“My name is Brent and I’m a flopaholic,” joked Broadway performer Brent Barrett as he recalled his appearance in the musical Dance A Little Closer, which closed on opening night and was nicknamed “Close A Little Faster.”
He was joined by performers Christiane Noll, Jessica Lea Patty and Tony Yazbeck to sing the wry “A Broadway Musical” from the eponymous closed-on-opening-night musical as the first number from Panning for Gold: Great Songs from Flop Shows presented at The 92nd Street Y as part of their annual Lyrics &Lyricists concert series.
The evening’s genial host, artistic director and writer lyricist David Zippel explained that the purpose of the event was to rediscover “hidden gems” from shows that suffered through “the Broadway rollercoaster of failure.”
It was an often exhilarating program of the familiar and unfamiliar as the cast performed twenty-two songs many of which, due to Lorin Latarro’s dynamic choreography, became mini production numbers.
“I have never been in a flop on Broadway!” announced Lorna Luft when she came on. “What about Lolita, My Love?” asked acerbic music director Brad Haak from the piano where he commandingly led the evening. “That closed out of town!” She then did a powerful lengthy medley from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Later on she did a soaring “Time Heals Everything” from Mack and Mabel complimented by the stirring saxophone played by woodwind player Deborah Avery. Ms. Luft’s old time show business brass and pizzazz energized the event even more.
Recreating her award-winning role as a weary prostitute from The Life, fabulous Lillias White brought down the house singing “The Oldest Profession,” especially when she took her wig off and threw it on the piano revealing her virtually bald head. She got tremendous laughter when she went back to retrieve it after leaving the stage. Earlier she sang a lovely version of “Here’s That Rainy Day” from Carnival in Flanders. She and Lorna Luft were a comic powerhouse together on “They Don’t Make’em Like That Anymore” from How Now, Dow Jones.
Jessica Lea Patty hilariously sang “You’ve Got Possibilities” from It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman with silent bespectacled Tony Yazbeck as Clark Kent. They also did a Kander and Ebb sequence with his comic talents showcased in “Marry Me” from The Rink and her doing “A Quiet Thing” from Flora The Red Menace. Their winning chemistry was also evident in their romantic comedy duet “Paula (An Improvised Love Song)” from Zippel’s and Marvin Hamlisch’s The Goodbye Girl.
The vocal pyrotechnics required for the comedic “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide were dazzlingly fulfilled by Christiane Noll. She also displayed great range by being heartbreaking during the combination of “Good Thing Going” and “Not a Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along.
Mr. Zippel recounted how he and composer Wally Harper were called upon on short notice to contribute one uncredited song that was meant to “save” the troubled Marilyn. Though a fine song, “Cold Hard Cash” didn’t save the show but Ms. Patty and Ms. Noll were terrific singing it.
The tremendous talent of charismatic Broadway leading man Mr. Barrett was a major highlight of the show. His voice beautifully filled the auditorium with “All the Things You Are” from Very Warm for May with Ms. Noll. He forcefully performed “Love Changes Everything” from Aspects of Love. He adeptly mined the comedy from Alan Jay Lerner’s typically clever lyrics and Andre Previn’s swinging music for “A Woman Is How She Loves” from Coco. Superbly realizing the bombastic complexities of “Where I Want to Be” from Chess, he was stunning.
Everyone appeared for the quaint “Little Old New York” from Tenderloin. That was matched with the title song from the flop movie New York, New York and was a rousing conclusion to the first act. The evening fittingly closed as it opened with another backstage number, “You There in the Back Row,” from 13 Days To Broadway, about a troubled musical on the road marvelously performed by the entire cast.
In addition to Mr. Haak and Ms. Avery, the gifted musicians also included Stephanie Cummins on cello, Steven Millhouse on bass and Perry Cavari on drums. The diverse selection and performance of the songs were enhanced by the highly proficient lighting design of John Kelly that gave the presentation a visual variance.
92Y’s Lyrics &Lyricists Series: Panning for Gold: Great Songs from Flop Shows (May 31st- June 2nd, 2014
92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue at 96th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets call, 212-415-5500 or visit http://www.92y.org
Running time: two hours and 20 minutes including one intermission