Sunday, January 29, 2012

If It Only Even Runs a Minute

"There's no booing here. This is a house of love." Those words were spoken by Jennifer Ashley Tepper to the crowd at Joe's Pub at the latest installment of her and Kevin Michael Murphy's addictive, insightful, hilarious and deliriously entertaining "If It Only Even Runs a Minute," a salute to unappreciated musicals full of fun facts and commentary, rarely seen photos, memories from original cast members and spectacular performances. I honestly can't imagine Tepper not finding some merit in any musical. To be frank, this is a version of Town Hall's Broadway by the Year series meant for a crowd not composed of senior citizens.

The series has now been around for two years. With Tepper and Murphy always serving as onstage co-hosts in between performances, the show has been performed at the Laurie Beechman, Le Poisson Rouge and even Caroline's on Broadway. But the newly renovated Joe's Pub was definitely the best location to date. It was also announced that the next installment will take place there later this year.

It's worth noting the difference between flop musicals and so-called "under-appreciated" musicals. Although "Lady in the Dark" was a huge hit in the early 1940s, just as "Do Re Mi" was a moderate hit in the early 1960s, they made the list since, besides the obligatory City Center Encores! production, they are hardly ever revived anymore. And for that matter, the rendition of "Fireworks" by Murphy and Lucy Horton (who, like me, once went to Frenchwoods) was full of absolutely ecstatic energy.

Jeremy Jordan, Broadway hunk of the year, opened the show alongside Ashley Spencer with "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts" from "Whistle Down the Wind." Later on, after Claybourne Elder sang "The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" from "Road Show," Elder and Jordan unexpectedly came together to perform the duet "When I Drive" from "Bonnie & Clyde."

I think what makes "If It Runs Only Even a Minute" most surreal for me is enjoying songs from musicals that I previously panned. That happened not just with the "Bonnie & Clyde" encore, but also with Alli Mauzey's "Screw Loose" from "Cry-Baby." While I can't say that I think any more highly of Frank Wildhorn's "Dracula" now, Tom Hewitt's rendition of "Fresh Blood" was crazily fun, at the end of which he screamed "Dracula!" (Earlier in the evening, Tepper and Murphy had discussed their obsession with musicals where the cast shouts the name of the musical at the end with a big exclamation, as was the cast with bloated 1990s "Grease" revival, which was appropriately renamed "Grease!")

Jen Brown, who was in the original cast of "Bring Back Birdie" (as well as numerous other flops for that matter), spoke eloquently about his experience auditioning for the show for director-choreographer Joe Layton and performed the show's Conrad Birdie number "You Can Never Go Back."

The series is sure to become even more high profile in the coming months, and I suspect more Broadway veterans will be eager to take the stage and share their memories and revive their past performances. It's nice to know there's a lot more delirious, geeky musical theater fun in store.

Another one of my favorite quotes of the evening: "Kelli O'Hara is Spider-Man!" You had to be there.

Below is a complete set list:

Tire Tracks And Broken Hearts (Whistle Down The Wind)

Performed by Jeremy Jordan and Ashley Spencer

Complicated Man (Doonesbury)

Performed by Ana Nogueira and Dana Steingold

I Can Have It All (Doonesbury)

Performed by Rachel Lee, with Amanda Taraska, Lia Peros, Jennie

McGuinness, and Sarah Folsom

Alli Mauzey’s story about Cry-Baby

Screw Loose (Cry-Baby)

Performed by Alli Mauzey

My Ship (Lady In The Dark)

Performed by Saum Eskandani

Claybourne Elder’s story about Road Show

The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened (Road Show)

Performed by Claybourne Elder

When I Drive (Bonnie & Clyde)

Performed by Jeremy Jordan and Claybourne Elder

Fireworks (Do Re Mi)

Performed by Kevin Michael Murphy and Lucy Horton

Bernadette (The Capeman)

Performed by Jared Weiss

Tom Hewitt’s story about Dracula

Fresh Blood (Dracula)

Performed by Tom Hewitt, with Amanda Taraska, Lia Peros, Jennie

McGuinness, and Sarah Folsom

Dressing Room Shuffle (I Sing!)

Performed by George Salazar and Julia Mattison

Jeb Brown’s story about Bring Back Birdie

You Can Never Go Back (Bring Back Birdie)

Performed by Jeb Brown