Last fall UC's College-Conservatory of Music rousingly revived the 1967 hit musical Hair, an iconic work that distilled many of the attitudes of a generation using music by Galt MacDermot. CCM returns to MacDermot (whose other musical, Two Gentlemen of Verona, was a big production a year ago at Patricia Corbett Theater) with his last Broadway work, The Human Comedy (from 1983) this weekend. Unfortunately this show lasted only 13 performances after a two-month run at New York's Public Theater. —-
By 1983 the invasion of British megahits (Evita, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miz) was under way, and MacDermot's show, based on William Saroyan's 1943 novel, while through-sung like many of the hits sailing across the Atlantic, was more in the vein of the great American folk opera, Porgy and Bess. The Rock score that had fueled Hair was replaced by a more eclectic sound encompassing Gospel, Jazz, Swing, Blues and tunes reminiscent of Woody Guthrie. Nonetheless, Broadway chronicler Ken Mandelbaum has referred to The Human Comedy as one of the great musical scores of the 1980s.
You have a rare chance to see this neglected work at CCM's Cohen Family Studio Theater this weekend. It's getting the simple, stark production it received at the Public Theater with a big cast portraying the residents of a small California town during World War II. Ithaca is a pleasant place, but the war keeps encroaching as telegrams arrive about sons of families who have died in combat.
CCM studio shows are presented free of charge (a remarkable opportunity to see performers who will go on to Broadway eventually), but you do need to call in advance to reserve seats, which are limited. (Box office: 513-556-9484.)