So, do you know a novel called GADSBY?
Not THE GREAT GATSBY, mind you, but GADSBY, a 50,110-word tome that Ernest Vincent Wright wrote in 1939. It concerned a man who thought his hometown would be better off if children ran it.
As flabbergasting as that may sound, the book’s real surprise is that not once did Wright include ANY word that had the letter “e” in it. He even tied down the “e” key on his typewriter to make sure one didn’t sneak in.
This started me wondering. Could one do a History of Musical Theater Recordings without using an “e”?
Hmmm, probably not. There’d be no reference to Kern, Rodgers, Hammerstein, Bernstein, Comden, Green, Lerner, Loewe, Styne, Loesser, Sondheim, Strouse, Herman, Kander, Ebb, Ahrens, Flaherty, Menken, Lopez and Lin-Manuel.
More problematic still is that removing an “e” means, when describing cast albums, we can’t use the words “excellence” and “excitement.”
That isn’t excusable.
But just for fun, let’s see how well we can do with a History of Musical Theater Recordings.
OKLAHOMA! in its long, long run, paradoxically had a song about Missouri’s “Kansas City.”
SHOW BOAT – Columbia’s first cast album – had its “Cotton Blossom” and “Bill” sail back to Broadway.
What to call Yip Harburg’s lyrics for Og in FINIAN’S RAINBOW? Grandish!
BRIGADOON – RCA Victor’s first original cast album – had David Brooks as Tommy Albright winningly do “From This Day On.”
1948’s big hit had many fans singing “Too Darn Hot,” “Bianca” and “Tom, Dick or Harry.”
SOUTH PACIFIC had colorblind casting with black Juanita Hall as “Bloody Mary.” (It’s a good song, too.)
GUYS AND DOLLS had Sky and Sarah singing “I’ll Know” and flying to Havana.
OUT OF THIS WORLD’s song “Hail, Hail, Hail” was an apt way of praising this mythical musical.
PAINT YOUR WAGON’s Olga San Juan did “How Can I Wait?” for Julio (Tony Bavaar), who staunchly sang to his amiguita “Carino Mio.”
It’s 1 thing for FANNY to sport a “Birthday Song,” but an “Octopus Song,” too?
John Raitt was in a musical about pajamas in which his Sid didn’t want to talk “Small Talk.”
“Too Bad” was not an appraisal of SILK STOCKINGS, but its first song.
MY FAIR LADY got huzzahs for Harrison’s Higgins and his “I’m an Ordinary Man,” “A Hymn to Him” and his contribution to “You Did It.”
“This Much I Know” was a HAPPY HUNTING ballad. And this much I know: co-star Lamas was at fault for wiping away a kiss.
In JAMAICA, Ricardo Montalban had amusing lyrics in “Incompatibility.”
“You Don’t Know Him,” sang Maud and Bobo in OH, CAPTAIN! Both should know that that “him” (Tony Randall) was a catting around and unfaithful captain.
Stritch did GOLDILOCKS proud by starring in a fictional musical: LAZY MOON. (Good song, too!)
JUNO was jarring to many, but Ms. Booth and Mr. Douglas? Outstanding in “Old Sayin’s.”
GYPSY had Ms. Hovick sing a warm “Small World.” By 11 o’clock, Ms. Hovick wasn’t as warm but did do a dynamic turn.
SARATOGA had Clint and Clio croon “Why Fight This?” attraction.
Richard Burton was mythical King Arthur as Lucy was doing WILDCAT on “Corduroy Road,” a Cy-and-Carolyn ditty.
BRAVO GIOVANNI got a surprising Tony nod for music and lyrics as A FUNNY THING got a snub (which wasn’t a funny thing).
Barbra you-know-who lost a Tony to Carol Channing as Dolly. Channing got a hand for “I Put My Hand In” and “Dancing,” too.
BAJOUR had charming Chita and nifty Nancy Dussault sing “I Can.”
Liza as an “Unafraid” Flora sold “Sing Happy,” a song that was a quick addition in Boston.
MAN OF LA MANCHA, showcasing Don, Sancho and Aldonza (a mighty song), was a smash hit.
Mary Martin’s last musical gig was “I DO! I DO!” with Schmidt’s music and Tom’s lyrics. “What Is a Woman” was a standout.
A Max Shulman musical got a columnist to say, “How Now, Dow Wow!”
Ragni and Rado’s cool, hot and groovy HAIR’s original cast album (starting with “Aquarius,” “Donna,” “Hashish” and “Sodomy”) got to top Billboard’s chart.
“Upstairs” was an upstanding song by Bacharach and David in a musicalization of a 1960 Oscar-winning film (about an Apt.).
Lansbury was a Tony-winning star in that musical about a zany aunt who sang “It’s Today!” to young Patrick. But Old Patrick didn’t cotton to Gooch and “Gooch’s Song” as crowds did.
1776’s smash status was a shock to many savants who thought it wouldn’t fly. But “But, Mr. Adams” (about John) and “Sit Down, John” (about Adams) had as much humor as “Momma, Look Sharp” had poignancy.
JIMMY, with Frank Gorshin as an NYC mayor, had Ms. Wilson’s “I Only Wanna Laugh” as a highlight.
Luckily, TWO BY TWO did its cast album months B-4 Danny K.O.’d it. It shows that his Noah was originally truthful to “You,” “Put Him Away” – and “Two by Two,” too.
Bock and Harnick’s song “Rothschilds and Sons” was most jolly. What a pity that both quit collaborating.
COMPANY, with Stritch and Ralston mourning “Poor Baby” Bobby, was ironic, cynical and astonishing.
In 70-GIRLS-70: Mss. Natwick, Hayman, Roth and Jacobson, sang “Boom Ditty Boom” with many “Old Folks.”
GIGI, with mostly old music and lyrics, still got a Tony for both. (“Paris is Paris Again” did show strong support.)
A tasty Tony-victor was RAISIN – an adaptation of that SUN play – from its pulsating “Man Say” to haunting “Alaiyo.”
CHICAGO – Arista’s first original cast album – did all right, although a show arriving on Broadway in 53 days was a singular smash with Marvin Hamlisch music.
A most magical musical had an orphan sing “Tomorrow” on two occasions.
And what musical had a trio of “Johanna” songs? (Its initials: S.T.)
RUNAWAYS ran not only with “Lullaby for Luis” but also “Lullaby from Baby to Baby.”
WORKING’s “It’s an Art” was most artful in showing a lass who did a good job.
BALLROOM had wondrous Dorothy Loudon singing a just-as-wondrous “50%.”
“Thank God I’m Old” was a highlight of BARNUM and its 3-ring circus.
42ND ST. – alas, Mr. Champion’s last job – was an actual Lullaby TO Broadway.
Frank, although “Rich and Happy,” and Mary, who sang “Now You Know,” didn’t marry in that musical that didn’t roll along and ran only half-a-month. But what warm music and lyrics!
Anthony Quinn brought ZORBA back with a ballad: “Woman.” (“No Boom Boom” was still a highlight.)
RAGS was found wanting by critics but “Wanting” was a truly good song among many.
SARAFINA did soar as high as its song “Kilimanjaro” for 17 months.
“Lost and Found” was a witty song in that city of L.A. musical that got Tonys for Cy and David.
A GRAND musical had Grushinskaya joyfully sing “Bonjour, Amour.” (Alas, post-gunshot, it was, as Russians say, “Do svidaniya, L’ub.”)
Nathan and Faith did GUYS AND DOLLS. (How? What all call Mr. Johnson says it all.)
Jonathan Larson’s musical had Act Two start with “525,600 …”
CHICAGO and “All That Jazz” finally had its day – and months upon months of standing room only.
TITANIC didn’t sink, as many thought it would, but won for Maury a Tony for music and lyrics. (Standouts: “Lady’s Maid,” “Soon,” “No Moon,” “Autumn,” “Canons” and “Still.”)
SWING! did swing with stunning Ann Hampton Callaway.
La Chiusa’s or Lippa’s WILD PARTY – which to savor most? I say Lippa’s. “What a Party!” This musical wasn’t a “Poor Child.”
Was Susan Stroman’s CONTACT – with its many old pop hit songs that its cast didn’t sing – an actual musical or just a display of swing dancing? Tony ballots said it was a musical. And that, as a song in it said, “Put a Lid on It.”
A CLASS ACT was a classy musical about a music man. His “Charm Song” was charming, his “Bobby’s Song” hilarious, his “Mona” spicy and his “Fridays at Four” jaunty.
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s HAIRSPRAY had Tracy Turnblad triumph with “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now.”
Nicky and Rod: Q, and not just “For Now.”
Now it was Harry Connick, Jr. in a musical about pajamas in which his Sid STILL didn’t want to talk “Small Talk.”
A CHRISTMAS STORY had Dad win “A Major Award” and kids in a “Sticky Situation” and “Up on Santa’s Lap.”
KINKY BOOTS had Lola, Pat and Don smartly singing Cyndi’s “What a Woman Wants.”
GROUNDHOG DAY was now not only our 2nd month’s 2nd day, but also a fun musical in which Phil sang “Stuck” in “Small Town, USA.”
Bob, from Kingdom Animalia and Subkingdom Parazoa (Translation: a spongy animal), and his pals had a “Bikini Bottom Day.”
A conundrum about an Indiana prom got Broadway actors to fly to a small town and show “Zazz.”
As Bugs Bunny (who was on Broadway in Oct. 1990), would say, “That’s all, folks!”
Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on www.broadwayradio.com. His new book The Book of Broadway Musical Debates, Disputes and Disagreements can now be pre-ordered at Amazon.