10 great showtunes from musicals that flopped
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It's always sad to see a musical flop. All the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into a show mercilessly flushed down the proverbial toilet in a flurry of low-starred reviews and weak ticket sales. What's even sadder is when these turkeys feature genuinely great showtunes. In memory of the musical numbers we have loved and lost over the years, we've rounded up ten of our favourites.
1. "Waiting for You" from Water Babies
With a cast including Lauren Samuels and Louise Dearman, this new musical inspired by Charles Kingsley's classic novel was destined for greatness. But when it opened at Curve, Leicester in 2014, critics were less than impressed, Lyn Gardner described it as "terminally high-minded and interminably long" in her one-star review. The harmonies that kick in at 3:15 in Samuels and Dearman's version above are enough to make anyone stick this on repeat
2. "Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife
After hearing this song so much in rehearsals, Trevor Nunn persuaded the writers to mount a UK production. It opened at the Wolsey in Ipswich and transferred to the West End. Despite receiving strong reviews the show didn't sell well and closed after just 56 performances. Composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) said the show was "just too long". It has never been produced on Broadway.
3. "And Eve Was Weak" from Carrie
After a lukewarm reception in Stratford, the RSC's 1988 musical adaptation of Stephen King's novel transferred to Broadway at the cost of $8 million. After a panning from the critics, investors pulled their money and the show closed after just 16 previews and five performances. Twenty seven years later Paul Taylor Mills produced a reworked (and brilliant) version at Southwark Playhouse, and anyone who heard Kim Cresswell and Evelyn Hoskin's version of "And Eve Was Weak" will agree with its place in this list.
4. "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" from Bonnie & Clyde
Talking of Evelyn Hoskins, Frank Wildhorn and Don Black's musical had a mini revival at The Other Palace recently and her performance of "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" is pretty much a good enough reason for this song's inclusion. The musical opened on Broadway in December 2011 with a cast including Broadway stars Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. They weren't enough to save it though and the curtain came down just four weeks and 36 performances later. Let's hope for a larger London revival sometime soon.
5. "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" from Side Show
Another show that enjoyed a successful revival from Taylor Mills is Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's Side Show. Despite positive reviews and four Tony Award-nominations, the musical about conjoined twins in a 1930s side show, ended its run after 91 performances. We were lucky enough to film Louise Dearman and Laura Pitt-Pulford perform "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" at Southwark Playhouse during the 2016 UK premiere at Southwark Playhouse.
6. "Not a Day Goes By" from Merrily We Roll Along
It feels odd to consider this a flop, especially considering the critically acclaimed London productions at the Donmar (2000) and Menier (2013). "Not a Day Goes By" helped earn Samantha Spiro an Olivier Award for her performance as Mary in the earlier production. But when the musical premiered on Broadway it lasted for just 16 performances before it closed. People struggled to follow the story which led the actors to wear jumpers with their characters' names on.
7. "I Can't Sing!" from I Can't Sing!
Before she moved stateside with Color Purple and won all the awards the Yanks had to offer, Cynthia Erivo turned heads in Harry Hill's bonkers take on Simon Cowell's X Factor. After a disastrous start with technical issues leading to cancelled previews, the show opened at the London Palladium where it proved to be theatrical marmite (this writer loved it). It closed after just six weeks, reportedly losing £4 million. The title song is definitely not one of the best ever written, but sung by Erivo it's absolute gold.
8. "There Won't Be Trumpets" from Anyone Can Whistle
It's hard to believe that a musical written by Sondheim and Arthur Laurents and featuring Angela Lansbury's stage debut wouldn't be a runaway success, but after just nine performances and 12 previews the 1964 Broadway production closed. It has since become a cult favourite and "There Won't Be Trumpets" is a go to song for cabaret performers the world over.
9. "Fly, Fly Away" from Catch Me If You Can
Terrence McNally, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's musical is based on the 2002 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, about a con artist who becomes a pilot. It did a little better than other entries on this list and won a Tony for its leading actor Norbert Leo Butz, but ultimately it failed to take off and closed after 170 performances. This is a cracking power ballad sung by the brilliant Kerry Butler on the original cast recording. About time this show flew over to the West End.
10. "Rise Above" from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
We couldn't finish this article with anything other than one of the biggest Broadway flops in recent history. The production was troubled from the start with actors getting injured by the highly technical set pieces and multiple rewrites of the book and score. But with music and lyrics by U2's Bono and The Edge it was always going to include some stand out music, and this is one of our favourites. In his review New York Times critic Ben Brantley said the show may "rank among the worst" Broadway musicals ever. The show did pretty well, lasting three years on Broadway, but it's reported that its investors lost $60 million. Ouch.