On this day in classical music: Walter Piston’s “The Incredible Flutist” was given its premiere in Boston in 1938. Piston set his ballet in a marketplace that has been taken over by a circus. Piston’s only work for the stage deals with vendors, customers, a solo flutist and a variety of dance styles. The sounds of a cheering crowd and a barking dog add to the carnival atmosphere. Listen to Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops perform Piston’s most famous score. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoVe-qruHM8
On this day in the musical theatre: The Broadway production of “Minnie’s Boys” shut down in 1970 after a 10-week run. A musical tale about the Marx Brothers, “Minnie’s Boys” starred Shelley Winters as Minnie Marx, the driving force behind her sons’ success. Groucho was a production consultant: “That means they give me some money. I’m the guy who’s supposed to holler if anything stinks; I’m keeping quiet,” the madcap comedian said.
Musical musings: “Minnie’s Boys” is a fine example of the dangers inherent in skipping a road tryout and the out-of-town reviews that go with it. The show played 64 previews at the Imperial, during which time the inexperienced creative team panicked, eliminating good material and substituting songs and scenes that were often inferior to the ones they replaced. “Minnie’s Boys” was problematic on several levels. First, trying to compete with the screen image of the Marx Brothers, still readily available on television and in revival houses, was, no matter how well done, probably pointless. A bigger problem, however, was the character of Minnie. “Minnie’s Boys” was a lightweight version of “Gypsy,” with several parallel scenes, but its lead female character was never as fascinating or colorful as “Gypsy’s” Rose. The four boys, extremely well played in the musical, were far more entertaining and interesting than Minnie, but because a star had been hired for the part, the character had to be kept around even when she wasn’t needed. Opening to mixed-to-negative reviews, the show lost $750,000.