Today The Real A was awakened by a tremendous noise on the roof. No, it was not a Fiddler. It was a squirrel and a cat and let me tell you it was the fight of the century. The bout took place at five in the morning. It was so furious it sounded like the roof was going to cave in. They were fighting like animals. I used to think cats were wily and clever but after this fight I have changed my opinion. Cats are stupid. The cat thought it could outrun the squirrel, outsmart the squirrel, outfight the squirrel. Unfortunately for the cat, that was incorrect. The squirrel annihilated the cat. The cat screamed bloody murder (as if that was gonna stop the squirrel, who it seems was determined to show the cat just who was boss of the roof) and then went off to loudly weep for an hour. The squirrel was so excited by its victory that it kept running back and forth on the roof for quite some time. Naturally, between the wailing cat and the running squirrel, there was no more sleep in Mudville and so here I sit, writing this column bleary eyed and dazed and confused. Oh, it all reminds me of sitting through Starlight Express: A loud raucous event without point, which leaves you feeling battered, annoyed and looking like you'd like to eat the head of a chicken. But enough about me.
1776. A very famous date in history. 1776. The revival that will not go away. As you know, the purported transfer of the show was definitely going to happen. Then it was definitely not going to happen. Then it was hoped that it might happen. And now, apparently it is going to happen, after it was defintively not going to happen even though people hoped it would happen. The move is supposed to take place over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Originally, the move was to be produced solely by The Dodgers. Now it is being produced by a plethora of people, including Hallmark Entertainment, who has suddenly invaded Broadway with a vengence. In addition to 1776, they're part of The Scarlet Pimpernel and the upcoming revival of The Sound Of Music.
The show is moving into that behemoth of Broadway, The Gershwin. Now, The Gershwin is a large theater. Over 1900 seats. 1776 is a modest revival designed to fit in the mid-size Roundabout Theater. Can it fill the Gershwin? Well, we shall see.
The last time a show transfered from the Roundabout, the critically acclaimed production of She Loves Me (which transfered to a house half the size of the Gershwin), it ran for six or seven months and lost its entire investment. The next show that was definitely going to transfer was the Roundabout revival of Company. Only it didn't transfer. All three of the above shows have one thing in common. They're all the work of Scott Ellis. If the transfer happens (oh, I'm sorry, it's definite isn't it) and if it should turn out to be successful, I believe it will be the first time Scott Ellis will have a bonafide Broadway hit.
Blind Rumor Item: What major Broadway diva with the initials BB (not Betty Bacall), opened in her new show, got rave reviews, and then promptly missed the next six shows?
While the Pussy and The Squirrel were doing their thing, it put me in mind of that other fight, you know, the one between Mr. Stephen Sondheim and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. They are again taking a breather this week, although Mr. Sondheim did send me this and asked me not to share it so of course I am. To the tune of Gee, Officer Krupke:
You wrote a show called Joseph,
Dear Real A:
Please tell Stephen Sondheim that I simply have no time to joust with him this week. I am heavily at work on my Phantom Of The Opera sequel entitled Phantom Of The Cats, wherein the Phantom returns to haunt a theater where Cats is playing. I feel this is my finest work to date and I simply am on a tear trying to finish it. And then of course there's the Phantom movie, with John Travolta and Pamela Anderson. I am very excited about this as are Mr. Travolta and Miss Anderson. Very few people know that Miss Anderson is a world class vocalist who is possessed of a golden throat. You see, I simply don't take a year to write two songs. I am busy as a beaver and can write up to 176 songs a year. While the duel has been amusing, this week is simply too too hectic for me to come up with anything. I do hope people who read your column will understand. I will be back next week however, and, as usual, in top form. Oh, I must go now. Ms. Anderson has arrived for a rehearsal and she's brought along a video to watch. Ta, and God bless.
For this week's "what if", I have decided to continue with Rodgers and Hammerstein, especially since Mr. Hammerstein was such a well known influence on Mr. Sondheim. So, what if R&H had written Company? And it goes something like this:
You're a queer one, Bobby baby,
There is currently quite a brouhaha brewing over the NY Times' pushing of Side Show. First a rave review. Then a second rave review. Then many related articles. Then mentioning the show in other reviews. What is this about? Is it fair? Is there an agenda? The Real A wants to know.
First Frank Rich, the Times' former theater critic and now arts editor, saw it early on in previews and loved it. Many feel that he let his feelings be known to everyone at The Times. Did that influence Brantley and Canby in their reviews? One would hope not. But it does seem odd that they keep pushing this show to the exclusion of others. They panned Triumph of Love, and there is a second pan by Vincent Canby. Not many related articles on Triumph. Haven't mentioned Triumph in other reviews, although they could say Side Show was a Triumph and that would kill two birds with one stone. People who like Side Show are thrilled that the Times is on the show's bandwagon. Others are upset and feel it's unfair and biased.
But it all comes down to box office, and, unlike Rosie's endless plugging of Titanic, which helped make that show a success, the same does not appear to be happening for Side Show, which continues to do only mediocre business. What are your opinions on this? The Real Question that The Real A has always asked is why Vincent Canby is reviewing theater at all. This man was a film reviewer for the Times for years, and not a brilliant one at that. It is interesting that he goes out of his way to praise the one thing that even the show's fans don't like: the lyrics, which Canby says are worthy of Comden and Green. Senility, anyone?
der Brucer (this is a moniker) wrote a cute lyric which implies that The Real A could not possibly be gay because no gay person would use Cream of Mushroom soup and catsup in the same recipe. I can't really comment on this, although I never use that spelling for catsup. I use the macho hetero spelling ketchup. Oooh, that sounds so butch, doesn't it?" Oh, it's all so confusing. I'm starting to feel like Bobby in Company (who does use Cream of Mushroom soup and catsup in the same recipe).
Branden is such a staunch anti ALW person, that he doesn't know the "tunes" of the ALW songs in the ongoing war between the Musclemen of Musicals. At his request, Mr. Webber will identify them from now on. The tunes in past columns were 1) Memory, 2) The Music of The Night, 3) All I Ask Of You, 4) Don't Cry For Me, Argentina, 5) no song, 6) Love Changes Everything.
Birdwell writes to say that they also sing show tunes all day (this seems to be a much more widespread malady than I could have imagined) and wanted to know if there was any subconscious meaning to the fact that they sang Come To Me, Bend To Me, Like It Was, and The Night Was Alive With Music (from Titanic) all within an hour. Yes, I think your mind is fragmenting. One cannot possibly retain any sanity by having Lerner and Loewe, Stephen Sondheim and Maury Yeston all floating in one's brain at the same time.
Thomas informs me that my obsession with the derivation of words is called Etymology, the study of the source of words, and suggested that I check out the 20+ volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary. I immediately went to the other room where I DID check out the 20+ volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary (the OED to those in the know) that I just happened to have. Yes, it gives sources and uses and dates, but it does not tell me the name of the idiot who made up the word Etymology. A useless reference set, in my humble opinion. It's now available for purchase if anyone is interested. But I warn you now that you will not find out where the word "snot" comes from and I for one damn well want to know.
Thomas also wants to know if I have any theories as to why several men have appeared in shows by both Sondheim and Webber, but why only Bernadette Peters has played leads in shows by both. First of all, what makes you think that Bernadette Peters isn't a man? Also, why don't we see the same people showing up again and again in ALW shows (he mentions that only Sarah Brightman does). How about Elaine Paige? And Loni Ackerman (Cats and Evita). And Betty Buckley. And Davis Gaines. Others too.
Jeff wants to know if there's any word on Sondheim's Wise Guys. Yes: Slow.
Jessica inquires if songs or script from Sondheim's aborted musical Muscle will ever be released and what the show was about. If memory serves it was about Americans' obsession with the body. I don't really know how far SS got on the show, but I suspect it never was finished. So, unless he actually wrote a song or two that might possibly end up on an Unsung collection, there's probably not much to be had.
David is an up and coming new writer of musicals and asks if I have any advice as to where he might get stuff produced and where he might study. Most cities have theater groups who do original work so you might send your material to them to try to interest them in a production. Or schools. As to studying, the Lehman Engel/BMI workshop in NY is the place to go.
Chris would like to know when the cast albums for Triumph of Love and Side Show will be recorded and released. Also, if there'll be an album from the 20th Anniversary revival of Annie. Triumph is in negotiations for an album, but no deal has been made yet. Side Show records on November 3rd, and should be out about a month later, if Sony can move that fast. As to Annie, there was a lot of chatter about an album, but it's not happening.
CDebussy has had a nightmare vision and wants me to clear it up for him. He feels the following: I'm a clever lyricist. I like playing games. The letter "A" does not appear in my name. That "The Real A" could point to some reference to The Last Of Sheila. And in his nightmare vision this all leads to the horrifying possibility that I am... Stephen Sondheim! He would like me to assure him that this is not so. But if I assure him of this, he won't have any more nightmares, and we simply can't have that. So, I'm afraid I can neither confirm nor deny his nightmarish suspicions. And anyway, aren't we all Stephen Sondheim to a certain extent?
Bozo2 (what happened to Bozo1 I'd like to know) wants to know what the high pitched whistle is that recurs throughout Sweeney Todd. It has two functions: it is the sound of "a deafiningly shrill factory whistle" (that's the way it's described in the script) and it is the tried and true device of a sudden loud noise designed to scare the pants off you.
Beth thinks I'm definitely a man. A single man. Possibly gay. Possibly not. Beth is possibly correct. And possibly not. I can tell you that she is not correct on all points.
Finally, Gavin would like to know if it's possible to be a loyal and obsessive fan of both Sondheim and ALW. Why not? As long as you don't mind being called a butt wipe, stupid, inane, immature, lame and a snot by those who are only obsessed with one or the other.
Well, as expected, many of you got the right answer to last week's question: What were the two other titles of Anyone Can Whistle? "The Natives Are Restless" and "Side Show". Which proves that sometimes there is life for a good discarded title.
This week's trivia question:
When Mr. Sondheim finally got a professional job, what was it?
And if that's a piece of cake for too many of you, try:
Name all the songs cut from or written for but not used in Gypsy.
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...