All right. I've taken a sip of my Diet Coke (they don't care) and I've calmed down (they don't care). But before we get down to a discussion of the above, let me also say that Mr. Mark Bakalor recently posted a set of parody lyrics about Side Show (to the tune of Old Friends) over at Talkin' Broadway. I know this because I received some e-mail telling me that this put to rest once and for all the notion that Mr. Mark Bakalor might, in fact, be The Real A. I will not comment on the quality of said lyrics, but one piece of e-mail I received from an anonymous source named der Brucer (beloved of S. Woody White) called them "doggerel". I don't think that's a compliment, but I could be mistaken. In any case, some fifteen year old girl over there saw fit to post a followup in which she criticized this column. Ho hum, said she, in a world-weary fashion. Oops, now you see I've gone and gotten all riled up again. So, on the one hand we've got this disgruntled few, and on the other hand we've got this riled A. Well, I think both sides should just back off! What's a few disgruntled people? I mean, if they want to go through their lives with the word disgruntled attached to them, they are welcome to. Not everyone is going to think this column is funny. I, for one, don't think it's funny in the least. I hate this column and never read it. Who is this Real A anyway? Who the hell does The Real A think The Real A is, writing this column? But the point of the disgruntled few is that this column does not belong here at the Stephen Sondheim Stage. They think only things about the Master should be at the Stephen Sondheim Stage. Well, just where do they think this column should appear? I don't think the column would work nearly as well if it appeared at a Sex Site. Or a site about Colons. No, it belongs here, and here it will stay! As to the allegation that the parody lyrics don't scan correctly, well, let me just say it as politely as I know how: No way, butt cheeks, those parody lyrics scan perfectly, always have, always will. I don't care if you like them or hate them, think they're funny or unfunny, but scan correctly they do, and if you disgruntled few think they don't, then you need to get a brain scan. There, I've said it and I'm glad.
But the reality is this: Wouldn't you think that the easy solution for the disgruntled few would be to not read this column? Wouldn't you just think that would be the easy solution? But, noooooooo. Not our disgruntled few. Noooooooo, they continue to read the column (or so I've been told, by one who knows who the disgruntled few are), thereby adding to their disgruntlement. But we are not changing a thing. And do you know why? Because of you, dear readers, that's why. Why should we let a few disgruntled people ruin our fun? Mr. Mark Bakalor tells me that over 1,000 people a week read this here column. And the e-mail I receive is, for the most part, loving and warm and wonderful. Even the few disgruntled comments I've gotten have been voiced in a non-disgruntled way. So, to the disgruntled few I would have to say, no disrespect intended: Hit the road. Vamoose. Amscray. If you don't like-a da column, don't read-a da column. Simple, effective and the obvious answer. I will now get off my high horse and we can move on. But first, have you ever been on a high horse? It is nauseating, especially if you have vertigo. Have you ever noticed how many of these stupid sayings involve horses? Think about it (not you, you disgruntled few... You aren't even supposed to be reading this, even though we know you are)... High horse; can't look a gift horse in the mouth; never change horses in mid-stream; that's a horse of a different color; you can't beat a dead horse; why, there is simply no end to ridiculous horse sayings. But why are they tormenting the poor horse all the time. Why don't they split it up amongst a variety of animals? Why is it always the damn horse? What did the horse ever do to anyone? The horse is a noble beast. Let's pick on the aardvark for a change. Because there is no stupider name for an animal than aardvark. Just look at that combination of letters. Someone not only came up with that name, they actually thought of spelling it like that. Oh, I must stop before I become disgruntled. If I don't stop this column will end up like The Lion King: it's just going to go on forever. But enough about me.
All right. Last week I went off on the word sandwich. Where did such a stupid word come from? Who could have made such a stupid word up? And thanks to you, dear readers, we have the answer (not that the disgruntled few will give a hoo-ha). Yes, I received many e-mails from folks (you know who you are) explaining the derivation of sandwich.
This is a true story. Once upon a time, there was the Earl of Sandwich. And he was an inveterate gambler and card player. He also liked to eat whilst playing cards, but being a meat-eater the cards would get all greasy. Finally tiring of this, he apparently instructed the cook to take the meat and put it between two pieces of bread, and thus the "sandwich" was born.
In doing further research, I also found out that other food names were born this very way. For example, nachos came from the Duke of Nachos, who one day was feeling ornery and said "Put some beans and cheese on them chips, you simpletons" and the rest is nacho history. Then there was the Lord of Salad, who told his manservant (whose job didn't normally include such tasks) to put a bunch of green leaves in a bowl, and dress them (his usual job) with something pungent, and in so doing, the salad was born. We could go on and on. Yes, we could. And, by God, we will. How about the Doge of Donut, who one day was eating a round cake and shooting his dart gun at the same time. He ran out of targets and used the cake. He got a perfect center hit, knocking out the center of the cake and creating the donut!
As promised, here's a little bit on The Real A's favorite humorist, Mr. James Thurber. I first discovered Thurber when I attended a show entitled A Thurber Carnival. It was a revue and I was completely taken with it, so much so that I went back and saw it several times. I knew I would forever love Thurber as soon as the curtain went up and revealed a show curtain which had the Thurber drawing "Man, Woman and Child" on it. I don't know what it was about this drawing (I think it was the look on the "child's" face) but I started laughing and could not stop. The opening number was the cast dancing with each other (with great jazz music by Don Elliot) and saying one-liners from Mr. Thurber's cartoons. As soon as I heard the line "Well, if I called the wrong number why did you answer the phone" that was it. I knew I had found someone who spoke a language of humor I totally understood. After seeing the show, I went out and bought all the Thurber I could find, and read it all. And there's really nothing more to say, other than to strongly recommend to you that you do the same. He was a comic genius, and his cartoons in the New Yorker were the best. There are several good compilations of his work, and you're safe to start with any of them. His book The Last Flower, A Parable In Pictures is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read, astonishing in its simplicity and unforgettable once you've read it. Seek it out, you'll be happy you did.
Well, Lord Webber has sent along the final installment of his oratorio, and while this is sad news for me, I'm sure it makes the disgruntled few very happy. But first, as usual, Mr. Sondheim has a few words to say.
Dear Triple A:
I am so happy this oratorio (or whatever the hell it is) is at an end. I'm afraid I have to side with the disgruntled few here. Although I must say to them loud and clear that the parody lyrics in this column always scan perfectly. And I know how lyrics work, believe you me. You just keep on writing your column the way you want, and don't let two or three malcontents put a damper on things. By the way, do you write your column in the prone position? If not, you ought to give it a try. I'm prone right now for example. There is not much that you can't do prone, except perhaps go to the bathroom, and even that's possible, as I'm sure a few of your readers might have surmised. In any event, I know Lord Almighty Webber will want to have the final word, so let's have the dreary finale. I will be prone but attentive.
But before I go, here's some lyrics that scan for your disgruntled readers:
If you don't like it,
Just go, don't stay here,
With great admiration for how well your lyrics scan...
Your close personal friend
I am sorry to hear about those naughty naysayers, especially as they're saying nay about me. Naughty, naughty. We shall have to put them across our knee, as my dear old Daddy Lloyd Webber used to say. Well, I'm not going to keep you in suspense, I know you're dying to hear the conclusion of my oratorio, Andrew Lloyd Webber's How I Won The War, with lyrics by the delightful and complex Leslie Bricusse (Crazy World). I know that one of the things that the disgruntled few were saying is why carry on printing this oratorio, when you don't know what the music is like, that it's just lyrics on the page. Well, people, the music is by me. What else do you need to know? It has all the characteristics and trademarks and melodies of all my other music! I'm sure if you try really hard, you can imagine the brilliant soaring tunes that accompany Mr. Bricusse's searing words. If you can't, you simply are not worth talking to. Here is the final installment.
(The battlefield. Sondheim and Lloyd Webber confront each other once again, for the last time. [French horns play here, if you must know - ALW])
[Strings here, with tympani and trombones. I can hear it, can you? - ALW]
SS, ALW, ENSEMBLE
Though Steve put up a noble fight
As we sing these lyrics
[Huge harp gliss here, then the orchestra at fortissimo for the ones who must have such information - ALW]
As this story ends,
Let them go their separate ways,
[Tutti from the brass, and a crashing finish - ALW]
And there you have it. Have you ever heard such rhyming? Have you ever seen lyrics scan so beautifully? And the music. What can one say about the music? Well, one can say it was brrrrrrrrrilliant! It has been fun, premiering this work in your column. Next time spring for some Real Audio, and then people can hear what they're complaining about not hearing: that thing that I do... That music I create! Oh, I can say no more. I am simply too moved to continue.
Letters... We Get Letters...
So much mail, you people make me so happy. On to it...
Stephen (not Sondheim, not Steve), who is sixteen years of age, is doubting the brainpower of The Real A because he says how can Make The Most Of Your Music compare to Live, Laugh, Love? Now, Stephen, that is not what I said at all. You must never misquote The Real A because The Real A gets persnickety if he/she/it is misquoted. You just do not want to see me persnickety, because if I get persnickety then I'm the type of person who will just keep using the word persnickety until you want to rip the eyes out of your sockets. No, in fact, what I said was that outside of the show I happen to like the song. I don't think the song works at all in the context of the show, and nothing could replace Live, Laugh, Love, which is a brilliant number. There, I do hope that wasn't too persnickety.
Amber writes to tell me that I never answered her question about the role of Snow White in Into The Woods, and whether the role was intended to be longer. I wasn't ignoring you, sweet Amber, I just don't have a decent answer to your question. So, my advice is to post said question to Finishing The Chat, and let the Real Sondheim Scholars have a whack at it.
Abigail asks if I can shed any light on the new musical that Mr. Stephen Sondheim is working on. All I can tell you is that it is called Wise Guys, has a book by John Weidman, and is the story of Addison and Wilson Mizner, who were, as they used to say, characters. You can read more about it in a special section on Wise Guys here at the SSS. It had a reading earlier in the year, but at that time Sondheim had only completed two or three numbers. I believe the show is in the form of a vaudeville and Sondheim has professed to be very happy with Weidman's book. There is another interesting point about this show, but to find it you'll have to partake in this weeks trivia quiz...
John K. thinks ALW gets all the credit when his songs are performed, and that his lyricists always get short shrift, whatever the hell that is. And John thinks I am exacerbating (get your minds out of the gutter) the problem by having ALW send me lyrics. But I must say, ALW has been a very good Lord and has been giving full credit to said lyrics to Mr. Leslie Bricusse.
Steven (not Sondheim - not Steve - not Stephen) wrote to tell me that he was not totally bowled over by Ragtime, although he loved the staging and execution of the show, he was less than thrilled with the score and acting. Well, as it happens, the show is getting a real divided response in previews, which I think has a lot to do with the two years of hype that's preceded the show. What can live up to that kind of hype? Still, there are those who are loudly proclaiming it a masterpiece (including Ms. Rosie O'Donnell, whose flavor of the month it is) and others like Steven who are not won over by it. As I said I really enjoyed it, but thought it never achieved total greatness, although it has great things in it. But that's what makes horse racing (Oh, no, another horse saying!).
Yves informs me that he wrote me before and I never answered. I must not have received your e-mail Yves (damn Internet!) for I surely would have answered any queries you may have had had I received it.
So many interesting answers to last weeks question. But I was searching for only one answer, and while some of the answers I received may be correct in one way or another, I was looking for the most serious relationship that, in fact, as I understand it, almost led to marriage. But before I give you the correct answer, here are some of the others I received: Lee Remick, Harold Prince, Arthur Laurents, Bernadette Peters and Anthony Perkins. But only one person got the answer I was looking for, and it's the same guy who always gets the one answer I'm looking for. He has never missed. I'm beginning to think that he is The Real A (which doesn't mean that The Real A is a he, so don't bother pointing that out to me or I shall get persnickety). Yes, once again, Jon gets the prize.
And the answer is: Mary Rodgers.
I had such a great trivia question this week, it was going to stump everyone, even Jon. It was about Wise Guys. And then that Mr. Mark Bakalor informs me that there's an article on this very site which contains the answer to my question. Right here on this very site! Quoted from some book by some "writer" named Banfield. And he got the information to said question from a CD booklet! Well, how too too annoying. Now, here I sit without a question. I'm going to have to make up a question out of whole cloth. How you can make up a question out of whole or even partial cloth is a mystery to me, but what else is new. All right, here's a question. Ponder this you Sondheim know-it-alls:
Who was Sondheim's favorite film composer, and a purported influence on his musical life? Let's see if Jon can keep his perfect record perfect.
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...