A whistling revival

Stephen Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle was a big flop on Broadway.

A really big flop.

The show lasted for just nine performances after its 1964 debut. Local theater veteran Tom Heckert said audiences of the time weren't used to musicals with a message, and the message of "Anyone Can Whistle" -- reject conformity, embrace individuality -- was an especially hard sell given that it was an era of cookie-cutter homes and cars.

But a funny thing happened. Sondheim fans turned the show into something of a cult classic. It popped up in the Berkshires about 20 years ago, and Sally Burke went to see it with her husband.

"I fell in love with the show back then," Burke said. "It's wacky. It's funny. It's just a lot of fun."

So when Clifton Park-based Not So Common Players was looking for a show for the 2010-11 season, Burke approached Heckert, who sits with her on the group's board, and suggested "Anyone Can Whistle."

Heckert is an unabashed Sondheim fan, but he was pretty sure the rest of the board would want to keep its distance from "Anyone Can Whistle."

"They'll never approve it," he told Burke. "No one knows it. It's obscure."

Still, the two made a case. And to their surprise, the rest of the board was game.

So, "Anyone Can Whistle" will have what Not So Common players believes is its regional debut when the curtain lifts at the Shenendehowa High School East Little Theater on Friday, April 29. It runs for two weekends: Friday through Sunday, April 29 to May 1, and Thursday to Sunday, May 5 to 8. Admission is free.

The show centers on a corrupt mayoress (Gina Bushey) who fakes a miracle to give her faltering town an economic boost, and a nurse and doctor who fall for each other in the midst of the hubbub.

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