Monday, March 14, 2016

Conversations With An Irish Rascal

Conversations With An Irish Rascal, a musical bio of Brendan Behan, starring David Frazier, directed by Joe Garry and written by Kathy Kennedy previewed July 16, 17, 18 before opening Saturday, July 19, 1975. This was the show that replaced Brel at the Playhouse Square Cabaret, which was in the lobby of Loew's State Theatre. This rollicking show also featured Irish singer/guitarist Gusti, who was also outstanding. This show went on to win a prize at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, and ran off-B'way a few months later.
From The Plain Dealer, July 6, 1975.
From The Plain Dealer, July 13, 1975.
Review from The Plain Dealer, July 21, 1975.
From The Plain Dealer, September 21, 1975.
New York Times review, reprinted in The Plain Dealer, October 31, 1975.

This show came at a unique time, Brel which ran for over two years in Loew's State had closed a few weeks earlier, Coca-Cola was in the State auditorium, Marvin Hamlisch had just played the Palace the previous weekend and Kathy Kennedy's Playhouse Square book had just come out as well. There was a lot of stuff going on at the time, and I only got a chance to see this show a couple times, from what I can recall it was pretty good, and certainly deserved the acclaim it received. In the midst of all this, Kathy Kennedy passed away, quite a shock to everyone that was there at the time.
From The Plain Dealer, July 28, 1975.

Yesterday's passing of David brought back a flood of memories, most revolving around Brel. One thing that sticks out in my mind is when we were about to open Alice! in October 1974 in the Palace, Joe was asking if I could play some dinner music through the old surround sound system which I had resurrected a few months earlier. I really needed a new turntable, so a few days later David and I were at the Radio Shack on Euclid Avenue. We made quite the unlikely pair, distinguished actor, and mangy teenager. For the next three months I played that double LP of Strauss waltzes for the pre-show dinner crowd. I did a lot of running around that fall, since I also closely monitored and controlled the heat in Loew's State for Brel, and ran the coat check with Russell. and that turntable, it  held up for quite a few years. 

During Brel there were sometimes a few patrons that would storm out, usually during intermission, upset at the language in some of the songs, Amsterdam, Next, etc. Joe would always ask after intermission, "how many we lose today?" Usually it was none, but once or twice a week a couple people would take offense. My favorite one was the guy who let loose a profanity laced tirade at Russell and I about how his wife shouldn't have to listen to this, while his red faced wife stood behind him. 
Another thing was, for some reason some people thought David was Brel! They would usually say things like " I just love that Jacks Brel (sic), you tell Mr. Brel how much we enjoyed his show."  We always wondered why no one thought Cliff was Brel. In actuality, neither of them looked like Brel, but maybe David is what people thought Brel would look like. Those were some great days, God bless you David.
Brel in the State Theatre lobby, 1975. This was fairly similar to the Irish Rascal set, stage was a little different. Photo by William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc.

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