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Musical of the Month

Three Songs From Barefoot Boy With Cheek

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Photo by The Graphic House (Theater Photo Collection B)Photo by The Graphic House (Theater Photo Collection B)A guest post by Ben West of UnsungMusicalsCo.

When I was approached about recording Barefoot Boy With Cheek, I jumped at the opportunity. Based on the best-selling novel by Tony Award nominee Max Shulman, the zany 1947 romp has quickly become one of my favorite musicals. Sidney Lippman and Sylvia Dee's score is top-drawer Broadway brass and Mr. Shulman's book is both endlessly witty and brilliantly constructed. Yet, the original George Abbott production never received a cast album. Barefoot Boy is truly an unsung musical. As such, I was particularly excited about the chance to give voice to this decidedly forgotten gem. With the generous approval of Mr. Lippman and Ms. Dee's respective Estates, the wheels were set in motion.

In January 2011, my not-for-profit production company UnsungMusicalsCo. (UMC) began exploring Barefoot Boy through its developmental reading series. For this recording, I immediately turned to our extraordinary cast so as to preserve their inspired interpretations.

How thrilled was I to have the fabulous Jenn Colella on board as our resident communist, Yetta Samovar? Armed with a wicked sense of humor and a killer voice, the opportunity for show stoppage was especially ripe. As it turned out, she halted the proceedings not once but twice: first with "I'll Turn a Little Cog," and then with her knock-out solo turn preserved here, "Little Yetta's Gonna Getta Man."

Photo by The Graphic House (Theater Photo Collection B)Photo by The Graphic House (Theater Photo Collection B) "Who Do You Think You Are?" is a number that I had considered cutting, if the truth be told. It was, in fact, not in the initial rehearsal draft of the script. But once we secured the talents of Robert Lenzi and Max von Essen, I knew right away that we had to restore it. It was a distinct pleasure watching this unbelievably talented duo spar throughout the show as they brought their rather eccentric characters to remarkable life in absolutely delectable ways. Their duet promptly became one of the reading's highlights.

"After Graduation Day" was perhaps the most well-known song from Barefoot Boy in its day. It is crooned here by the golden-voiced Max von Essen as he (or, rather, Kermit McDermott) leads an unsuspecting blonde bunny to "the knoll." Though the ending dialogue is not preserved on this recording, you can be sure that it stopped the reading cold, thanks in no small part to Mr. von Essen's wonderfully disarming set-up in song.

It must be noted that my discovery of the Barefoot Boy score was by way of the original hand-written charts from 1947, virtually unworkable in their current state. As we began to develop the piece, musical director Fran Minarik cleaned, digitally transcribed and subsequently provided musical arrangements for the entire score. I am especially grateful to be able to preserve some of his work here as well.

Needless to say, we had a spectacularly busy week back in January 2011, one which ultimately yielded the recovery of an extraordinary show. While UMC looks forward to fully realizing this fantastic musical in a future full production, hopefully these songs will give you a taste of the joy that is Barefoot Boy With Cheek.

BAREFOOT BOY WITH CHEEK

An UnsungMusicalsCo. Inc. Recording

"Little Yetta's Gonna Getta Man" [mp3]
Performed by Jenn Colella
Musical Direction: Fran Minarik

"Who Do You Think You Are?" [mp3]
Performed by Robert Lenzi & Max von Essen
Musical Direction: Fran Minarik

"After Graduation Day" [mp3]
Performed by Max von Essen
Musical Direction: Fran Minarik

All songs by Sidney Lippman and Sylvia Dee. Recorded June 20 and 26, 2013 at Millrose Studios. Special thanks to Doug Reside, Fran Minarik, Peter Millrose, Sam Fein, Betty Domb, Bob Fischer, Geoff Josselson, Mark Eden Horowitz, Chamisa Redmond Nash, and the entire reading cast.

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