Musicals Thread (Neil Simon)

Welcome! The purpose of this thread is to talk about all things related to the wonderful world of musical theatre. Each week (or so) I will post a thread with a topic/question for everyone to respond to. This is also a great place to mention any new musicals you’ve discovered and/or general recommendations for other musical fans. Heard/seen any good shows lately? Have any theatre news to share? Tell us about it!

This week I had some help from one of our regular commenters: Bfth! She came up with the topic, did the research, and wrote it all up for us to discuss. I’ve mentioned this before, but if anyone ever wants to write up anything for this thread please let me know. As I did for this post, I’d be happy to do small edits or whatever for anything you write and post if for you if you don’t want to deal with WordPress and all that. I’m particularly interested in any spotlights that people want to write.

Alright, this week we’ll be discussing Neil Simon!

Playwright Neil Simon (1927-2018) is most notably remembered for his comedic plays such as Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Lost in Yonkers to name but a few (and there are MANY more!). Wikipedia claims he received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. But he also authored books for such musicals as:

  • Little Me (1962): Adapted from Patrick Dennis’ book, Simon tailored the book of the musical for Sid Caesar. The show was briefly revived in 1982 with Victor Garber and James Coco and had a more substantial run in 1998 with Martin Short.
  • Sweet Charity (1966): Starring Gwen Verdon and choreographed by Bob Fosse, the show was nominated for best musical but lost to Man of La Mancha. The show was revived in 1986 with Bebe Neiwirth where it won Best Revival (and Neiwirth walked away with the best actress in a musical), and then again 2005 with Christina Applegate.
  • Promises, Promises (1968): Based on the 1960 film The Apartment, this was the first (and thus far only) Broadway show that featured the music and lyrics of Burt Bacharch and Hal David. The original production, which featured Jerry Orbach, was nominated for Best Musical but lost to 1776. The show was revived in 2011 with Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoworth and added in some additional Bacharach/David tunes that were not part of the original production.

[Grumproro here: I’m very interested in this musical because I had no idea that it was based on The Apartment. So, I did a little Googling and found the original Tony performance featuring Orbach (who ended up winning for Best Leading Actor in a Musical). Take a look!]

  • They’re Playing Our Song (1979): Starring Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein and based on the real life relationship of Marvin Hamlish and Carole Bayer Sager (who wrote the music for the show).
  • The Goodbye Girl (1993): Starring Martin Short and Bernedette Peters, it was based on the Oscar winning film also written by Simon.

Rumor also has it that Simon did some doctoring on A Chorus Line (but I can find no proof of that.)

So, have you ever seen/performed in any Simon penned musicals? Personally, the only one I have seen was a 1980s era production of They’re Playing Our Song at the Bucks County Playhouse starring Cathy Rigby…who, if I recall correctly was actually quite good. The show wasn’t a major powerhouse musical, but it was a nice one and I liked the music enough to by the original cast album. (Ok, cassette tape, but you get the idea.)

[Grumproro here: I am also curious, what are some of your favorite Neil Simon works (plays and musicals)? Are there any other writers like Simon who perhaps are more well-known for their plays but also work(ed) on musicals? 

Once again, thanks to Bfth for this great topic!