Last night I saw the new musical Fosse. For those of you who don't know, Fosse is a revue consisting of song and dance numbers that were staged by Bob Fosse. It is wonderful to see some of these numbers again, to see his unique choreography and the incredible energy and style he put into his numbers. However, by the end of the show I had become numb, because one number after another without any context whatsoever is too much. There are a few too many numbers which are too similar in look (several of his famous "trio" dances come to mind) and several curious omissions. I really wish they'd opened the show with Magic To Do, one of my all-time favorite numbers. The company, while all talented and hard-working dancers, has no real knock-'em-dead standouts. A few shine, but I kept waiting for people who would knock my socks off (no mean feat), although why I would suddenly want to be sockless is another story entirely. It is thoroughly enjoyable, and the audience seemed to eat it up. I just wish they'd give it some kind of framework or context to draw you into the show more. It's also the loudest sound mix I've ever heard in a theater, almost like a rock concert. And on the buttons of numbers they raise the level even higher, as if to push you and say "Hey! It's over!" Next week I'll be seeing Putting It Together and will share my thoughts with you at that time. I could share my thoughts with you at this time, but since I haven't seen Putting it Together yet, that would be a lesson in futility.
The other thing I can recommend to you without reservation (that's right, you don't have to make a reservation here, dear readers) are the two big box sets which came out this week: 3 CD sets of classic Bacharach, and classic Randy Newman, both on Rhino Records. They are heavenly and haven't been out of my player since I got them.
Well, dear readers, I must away. My dinner guests will be arriving shortly (actually, one of them will be arriving tall-ly as he is six foot four) and I have to continue to run around like a chicken with its head cut off because, frankly, I am getting quite good at it, and perhaps soon I will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The menu for tonight's dinner is salad on a plate (not any old plate, but smack dab on a salad plate), my famous Beef Strogonoff, rolls with butter, butter with rolls, rolls sans butter for those who don't want butter with their rolls, and butter sans rolls for those who just want to stick a pat of butter into their hungry maws (Note: This is the very same menu that Mr. Mark Bakalor partook of when he was one of my dinner guests, once upon a time). For dessert we are having my famous Parisienne Cake which I purchase at a famous Bakery. It is delicious and conjures up images that are positively Parisienne. Are your collective mouths watering? And if so, what are they watering? Just asking. Oh, and for those who think I never talk about my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, I will be playing Sondheim music softly in the background. Isn't this column starting to feel like the film of Chicago: Although some day it may happen, it certainly isn't happening now. But enough about me.
Before we delve into Miss Meryle Secrest's searing account of the weird and wacky life of me, may I just tell you, dear readers, that my dinner party was lovely. My famous beef strogonoff went over with a bang (no mean feat), my salad with dressing was eaten, rolls were ingested with and without butter, and the conversation was stimulating. Then came the dessert, my famous Parisienne Cake fresh from the bakery. Now, I have been buying and eating this particular cake since I was a teen (neet spelled backwards). It was a favorite of my mother's and I have carried on the tradition of said cake. So, imagine my surprise when I took a bite of my beloved Parisienne Cake and tasted rum! Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, rum! The problem with tasting rum (mur spelled backwards) in my beloved Parisienne Cake is that there is not supposed to be rum in my beloved Parisienne Cake. There is only supposed to be yellow cake and yummy chocolate. No rum. Sans rum. Exeunt rum. Outski with the rumski. So, there we all were, eating Parisienne Cake with rum, which meant we were not eating Parisienne Cake at all. We were eating rum cake. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I find rum heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). I do not like the rum in any way, shape or form. Rum is simply a flavor that has gone awry in my book (Chapter 139 - The Awry Flavor Of Rum). Well, I was most embarrassed by the Rum Cake (nee Parisienne). My guests pretended to like it, but I knew otherwise. So, this morning I took the remains of the former Parisienne turned Rum Cake back from whence it came. The people at the bakery were mortified to find rum in their Parisienne Cake. A mistake had been made, of that there was no doubt, said the bakery people. They were contrite. They offered me a brand spanking new Parisienne Cake at no charge. I took the cake (yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I take the cake) and now have an entire Parisienne Cake all to myself. You know that I cannot let that Parisienne Cake just sit there like so much fish, no, I'm going to have to eat the Parisienne Cake, eat it until I am lying prone on the rug unable to move. Hence, I better finish writing this here column, because once I start on that Parisienne Cake there will be no doing anything but lying prone on the rug.
Miss Meryle Secrest has continued to carve away at the incrusted edifice that surrounds my moldering memories. Oh, yes, she's is carving apace. And the oddest things keep issuing forth. For example:
I was remembering the fact that I don't like to take baths (on account of lying in your own dirt), which began when I was a mere child of a youth. And so, I would insist on taking a shower, from the time I was seven years of age. The only place one could shower was in my parents' bathroom. Oh, we could have showered in my bathroom, too, as there was a shower in there. But, for some reason unknown to me, this shower was never used as a shower. It was used as a storage facility. In this shower cum storage facility was kept the stuff of nightmares: Enema hoses, hot water bottles, plungers, and other rubber items which were a mystery to this youngster. The things that were kept in that shower gave me the willies. They caused me many sleepless nights. Anyway, back to the shower in my parents' bathroom. I loved to take nice long hot showers in there. It was a nice shower, unless, that is, my brother had taken a shower before me. Because, it was my belief that my brother would shower and leave his cooties behind. There would be dirt in the tiles of the shower and this skeeved me, dear readers, this truly skeeved me. Thinking about it now skeeves me. I am sitting on my couch like so much fish and I am skeeved, let me tell you. The other thing I liked to do while I let the water run for ten or fifteen minutes to get out the leftover cooties, was play with all my parents' exotic things in the bathroom. I liked to take one of my mother's Five Day Deodorant Pads and put it on my forehead. I thought that was most amusing. I'd just look at myself in the mirror, pad on forehead, and howl with laughter. Isn't "deodorant" an interesting word? And so stupid, too. I understand the "de-odor" part, but where does the "ant" fit in? Why an ant? Why not a duck? Then we could have deodorduck. I like that much better, don't you, dear readers? The thing about these Five Day Deodorant Pads, if I remember correctly, is that you were supposed to wear one pad for five days. And people did it! One pad for five days. I don't know about you, but that skeeves me, frankly. Do any of you have an inkling of what I'm talking about here? If you do, please let me know, because I have totally forgotten. Why am I writing about showers with enema hoses, and my brother's cooties, and Five Day Deodorant Pads on my forehead? I also liked to play with the various ointments and jellies in the bathroom cabinet. Oh, let's face it, I was a strange child. But, then, look at my parents. One must always look at the parents. When you have a mother who did nothing but complain about bunions and corns, laid in bed for hours with witch hazel pads on her eyes, occasionally took out her teeth, and refused on one horrifying occasion to let me watch Zorro, well, is it any wonder that I put Five Day Deodorant Pads on my forehead?
My question is this: Does anyone still have bunions and corns? Does anyone still wear a hat? I have never had a bunion or a corn. And why is a corn called a corn? Corn is a vegetable, not a thing on a foot. I like corn, and yet, if I had a corn I would not like corn. And therein lies the terrifying duality of words. We won't even go into bunion, but as long as they were assigning vegetable names to these grotesque foot growths, why didn't they call "bunions" "onions"? Then you could have corns and onions, a kind of foot vegetable medley. I know what you're thinking, dear readers, you're thinking that there was too much rum in that cake. You're thinking I am cake tipsy, but I am not, everything I tell you is on the up and up. I never tell you things on the down and down. Why, do you remember when I wrote about when I used to go to the wrestling matches, and that my favorite was a man named Tricky Ricky Starr, who was a ballet dancer and wrestler, who would wear toe shoes in the ring, do brilliant tourjetees and then drop kick his opponent? Do you remember thinking to yourselves, I'll bet this isn't real, I'll bet The Real A is making this up. Well, take a look at this, dear readers.
Perhaps when she is through writing my biography, Miss Meryle Secrest can do one on the career of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz. What an interesting book that would be. I mean, this is a classic songwriting team which somehow managed to never have any success whatsoever. Oh, there was the obscure record that was done in the mid-60s on Conical Records (CR 1), Holly Flugelstein Sings Gluckman and Fitz, but that is an almost impossible album to find, and even if you find it, the arrangements and orchestrations by Raymond Fiddler were so bland and awful you couldn't even tell if the songs were any good. That, coupled with the fact that Ms. Flugelstein had just completed a sex change operation (formerly Hollis Flugelstein) and her voice was still uncomfortably low, well, the songs were just not well served, let's just put it that way. No, Gluckman and Fitz have languished in the abyss of obscurity for far too long. And to prove my point, here is yet another sampling, a smorgasbord, a forspice, of their work. First a bit from one of my favorites, Losing My Mink:
We dine and dance,
Something is stirring,
Only one song this week, as this column is starting to feel like Gone With The Wind. But a song I love and have always loved. The simplest of songs, with perfect music and perfect words. I need say no more.
MY FUNNY VALENTINE
I am living proof that you can have your cake and eat it, too. I have eaten so much cake I feel positively layered. It rained last night. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I love said rain. I love the sound of it, the feel of it, the whole ambiance of it. The bird does, too, and I'm sure you can imagine the terrific medley it was singing of Singin' In The Rain, Rainy Night In Georgia and The Rain In Spain. This bird apparently is a globe trotter, rain-wise. And now, this week's letters.
Robert (he of the injuries) reports that there have been no further mishaps during Edward II (prequel to Rocky IV). Robert says that if he were in a production of Tommy, he would injure himself to get out of said production.
Bob G. thinks that I meant to write "pooh-pooh" as in "Who am I to pooh-pooh it", instead of "poo-poo". While this may or may not be technically correct, I must remind Bob G. that we run a coprophiliac column here at the Stephen Sondheim Stage (as our loyal readers know), so in the case of this here column, "poo-poo" is correct. Not that there is anything wrong with "pooh-pooh" or even the uppercrust pronunciation of "pew-pew". I believe there is room for all manner of poo-pooing, and welcome any further suggestions any of you may have, poo-poo-wise.
Roy S. (from Merry Olde England) recently saw a UK revival of West Side Story (which just happens to have lyrics by my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim). There was talk, Roy S. informs me, that said Sondheim had reworked the lyrics to I Feel Pretty. I would tend to doubt this and certainly I have heard nothing about such reworking. And Roy S. was not able to discern any difference, so perhaps the talk was just that; talk.
Tom (from Oz - we are international here, aren't we?) won eleven dollars on The Melbourne Cup horse race, which was, of course, won by a horse (with the unlikely name of Jezabeel). Tom (who is eleven dollars richer) also likes the song They Don't Give Medals (To Yesterday's Heroes).
Follies Freak (aka Orchestra Pit - I just print 'em, folks) will be sending us some handy dandy activity pictures from his high school production of The Secret Garden. FF (aka OP, or FFOP consolidation-wise) is co-directing the orchestra for said production. We, of course, only want pictures of him, not the other co-director. The other co-director can just send his own pictures. FFOP also queries if I know anything about programming synthesizers. Let us put it this way: I can turn a synthesizer on, I can turn a synthesizer off, I can play a synthesizer, but, and it's a big but, I cannot program a VCR, let alone a synthesizer. Oh, I know words like MIDI, but I don't know from programming. Programming is totally alien to me, and, I am sure, I am totally alien to programming.
Anita likes the song Lion Tamer, and also points out that there is another great song from The Magic Show called West End Avenue. I concur wholeheartedly. Both songs were sung in the show by Dale Soules and Anita wonders where Ms. Soules is today, or in internet parlance, WEHT Dale Soles (WhatEver Happened To)? I don't have an answer (yes, you heard it here), but perhaps one of our dear readers does.
William F. Orr asks if anyone sent an answer to his pantoum question that he posed several weeks ago. Since no one has sent an answer to said question, I have not printed said answer since said answer has not been sent. This is known as The Answer Conundrum, which is also a book by Mary Higgins Clark.
Rafael wants to know if Michelle Lee only made one solo album. Yes, would be the answer to that question, hence, I answer yes. She made no other solo albums, although she appears on the soundtrack to How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, and the cast album of Seesaw, on which she is superb. Rafael has been listening to Broadway performer Karen Ziemba and wants to know what she's like on stage. I've seen Ms. Ziemba many times and she's never been less than wonderful, even when the material doesn't serve her well. You can see her do Mr. Sondheim's Sooner Or Later on the Sondheim at Carnegie Hall video.
Craig's new production of Cabaret opens on November 12th, and he informs me that it is steamy enough to get an NC-17 rating, "NC" of course standing for "naughty Cabaret".
Tiffany spent her Halloween handing out candy, just as I did, and she also carved her very own handy dandy Jack-o-lantern and put it outside to create the proper Halloween ambiance. She promises to send a picture of said Jack-o-lantern and also promises a picture of her wearing her brand spanking new fish socks.
Spock (yes, Spock) also admires the songs of Burt Bacharach as I do, and wants to know if I have any Bacharach suggestions. The wonderful three CD set that has just been released is a good place to start, and there is a terrific Japanese import of Burt's Greatest on A&M Records that you can probably still find at the marvelous Footlight Records in NYC.
Sara suggests that I list song publishers if I print lyrics to songs, as it is the proper thing to do, rights-wise. Sara is, of course, right in the large scheme of things, but since this column revels in the fact that it fits snugly into the small scheme of things, we haven't really found it necessary. But if it makes Sara happy, I will inform you that all the songs of Gluckman and Fitz are published by Punem Songs, Inc. Sara, in fact, is tired of my printing lyrics and wants me to talk about something else for a change. Well, for a change, I might just do that. Or not, as the fancy strikes me. Have you ever been struck by a fancy? And why is the fancy getting so het up? Why does the fancy feel the need to strike? Shouldn't the fancy just calm down, take some Lithium, and relax?
Seth went to Footlight Records and bought the following: Tyne Daly's Gypsy, the OBC of Anyone Can Whistle and Once On This Island, and the album Lost In Boston, which features cut songs from hit shows, including one from Mr. Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story.
Jeremy likes Dance A Little Closer and is happy to find that others do, too.
Mackoy seconds the person who thinks that the "A" in The Real A stands for Allesandrini, as in Gerard Allesandrini of Forbidden Broadway fame. Let us recap the list of guesses:
male, female, gay, straight, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Gerard Allesandrini, George Clooney, William F. Orr, Rupert Holmes, Young Simba from The Lion King, the Tony nominated Billy from Big, a cast member from one of Sondheim's shows, Michael Tough the singing janitor, Bruce Kimmel, Richard Christianson of the Chicago Tribune, George Furth, New Line Theatre's Scott Miller, Leigh's father, Waiting for Guffman's Corky, Mr. Mark Bakalor's word processor, Charlie Sheen, dear reader Matt, Pitgirl's physics professor, Michael Larson director at the Stagedoor Manor, and Yves of Finishing the Chat, and record producer Bruce Yeko.
Well, for once I have stumped everyone. Two people came close, but close is no cigar if you get my drift. The two people who came close were Gavin (aka grehf) and Sara (aka No More Printed Lyrics Ever!). But Gavin got his title wrong (he was close though) and Sara only guessed the author. The question was, what other original tv musicals were done on ABC Stage '67. Several people guessed things like Peter Pan and Cinderella, and, while Cinderella was an original musical for television, it was not written for ABC Stage '67. And no one even had a guess as to what one ABC Stage '67 show was an award-winner. The answer to all is:
This week's question: In keeping with television musicals, there have been two attempts at doing a plot-oriented musical series on television. One recent and one in the 60s. Name them, and, in the case of the 60s show, name the stars, one of whom was a major musical comedy star, and the other of who would go on to star in a major musical motion picture.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...