Forgotten Gems Revisited

We all know the successful musicals. What we don’t know is the story of how they got there—and more imporantly, what great songs were cut along the way. We’re less likely to know the musical flops, especially the flops that never made it to Broadway. These two categories are an area that are explored very successfully in a new revue being presented by the Theatre Academy at Los Angeles City College: “Lost and Unsung: A New Musical Revue. This revue, concieved, directed, and narrated by Bruce Kimmel, based on his series of CDs “Lost in Boston” (I, II, III, IV) and “Unsung Musicals” (I, II, III) (all done when he was at Varese-Sarabande), is a celebration of the great songs either cut on the road or rarely sung because their host musical flop. The show is concieved as a simple revue: a bunch of singers and a pianist interpreting the songs; what makes it special is Kimmel’s narration, where he shares stories about the songs and their shows. Kimmel knows this area well—he has written, acted-in and produced stage shows throughout his professional life (we love his “Brain from Planet X“), plus he is an active record producer of cast albums, and knows the composers and lyricists quite well. Even if the evening was Kimmel just telling stories, it would be great.

What makes this show shine even more is the singing talent. The cast is a mix of well-known equity actors plus students from the Theatre Academy. The ensemble consisted of Tara Collins, Will Collyeræ, Sarah Fontenot, Melody Hollisæ, Damon Kirscheæ, Brett McMahon, Harrison Meloeny, Julia Rose, Alet Tayloræ, Lucy Taylor (Alet’s daughter), and Alexis Williams. Guess which ones were the students :-). Bruce Kimmel narrates the show, and sings on a song or two… or was that Guy Haines singing. I couldn’t tell.
[æ denotes members of æ Actors Equity ]

The production is divided into two parts. In the first act, the music cut from successful (and moderately successful) musicals is highlighted. Some highlights of this act include a wonderful version of “Mama’s Talking Soft” (cut from Gypsy) by Melody and Lucy, “Ten Percent” (cut from Chicago) by Damon, a beautiful “So Little Time” (cut from Barnum, and not on any Lost In Boston album that I recall), and a fun “Big Fat Heart” (cut from Seesaw) sung by Tara, Sarah, and Alexis. Alet and Damon did a good “Thirty Weeks of Heaven” (cut from By the Beautiful Sea), but as I’m in love with Klea Blackhurst, I prefer the album version. However, Alet was really great in “If I Can’t Take It With Me” (cut from Goldilocks) and the closing number, “Take It In Your Stride” (cut from Annie Get Your Gun), I do wish he had included my favorite, “Throw It Away”, cut from “I Do! I Do!”.

The second half consisted of the unsung songs—great songs from failed musicals. Some notable songs here included “Starfish” (from La Strada), sung by Alexis, a hilarious “Silverware” (from We Take The Town), hilariously sung by Damon and Will, “The Dog and Cat Duet” (from Collette), sung by Harrison and Sarah. Alet and Damon bring the title song, “Sherry!” (from Sherry!) to life, and Melody does a great job on “I Want To Be A Rockette” (from Kicks: The Showgirl Musical). This act also includes “At The Same Time” (from Freaky Friday), which was well performed by Harrison and Tara, although I really can’t stand some of the rhymes in this song. Lastly, Alet does a very touching version of “New Words” (from “1 2 3 4 5”).

Technically, the show was very simple. Music was provided by Jose C. Simbulan, the musical director, on piano. The simple scenic design (a series of steps, with Kimmel off to the side at a table), was done by Kevin L. Morrissey, who also served as producing director. Lighting was by James Moody and was simple but effective. Wardrobe was by Abel Alvarado, Jessica Zavala, and Catalena Lee; I should note that Alet’s second act wardrobe prompted a comment from my wife, who noted the cut was attractive, although the misaligned plaids were distracting. Adryan Russ was the associate producer, and Tony Baltierra was the production stage manager.

The last performances of “Lost and Unsung” are today at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets are available through LACC; they may also be available through Goldstar. A note: the signage on campus leaves a lot to be desired. Hint: Instead of looking on Vermont, look for the metered parking on Heliotrope behind the campus. The Caminto Theatre is near the Sheriff’s substation, behind the woman’s gym.

Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: Next weekend brings with a Mens Club Shabbat in the morning, and Travels with my Aunt” at the Colony Theatre in the evening. The end of December brings Fela!” at the Ahmanson Theatre (on 12/29). The remainder of December is unscheduled, but there is the de rigueur movie and Chinese food on Christmas day. January will bring the first show of the REP East season, as well as (hopefully) “Art” at the Pasadena Playhouse and “God of Carnage” at ICT Long Beach (ticketed for February 5). February will also bring “Ring of Fire” at Cabrillo Music Theatre, “Old Wicked Songs” at the Colony Theatre, and Bernadette Peters in concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center. As always, open dates are subject to be filled in with productions that have yet to appear on the RADAR of Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.