The musical ads you saw if you grew up in New York in the ‘70s and ’80s
There are local ads in every town and county in the United States, and the generation that grew up in front of the television in New York City isn't that different from any other regional in-group.
In New York though, between all those national toy ads, local supermarket ads, local car dealership and mattress and furniture-store ads (Huffman Koos! Rooms Plus!) that air in every market, kids watched a tremendous number of ads for ... musical theater.
Since I didn't grow up an a house that was obsessed with current theater, for instance, I can't sing a single tune from Evita. But on command I can recite the entire commercial, which I think must have appeared at least once during every after-school cartoon for a decade.
Here are some of the most memorable Broadway musical ads that are lodged in my brain forever alongside that one Toys 'R' Us Christmas ad, which was practically a seasonal carol for us, and the infamous Crazy Eddie.
OK, so some of the songs from Cats made it into many of our school choirs over the years, and none of them really stick out in my mind as clearly as this endless riff.
This one runs through my head start to finish, precisely as it was when I first heard it, including the announcer, whose voice became a stock character for my repertoire growing up: "That's right Evita, clap your hands and stamp your feet, you've got a lot to celebrate!"
INTO THE WOODS
Even at a tender age we sang this with sarcasm.
A CHORUS LINE
I never really understood what this musical was about until I got much, much older. (People in bad outfits that magically turn into worse ones?)
Ruins all other versions for me, because that Oliver song runs through my head.
This one was seriously confusing, and I had the premise explained to me. By the time I really got it I was also old enough to see what was so funny about Vanessa Williams starring in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG
In second grade we had "disco hour" at my school in the Bronx and one time when the main song of this came on I inadvertently screamed with delight. I was trying to downplay my interest in disco hour as much as possible so it was bad.
Since one of my neighbors, Braden Danner, was actually in this show (as well as playing Gavroche in Les Miserables) I knew rather more about this show than I might have otherwise. But it advertised constantly.
Who knew what this would become at the time?
Nobody beats it.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
There have been several Fiddlers in my lifetime but this is the ad I remember.
PIRATES OF PENZANCE
We actually listened to Gilbert and Sullivan albums at home, but not this one. Not after this ad.
Was Angela Lansbury supposed to be fun to play with or scary? Either way, this, too, was confusing for us.
Adding this at the request of New York Observer theater critic Jesse Oxfeld. I'd forgotten it because I was focusing on the music in the ads, but watch until they interview one of the theatergoers outside, who is like the Platonic form of the old-school New York theatergoer. (The sleeper hit in her many, many lines must be "My husband works in the area.")
OK, now this is a roundtable! Mary Beth Williams (@embeedub) points up this 1972 ad for ...
This one isn't one of my earworms—I was a little young for TV still, but ... wow. The last line is the clincher: Would you like to watch 190 more minutes of this live, kids?
Pippin reminds me of a whole genre of Bob Fosse ads less catchy than, actually, terrifying to the 6-to-10-year-old demographic. Here's one.
And here's another—though in this case we had the cast album at home, when we sang the songs in the living room they never seemed as risqué as this.
OK people, read the directions! I only promised ads for Broadway musicals that seemed to air during cartoon time, mystifyingly. But, I relent. Here, by popular demand, is an ad that was obviously meant for people planning trips to New York weeks in advance, touting Broadway as an attraction. And, yes, I have to admit, I probably sat through this one about 100,000 times.