When you think of Stephen Sondheim usually you think of well-done successful musicals like "West Side Story" or "Into the Woods." But not all of Sondheim's collaborations were critically acclaimed. "Anyone Can Whistle" is one such production.
"It debuted in 1964 and has sort of the distinction of being one of the biggest flops in Broadway history," said director and owner of Blue Water Theater Company, Charlie Leonard.
"Anyone Can Whistle" closed after only nine performances.
"One of the early performances, I think it might have been the very first one, the women's restroom caught on fire and smoke filled the theater and they had to evacuate everybody," said Leonard.
The play seemed cursed from the beginning.
Leonard added, "I believe it was at the second performance when one of the dancers fell into the orchestra pit landed on top of a saxophone player who promptly died of a heart attack."
Since its disastrous opening the play has gained a cult following. But it is very seldom performed. This was both the allure and challenge.
"It deals with some really deep themes of individualism vs. conformity. It throws some well intentioned sort of barbs at topics like religion, politics, you know, pretty much anything that's kind of a hot-button issue these days."
The story line centers around a fictional American town that is bankrupt and it's most thriving business is a local insane asylum called "The Cookie Jar." Since this show just isn’t being performed much, one of the challenges for the cast was finding a reference on how to play their characters.
Grace Reese plays the over the top and flamboyant mayoress of the town, Cora Hoover Hooper.
"I couldn't find a recording of it online. Like, I couldn't find a way that anyone else had played it in the past besides some of the songs being recorded, but none of the scenes. So basically I just I took what I felt my interpretation was and I just went with it," said Reese.
The show is crazy, bizarre and Charlie Leonard said it’s the most intellectual show they’ve ever done and that the kids were up to the challenge.
"Anyone can Whistle" runs through Saturday night at the Eisenhower Community Center. Show times are at 7 p.m.
Neil Pursley email@example.com