Chris Peterson / OnStage Editor in ChiefOver the next 60 days, everyday we will be featuring and reviewing a musical cast recording. The purpose behind this is to try to discover and rediscover pieces that deserve more credit, more productions and more attention. Plus we get to listen to a lot a musical theatre, which is always a good thing.
Day 12 ~ The Life
During my senior year of college, my friends and I put together a musical revue titled, Tongue in Chic, which featured some of Broadway's racier numbers. One of numbers was "My Body" from The Life. The first time I had seen this performed was during the 1997 Tony Awards. Needless to say I was thrilled that we were able to put in the revue.
Background: The Life is a musical with a book by David Newman, Ira Gasman and Cy Coleman, music by Coleman, and lyrics by Gasman. Based on an original idea by Gasman, the show explores the underbelly of Times Square's 42nd Street, inhabited by pimps and prostitutes, druggies and dealers, and runaways and street people in the era prior to its Disneyfication. The Broadway production, directed by Michael Blakemore, opened on April 26, 1997 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it closed on June 7, 1998 after for 466 performances and 21 previews. Among a large cast were Pamela Isaacs, Chuck Cooper, Bellamy Young, Lillias White, and Sam Harris. White and Cooper both won Tonys for their performances.
Synopsis: It tells the story of Queen, a prostitute who works 42nd Street to support her man, a Vietnam Veteran named Fleetwood. After years of selling her body on the street, Queen has finally managed to save enough money for her and Fleetwood to escape "The Life", but when she returns to her hotel room, she discovers that Fleetwood has broken into her savings and used it to pay off his drug debts. Meanwhile, Fleetwood and an opportunistic pimp named Jojo have befriended an attractive young girl named Mary who is fresh off the bus from Minnesota. When Fleetwood generously offers to let Mary stay with them, Queen tries to persuade the young girl to go home, but Fleetwood and Jojo have already begun to lure her in with promises of money and fame. That night, Queen is picked up by the police, and upon her release, she learns that while she was spending the night in jail, Fleetwood, Jojo, and Mary were having a threesome. Furious, Queen leaves Fleetwood and is soon taken in by a rival pimp named Memphis. It isn't long before Memphis reveals his true nature, threatening to kill both Queen and Fleetwood if she should ever attempt to leave him. When Queen tries to warn Fleetwood of these threats, Memphis beats her brutally. Queen has finally had enough. Sonja, a fellow prostitute, procures for Queen a bus ticket out of town, and she decides to say goodbye to "The Life" forever, but before she can board that bus, Queen is confronted by both Fleetwood and Memphis, and only one of the three will walk away alive.
Review: This cast recording is amazing. White is a revelation and Cooper sounds wonderful as well. There aren't many memorable tunes and most of them are way to racy for anything less than college theatre but I definitely recommend giving this one a close look. As much as I love White, my personal favorite on the recording is Pamela Issacs.