PE0043. OH! CALCUTTA! (Kenneth Tynan; Peter Schickele), recorded 1969, w.Raina Barrett, Mark Dempsey, Robert Dennis, Katie Drew-Wilkinson, Boni Enten, Bill Macy, Alan Rachins, Leon Russom, Margo Sappington, Peter Schickele, Nancy Tribush, Stanley Walden & George Welbes. DRG 19035. Final Sealed Copy! - 021471903522
“Fifty years ago, on June 17, 1969, robes opened and so did OH! CALCUTTA! An erotic revue conceived by the English theater critic Kenneth Tynan, OH! CALCUTTA! took it all off at the Eden Theater, a former pornographic cinema that had been renovated by the show’s producer, Hilly Elkins.
Mr. Tynan borrowed the title from a naughty French pun (a loose translation: BABY GOT BACK), soliciting anyone and everyone to submit a titillating sketch. Nothing ‘about art or redeeming literary merit’, he advised. A lot of the luminaries (Samuel Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Edna O’Brien) dropped out or were dropped, but the final, all-male lineup included Sam Shepard, Jules Feiffer and John Lennon, who contributed the masturbation comedy FOUR IN HAND.
After Harold Pinter and Peter Brook declined to direct, Mr. Tynan entrusted the show to Jacques Levy, a clinical psychologist and an associate of the experimental Open Theater. Mr. Levy recruited [Peter Schickele] the Open Window, an eclectic trio, to compose the music. Margo Sappington choreographed the show’s several nude dance and movement sequences.
In THE NEW YORK TIMES, Clive Barnes wrote, ‘There is no more innocent show in town - and certainly none more witless’. OH! CALCUTTA! he suggested, ‘is the kind of show to give pornography a dirty name’.
- Alexis Soloski, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 June, 2019
“Today we are turning back the clocks to 1969 and the opening of one of Broadway's biggest hits, OH! CALCUTTA! Sex sells. No other musical of the 1960s capitalized on the increasingly culturally and socially loosening times than the musical OH! CALCUTTA! Originally devised by British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan as an evening exploring various proclivities and of-the-moment topics, OH! CALCUTTA! is notable not only for its eventual decade-long revival run but also because of the impossibly accomplished group of creative artists assembled to devise the various songs and sketches making up the production itself. Directed by Bob Dylan's famed songwriter partner Jacques Levy, the evening contained material penned by Beatles frontman John Lennon and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett in addition to literary and theatrical notables such as Jules Feiffer, Leonard Melfi, Edna O'Brien and Tynan himself. Of course, the most eye-grabbing and attention-getting element of the entire production when it originally opened this very week way back in 1969 was undoubtedly the lack of a certain customary feature amongst the actors: clothing.
Yes, indeed - the cast was stark naked for much of the performance. Not only that, but the smutty and scandalous scenes that played out in the comedically inclined endeavor often featured moments of graphic simulation and various poses of performers in flagrante delicto, outwardly and outlandishly mocking the conservative attitudes that had informed the decade and certainly the famously buttoned-up one prior. Without a question, it would be impossible to imagine a musical this risqué arriving at any time in history on the Great White Way - or Off-Broadway for that matter - before 1969 and the dawning of the Age Of Aquarius, to cite another psychedic musical of the era. While the original production at the Eden Theatre eventually transferred to the Belasco Theatre on Broadway and clocked in a nearly 1500 performance run, it was the 1976 return that signaled the beginning of what would be one of the lengthiest showings in mainstage musical history - running all the way to 1989 and amassing an astounding near-6000 performance run. Similarly, London’s West End iteration enjoyed a 10-year run, lasting from 1970 until 1980. OH! CALCUTTA! may not have been too tasteful - or that good as a piece of drama or comedy, if we're being totally honest - but, oh, was OH! CALCUTTA! popular!"
- Pat Cerasaro, THEATRICAL THROWBACK, 18 June, 2015