Sometimes the stars just don't align correctly for musicals, and they flop. Their quick departure from pop culture typically obliterates them from public memory. ClownAround, with a book and lyrics by Alvin Coopperman (The Untouchables), music by Mark "Moose" Charlap (Peter Pan), and direction by Gene Kelly, suffered this very fate.
The musical, which was set to tour the nation and end up at Madison Square Garden, opened on April 27, 1972 at the Oakland Coliseum. It then segued to San Francisco's Cow Palace. Within a month, it was completely closed down, even though the show was already sold out in Houston, which was its next scheduled tour stop. However, the music of the show was recorded and released on pressed LPs that were sold at the performances. RCA Victor melted down the unsold albums, which made the few that were purchased hot commodities for collectors. Now, Masterworks Broadway is releasing ClownAround (The Original Show Album) in all of its topsy-turvy glory on a limited number of physical CDs and as a digital download.
Charlap's score, with orchestrations by Jack Elliott and Ally Ferguson (the duo that wrote the themes from TV's Barney Miller and Charlie's Angels), is delightfully fun. Upon first listen, there is no denying that this score is a product of the '70s. Yet, what makes the album so intriguing is its throwbacks to Dixieland and Ragtime music. There is a tangible razz-ma-tazz verve and feel to the music that makes the score incredibly infectious and spellbinding.
Lyrics, written by Coopperman, are amiable and entertaining. They expertly capture the thrilling and fun-filled aspects of the circus and clowns and sparkle with charisma and charm.
The album is mostly compromised of dazzling toe-tappers like the zesty "Clowns," the gleeful "Animal Band," the bright and cheerful "Sunny Day," the vibrantly peppy "I Need a Ship," and the happy, brassy, and spirited "Clown Alley." The disc also has some sweetly sentimental ballads, such as the romantically sumptuous "Silhouette (Paper Heart)" and the beguiling "Clowns Say Goodnight (But Not Goodbye)."
To avid listeners of showtune albums, ClownAround (The Original Show Album) may sound more like a demo album than anything else, and that is wholly intentional. It seems that the music contained on this album was intended to be played over the PA systems in the arena that the show was to be played in. This demystifies why it is named ClownAround (The Original Show Album) and not "The Original Cast Album." Either way, this is a fascinating record that is sure to be a gem in any showtunes collection. Masterworks Broadway released ClownAround (The Original Show Album) with a limited number of physical CDs and as a digital download on June 4. The album can be purchased exclusively from Masterworks Broadway online store.