Alice at the Palace

Not quite content to confine their decadence to rock and roll venues, the Alice Cooper group decided it was time to make some more folks squirm in discomfort as they planned what would be known as, Alice at the Palace. A week long stint at the Palace Theatre in New York - in the heart of Broadway! The School's Out (1972) album proved that's where the band should be heading, even if Broadway was far from ready for an rock and roll band, and especially not a rock and roll band with the attitude of the Alice Cooper group.

"We figured that Broadway has never seen real rock. Hair wasn't rock. Our show is going to be a rock and roll combination on Hellzapoppin and Dracula!" (1) was Alice's comment on the impending spectacle. The group had hired Michael Bennett, the musical director and choreographer who was responsible for Follies, to help with the production. "Michael said that the kids are alienated towards Broadway and parents are alienated towards rock. We'll have parents bringing their kids and kids bringing their parents. We're going to lock the doors after the audience comes in, that will separate the men from the boys! We're also going to have dancers and people planted in the audience. We're trying to get a lot of Palace-type vaudevillians to be in it. Not the dead ones. We don't want to dig them up. But you'll be seeing us with people you'd never expect to see us with. We're trying to get the Three Stooges. Two weeks ago, I was going some place and I was talking about the show and my chauffeur said, 'I played the Guy in the Straight Hacker in Hellzapoppin in 1934.' Now, that chauffeur is going to be in the show. We're trying to get the entire Hellzapoppin crew together" (1)

Ernie Cefalu (Pacific Eye & Ear) was hired on to help make designs for the production. Ernie had worked with Alice Cooper group on their famous School's Out album cover design - before he formed Pacific Eye & Ear - and Ernie's team would continue to work with the band until their demise. The work Ernie and his team completed for Alice as a solo artist would begin with the Welcome To My Nightmare (1975) album design by Drew Struzan. The relationship with Alice has continued off and on throughout much of his career. One of the main pieces developed for Alice at the Palace was the Medusa head logo illustration by Joe Garnet. The Medusa head was designed as one of the parts of a poster, along with a border by Ingrid Hanke, and lettering by Ernie. The pieces were never put together until recently, and included in the Old School (2011) box set. Ernie's team had even developed two Medusa head stage props with moving snakes and flashing eyes, one of which Alice would wear during the show.

Dates for the premier of the production seem to have varied, but it was anywhere from October 1972 to the spring of 1973. This varying nature of mentioned dates probably reflects the difficulty the band were having in getting the deal finalized and the band pillaging the Palace. There are several slightly different stories involved in why the show never worked out, from reports of the Palace Theatre getting cold feet over the Alice Cooper group once the theatre realized what they might be getting themselves into, to an insane demand for tickets even though no tickets were on sale. Alice has talked about issues with unions, "it's easy to say you want to do a show on Broadway, but the unions... God! is it a problem. Shep [Shep Gordon, Alice's manager] had to go and wear a suit and tie to meet with them, they thought the kids where going to come in and tear up the seats - which they might have done, I don't know. We couldn't use any of our own road rats - we would have to use all union people, it just got ridiculous..." (2) There was also talk about profits margins, since the show was for one week and would have had a lot of expense and not enough time to make it back and then some, but Alice's plans were ultimately a bit more ambitious, "as far as this show is concerned we'll probably just do it for a week and then depending on the reaction we will either take it on the road or sell it to a touring company". (3)

Ready as this audience that's coming here to dream
Loving every second, every moment, every scream,
I've been waiting so long to sing my song
And I've been waiting so long for this thing to come
Yeah I've been thinking so long I was the only one

Ultimately, when the Palace Theatre was cancelled, the Shubert Threater was eyed as a replace, but that got cancelled too. And while there was talk later of still doing something, the Broadway show never materized. All was not lost. The replacement was the Billion Dollar Babies tour of 1973, which saw the band take a very extragant production designed by Joe Gannon around US cities at a grueling pace. Then there was the Welcome to my Nightmare show of 1975. Alice had made the comment that "we still may do a whole choreographed thing with dancers and all in some cities" (2), and he wasn't far wrong. The Welcome to my Nightmare show was the closest thing to a traveling broadway show that there could be, with a whole team of performers and dancers featured in the show. Alice really never did give up on the idea of Broadway, and throughout the 70's would continues to incorporate dancers into his shows. Around the release of Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011), Alice began discussing the potential of the two parts of the Nightmare being taken to Broadway, but the likelihood of this ever happening if pretty slim.

Notes

1. After Dark, January 1973
2. Rock Scene, July 1973
3. New Musical Express, July 1st, 1972