SONG AND DANCE, a musical comprising two acts, one told entirely in song and the other in dance, was tied together by a unifying love story. With lyrics by Don Black and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the world premiere was in London in 1982. Reviewing the London production, the Financial Times theatre critic Michael Coveney said, “It is a long time since I have sat through a more ostentatious, less theatrically coherent evening.”
In anticipation of the Broadway run, director and lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. adapted the first act for an American audience. This production, starring Bernadette Peters, opened in 1985 and ran for 474 performances. Although Bernadette won a Tony for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Frank Rich’s New York Times review said, “Miss Peters is more than talented: As an actress, singer, comedienne and all-around warming presence, she has no peer in the musical theater right now. In her half of SONG & DANCE, she works so hard you’d think she were pleading for mercy before a firing squad. Yet for all the vocal virtuosity, tempestuous fits and husky-toned charm she brings to her one-woman musical marathon, we never care if her character lives or dies.”
When they started thinking about the six-month US national tour in 1987, which starred Melissa Manchester, they called us at the Back Alley. Richard Maltby wanted a place for Melissa to rehearse and work out the kinks with a live audience. We provided the space and got an extended benefit for the theatre.
This is the notice we sent out:
“Ms. Manchester will sing the first act (one hour and ten minutes), a nonstop musical performance of the humorous, heartbreaking romances of a young British woman in America. This is a sneak preview prior to the show’s national tour. You won’t see any newspaper ads or reviews of this special benefit event. We have only 498 seats for sale, and this notice has been sent to the 17,000 people on our mailing list. Ticket orders from donors and subscribers will be filled first.”
We had a champagne cocktail opening for $50/ticket, five performances at $35/ticket and a gala closing night party with a post-show party at a private home for $100/ticket. We sold everything out the same day the newsletter hit.
I honestly don’t remember the performance at all, so I can’t report on how good or not good it really was. But stuff like this kept happening, which was how the Back Alley survived.