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.
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