Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Favorite Flops: GRIND (1985), Part I (Who, What and When)

* - This is the first in a series of blog series that will focus on various Broadway flops that, despite its flop status, I thoroughly enjoyed and/or have come to appreciate.

Grind a musical
The Team:

  • Book: Fay Kanin
  • Music: Larry Grossman
  • Lyrics: Ellen Fitzhugh
  • Set Design: Clarke Dunham
  • Light Design: Ken Billington
  • Costume Design: Florence Klotz
  • Hair and Make Up Design: Richard Allen
  • Sound Design: Otts Munderloh
  • Orchestrations: Bill Byers
  • Additional Orchestrations: Jim Tyler and Harold Wheeler
  • Dance Music Arrangements: Tom Fay ("New Man" by Gordon Harrell)
  • Musical Direction: Paul Gemignani
  • Assistant Choreography: Larry Vickers
  • Choreography: Lester Wilson
  • Direction: Harold Prince

The Opening Night Company:

Ben Vereen
Leilani Jones (left), Timothy Nolen
Stubby Kaye
  • Leroy: Ben Vereen
  • Gus: Stubby Kaye
  • Satin: Leilani Jones
  • Doyle: Timothy Nolen
  • Romaine: Sharon Murray
  • Solly: Joey Faye
  • Maybelle: Carol Woods
  • Grover: Donald Acree
  • Mrs. Faye: Ruth Brisbane
  • Harry: Lee Wallace
  • The Mechanical Man: Jackie Jay Patterson
  • Earle's Pearls: Candy, Brown, Hope Clarke, Valarie Pettiford, Marion Ramsey, Wynonna Smith
  • Earle's Staff: Brian McKay, Oscar Stokes
  • Earle's Stooges, Knockabouts and Toughs: Leonard John Crofoot, Steve Owsley, Malcolm Perry, Ray Roderick, Kelly Walters

Ben Vereen and his wife and children
on Opening Night, April 16, 1985
The Statistics:

  • Theatre: Mark Hellinger Theatre
  • First Preview: March 25, 1985
  • Total Previews: 25
  • Opening Night: April 16, 1985
  • Closing Night: June 22, 1985
  • Total Performances: 71
  • Capitalization: $4.75M
  • Out of Town Tryout: Winter 1985, The Lyric Opera House, Baltimore, MD (32 performances)

The Story:

It is 1933 in Depression-era Chicago.  Burlesque is about the only relief the patrons of Earle's get from their every day lives.  As was the norm, the theatre was segregated, with blacks and whites forbidden to share the stage.  Backstage, the lines were still drawn, but as a close-knit group of performers, one paycheck away from poverty, they were a family.  The song-and-dance man, Leroy has his eye on one of Earle's Pearls, Satin, a stripper.  The white performers include the sobrette, Romaine, her straight man, Solly, and comic headliner, Gus.  Gus harbors a secret, as does his new partner, Doyle, a talented, but alcoholic man.  Despite the crudity and sexuality of their daily work, the theatre environment has provided a sort of cocoon for these people.  The outside world makes its presence known with a beating death, and several threats to the other performers.  Tensions come to an explosive head when it becomes apparent that Doyle and Satin have feelings for each other and are caught in a compromising position.  But, in the end, necessity wins out over tragedy as the performers of Earle's Burlesque pick up the pieces, and continue their literal and figurative daily grind.

Coming Soon: A review of the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Grind.

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