How could it fail? This 1964 production featured music by Stephen Sondheim, a book by Arthur Laurents (those two teamed up for West Side Story and Gypsy ) and the Broadway debuts of Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury! Well, who knows why, but it failed, closing after nine performances. Here is one of the most beloved flops of all time, plus unreleased Sondheim demos!
Give credit (and thanks) to Goddard Lieberson and Columbia Records for preserving the original cast recording of Anyone Can Whistle
despite a blink-and-you-missed-it run of nine performances in 1964. That's often blamed on the challenging and confusing book, which features a Mayoress (Angela Lansbury) whose town is economically depressed until the fortuitous arrival of an apparent miracle. Unfortunately, the resulting influx of tourists clashes with 49 patients (known as "cookies") from a local mental hospital led by nurse Fay Apple (Lee Remick) when a traveling physician named Hapgood (Harry Guardino) arrives to sort things out. The score is fascinating early Stephen Sondheim and includes numerous songs that have become staples of Sondheim song collections: "There Won't Be Trumpets," the gentle title tune, "A Parade in Town," "Everybody Says Don't," and "With So Little to Be Sure Of." Almost exactly 31 years later, Anyone Can Whistle
was recorded as a gala benefit concert, with 20 additional minutes of music and dialogue, an all-star cast including Lansbury and Bernadette Peters, and the excitement of a live performance. For heart, though, it still doesn't measure up to the original cast recording. --David Horiuchi