The exclamation point has always been part of the 1974 musical OVER HERE!
But even if it hadn’t been, it should be there now.
Aren’t we all excited that this musical — which hasn’t been seen in New York since the original production closed in the early days of 1975 — will return?
(Well, in a manner of speaking. More on that later.)
If you can’t get over to OVER HERE! in two weeks’ time, there is that original cast album that proudly states over the title “The Andrews Sisters.”
Well, yes and no. Patty, Maxene and LaVerne were The Andrews Sisters who sold seventy-five million records during their heyday in the forties (and fifteen million more since). Alas, Patty and Maxene were the only Andrews Sisters left to take the stage of the Shubert seven years after LaVerne died in 1967.
But those two were still in their rights to call themselves The Andrews Sisters. No one could accuse co-producers Kenneth Waissman and Maxine Fox (both of whom had recently sponsored GREASE) of not giving the public truth-in-advertising.
Two Andrews Sisters, though, couldn’t replicate the distinctive triple-blend of the beloved trio. Patty could still provide the mezzo and Maxene the soprano; now where was the contralto?
Bookwriter Will Holt smartly used this deficiency as part of his plot for OVER HERE! Patty and Maxene played the DePaul Sisters who, during World War II, traveled from Los Angeles to New York en route to Europe to entertain the troops in USO shows.
Patty was Paulette and Maxene Pauline. Trouble is, the DePauls knew that as a duet they wouldn’t sound as good as they would with a third mellifluous voice.
Luckily, they found one in Mitzi. “We Got It!” all three joyously sang when they realized they had the sound that would cheer the G.I.s who needed cheering up.
Actually, they may not have been so lucky after all. To tell why, though, would be giving much too much away for those who plan to attend. Anyone who can’t be there can get the facts from Didier C. Deutsch’s excellent liner notes.
The score is by The Sherman Brothers — Richard M. and Robert B., to be more specific. MARY POPPINS and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG are the most illustrious of their more than a dozen movie musicals. Whether or not you like their music and/or lyrics for those films will have no bearing on your appreciation for their work on OVER HERE!
It doesn’t remotely resemble any of their classic and non-classic movie scores. For one thing, there are no made-up words for which the brothers are famous: chu-chi, gratifaction, freebootin’ and, needless to say, supercalifragilisticexpialodocious. When you hear the word “melloroonie,” don’t assume that it’s another one of their concoctions; it really was a mid-forties slang word.
What “awesome” is to today, “melloroonie” was to then.
Here their lyrics range from the sentimental (“Until my arms enfold you again, I’ll live with that beautiful dream in my heart”) to the bawdy (“The enemy can sock us by spreading gonococcus”). As for a young miss who’s being encouraged by a young admirer to, uh, “prove her love,” she sings to him “My dream for tomorrow is to keep what I have today.”
The most difficult assignment, though, was getting the right Big Band sound for which the forties were famous. This show needed music in the Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey tradition. At the Triad, we can’t expect the two dozen musicians that played at the Shubert.
(But they’re there on the original cast album.)
The songs for The Andrews Sisters were on-the-money in replicating the style of their biggest hits. Note, though, that three of the five songs that Patty and Maxene sang together carried the disclaimer “Messrs. Sherman and (vocal arranger Louis) St. Louis wish to acknowledge the creative contribution of Walter Weschler on these numbers.”
Weschler became the sisters’ pianist in 1945; six years later, he and Patty married. They remained wed for nearly sixty years until his death in 2010.
So Weschler knew what The Andrew Sisters needed. Perhaps that’s one reason why Patty wanted to be paid more money than Maxene.
“She sure did,” says Waissman. Although the sisters sang in their opening number “Together — working on the team together,” in real life, he says, they were nothing of the kind.
“They complained in almost-daily phone calls and made excessive dressing room demands, too,” he says. Waissman and Fox had the resources and interest for a post-Broadway national tour and London engagement, but because the two sisters made the Lannisters seem like Celie and Nettie, it all fell apart.
Longtime Broadway observer Albert “Skip” Koenig tells of what he observed at the closing performance. “At curtain, Patty sipped from a 7- UP can and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this has been just about the best year of our lives.’ And then, as they exited, she nudged Maxene and said ‘I’ll never work with you again.’”
If any of this chaos occurred during the recording session, you’d never know it from the cast album, where both seem joyous.
We expect less friction from Haley Swindal as Pauline and Jessica Hendy as Paulette. Nikka Graff Lanzarone portrays Mitzi, the role that won Janie Sell a Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical. The narration that’s provided by “Spokesman” will be delivered by Tony-winner Debbie (JEROME ROBBINS‘ BROADWAY) Gravitte.
Be apprised that if you do attend the show at the Triad, you’ll see a concert version. What’s more, director Will Nunziata is setting it in modern times. That it will be shown on Nov. 11 – Veterans’ Day — was a date carefully planned; a portion of all ticket sales will benefit Vietnam Veterans of America.
Supporting roles will be played by Dani Apple, Genesis Collado, Shayla Brielle G, Gilbert D. Sanchez and Mark William. “Who are they?” you ask. It’s the same question that theatergoers in 1974 asked when faced with some of the supporting players in OVER HERE! The unknowns, whom you can hear on the cast album, included Marilu Henner, Ann Reinking, Treat Williams, Samuel E. Wright and — last but hardly least — John Travolta.
The Triad stage isn’t a large one, but choreographer Andrew Black insists that there will be enough room for four dancers.
(May this Triad cast get the opportunities, success and fame that their counterparts did forty-four years ago.)
Nunziata calls his adaptation “a rewarding investigation of how the show’s characters, themes, and songs remain relevant today.” His hope is that attendees will leave the Triad with “a positive outlook on tomorrow.”
OVER HERE! will be performed Monday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. at The Triad Theater on naughty, bawdy 72nd Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue. Tickets are $50 and $80; A two-drink minimum is also required. Visit http://bit.ly/OverHere2019 for more information.