I am back, dear readers, and I am one year older to boot. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I was one age when I went to New York, and now, on my return, I am another age. This, of course, is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) but, alas, there is nothing one can do to stop the onward march of time. Yes, time marches onward and we are swept along in said march whether we want to be or not. You see, time is a river that is forever flowing, and if you've noticed, a river doesn't exactly flow backward. No, that old man river he just keeps rolling along. So, here I am, back, part of the rolling river and marching time.
Speaking of time, I had a wonderful one in said New York. I saw shows, ate food and walked many miles. My trip began when I boarded the red eye flight. It was a fine flight with the exception of the person who was sitting next to me. He was what we call a "fidgeter". As soon as the plane was in the air, he put his seat all the way back and went to sleep. But, for the entire flight he could never find a position that was comfortable and so he fidgeted and turned and turned and fidgeted. This turning and fidgeting (T & F for short) was most annoying, and, as you can imagine, I glared at him throughout the flight. This did no good whatsoever as he was wearing a sleeping mask. Can you imagine how annoying that was? I glared and he couldn't even see me glaring. My excellent glaring was for naught. It was futile. It was fruitless. Have you ever had fruitless glaring? Frankly, I like a little fruit when I glare, a nice apple, a peach, but noooooooooo, my glaring was without fruit. Sans fruit. Anyway, on my first evening in the city I call New York (its name, so why not?) I went to see Loni Ackerman in her one woman show, The Story Goes On, in which she sings the songs of David Shire. Mr. Shire is right there with her, playing the piano. As you loyal dear readers know, not only is Mr. David Shire a fine songwriter, but he is also the inventor of the coprophiliac jokebook. It was wonderful to hear all those great numbers, but Miss Ackerman is very one-note, and everything tended to sound the same. And so, I'm sad to say, the show was not as delightful as it should have been. Mr. Shire was charming, even though he did not tell any coprophiliac jokes during the show. Afterwards, I went backstage and said hello to Mr. Shire. Just in case any of you doubt the veracity of this, I just happened to have my handy dandy camera with me and took a picture of Mr. Shire in his actual dressing room in which he was (thankfully) actually dressed.
Doesn't he just look like someone who would create the coprophiliac joke book? Anyway, Mr. Shire is tremendously talented and it's always a treat to hear his music. I then met some friends at Joe Allen. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I went to Joe Allen. Of course, I was seated at my very own Table 20. I had their spectacular bacon cheeseburger, a baked potato and many Diet Cokes. I also think I had dessert but I seem to be drawing a blank as to what it might have been. Excuse me for a moment.
The following afternoon I attended the matinee of a new musical entitled Parade. This show is written by Alfred Uhry, with a score by Jason Robert Brown. Reaction to this show has been sharply divided, with very few people in the middle. They either love it or hate it. It's a very serious show, based on the infamous Leo Frank case. We're not exactly talking Little Me here. I, as always, did not fit in either the "love" or "hate" camp. I felt a little of each. Here is what I loved: The always terrific staging of Hal Prince, and the choreography of Patricia Birch. The brilliant performance of Brent Carver and the touching performance of Christy Carlson Romano as the victim, Mary Phagan. The concise and literate book by Alfred Uhry. Here is what I hated: The score. Plain and simple. As most of you know, I was not a fan of Jason Robert Brown's first show, Songs For A New World. In fact, I abhorred it. And I'm afraid that, in my opinion, this is just more of the same. His music is derivative of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, especially the score to Assassins. I am quite bored of these Sondheim wannabes, because if I want to hear Sondheim I'll listen to Sondheim, thank you very much. Mr. Brown is very young and very arrogant, and perhaps he'll get better in time. However, there are those who love the score, so do not take my word for it. The "big" song, This Is Not Over Yet, which I'd heard was "bringing the house down" (no mean feat), hardly brought the house down, even though it is well performed. It is a score which tries to do everything, from ragtime, to civil war ballads, to chain gang anthems, and it is just artless. Mr. Brown was sitting two rows in back of me and was vociferously leading the applause at the end of the show, and shouting (screaming, really) "Maestro! Maestro!" as the cast gestured to the conductor of the show, Eric Stern. Very obnoxious behavior in my book (Chapter 243 - Let Others Shout "Maestro" or Gag That Composer). This was the same Mr. Brown who, during an orchestra read through, pushed Mr. Stern off the podium so he could show the award-winning Mr. Stern how to conduct. I do think the show will be a critical hit, and I think the critics will like Mr. Brown's score, because the whole endeavor reeks of art and is "serious" and, as we all know, this is what critics respond to. Mr. Carver will likely be a Tony nominee and should win, as he did for Kiss Of The Spider Woman. I didn't love Carolee Carmello as others have, but what do I know? The show also needs some pruning, but they have a bit of time to tinker with it, and Mr. Prince is very savvy about such things.
Other than that, I went to a few of my favorite galleries (and purchased three paintings) and went to lots of stores. The weather (except for a few hours of rain) was glorious, mostly in the 70s, like Spring. I know I did other things, but frankly I am drawing a blank, which, as you know, is fruitless in the extreme. Well, so far this column is starting to feel like Footloose: its opening was delayed but it's up and running now. But enough about me.
I have to admit, right here, right now, that I have been on a donut kick. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I have been on a donut kick. Every day I buy two donuts and then proceed to kick them hither and thither. Only kidding, but why do they call things like that a "kick"? What I have really been on is a donut binge. I don't know why, really, I don't even like them that much. Thankfully said binge or kick is over. Eating two donuts every morning is nauseating, frankly, but when you are on a donut kick there is nothing you can do about it but eat the donuts and be done with it. I'm right, right? I could or possibly even should be left, but some word person has ordained that when we are correct we are right, not left. So, you can say, "I'm left, right?". But you can't say, "I'm right, left?". That is just another word conundrum as far as I'm concerned. It is all too too confusing, especially when you throw "write" into the works. Why are "right" and "write" pronounced the same? The latter has a useless "w" attached to it, while the former has a plethora of useless letters. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, and yet on I go.
Miss Meryle Secrest has been sweeping away the dust from the farthest recesses of my decaying mind, ever in search of more me. Always more me. Of course, I have tried to explain to her that "more" is just "me" with "or" stuck in the middle, but she's having none of it because she is a professional author who will go to any lengths (in this instance about a foot and a half) to get what she wants. She's like an archaelogist, always digging and digging. And here is what she has dug up this week: The Summer I Went To Camp.
When I was thirteen years of age (I believe Lindbergh was flying to Paris that year) my parents decided I should go to camp. Why this was deemed necessary is anyone's guess. I'd never been to camp, never professed an interest in going to camp, didn't want to go to camp, and yet, my dear mother and father decided I was, in fact, going to camp. This was especially hard on me because I'd just seen The Parent Trap and was totally obsessed with it, and wanted to see it over and over again because I simply could not get enough of those two great stars, Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills. I loved them, and I loved the songs, too. I just couldn't stop singing "Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah, we could have a groovy ti-ime", or the title song ("When their love's on skids, treat your folks like kids, or your family tree's gonna snap!" - oh, those Sherman Brothers). But since the film had just been released the album hadn't come out yet so the only way I could hear the songs was to see the film. But noooooo, I could not see the film because my oh so thoughtful parents had ordained that I was going to camp. A parent trap indeed. I was so distressed at the thought of not being able to see my beloved film, that I stole money out of my father's pants and went to the May Co. and bought a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, took it to the Vogue Theater and taped the songs. I snuck said tape recorder into my camp luggage and off I went to spend a month at summer camp.
Let me say this right (or left) off the bat: The idea of spending four weeks in the company of people I don't know from Adam is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?), to sleep in a room with fifteen other people is not my idea of fun, to have to make one's bed with "hospital corners" is about the stupidest thing I've ever had to do, well, you get the idea. Here I was, in a camp where the sexes were segregated, where the food was horriying, where there was no movie theater, where there was nothing that was of any interest to me whatsoever. I don't like to camp, I'm not all that fond of the woods, and I was simply not in my element. My element was back there at the Vogue Theater. But I had my handy dandy portable tape recorder, and several nights after lights out, I would sneak it under the covers and listen to those oh so hummable Sherman Brothers ditties. We did fun things like roast marshmallows. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but the idea of a marshmallow that isn't roasted is weird enough, but when you stick one of those things over an open flame and it becomes this dripping mass of white goo, well, that is just not something I want in my mouth, let me tell you. The other kids loved those roasted marshmallows, and gladly partook of the ones I refused to eat. We had arts and crafts, we had swimming, we played Marco Polo in the pool (someone will please explain to me what the hell the point of that game is - other than the incessant chanting of Marco/Polo over and over again), and had inane sing-a-longs where we all had to sing such wonderful ditties as "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" and the ever popular, "99 Bottles of Beer". There were two events that I did enjoy, however. The first was when we had a "coed" night. All the boys and girls got together and we all told ghost stories around the campfire (thankfully there were no roasted marshmallows that evening). I believe I told the story of how my father sat in his chair without underwear on, which was, if I remember correctly, the scariest story of the evening, although not as scary as actually having to be in the house with said father. The other event was an amateur theatrical we campers put on. It was The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and it was staged around the swimming pool. I remember very little, other than that we performed it for the parents and that it was the first time I'd ever performed in public.
Finally, the interminable four weeks were up, and home I went. The first thing I did was to take a cab up to Hollywood, where I immediately went to the Vogue Theater to see The Parent Trap again. Since the first twenty minutes of the film take place in summer camp (I hadn't even remembered) it was like deja vu. Except the movie camp looked like lots more fun and it had Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills to boot. I never went to camp again, thank God. Interestingly, if I'd gone the year before, the movie I would have been obsessed with was Psycho, so there is no telling what might have happened that summer. Speaking of Psycho, I do hope that my intelligent dear readers are not going to waste their money on the new Gus Van Sant travesty. Rent the Hitchcock. It remains one of the great films of all time. The real question here is, why am I talking about summer camp in the dead of winter?
Yes, yes, more of my favorite songs. In honor of my having seen Mr. David Shire's show, I thought I'd give you three of my favorite Maltby and Shire songs. I discovered their songs way back when Barbra Streisand recorded Starting Here, Starting Now and What About Today. David's music is astonishing and beautiful, and he has written many great movie scores in addition to his songs for the Broadway stage, including The Conversation, Farewell, My Lovely, and my favorite Shire score, the vastly underrated Return To Oz, which starred the vastly underrated Fairuza Balk. To begin, here is a fairly obscure Maltby and Shire, their title song for the movie version of Neil Simon's Only When I Laugh.
ONLY WHEN I LAUGH
I DON'T REMEMBER CHRISTMAS
First off, I just want to say a warm thank you for all the wonderful letters that many of you sent in regarding The Real A: A Life of two weeks ago. They were much appreciated.
Now, I must gently chide you, dear readers. As of this date only two of you have sent Mr. Mark Bakalor your addresses. How do you expect me to send your handy dandy Christmas gift if I don't have your addresses. These gifts will be sent out at the end of this week, so get them in posthaste so I can hastepost. There. Wasn't that a gentle chide? There is nothing worse than a chide which is not gentle. For example, have you ever received a chide which was stern and unyielding? Don't we just hate that kind of a chide? Don't we just hate the word "chide"? Yes, we do. And now, on to the letters, which were varied and many and also many and varied.
Ryan sent me a handy dandy electronic birthday card. It said "Birthday Fishes" which was oh so appropriate since I was sitting on my couch like so much birthday fish when I was reading it. Thank you, Ryan.
Pitgirl also had a birthday, her sixteenth. We hope she had a sweet 16th, and we hope that her malfunctioning computer is working again. Do you think if Moliere were still alive he would have written a play called "The Malfunctioning Computer"? Just asking.
Robert has not been cast in Don Juan and seems to be happy about it. He has recently performed in a scene from Measure for Measure in which he played Angelo. Robert feels that it is his best work so far.
Bob G. has guessed the trivia answer and feels it is way too simple and that he expects better from me. Unfortunately, Bob G's guess was incorrect, so I guess I have delivered on the "better" without even so much as a bye-your-leave, whatever the hell that means. What is a "bye-your-leave"? Or is it "by-your-leave"? Or "bi-your-leave"? Couldn't it just as easily have been "leave-your-bye"? Just asking.
Tom (from Oz) also had a birthday (the 14th). Happy Birthday, Tom From Oz. He'd also like to know if I have a favorite Christmas song. I do, and it's one of my favorite songs ever: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Kristina recently auditioned for the part of Wendy in Ray Bradbury's The Veldt. Well, guess what? She got the part of Wendy, and luckily it was still in Ray Bradbury's The Veldt. Wouldn't it be horrible to get the part of Wendy and all of a sudden have it be in a different play? Wouldn't that be just too too? In any case, she's floating on cloud nine. I prefer cloud six, frankly. Cloud nine was just too bumpy and was not a good "float". Cloud six was smooth as mashed potatoes. Cloud two and five are not even worth mentioning and yet I just mentioned them. Go know. Kristina also has a birthday this month. Happy birthday, Kristina, who is currently floating (albeit bumpily) on cloud nine.
Mackoy has informed me that he's in the tropics. I have noted this in the "tropics" section of my "interesting information with no real point" file. Perhaps when Mackoy returns from said tropics he will have some pics from the tropics to share with us.
Emily wrote three times to make up for the fact that she has been Emily the Errant of Late. She asks why there is a place to leave e-mail addresses on the trivia page when I never use said addresses to write back. I do occasionally receive requests for personal e-mail, but I hope you will forgive me when I don't reply personally, but there are just not enough hours in the day to do so. But you know I love you, dear readers, and would if I could but I can't so I don't. Emily is currently knitting a blue and yellow scarf, following a scarf which she knitted for her friend Carol for Christmas. This Christmas Carol will be thrilled to receive said scarf I am sure. Emily will also be stage managing the second part of Sex Plays, which apparently is the followup to the first part of Sex Plays, which, I presume, are Plays about Sex in two parts with possibly more parts to come. I, for one, would like to hear more about Sex Plays. Are they musicals? Is there dancing? Is there a role for the bird, who, by the way, is right outside singing and dancing Steam Heat. Very sexy performance, as bird performances go. Finally, Emily wants to know (wonk spelled backwards) if, when I tell a girl I'll call, I call. If I tell a girl, boy, cat, dog or anyone I'll call, I call. People who tell people they'll call and then don't are a pet peeve of mine. By the way, do any of you have a pet named Peeve? Just asking.
Mordecai hasn't written lately because he's been rehearsing for his first musical lead, the title role in Scrooge. Mordecai would like to know if I'm Jewish why I make Beef Strogonoff, which mixes meat and dairy, which is a kosher no-no. Well, I never said I was a good Jew, nor have I ever been a kosher yes-yes. I simply must mix meat and dairy, and sometimes I'm so bold as to mix dairy and meat. If one anagrams "meat" and "dairy" you get "eat my Raid" although why anyone would want to eat Raid is anyone's guess. Speaking of guesses, Mordecai has one regarding my Real Identity. Thus far we have
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 sh ows, 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, Yves of Finishing the Chat, record producer Bruce Yeko, the Cosmic Anchovey, and Miss Meryle Secrest.
spock (yes, spock) agrees with me about glasses and only wears his to drive and watch television. He also believes that the way to prevent cavities is not to brush one's teeth. This belief has recently caused him a rather large dentist bill. spock used to only brush if there was a possibility of being kissed or if his breath might be offensive. There is nothing more offensive than offensive breath, and I recommend the brushing (and flossing) of teeth regulary, otherwise you will end up as my grandmother Gussie and my mother did, with teeth in a glass.
Orchestra Pit (not pitgirl) has noticed that I have a taste for classical music and wonders who my favorite composers are. Well, it is an eclectic batch, but I'd certainly list Rachmaninov (especially Symphony No. 2), Mahler (especially Symphony No. 6), Vaughan- Williams (especially Symphonies 3 & 5), Milhaud, Ravel, Debussy, Moeran, Finzi, Bax, Bernstein, Copland, Randall Thompson and bunches of others. Orchestra Pit also tells me that they are a Catholic, who, like all young people, is forced to go to church. Lately, Orchestra Pit has lost faith and doesn't know why. Faith is a very important thing, it gets us through the roughest of times, and I hope OP finds it again soon. That said, I don't think anyone (Catholics included) should be "forced" to go anywhere.
Roy S. saw Into The Woods at Donmar, which was followed by a dinner given by the Stephen Sondheim Society. I didn't even know there was a Stephen Sondheim Society. Do they live in a department store like Charles and Ella in Evening Primrose? Will the Dark Men come and get them? Is there a Gluckman and Fitz Society? Just asking.
grehf (aka Gavin) saw the pre-Broadway tryout of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and loved it.
nonsum informs me that "the old man is snoring" refers to what causes the thunder when it is raining and pouring. Thank you for the information, although it is no longer raining and pouring, hence the old man is no longer snoring. Did I mention that the weather in New York was glorious? It was glorious.
annyrose owns the OBC of Sweet Charity and loves it. She, however, is scared of the movie of Sweet Charity, especially The Rhythm of Life. I rather like the movie of Sweet Charity. After all, it was directed by Bob Fosse, so it's very true to the original. Shirley MacLaine is a delightful Charity, too. The Rhythm of Life is scary, because Sammy Davis, Jr. popping out of nowhere, can be frightening even in the best of circumstances.
Anita also loves the song You Must Believe In Spring. Her favorite version is by Ann Hampton Callaway. Anita asks what my favorite version is: either the soundtrack, or Tony Bennett (accompanied by Bill Evans).
Rafael hasn't seen The Young Girls of Rochefort (from whence You Must Believe In Spring sprung) but loves its precursor, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It too is one of my favorites. I saw it over and over again when it first came out. I couldn't believe how beautiful Miss Catherine Denueve was, and I was totally absorbed in the film's bittersweet love story. I probably saw it at least twenty times the first year it was out. That and another French film, Sundays and Cybelle were just "it" for me.
Well, only four people got the right answer. Oh, you all tried. And you all had good partial answers to the question: Name the Sondheim connection with The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Some of you guessed Zero Mostel, some Madeline Kahn, some George Furth, and while those people all do have Sondheim connections, they were not involved in all three of the Brooks films mentioned. No, only one person was involved in all three. The people who guessed correctly were: Theaterfan, josh lukin, Joe, and Andrew. And the answer: Jonathan Tunick, who orchestrated the Brooks songs, and the John Morris scores for those three films.
This week's trivia question: I mentioned The Parent Trap earlier. Here is a very obscure trivia question regarding the film. In the camp sequence, one of Hayley's friends, Ursula, is played by someone who went on to create a role in one of the most famous Broadway musicals of all time. Who was it and what was the musical and the role she created?
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...