2000 New York Concert Cast

Tenderloin [2000 New York Concert Cast]

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Broadway musicals can fail for many reasons that have nothing to do with how good the score is. New York's "City Center Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert" program is devoted to resurrecting scores that outshone the forgettable shows they accompanied and presenting them in concert performances, some of which have also been recorded. The 1960 musical Tenderloin, mounted in 2000, was a perfect choice for the series. It was put together by the creative team that had been responsible for the Pulitzer Prize-winning hit Fiorello! the year before, and it was patterned after that show. Once again, a long-ago era of New York was the setting for the story of a man battling corruption. But instead of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia overcoming graft during the Depression, Tenderloin was about a minister trying to close down the city's red light district in the late 19th century. The straitlaced Dr. Brock was no match for the colorful LaGuardia, however, and graft is more objectionable to most people than illicit sex. As such, audiences weren't sure who to root for. The show got bad reviews and ran only six months. But composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick's score was praised and proved popular: Bobby Darin made a Top 20 hit out of "Artificial Flowers," and the original Broadway cast recording was a Top 20 LP that remained on the charts longer than the show stayed on the boards. As such, a version cutting much of the book and emphasizing the songs could only seem like a good thing.

And it is. Veteran David Ogden Stiers takes the part of Dr. Brock, played on Broadway by Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans, and though he can't do a lot to enliven it, his voice is up to the songs, which he sings with authority, especially "What's in It for You?" and "Good Clean Fun." Patrick Wilson, as the tabloid reporter Tommy, suitably hams his way through "Artificial Flowers" (which, in the context of the show, was intended sarcastically) and revels in "The Picture of Happiness," a song about a woman who profits from being compromised. Debbie Gravitte, as Nita, a high-priced hooker, suggests that "My Gentle Young Johnny" should have been a hit outside the theater, and she leads the company through the rousing "How the Money Changes Hands," the first act finale, a comic song clearly intended to occupy the same place in this show that "Little Tin Box" did in Fiorello!

This, only the second recording of Tenderloin ever made, is just a bit longer than the first, with occasional lines of dialogue. While it cannot be described as an improvement over the original Broadway cast recording, it is a well-performed substitute that makes the case for the show as among the better works by the songwriters responsible for Fiorello!, She Loves Me, and Fiddler on the Roof.

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