Still in Love with Lucy
by Thomas Watson
Monday, December 23, 2002
Dear Fellow Lucy Fans,
Again, Happy Holidays one and all! Like last week, this week's letter is devoted to answering questions about Lucy...
Lucy, "Wildcat" and its Ever-Shrinking Score
We Love Lucy Member Neil Wilburn recently wrote:
"I bought a 'Wildcat' Playbill (on e-bay) from the Philly tryout for the sole purpose of finding out what songs were cut. Lucy once said that they started out with 20 songs. The cast album has 15 selections, including the overture and finale.Lucy and "Wildcat" were the targets of a lot many critics' barbs, but the audience came anyway. Everyone suspected the people were really lining up just to see Lucy, but, what the hay, it sold tickets!
The Playbill does not have a date, but there's "I Hear" instead of "Oil" (this could be the same song with a different title), "The Liar Song" instead of "You're a Liar" (same as above), "Far Away from Home" instead of "You've Come Home," "Angelina," a Joe Dynamite song that comes after "Corduroy Road."
The Big Mystery: where's "Wildcat"? It's not in this Playbill and was cut at some point by Lucy ("I feel silly singing it," she said). If it was already cut in tryout, why did it make it onto the Cast Album? Could it have been added after this tryout performance and cut after the show opened in New York? AND, whe it was cut, did they revamp the overture which features the tune prominently?
"That's What I Want for Janie" appears here and on the cast album, but was also eventually cut, leaving Lucy with only 4 songs in the first act. I think both "Wildcat" and "Janie" are solid and Lucy performs them ably (on the cast album), so I can't figure out why they were cut.
I am a real 'Wildcat' fan. It's musical comedy fluff, sure, but the score, which is all that survives, is big and brassy and fun. 'Wildcat' took a critical drubbing, and I'm sure the show was just so-so. But it gave us Lucy in a musical, and she rose to the occasion admirably I think."
Historically, the cast albums to most shows are recorded on the Sunday morning after opening night, and normally reflect the songs included in the show at that time. Occasionally, a huge score will require some trimming, and in the days of vinyl recordings (vs. current CDs) numbers were often truncated so as much material as possible could be included.
We located a Playbill from the Alvin Theatre dated December 17, 1960 -- from the matinee performance following Opening Night. It includes the exact song rundown that is included on the RCA Victor cast album recording (although "Oil" is still listed as "I Hear"):
A subsequent Playbill, one from May, 1961, confirms that "Wildcat" and "That's What I Want for Janie" had both been cut. In fact, it appears that the scenes in which these numbers occurred were totally excised from the show:
Lucy always said that the show was very strenuous for her physically. It had been designed like an old-fashioned "star vehicle" with her in most of the scenes. That is fine when we are talking about a movie or TV program, but when it is a "live" stage musical, performed 8 times a week, it can be very taxing. It is possible that these two numbers (and scenes) were cut merely to give Lucy less to do!
I have always been sad that "Wildcat" happened in an era before the accepted use of videotape to record Broadway productions for posterity. A video recording of Lucy and Paula Stewart doing "Hey, Look Me Over" survives from an appearance the ladies made on The Ed Sullivan Show in January, 1961, but that's all.
The show did, however, provide material for yet a second 1961 RCA recording -- #LPM-2357 -- "Music from 'Wildcat'," featuring Bob Thompson, his Orchestra and Chorus. Lucy appeared on the cover, but is not heard on the recording.
And that, I'm afraid, is all the light I can shed on "Wildcat" and its often-changing score. Many thanks for asking!
Have a great week everybody -- and Merry Christmas!
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