Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Metro The 1992 Broadway Flop Review 2.0 With Sound Clips

Many years ago, a friend gave me a copy of a CD he was given while in the process of learning a part in a musical from Poland that producers were betting big Broadway bucks on and hoping to recast once the original cast member's contracts (or work visas) were up. Unfortunately for my friend, the recasting was suspended after the producers announced the open ended run was ending after 24 previews and 13 performances. Metro ran 8 previews and 8 performances longer than the infamous $8 million flop from 1988 known as Carrie The Musical and is surprisingly unknown to most. Not exactly a Carrie, but a FIVE MILLION DOLLAR flop none the less.

After listening to the recording of the Broadway cast, I'm convinced the failure of the show was not COMPLETELY due to the score, lyrics or plot which are all quite unique. The fact that the cast was imported/transplanted/plopped into a land where diction is as important as singing and acting skills with little to zero English speaking skills didn't help matters. It's obvious from the performances that the singers were taught to sing the score phonetically yet accents were firmly in tact, which left the audience wondering if they were seeing a show from overseas that had not been translated into English at all. Scathing reviews from the time seem to focus on the accents of the performers. I can attest that if you aren't listening closely, the show would be like playing the score of Tosca for an audience of hillbillies. No one cares about a show if they don't understand the words. With all that said, had it ran for at least six months, I would have most likely seen it after I arrived in New York simply because of the poster. I probably would have seen the show a second time just to make sure my ears weren't deceiving me in regards to the accents.

So here's a video featuring some of the music of Metro. Unfortunately, I couldn't include the Overture. YouTube claimed it was not allowed to be posted in the US???

The show itself was a HUGE hit in Poland, where the audience could actually understand the performers in their first language. The shows story is very simplistic and follows like a bootlegged production of A Chorus Line with elements of RENT. Many have likened Metro to the original production of Hair, most likely because of the fashion of many of the costumes and the "we can do it" attitude of the show. It's obvious that the creators of this show had a fascination of American culture from the 1960s or possibly thought that America was still in flower power mode. Early Andrew Lloyd Webber comes to mind while listening to some of the musical numbers, mainly the numbers which feature a rockabilly styled sound.

The plot? Basically, performers turned away from an audition for a show in a theatre end up living in and staging a show in subway tunnels of the Metro to rival the show they were rejected from. The musical is set somewhere in Europe but not Poland, there was no subway in Poland at the time. The story was pretty much a dreams never die story with a moral to never give up. The orchestrations were great for the time. A few of the tunes...or melodies...can definitely get stuck in your head and leave you humming. The lyrics, what can be cherry picked through the basically unintelligible accents, are a little too cheesy to repeat out loud.

In all fairness, the show was nominated for the 1992 Tony for Best Original Score but lost to Falsettos. Then again, it was up against only three shows, all of which were longer running and cast with performers trained for the Broadway stage.

This is one of those shows that most theatre fans in the US either vaguely remember if they remember it at all. The show's poster or artwork is memorable and visually appealing, though it gives no hint of what the show is about. Aside a cassette of a few songs released only to the voting committee of the Tony awards, no official recording was released featuring the Broadway cast. Three official recordings of Metro have been released but are quite hard to find. The easiest to find is 1993 recording of the 700th performance of the Polish production is possibly the closest to the Broadway score available though it is sung in Polish. The link for the 1993 Polish recording can be found at the bottom of this blog entry. The Russian language production of 1999 features three more tracks than the Polish CD released six years previously with updated orchestrations. The third, and possibly most interesting recording though it only contains thirteen tracks, is the 2002 concert cast recording featuring a hybrid of the score in Polish, Russian as well as English.

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