Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rachael Lily Rosenbloom Lives!

With all the Hello, Dolly-baloo last week, another small yet pivotal performance (in the annals of musical theatre history) took place on Monday March 13, 2017: the first performance in 44 years of Paul Jabara's self-proclaimed disco musical Rachael Lily Rosenbloom ... And Don't You Ever Forget It.

Written almost entirely by Jabara (with book help from Tom Eyen), Rachael... never made it to Broadway despite seven previews at the Broadhurst Theatre. Since the musical Carrie has been revamped and is now produced often, Rachael... captures the crown as the most notorious flop in Broadway history. Unfortunately, even with the tweaks afforded the show for this concert staging, one can see why. The book is a pastiche of musical theatre references and campy laughs that don't really gel as a compelling story. And the characterization of Rachael makes no sense within the context of, for example, the title - Rachael changes her name to Raquel halfway through the show. In other words, we've forgotten it.

The songs are fun but then Paul Jabara writes fun songs. Remember It's Raining Men, The Main Event, No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) and his Oscar-winning Last Dance? The latter was appended to this concert as a finale but none of Rachael...'s score is as memorable as the aforementioned pop hits although Dear Miss Streisand and Broadway Rhythm immediately come to mind as standouts. (Jabara did record a revision of the musical's Ocho Rios on his 1986 album De La Noche: The True Story (A Poperetta).)

Interestingly, on my very rare audience recording (puff, puff) of one of the 1973 previews (starring Ellen Greene and Anita Morris), the audience is quite receptive to the performance - as was the audience last week at Feinstein’s/54 Below. In my opinion, it had more to do with the performers and audience than the material being performed. Bonnie Milligan (as Rachael), Julia Mattison (as Stella Starfuckoff, the role originated by Morris) and Anastasia McClesky had the showiest roles but all the performers and the band made the hour and 15 minute concert quite enjoyable. My conclusion though is Rachael... will now be forgotten for another 44 years.


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