This song was written for Sting’s only Broadway musical, The Last Ship, and was actually included on the Sting concept album of the same title. It was intended to be proposal from the ‘older man’, Arthur, to the show’s heroine Meg. And while The Last Ship was essentially one long series of misguided decisions, had they actually kept this song, it would have been the most disastrous of all. This is a ‘proposal’ that wallows in its own miserable lack of love or any kind of conceivable appeal. It’s a heartbreaking song, which I think was the intention, and is actually quite effective when heard out of context, but no-one would ever hear this proposal and say ‘yes’, no matter how desperate they were. In the finished show, Sting replaced it with one of the score’s highlights, the much more positive and persuasive “What Say You, Meg?”. While “Practical Arrangement” is the polar opposite of love song, “What Say You, Meg?” is a genuine love song…just down-to-earth, comfortable, share-our-life-together love rather than wild, passionate romance. Some other shows…The Baker’s Wife, for instance…would argue that that is real love, rather than the Romeo-and-Juliet romanticism of the show’s central couple. In any case, “What Say You, Meg?” is not only a ravishing song, but a vastly more appropriate choice for this moment in the story…and indeed, one of the few dramatic moments in The Last Ship to be completely satisfying.
This is one of those matched pairs of numbers written for the same slot in the same show, and because Jekyll & Hyde is one of those shows with a huge body of semi-apocryphal songs rather than a stable tunestack, each production essentially gets to choose which of them it prefers to use for this scene. This had led to endless debate about which of these numbers is superior, and to be honest they both have certain claims. “Bring On the Men” does admittedly sound far more like something you might actually hear at a seedy cabaret that doubles as a brothel in any remotely realistic setting. On the other hand, “Good’n’Evil” actually contributes to the show’s central theme of moral duality and hypocrisy, whereas “Bring on the Men” is, from a dramatic perspective, essentially a waste of time. And while “Bring on the Men” has a much livelier tune, “Good’n’Evil” has vastly more interesting lyrics (with such juicy lines as ‘Good may be thankable/evil is bankable!’). And frankly, like most of the Jekyll & Hyde score, both are such fine and exceptionally enjoyable songs that it seems like a shame that it isn’t a feasible option for any production to just use both. In any case, both are perfectly valid options for this moment in the show, and both are well worth hearing on the show’s many recordings, where you fortunately can hear and enjoy both without having to choose between them.
For those who haven’t heard of it, Simply Heavenly is an obscure but widely admired flop musical with a book and lyrics by the great Langston Hughes. Ken Mandelbaum, author of the legendary compendium of Broadway flops Not Since Carrie, considered it one of the three best musicals ever to flop, and while that may be a slight exaggeration, the fact remains that this is an utterly charming and unobtrusively meaningful piece with a lovely blues-influenced score. This song was sung in the original production by the show’s vampy semi-villainess Zarita, but was dropped from the show’s only major revival, and to be honest I can see why. It’s about the only song from the original score that has proven to be less than timeless…it consists largely of topical jokes about then-contemporary Black celebrities that were probably hilarious in the Fifties but don’t make a lot of sense to modern listeners. And the song that replaced it, “The Hunter and the Hunted”, is not only a far better song, but provides some radical insight into Zarita’s mindset that changes the whole nature of her character…in her mind, she’s the one being relentlessly pursued by her lovers, and she’s not entirely happy about it. It’s a shame that “The Men In My Life” has dated so severely, but frankly “The Hunter and the Hunted” contributes more to the overall show anyway, so maybe it was for the best after all.
Kander and Ebb’s The Act was one of the most relentlessly mediocre musicals of the Seventies. One of their many vehicles for Liza Minnelli, it was basically a glorified nightclub act masquerading as a musical. Granted, the idea of a Minnelli-fronted nightclub act doesn’t sound all that unpalatable in itself, but when you add in the least interesting score of Kander and Ebb’s career and the star being in extremely poor voice for most of the run, the result was a severe disappointment. That said, in the early stages of the show’s creation, it seems to be trying for something more ambitious than just a dressed-up nightclub act, as this cut song from an early draft of the show indicates. But while this song certainly doesn’t lack for serious content, it’s still a spectacularly unpleasant piece. It consists of an incredibly disturbing musical narrative from the perspective of a wealthy society lady who was abused as a child and now hires random thugs to beat her up because she gets off on it. The show this song was written for certainly sounds more interesting than the finished version of The Act, but it doesn’t really seem any more likely to succeed, or, frankly, any less awful.
This song was reportedly cut because the scene it was designed to be in would have cost too much money, but when it was reinserted for the ill-fated film version, it became clear that they made the right choice for more reasons than one. Firstly, they made a much better decision to focus this moment in the show on Max sitting forlorn in jail rather than showing Leo in Rio…Max’s showstopper “Betrayed” wound up being one of the show’s finest moments. Second, this just isn’t a very good song, and certainly not up to the material in the finished score. The Latin tune is incredibly synthetic and cheesy, sounding rather like a slower, less earworm-y version of “The Macarena”. And the shock humor in the lyrics (‘The tropic breezes always blow there/And so, I hear, do the girls’) just comes off as heavy-handed and lame rather than raucously funny like the numbers in the finished show. If this had wound up being the show’s eleven-o’clock number (remember, it was slated to go where “Betrayed” is now), it might have actually hurt the show’s chances for success, but thankfully, Brooks was smart enough to get rid of it. Now, if only he had shown that kind of sense about pretty much every number in the Young Frankenstein musical…
The only recording available of this song is a low-quality demo sung by the composer and lyricist that was included as a bonus track on a rerelease of the cast album, and frankly even that is probably too good for it. In fact, this may well be the worst song ever cut from a top-level Broadway classic. The premise of this song is, in fact, almost exactly the same as that of the legendarily awful Rob Reiner children’s film North (granted, this song came up with the idea twenty years before North did, but trust me, this routine was just as offensive in the Seventies as it would be in the Nineties). It basically consists of a bunch of extremely offensive ethnic caricatures trying to pretend to be Annie’s parents (so they can collect the reward money Warbucks is offering), and fighting with each other about which of them is supposedly telling the truth. Granted, even the songs in the finished score of Annie, while good, generally left something to be desired in the lyrics department, but there’s really no excuse for this monstrosity. Even songwriters Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin seem to be genuinely ashamed that they ever even considered putting this in the show…in the accompanying liner notes, Charnin seems extremely embarrassed that this song ever saw the light of day. Of course, there was no chance of this ever actually ending up in the finished version of a show as capably produced as Annie, but just the fact that they bothered to finish writing it, let alone recorded a demo of it and sang it at backer’s auditions, is more than horrifying enough in and of itself.
This is less a case of ‘cut song’ per se, and more a case of ‘song revised out of recognition’, since there is still a song with the same melody and title in the current draft of the show, but the song’s lyrics would be pretty much rewritten from the ground up. People who know this show mainly from the cast album may resent these changes, since the song on its own actually works better in the original version, but I get why the changes were made. The original song is the direct ancestor of Gaston’s “Me” from Beauty and the Beast, albeit with more interesting music, and paints a hilariously perfect picture of swaggering male egotism. The problem is that it paints Dominique as a conceited, insincere, sexist sleaze, and since our heroine Genevieve is at least temporarily convinced that she’s in love with him, this winds up making her look like a shallow idiot who’s only interested in the sexual components of what she calls ‘love’, which is not who her character is supposed to be. This sabotages the show’s message, which is supposed to be to pit intense, passionate Romeo-and-Juliet romantic love against gentle, comfortable ‘share-our-lives-together’ love and see which one is more sustainable. For this to work, Dominique has to be at least vaguely plausible as an actual love interest, or Genevieve’s interest in him comes off not as passionate romance but mere lust, which makes the show’s central question a lot less interesting. In the current version, Dominique is still quite full of himself, but he at least seems to genuinely believe he is in love in Genevieve, and even shows a brief glimmer of sympathy and regret for the jilted husband he’s going to have to hurt to get her. Also, this more genuinely romantic version of the song is arguably a more natural match for the ravishing and extremely sensual music to which both versions are set. Both versions are excellent songs, the second version even arguably less so, but while the original version sounded great in the context of a cult cast album, the new version is far more effective at actually telling the story the show was meant to convey.
This song was cut from the ubiquitous video version of CATS, leaving it slightly more obscure among the younger generation of fans whose exposure to the show was largely limited to that video. The most obvious reason for this is that this number is presented as a flashback to Gus the Theater Cat’s glory years, and it is traditional for the actor playing Gus to play this role as well. In the video, they had famed British actor John Mills playing Gus for the sake of the obvious real-world parallels, and obviously Mills could never have pulled off such an athletic and vocally demanding part as Growltiger at his age. Other factors might have been that it is the only number in the show that requires an extra set beyond the junkyard background that serves in the rest of the show, or that it comes across as rather politically incorrect to a modern audience. The Siamese Cats are portrayed fairly respectfully from a character perspective, given that they are essentially the heroes of the story, but there is a lot of stereotypical language used in connection to them…at one point the word ‘chink’ is even uttered, although truthfully it wouldn’t be all that hard to neutralize this problem with some slight rewrites (if “It Depends on What You Pay” from The Fantasticks can be salvaged, surely this song can too). In any case, its deletion from the video is a real shame, because it really is one of the highlights of the show’s already marvelous score. The poem it is based on goes through several extreme changes in mood while sticking to one very simple meter throughout, making it inherently difficult to turn into a song, but Webber was up to the challenge. He managed to create a dark, stormy sea chanty, an exquisite lyrical ballad, an eerie Eastern-inflected theme for the Siamese, a Puccini-esque opera spoof, and a glowering march for the finale out of the same simple repeating melody. This was, of course, something that Webber had to do throughout CATS, since the T.S. Eliot children’s poems he was working with generally featured simple, repetitive meters, but nowhere is it more impressive than in this elaborate narrative set piece. In the original London production, the song also included an interpolated setting of another Eliot poem, “The Ballad of Billy McCaw”, and while this song has disappeared from future productions (it was replaced with the aforementioned opera parody), it is as exquisite as the rest of the sequence, and deserves to be better known among the show’s fans. This sequence as a whole constitutes one of Webber’s greatest achievements, and an impressive testament to his skill both as a melodist and a musical dramatist, and despite its relative obscurity, it stands as one of the show’s most magnificent moments.