Oh! Calcutta! [Original Off-Broadway Cast]

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Oh! Calcutta! was a theatrical revue consisting of risqué and even X-rated sketches performed by a cast in various states of undress, including complete nudity. The sketches were written (but not individually credited) by everyone from cartoonist Jules Feiffer to John Lennon. The show opened off-Broadway at the Eden Theatre on June 17, 1969, and ran there 704 performances before transferring to Broadway's Belasco on February 25, 1972, where it ran an additional 606 performances, closing on August 12, 1972. A Broadway revival was mounted only four years later, opening on September 24, 1976, and running nearly 13 years before closing 5,959 performances later on August 6, 1989, which at the time was the second-longest run in Broadway history. Yet Oh! Calcutta! has always had a seamy reputation, viewed as a relic of the sexual revolution of the 1960s that lived on to become a smut show for out-of-town tourists. Somewhat lost in the tussle was the score, composed and largely performed by Robert Dennis, Peter Shickele, and Stanley Walden under the name the Open Window, preserved on a little-heard 1969 cast recording that was finally reissued in a digitally remastered stereo version on CD in 2002. It proves to consist of some amusing, if minor pop songs, clearly written and played with tongue in cheek. The music served as accompaniment to the sketches and to provide interludes, not as a full-scale musical score in the conventional sense. It doesn't sound like typical theater music, but rather like exploratory pop/rock of the late '60s. Such songs as "Sincere Replies" and "Exchanges of Information" are engaging, and "Clarence & Mildred" is in the vulgar tone of the show. But nobody went to Oh! Calcutta! for the music, and the cast album demonstrates that they were right.

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