Entertainment :: Music

Clownaround: A Funny Kind of Musical

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Tuesday Jun 11, 2013
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"Clownaround: A Funny Kind of Musical," was the brainchild of television executive/entrepreneur Alvin Cooperman, who convinced composer Moose Charlap (whose hits include "I Won’t Grow Up" and "I’m Flying" from the 1954 production of "Peter Pan") to join him in creating an evening of entertainment around the subject of clowns.

The musical work debuted at the Oakland Coliseum in April of 1972, and only made it across the Bay Bridge to the Cow Palace in San Francisco before closing for good. But the piece was recorded, featuring famed comedienne Ruth Buzzi and Dennis Allen, and is now being made available for the first time in 40 years by Masterworks Broadway. The tunes are innocuous, painting a family-friendly picture of an early 1970’s musical that makes for a light-hearted time capsule into a "lost" show.

Cooperman and Charlap approached the legendary "clown," director/dancer Gene Kelly, to spearhead the production, but Kelly became despondent as his wife’s health worsened, and though the title bares his name above it, the work of replacement director/choreographer Howard Jeffrey could not produce a show that would earn either worthy ticket sales or respectable word-no-mouth, and the musical was never remounted in the east.

The music on the recording is highly indicative of the popular styles that permeated Broadway during the time period. "Balloon" and "Thingamajig" would fit well into the Bricusse/Newley score for "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory;" "Animal Band" is a combination of the "George of the Jungle" theme and an old-fashioned Charleston; the opening number is (ironically, or not) reminiscent of Kelly’s own, "Be A Clown," written by Cole Porter, and "Sunny Day" could have been recorded by The Fifth Dimension, who were at the top of their success during this time.

For the true collector of obscure musicals, this recording should be added to your collection.

"Clownaround: A Funny Kind of Musical"
Alvin Cooperman / Moose Charlap
CD and Digital formats
Masterworks Broadway

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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