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WILL THE PROM HAVE A TITLE TUNE? By Peter Filichia

Now, right here on Masterworks Broadway, you can listen to “Dance
with You (Emma’s Version)” from THE PROM.

The song comes from the new musical that starts previews on Oct.
23. It opens on Nov. 15 at the Longacre Theatre, where we hope it’ll
have a long run.

So we do know the name of one song from the musical that has been
written by Bob (THE DROWSY CHAPERONE) Martin, Matthew (ELF)
Sklar and Chad (ALADDIN) Beguelin. But unless you have a script or
demo recording (I don’t) or saw the show in its Atlanta tryout two
years ago (I didn’t), you don’t yet know whether or not THE PROM
has a title song.

Even if it had one during its break-in in The Big Peach, will it still be
in? A DAY IN HOLLYWOOD, the 1980 musical, had one, but dropped
it in Baltimore.

Or if THE PROM didn’t have a title song then, will one now be in
place? After all, “Oklahoma!” wasn’t in the show when the musical
(then known as AWAY WE GO!) opened in New Haven. You don’t
need me to tell you that it was added before it reached the St. James
Theatre.

By the way, have you noticed that only three of the nine musicals
that Rodgers and Hammerstein actually wrote for Broadway had title
songs? Their first (“Oklahoma!”), their last (“The Sound of Music”)
and their first non-classic (“Allegro”) are the only ones so blessed.
But the lack of one certainly didn’t hurt CAROUSEL, SOUTH PACIFIC,
THE KING AND I or FLOWER DRUM SONG.

Before musicals were routinely adapted from movies – which have
the benefit of an established brand name – shows often relied on title
tunes to sell tickets. Much has been made of how Eddie Fisher’s pop
rendition of “Wish You Were Here” (which hit #7 on the charts) was a major contributing factor in changing that 1952 musical from a badly reviewed flop into a long-running hit.

Some have claimed that having the title “Wish You Were Here”
repeated fourteen times in fewer than three minutes was the key to
keeping the name before the public. That was composer-lyricist
Harold Rome for you – (in)famous for repeating a word or phrase.
For his next show FANNY, his title song repeated the word twelve
times. Was he improving? No, for “Fanny” was a full minute shorter
than “Wish You Were Here.”

No one could have been surprised when Rome didn’t write a title
song for I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE any more than we’d
expect even such a genius as Frank Loesser to write a title song that
included all thirteen syllables of “How to Succeed in Business without
Really Trying.” He left it at “How To.”

On the other hand, when Arthur Kopit’s 1961 Off-Broadway success
OH, DAD, POOR DAD, MAMMA’S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I’M
FEELIN’ SO SAD was filmed in 1965 (but held for release for two
years – never a good sign), Neil Hefti managed to write a pretty
catchy song using all fifteen words.

Two decades later, Kopit showed us his book for NINE, which had a
title song in Maury Yeston’s Tony-winning score. The odd thing here
is that NINE – about a workaholic, philandering Italian film director
–wasn’t the musical’s logical title. Yeston wanted to aggrandize the
title of his source material – 8 1/2 – to establish that with music and
lyrics, Fellini’s famous film would have an added dimension that
would make it bigger.

The title song of IRENE was wildly popular, and obviously a factor in
making it Broadway’s longest-running musical. Yes: 675
performances back in the early ‘20s was enough to put a musical in
first place. Today IRENE looks up at 173 musicals that have
surpassed it, but the title song is still a pleaser.

Remember that even the opening night tickets for that incoming
Jerry Herman-Michael Stewart musical said the show was called DOLLY: A DAMNED EXASPERATING WOMAN. But so many were taken with “Hello, Dolly!” that it just had to become the name of the
musical. It made a smash hit show into an even bigger smash hit to
the point where it became the longest-running musical in Broadway
history. (Now it’s in nineteenth place.)

True, GREASE, also once Broadway’s longest-running musical (now in
sixteenth place), achieved that mark without a title song. Six years
later, however, Barry Gibb wrote one for the film. Who knows how
much that helped the movie to its phenomenal success? These days
“Grease” is almost always used in productions, partly because
audiences expect it and partly because it’s a fun song.

“Mame” wasn’t originally MAME’s title song. For the longest time, “My
Best Girl” was. But, as Jerry Herman once told me, producers Fryer,
Carr and Harris – undoubtedly influenced by the success of Herman’s
previous hit show and hit title song “Hello, Dolly!” – asked him to
write a “Mame.” Did he ever – and, Herman has sworn, in less than
an hour.

The 1960 musical DO RE MI undoubtedly didn’t have a title song
because Rodgers and Hammerstein had the year before written a
song by that title. Considering the popularity of their “Do-Re-Mi”
(note the hyphens), one wonders why bookwriter Garson Kanin,
composer Jule Styne and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green
even used DO RE MI as their title. Granted, Kanin’s novella predated
the R&H tune, but still. Making the matter more surprising is that
Styne, Comden and Green had a hit song in the making that both
their two leading men (first John Reardon, then Phil Silvers) sang
each night: “Make Someone Happy.” Now THERE’s a title!

At least one musical has been stripped of its title song status. HERE’S
LOVE, which has a fetching song by that name, was the original title
of Meredith Willson’s 1963 musical; now the show has been renamed
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET to capitalize on the very famous film on
which it was based.

“Cabaret,” recorded by the now-still-cookin’ Marilyn Maye, certainly
gave its show visibility. It needed it, because the musical didn’t have the Big Names that its three competing musicals in the 1966-67 season did.

Look at what CABARET was up against:

I DO! I DO! had Mary Martin, Robert Preston David Merrick and
Gower Champion.

THE APPLE TREE sported Mike Nichols, Barbara Harris, Jerry Bock
and Sheldon Harnick.

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY offered Mary Tyler Moore, Richard Chamberlain,
David Merrick, Abe Burrows and Bob Merrill. It would later be
renamed BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S.

(Incidentally, Merrill’s score had a song by each of those two names.
So no matter if theatergoers saw it in Philly, Boston or on Broadway,
they got a title song.)

Collectively, these luminaries had been connected to BAREFOOT IN
THE PARK; BYE BYE BIRDIE; CACTUS FLOWER; THE DICK VAN DYKE
SHOW; DR. KILDARE; FIDDLER ON THE ROOF; FIORELLO!; FUNNY
GIRL; GUYS AND DOLLS; HELLO, DOLLY!; HOW TO SUCCEED; THE
MUSIC MAN; PETER PAN; THE ODD COUPLE; SOUTH PACIFIC and
THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

So how could CABARET stand a chance against those behemoths? Its
librettist, composer, lyricist, choreographer and director had had
nothing but failures.

Well, on Broadway, you never know. CABARET’s 1,165 performances
made it The Street’s sixteenth longest-running musical. The expected
smash hits — I DO! I DO! (560 performances), THE APPLE TREE (463
performances) and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (nary a one, for it
closed in previews) combined didn’t run as long as CABARET.

And no less than its producer-director Hal Prince has told me that the
title song enormously helped his advance sale, which he desperately
needed.

Whether or not THE PROM turns out to have a title song, we know
that HEAD OVER HEELS does. Even if you aren’t familiar with The
Go-Go’s 1984 hit, you can hear it this month when Masterworks
Broadway releases the original cast album of the first new musical of
the 2018-2019 season.

And let’s see if KING KONG has one, too. What we DO know is that
the 1961 London musical KING KONG did – but that was literally
another story that had nothing to do with Beauty and the Beast
(which had a title song, too!).

Peter Filichia also writes a column each Monday at
www.broadwayselect.com and each Friday at www.mtishows.com .
He can be heard most weeks of the year on
www.broadwayradio.com .