Generally speaking, successful Broadway musicals get revived, and unsuccessful ones do not. But then there are successful ones that, for one reason or another, are considered un-revivable. In the case of Promises, Promises, which ran for a healthy 1,281 performances after opening on December 1, 1968, two factors seemed to consign it to history. One was Burt Bacharach and Hal David's score, which, despite including hits in the title song and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," sounded more like the songwriters' string of ‘60s pop hits than a typical Broadway score and seemed dated when their music went out of fashion after the ‘60s. The other was Neil Simon's book, adapted from the screenplay of the 1960 film The Apartment by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, about a nebbishy young executive who lets corporate bigwigs use his apartment for their extramarital affairs. It already seemed dated in the late ‘60s, and with changing sexual mores from the ‘70s on, practically prehistoric. But over the decades, Bacharach has come back into critical favor, and the story's milieu seems much more timely in 2010, thanks to the success of the TV series Mad Men, which examines the same era. Add in TV star Sean Hayes of Will & Grace and Kristen Chenoweth, who has both Broadway and TV credentials, and Promises, Promises gets its first-ever Broadway revival more than 40 years after the original production. Not surprisingly, the producers have interpolated a couple of Bacharach/David standards, "I Say a Little Prayer" and "A House Is Not a Home," to beef up the score, making it seem more hit-laden than it was the first time around. Jonathan Tunick, who orchestrated the score originally, is credited again, and he clearly has updated his charts. This time around, the cast album doesn't sound so much like a Dionne Warwick LP with other vocalists; the music is closer to a Broadway-style score, while maintaining Bacharach's trademark quirky melodies. Hayes acquits himself credibly in his musical debut. He can certainly carry a tune, and he navigates the sudden Bacharach key and tempo changes without difficulty. (Some theater critics had trouble with his portrayal of a milquetoast heterosexual after his years as a flamboyant TV homosexual, but that's not a problem on disc.) Especially with the interpolated hits, there's plenty for Chenoweth to do, and she is typically effective, even if the Tony Awards committee didn't think her performance even merited a nomination. Katie Finneran, on the other hand, makes a strong impression in her one song, "A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing," strong enough to win her a Featured Actress Tony Award (just as Marian Mercer did in the same part in 1969). Promises, Promises is closer to being the Burt Bacharach musical (it's his only Broadway venture) than it is to being the Mad Men musical, especially with the extra songs, and the performers do well by the composer here.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann