Strains of Another Op’nin’, Another Show swirled through the heads of the cast that first day of rehearsals for Music! Music! It was to be a cavalcade of American melodies, from Basin Street to Broadway, from 1895 through the 1970s. The book was by My Fair Lady librettist Alan Jay Lerner, who called his effort “footnotes” since they would separate a breakneck succession of 81 musical numbers. The show would open at the New York City Center on April 11 for five weeks and then tour Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston and probably Chicago. The property was so gilt-edged and fail-safe that no one saw a need to shake down in New Haven.
Besides a lot of talented young performers, there were three established stars: Dan Dailey, returning to the Broadway musical stage for the first time since 1939; Jonelle Allen, a Tony nominee two years ago for Two Gentlemen of Verona; and Larry Kert, who played the lead in West Side Story. But trouble began halfway through the first week of rehearsals. Jonelle Allen, dissatisfied with her limited stage time in such a mass-production community project, walked out. That left two stars. Then worrisome rumors began that composer Irving Berlin wouldn’t agree to have four of his songs in the show. Next, Dan Dailey, during rehearsal of Yes Sir, That’s My Baby, tore his left Achilles’ tendon. Out of one cast and into another, Dailey will have to stay off his foot for a month. That left only one of the original stars. Gene Nelson flew in from the coast to replace Dailey, and his first day at work he said he had so much to learn and from so many sides that he felt like he was standing under a funnel.
By the end of the second week Berlin hadn’t become more amenable. And there were rights problems with the 12-minute medley from Porgy and Bess, which had to be cut in half. When Larry Kert heard that, he sulked off but, contrite, he came back a few moments later. Another cast member, Karen Morrow, last in the luckless Selling of the President, sobbed: “What am I doing in this city? I’ve had five or six flops here!”
Last week, down two stars and about 10 musical numbers, no Music! Music! trouper dared wish another the traditional good-luck greeting of “break a leg.” And no one knew yet if this musical of musicals would be a delectable pressed duck—or turkey.