It was the second best moment of theater I’ve witnessed this entire summer, second only to Bernadette Peters’ rendition of “Send in the Clowns.” Frank Vlastnik, Daniel Jenkins’ understudy in the Broadway musical “Big,” detailed the evolution of the Act One closer “Cross the Line” by performing bits and pieces of the three different songs that preceded “Cross the Line” with explanations as to where the creative team was and what it was going for.
It was certainly the most artistically compelling moment I’ve yet to see in the “If It Only Even Runs a Minute” series, where performers give due respect to flop Broadway musicals. But in addition to just performing some songs, co-hosts Jennifer Ashley Tepper and Kevin Michael Murphy provide detailed introductions to the stories and histories of each show along with Powerpoint visual slides. Sitting to the side of the stage and reading from notes on music stands, they provide a more freewheeling commentary than say Scott Siegel and his "Father Knows Best" style at the podium during a Town Hall concert.
Vlastnik’s performance was certainly fine as a polished cabaret piece. But what made it so appropriate for “If It Only Even Runs a Minute” is how it displayed the committed dedication of Richard Maltby Jr., David Shire, John Weidman and Michael Okrent – and reminded us how easily we forget about that dedication when it comes to musical flops. Even if it didn't make a mint, that's not to say that blood, guts, sweat and tears didn't go into making the show and trying to perfect it.
Similar sentiments were shared by Krysta Rodriguez, who spoke about being a swing in the Broadway cast of “Good Vibrations.” Rodriguez spoke of the affection that the cast shared for each other and how they tried to cheer each other on in spite of artistic team idiocy, bad reviews and poor attendance. Tepper spoke about how much she loved the show and caught it multiple times during her freshman year at NYU. I, myself, was quite taken with "Good Vibrations." In spite of all its problems, there was this insane burst of catchy energy to it.
This is not to say that the musical numbers themselves weren’t terrific. Each version of “If It Only Even Runs a Minute” has gotten progressively better, and I look forward to the series’ return in October as part of New York Musical Theatre Festival.
I was particularly glad that this edition highlighted “The Human Comedy,” one of my all-time favorite flops. They performed the challenging quartet “I Let Him Kiss Me Once,” in which a duo of teenage girls sing romantic pop in counterpoint to a boy delivering a telegram to a Spanish mother that her son died in World War II. (I would have preferred it if Alison Renee Foster were not laughing at herself and would have actually taken the intense song seriously, but the other three performers were great.)
Broadway celeb cameos came from Liz Larsen, who spoke about and performed from “Starmites,” and Michael Rupert, who closed the concert with “Walking Among My Yesterdays” from “The Happy Time.”
Below is a full set list:
1. Nobody Steps on Kafritz (Henry Sweet Henry) – Kate Wetherhead
2. I Just Can’t Wait (Subways Are For Sleeping) – Todd Buonopane
3. Don’t Laugh (Hot Spot, Madwoman of Central Park West) – Samantha Martin
4. Floozies (The Grass Harp) – Will Roland
5a. Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?- Story by Larry Hochman
5b. Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?- Story by Jacey Powers
5c. Little Fat Girls (Black Patent Leather Shoes) – Jacey Powers and Alex Wyse
6. Millwork (Working) – Francesca Garrard
7a. Big- Story by Frank Vlastnik
7b. Big Medley (Frank Vlastnik) – Big
8. Top That (Teen Witch) – Megan Maes, Kevin Michael Murphy, Lauren Conlin Adams
9. Sleepy Man (The Robber Bridegroom) – Jo Philbin, Matthew Dure
10a. Starmites- Story by Liz Larsen
10b. Superhero Girl (Starmites) – Liz Larsen
11. Milady (Starmites) – F. Michael Haynie with Roman Pietrs, Peter Kriss, and
12a. Good Vibrations- Story by Krysta Rodriguez
12b. Your Imagination (Good Vibrations) – Krysta Rodriguez with Megan Kip, Stephanie Griffith, and Ashley Anne Harrell
13. I Let Him Kiss Me Once (The Human Comedy) – Sam Tedaldi, Alyse Alan Louis, Joel Ingram, and Alison Renee Foster
14a. The Happy Time- Story by Michael Rupert
14b. The Happy Time/ Walking Among My Yesterdays (The Happy Time) – Michael Rupert