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 In the original London production, the song also included an interpolated setting of an unpublished Eliot poem, “The Ballad of Billy McCaw”, and while this song has disappeared from future productions (it was replaced with the aforementioned opera parody), it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.
This song, which was written for an early draft of the show and is included on the concept album made during the show’s pre-Broadway stages, is haunting, devilishly erotic and infused with pure, irresistible evil. It’s arguably even an improvement on Frank Wildhorn’s earlier attempt at the same effect, in Hyde’s numbers “Alive” and “Dangerous Game” from Jekyll and Hyde. However, I understand why they ultimately replaced it with “Where’s the Girl?”. Both songs are seductive solos for primary villain Chauvelin, and both are absolutely exquisite songs, ranking with the best material Wildhorn ever wrote. The difference is that “Marguerite”, as stated, is deliciously and palpably evil, and the creators ultimately decided they wanted to portray Chauvelin as more of a tragic, misguided antivillain, a corrupted former hero who didn’t quite notice the point at which he turned into the bad guy. As such, “Where’s the Girl?” is a straightforward and rather sweet love song that doesn’t sound villainous at all, and it establishes this man as not evil by nature and his love for Marguerite as genuine. It also allowed for an intense and angry reprise when Chauvelin finally goes over the edge into unambiguous villainy, something that would have been extremely difficult to do with a song that was already as evil-sounding as “Marguerite”. This song is an interesting illustration of how a genuinely good song may not be right for a particular moment for reasons unrelated to it’s quality, but I will say I am genuinely happy that it did get preserved on the concept recording, because dramatic issues aside, it really is one of the best items written for this show.
This song was originally the establishing solo for Wilfred Shadbolt, the Head Jailer and Assistant Tormentor at the Tower of London and unwanted suitor to secondary female lead Phoebe Merrill. Had this song actually been included, it would have made Wilfred, who in the final version is little more than a comic stooge, a much more intimidating and frightening character. It is one of the most daring and disturbing songs Gilbert and Sullivan ever wrote, as perverse and kinky as you could conceivably get away with on the Victorian-era stage, which presumably had something to do with why it was cut. It revels in Wilfred’s frustrated lust for Phoebe and his obsession with pain and torment in a way that suggests the two are not entirely unrelated, which is particularly unnerving given that by the operetta’s end, he has succeeded in forcing her to marry him. The fact that they even considered including this song just shows how different Yeomen really is from their other operettas, and how much more serious and ambitious they really meant this material to be.
This is one of the cleverest songs from this score, which has a reputation for being inconsistent and uneven (slightly more of one than it deserves, actually), despite the show’s undeniably brilliant book. And while I feel the score as a whole is rather underrated, this is undoubtedly one of very few songs in it to approach the cleverness of the book. It consists of a minuet for the Loyalists (read: conservatives) in the Continental Congress, and draws viciously satirical parallels between them and modern conservatives. With a melody that repeatedly quotes “The Star-Spangled Banner” and cries of “Hosanna! Hosanna!”, it thus mocks the patriotic and religious trapping modern American conservatives like to surround themselves with. As witty as the lyrics are, the sharpest moment comes in a dialogue break, when villain John Dickenson sums up the reason that many lower-class people vote for conservative politicians…”Most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor”. The most probable reason it was cut from the show’s film version is the obvious one…that the accompanying visuals of portly gentlemen in wigs and frock coats dancing stiffly with one another around the Congress’ meeting-room, which is already the song’s one major liability on stage, looked so ridiculous on film that they didn’t think people would even notice the song itself. But there is a persistent rumor among Broadway and Hollywood conspiracy buffs that then-President Richard Nixon strong-armed the studio into cutting it for political reasons. This seems a bit far-fetched, but the rumors persist, probably because it doesn’t sound all that out-of-character for most people’s image of Nixon (although in reality, Nixon was reportedly rather a fan of the play). In any case, the film got by without it, and frankly I imagine that’s for the best: as sharp and clever as the number was, I tend to agree that it would just look giggle-inducing on film, and masterpiece though that film is, the visual components of it are awkward enough as it is.
This song was written for the slot in the show that “Raunchy” now occupies, and even shares the same intro verse as that song. The context is that Lizzie is fantasizing about letting her hair down and being a wild, ‘loose’ party girl, something that is normally completely foreign to her nature. And while including a song with a title like “Flibbertigibbet” would have made the show even more dated today than it already is, this song has a wonderfully catchy tune and is extremely distinctive and memorable. And given the fact that its replacement, “Raunchy”, is the weakest song in the finished score, it probably would have been wiser to keep this song, but superproducer David Merrick took a dislike toward it for some reason, and Merrick generally got what he wanted. (Actually, there were no less than four numbers written for this slot. The other two were “I Can Dance”, which was too innocent and ingenue-esque to fit the moment, and “Dessau Dance Hall”, which was basically a slightly different alternate draft of “Raunchy”. Legend has it that there were actually over 110 songs written for this score; I can’t say for sure if that’s true, but it does have a ridiculously large collection of cut number for a single show, even when you limit your survey to what has actually been recorded.)
The Lost In Boston CD series called this ‘the only song cut from The Fantasticks‘, but what that actually means was that it was the only song cut once the show as a whole was more or less finished, as there are several other dropped songs from the developing stages. This song was the original climactic number in the show, and while it is a musically attractive piece with the extremely recognizable sound of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s songwriting, dropping it was the smartest move they could have made. It was supposed to be the resolution of the central relationship, but it didn’t have anywhere close to the emotional impact to make that moment work, and the lyric was far too straightforward and earthbound to match the show’s mood of effusive lyricism anyway. It was replaced by the quietly exquisite “They Were You”, which, with its more poetic and abstract (and thus more universal) lyrics and its incredible musical and emotional impact, was a far more effective and convincing communication of the more mature love into which the protagonists have grown at this point. This song, while not a bad piece as a standalone outtake, would have come pretty close to ruining one of the greatest shows of all time if it had been kept, so it’s lucky that Jones and Schmidt were perceptive enough to see this flaw and fix it before they opened their show.
This song is cut from virtually every modern production of Carousel, mostly because its real function in the show is a purely technical one that is no longer needed. It was originally intended as an old-fashioned ‘scene change’ number, a character solo in front of a closed curtain to distract the audience during the massively difficult scene change from rural New England to the show’s elaborate vision of Heaven. It serves no real purpose in the actual story…even its establishment of Billy’s suicidally defiant character is really just telling the audience something they already know. That said, it’s a shame that this number has become dramatically redundant, because in and of itself, it is a phenomenal song…a thrilling, almost violent outburst of a kind unthinkable in the theater before Rodgers and Hammerstein, with some of the finest musical scene-painting of Rodgers’ career and a lyric that perfectly captures exactly what Billy Bigelow would say in this situation. It’s actually one of the highlights of the Carousel score, and if you’re familiar with the show, you know how much of a statement that really is. All I can say is that if I were producing a Carousel revival myself, I would be very tempted to include the song on those grounds, lack of dramatic necessity notwithstanding.
For those who are only familiar with the iconic film version of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, this was the most genuinely menacing of the show’s half-a-dozen Villain Songs, which establishes the character of the dreaded Bill Sykes. It’s a harsh, brutal, terrifying piece of music that reminds one that Oliver! did not soften Dickens’ original material quite as much as some people like to think. That said, even though the film version made a habit of dropping some of the most interesting songs from the show (“That’s Your Funeral”, “I Shall Scream”), I understand why this one had to be cut. For one thing, Bill Sykes is played in the film by distinguished actor Oliver Reed, and, as anyone who’s seen the film version of Tommy knows, Reed is one of the most embarrassingly terrible singers ever to appear in any kind of musical. But beyond that basic necessity, Reed’s decision to play Sykes as though he were in a straight dramatization of Charles Dickens meant that the act of singing a song, even one this harsh and abrasive, would have been uncomfortably out of place for this interpretation of the character…and since Reed’s Sykes was one of the most terrifying performances ever given in any movie, that decision was probably a wise one, even if it cost the show one of its most interesting songs.