A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine was one of those unlikely musical theater hits. As librettist/lyricist Dick Vosburgh puts in his liner notes to the original Broadway cast album, few could have dreamed that he, "a Marx [Brothers] obsessed New Jersey-born comedy writer living in England, would adapt [Anton Chekhov's play] The Bear as a musical in the [Marx Brothers'] Night at the Opera style, find a man capable of both playing the 'Chico' [Marx] role, and of writing the music [Frank Lazarus], open in a tiny off West End theater..., see it transfer to the West End..., win a couple of awards..., and wind up a Broadway hit directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune...." (Opening at the Golden Theatre in New York on May 1, 1980, the show ran a healthy 588 performances.) The adaptation to which Vosburgh refers takes up the second, "A Night in the Ukraine," portion of what is actually a two-part musical revue with little in the way of plot. The first half is a tribute to and parody of Hollywood set at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and performed by some starstruck ushers that includes a musical recitation of the famous code that censored films of the 1930s to the 1950s and a lengthy medley of songs by movie tunesmith Richard A. Whiting ("Ain't We Got Fun," etc.). That isn't the only interpolation; Jerry Herman of Hello, Dolly and Mame fame contributes three songs, among them one in which a Jeanette MacDonald soundalike questions the manhood of one "Nelson (Eddy, of course). The six-person cast handles the material well, even if David Garrison isn't quite convincing as Groucho Marx, and the album, as the stage production did, works well as a small, two-piano musical effort that is both affectionate and mocking toward Hollywood's golden age.
A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine Review
by William Ruhlmann