There are a lot of albums out with songs that were cut from Broadway shows. From a scholarly perspective, I love them. For a listener level -- well, let's just say it's usually clear why they were cut. But every once in a while there are some gems. I've embedded a couple previously, and this is another one in the club.
It's a song from Gypsy, by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, and it's every bit as good as anything is that show -- which is serious praise, considering that Gypsy is considered one one of the all-time greatest Broadway scores. But this song, "Mama's Talkin' Soft," got cut. But it wasn't for reasons of quality (as noted) or because it just didn't fit, or the show was running long, or any of the reasons you'd expect. But another, fascinating reason entirely.
The song is sung by Mama Rose's two, young daughters. It was staged to have them on a high platform above the scene, watching their mother "sweet talk" some poor sap who doesn't stand a chance. Mama may be a holy terror when she's outraged, but when she starts talking soft, you're done. And the daughters commented on it.
The song is wonderful. The problem was that one of the little girls was absolutely terrified of heights. And whenever they'd have to get up to the top of the platform, she'd burst into tears. The creative team had to make a decision -- cut the song or drop the young actress. Remarkably, in the hard-bitten world o' showbiz, they kept the girl. Apparently when you're going to open on Broadway and you have a child actress who's really terrific and just what you want, they're just not that easy to replace...
It's interesting to note that there is a remnant of the song still in the show. In the classic, tour-de-force, "Rose's Turn," that includes a melange of snippets from songs throughout the show, you can hear a few points where she begins ranting references to "Mama's Talkin' Soft." What happened was that they'd written "Rose's Turn" before dropping the song, and it's such an intricate gem, they left it as it was.
This is the song. Saved for posterity on the beautifully-produced Lost in Boston Vol. III collection. It's performed by Lindsay Ridgeway and Sarah Chapman -- neither of who had to climb a high platform to record it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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