows (plus a medley in tribute to Frank Wildhorn, who scored no fewer than six flops in a row), performed by five engagingly talented singers, and it sounds like perfect entertainment. This is not like a Broadway revival that leaves you tapping your feet to instantly familiar tunes. Chances are, all but the most obsessive Broadway fan has never heard of any of these songs – let alone the original play that showcased them, since most of them closed within a month or two of welcoming in an audience. So it’s really like introducing entirely new songs to the audience, and letting them rediscover what the Broadway vaults buried a long time ago.
There’s only one problem with the entire concept: more than a few of the songs not only are not very good, but serve as a wincing reminder of why the show it was a part of likely flopped in the first place.
A perfectly fine example is the song that opens the show – ”Carrie,’’ from the 1998 musical based on, of all strange things, the Stephen King horror novel and Brian de Palma’s 1977 movie with Sissy Spacek. Obviously, horror and music can work in certain circumstances, with ”Phantom of the Opera,’’ ”Jekyll & Hyde’’ and ”Dracula’’ being a few choice examples.
But the terror-filled saga that opens with a teenage girl with telekinesis panicking in the school gym shower as she experiences her first period, then gets pelted by classmates with tampons, is not your average stuff for a musical, and frankly, ”Sout Pacific” it ain’t. The song ”Carrie’’ is delivered as a angry, righteous scream of pain and teenage angst … oh, wow, is this song positively awful. Written by Michael Gore, who won an Academy Award in 1980 for scoring the movie ”Fame,’’ the title song to the flop musical ”Carrie’’ is so awful to listen to that you sit there with your jaw hanging open, wondering how the critics who caught the entire show managed to endure the whole thing. You almost want to take up a collection plate for the cultural trauma those critics must have endured and probably still need some therapy to fix.
Eric Michaud, one of the five very gifted singers who perform the songs in ”…. Since Carrie,’’ bills himself humorously as a ”flopaholic,’’ who nurses an obsession with Broadway bombs. He’s seen more than a few opening today, gone tomorrow musicals, including ”Dance of the Vampires,’’ the big hit musical in Germany, based on the Roman Polanski movie, that opened on Broadway several years ago starring Michael Crawford of ”Phantom” fame – and quickly joined the roster of notorious bombs.
”It was awful – and I loved it!’’ Michaud says at the start of the show.
”… Since Carrie’’ is mainly concerned with an interesting theatrical concept. Hollywood has spent decades taking hit Broadway musicals and turning them into Academy Award-winning movies, from ”West Side Story’’ and ”The Sound of Music’’ all the way up to ”Chicago.’’ But as singer Emily Heffelfinger humorously points out at the start of ” … Since Carrie,’’ Broadway doesn’t have quite as good a track record of taking hit movies and turning them into classic musicals. That’s why this revenue puts its focus on ”movies becoming musicals becoming flops,’’ as she put it.
The singers also point out that some very decent shows simply never found an audience, despite very solid, quality songs. If a movie bombs, it can always find new life on DVD and get rediscovered down the road, but a costly Broadway musical has a small window of opportunity to succeed, and if it doesn’t, it just disappears for good, unless someone decides to risk a lot of money on an iffy revival.
This show does include some real gems, including the beautiful ”People Like Us’’ from the play ”Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,’’ (from the Pedro Almodovar movie), or the equally charming ”Who Will Love Me As I Am’’ from the musical ”Side Show.’’
”Once Upon A Time’’ from the musical ”Brooklyn’’ is also quite good, and these songs help a bit to gloss over the duds, which include the likes of ”Dirty Rotten Number’’ – boy, is that an appropriate title! – from the musical ”Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,’’ or ”Live in Living Color’’ from ”Catch Me If You Can.’’
The singers – in addition to Michaud and Heffelfinger, the others are Erin Johnson, Joshua S. Roth and Piper Rae Patterson – tackle all 14 songs, the good, the bad and the ugly alike, with equal gusto, making a valiant attempt to turn each one into something fun to listen to. The show is never less than entertaining, and hearing some of the best songs makes you wonder why the original play did so badly.
The worst ones, though, mostly make you wonder what the songwriters were thinking – or smoking – when they began composing it.
” … Since Carrie” has one more performance, on Thursday at 11:15 p.m., in the Pink Venue at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival at Loch Haven Park.
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