May I tell you about the dream I had last night? Maybe one of our dear readers is a budding psychoanalyst and can tell me the meaning of said dream. In my dream, someone came to my house and brought with them their cute mechanical dog. They told me that this mechanical dog did everything a real dog would do except poop. This mechanical dog was just the berries, dear readers. It liked when you pet it, it was attentive and it even did tricks. It jumped up and did a somersault. It rolled over. It was, in short, an amazing mechanical dog. After playing with it for a short time I fed it some carrots and it exploded. I then woke up. Frankly, I just don't get what this dream is all about. Is there some deep-seated Freudian meaning to this dream? Does it represent something deep within my subconcious? Is it trying to tell me something about carrots? Wait, I just remembered something. Last night, just before bed I was surfing eBay and I saw up for auction a Li'l Abner mechanical toy band. That must be where the mechanical dog came from. You see, there is an explanation for everything. I was beginning to think that the mechanical dog represented some psycho- sexual trauma I'd once suffered. Well, this dream has taught me one thing: Never feed your mechanical dog carrots for if you do they will explode.
Maybe I should just can this whole column like so much sockeye salmon. I like the idea of a can of Column A. That way you can buy them in bulk and have some Column A whenever you want it. You could store up and then, if there were ever a nuclear war, you would have cans of Column A to get you through those difficult post-nuclear times. Perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor can show us what a can of Column A might look like.
I don't know, should I just put the kibosh on column 86? I'd like to put the kibosh on something just so I could say that I put the kibosh on something. I feel that everyone should put the kibosh on something. Then there will be a whole lotta kiboshing going on and can that be a bad thing?
I don't know, should I just ixnay the olumncay? Ooh, that was my first use of pig Latin in this here column. How could I have gone 86 columns without the use of pig Latin? What pig invented pig Latin anyway? Well, in case you don't know the answer to that question I shall enlighten you. Pig Latin was invented by Mr. Jerome Nussbaum, a quantum physics professor and pig fancier. One fine day Mr. Nussbaum was speaking to his plethora of pigs. He always spoke to them in Latin for reasons that were only clear to Mr. Nussbaum. While speaking to the pigs in Latin the pigs would look him squarely in the eye (no mean pig's feat) as if to say "What in the name of pork are you talking about?". And no amount of "amo amas amat" would get through to them. These pigs apparently didn't give a fig for Latin. They didn't "get" Latin and as far as they were concerned Latin was from Hunger, a far-off land they had no interest in whatsoever. No, these pigs were not in the Latin mode although they did like the music of Prez Prado. Where was I? Oh, yes, the story of Jerome Nussbaum and how he invented pig Latin. Well, there he was, speaking Latin to the pigs who were showing their usual disinterest, when one of the pigs casually approached Mr. Nussbaum and shat on his shoe. This took Mr. Nussbaum aback. This flustered Mr. Nussbaum and all Mr. Nussbaum could think of to say was, "Hey, what's with the itshay on the oeshay?". Suddenly the pigs sat up (not easy for a pig), rapt with attention. This was a language they understood. And Mr. Nussbaum saw this and said, "Igpays, you ikelay the igpay atinlay?" to which the pigs responded with an affirmative grunt, which Mr. Nussbaum took as a resounding esyay. And thus Pig Latin was born. Mr. Nussbaum went on to win the Nobel Pig Prize for having come up with a language that pigs could finally relate to. And to Mr. Nussbaum we can only say: Anksthay to ooyay.
Have we hit a new low, dear readers? Or have we just hit the same old low? Have you ever hit a new low? Did the new low hit back or just take it like a low? I do believe it is time to end this section of the column, because frankly it's starting to resemble the grosses of The Civil War: Talk about low. But enough about me.
As you may or may not know, Sony has been reissuing their classic Broadway show albums in brand spanking new remasterings, often with bonus material and new packaging. Well, I've held off long enough from commenting on these reissues. Have you ever held off long enough? If so, how did long enough react? Just asking.
First, the good news. The packaging is superb. Booklets chock full o' notes, with lots of activity photos. All the reissues have the correct cover art, and they've done nifty recreations of the original LP label art on the CD labels.
I've had mixed feelings about these reissues, ever since I heard the first batch of them. They are produced by either Thomas Z. Shepard or Didier Deutsch, and the quality of the remasterings is very good for the most part. That is not my problem with these remasterings. No, my problem is when these two gentleman tamper with the original mix that was done, for the most part, by the wonderful man who produced most of these albums for Columbia, Mr. Goddard Lieberson. It is one thing, for example, for Mr. Thomas Z. Shepard to remix Company, an album he produced originally, or even A Little Night Music, an album he assisted Mr. Lieberson on. When Mr. Shepard remixes Company I have no problem. It's his album. And yes, it is wonderful that he finally got the mix right on Another Hundred People so that you can hear the brilliant quoting of the "Bobby baby" figures in the trumpets. You would never have known they existed on the original album. I only knew they existed because on the Making of Company documentary, when they show that number being recorded and they cut to the trumpet section you can hear it clearly. So, yes, wonderful to hear it on the remixed Company. My problem is when Mr. Shepard or Mr. Deutsch have the temerity to tamper with Mr. Lieberson's work. What brought this diatribe on is the newly remastered Gypsy, which is produced by Mr. Shepard. Not only has he remixed it (not that there's that much control you have over a mix done prior to 24 track recording), but he's done other things that one would have to question. For example, in Rose's Turn, he's used an alternate take of one line of Miss Merman's because he thought it was better. Unfortunately we can't ask what Mr. Lieberson or Miss Merman think, but since they were at the sessions and Mr. Shepard wasn't, one would have to presume that they liked and approved which takes were used on the original album. He's corrected a bum trumpet note in the same song, which is fine if it indeed was a bum trumpet note. Mr. Shepard's bum trumpet note may have been something Mr. Styne liked. Who knows? That is my point. He's also used a whole different take in the last third of All I Need Is The Girl. In the original you never hear Louise in the number (not that she does anything verbally in it) even though it is clear Tulsa is singing to her. Mr. Shepard found an alternate take where Louise reacts audibly to Tulsa and he went with it because he felt it gives you a sense of her involvement and he felt it was probably left off the original album because people might have been confused by it. Well, guess what? They were right to leave it off. It's terrible. It sound like a mistake. It sounds like someone doing a high-pitched maniacal giggle and it's totally distracting. Also, the sound, while undeniably smoother, has lost something of the wonderful brassy brashness of the original. I feel that way about most of these, sound-wise. Miss Merman's voice is much clearer in the original. The bonus material on Gypsy is fun and great to have. But I wouldn't get rid of the original for anything, as it's one of the finest cast albums ever made. It's fine to reissue and remaster, but I don't think it's fine to tamper with Mr. Lieberson's art. That would be like going up to an artist's canvas and saying, "Oh, I think yellow would work there much better than orange" and changing it. The yellow may, in fact, be just fine, but the orange is what the artist chose. The other remastering that drove me crazy was Mr. Deutsch's reimagining of A Chorus Line. It's quite annoying, with all the fun stereo panning gone forever. In the original album's opening, for example, Zach crosses from left to right and you hear him go across your speakers. In the new remastering he is dead center and stays there. Yechhhhh.
Some of the others are less problematic. West Side Story is okay (although again losing some of its rough edges which I miss) and Flower Drum Song sounds just fine. I hope I haven't been too harsh in my criticism here, but I wonder how Mr. Shepard would react if someone did what he did to Gypsy to one of his albums. Somehow I can't imagine he'd be very happy about it. Somehow I just think he'd be screaming like a stuck pig, or an uckstay igpay in our (and Mr. Nussbaum's) beloved Pig Latin.
Wow, that was so serious. I was just too too, wasn't I? I was on a rant, wasn't I? I don't know, I just started and then couldn't stop. I was like a runaway train. I was like a bat out of hell, whatever the hell that means. Do you suppose that the bat out of hell is a result of the devil taking the hindmost? Just asking.
Always searching, always digging, always querying, always questing, that's Miss Meryle Secrest in a nutshell, although what she's doing in a nutshell is anyone's guess. While she was doing all of the above, I was doing a little introspective searching myself. Talking about those darn Sony remasterings had brought up such fond memories of buying those cast albums on LP that I began to think about the Broadway musical. Thinking about the Broadway musical started me to thinking about Mr. Ed Sullivan. Why, you might ask and I might tell you because if I don't share you will call my pants smart and my ass smart and you will eighty-six me and can me and call me a wiseacre. Well, we can't have that, now can we, dear readers? And so, I will tell you why I started to think about Mr. Ed Sullivan. I started to think about Mr. Ed Sullivan because no one, not even Rosie O'Donnell, has done more to promote the Broadway musical than Mr. Ed Sullivan. Week in and week out and also week out and week in Ed Sullivan would present scenes and numbers from Broadway musicals. Every Sunday night at eight o'clock in the evening we'd gather round our lovely black & white television in our lovely black & white tiled den and we'd watch Ed. Ed was our friend. Ed was real. There has never been a host of a television show like Ed. Ed was King of the Malaprop. If he could stumble over words he would. If he could mispronounce the names of the acts he was introducing, he would. He was unique unto himself, Ed was. Ed and his show were an institution for over twenty years. And in that twenty years, every major Broadway star appeared on his show. Ed's show was where many of us got our first peeks at the magic of Broadway. I vividly remember one fine Sunday evening when Lucille Ball did her opening number from Wildcat, the song Hey, Look Me Over. It is indelibly etched in my memory as are many other moments. So, here I was, thinking about Ed Sullivan and the Broadway musical. One of the most amazing things about Ed was that he and his producers had the foresight to preserve and save all of their kinescopes and tapes. A few years ago they put together a few specials with scenes from different Sullivan shows. While those specials contained a few snippets from musicals (young Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady, slightly older Julie with Richard Burton in Camelot) the selections seemed to be mere filler for the likes of Elvis, The Beatles, and Topo Gigio. What weren't we seeing? How many great musical scenes were not used? I can answer that question because a friend of mine worked on the specials and helped compile the clips. And while she was going through the miasma of endless tapes and kinescopes, she just happened to run a copy of every Broadway musical number ever done on the Sullivan show. And she gave me a copy of said tape, right off the masters. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I have eight, count them, eight three hour tapes of Broadway musical numbers from the Sullivan shows. Tonight, I pulled them out and watched several hours worth.
Amazing is the only word that works here. On the very first tape, there was Dick Van Dyke and company doing the original Gower Champion staging of Put On A Happy Face from Bye Bye Birdie. There was Paul Lynde and Susan Watson singing the paean to our very own Ed Sullivan from the same show (there is not much that's funnier than Paul Lynde saying "Ed, I love you"). There was Gwen Verdon doing I'm A Brass Band and If They Could See Me Now from Sweet Charity, with all those great Fosse dancers and moves. There was fifteen full minutes from Flower Drum Song, including my favorite, Love, Look Away, which, as always, moved me to tears. There was Lucille Ball doing her Wildcat number exactly as I remembered it. There was most of the original cast of 1776, Purlie, Destry, Do Re Mi, Little Me. There was the amazing Ethel Merman doing an Annie Get Your Gun number from the revival of same. There was Broadway's new Annie, Bernadette Peters as George M. Cohan's sister in a number from George M! And Ginger Rogers and Pearl Bailey both doing Before The Parade Passes By from Hello, Dolly! And I mean doing, with the full chorus and original staging. There was a young Tony Roberts doing a horrifyingly bad number from the horrifyingly bad How Now, Dow Jones? with choreography by the young Michael Bennett. There was Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence doing Tonight and the orignal cast of Hair and You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. And Anthony Newley doing two numbers from Roar Of The Greasepaint, Smell Of The Crowd. Richard Kiley as the Man Of La Mancha singing The Impossible Dream. Turkey Lurkey Time from Promises, Promises. An incredible dance number from Zorba! wherein one of the dancers actually picks up a table with a woman sitting on it with his teeth! But best of all, there was Robert Weede, Jo Sullivan and Susan Johnson doing a large chunk of The Most Happy Fella. What joy, what bliss, what musical comedy heaven. And that was just three tapes. The other five contain many more goodies, like The Mad Show, A Family Affair, Mame, Cabaret, Molly Brown, No Strings, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Irma La Douce and on and on and on. It is so moving to see the original stars doing their numbers with their original staging. Ed Sullivan left us a true legacy with this footage, which will hopefully all see the light of day at some point. Ed went off the air in the early 70s. If only the show had lasted a few more years we could have had Pippin, A Chorus Line, Smile, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures and maybe even Rockabye Hamlet. While I still enjoy the musicals of today, I must admit my heart belongs to the classic musicals of the 50s, 60s and 70s. And thanks to Ed Sullivan we have moments from those classics preserved for all time. So, I must simply repeat Paul Lynde's line and say a big hearty, "Ed, I love you".
I attended a new show-in-progress the other night, and so here is my progress report on said show-in-progress, or, as Ed Sullivan would say, "the really big shoe". Or as Jerome Nussbaum would say, "the really igbay oeshay". What was I talking about? Oh, yes, the show-in-progress entitled Duets.
The idea behind this new evening of entertainment is to present two men doing duets. Usually it's two women who do that sort of thing, or a man and a woman, but never two men. If I'm remembering correctly they state the theme of the show after the opening number, which is to explore relationships through male duets. This seems to me a limiting concept, and sure enough they don't stick to it. The show has some clever things in it and Mr. Graae and Mr. Cassidy are both engaging performers. But the comedy bits aren't quite there yet (Bruce Vilanch, he of Bette Midler and the Academy Awards is writing it) and some of the musical selections just don't work at all. The fun of the evening should stem from the differing personalities of the two performers, and hopefully they will keep working and honing the show, because somewhere in the show is a kernel that if popped would make a good and entertaining show.
I don't mean to sound like a critic, and yet this whole column feels like one big review. Enough, I say. There are other more fruitful matters to attend to, such as the matter of the mango, a truly fruitful matter. But I don't really want to talk about the matter of the mango. I think I'd just better amscray while the amscraying's good. I'll continue this here column in the orningmay. I wonder if I'll be dreaming of a mechanical dog, or better yet a mechanical Latin Pig.
Mr. Mark Bakalor, our resident site host and hale fellow well met, whatever the hell that means, has just informed me of something (note from Mr. Mark Bakalor: "Actually, I informed Real A a few weeks ago of this!") that I must pass on to you, dear readers. What he has just passed on to me as I was blithely sitting here on my couch like so much fish is the fact that he will be doing shows in Petaluma or wherever the hell (note from Mr. Mark Bakalor: "Actually, the shows are in Santa Rosa, just north of San Francisco.") it is for the next eleven weeks. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, our very own Mark Bakalor will be doing shows (final note from Mr. Mark Bakalor: "If you're in the Northern California area and would like to see said shows, which run from mid June through August, please email me" - note from The Real A: "Hey, knock it off with the parens already."), the result being that this here column will be going up on Monday nights rather than Sunday nights for the next eleven weeks or so. That is presuming everything goes smoothly. If everything does not go smoothly then there is the chance that one of these here columns might not go up at all. We understand that Mr. Bakalor will do his level-headed best to keep the mechanisms working the way they should and hopefully he will succeed in this. Otherwise we shall have to send Mr. Bakalor an exploding mechanical dog to teach him a lesson about the way mechanisms must work. But we're certain that Mr. Bakalor will do his level-headed best because Mr. Bakalor is a level-headed person, and here is the proof of it.
I have just discovered an interesting thing, dear readers. What is it, you might ask, and I might tell you because you have a right to know. The interesting thing that I have discovered is that it is impossible to type while listening to the bossa nova. I know this because I was just listening to the bossa nova and could not type for the life of me. Mahler I can type to, Sondheim I can type to, but the fershluganah bossa nova I can't type to. Where can we lay the blame for this? I guess we'll just have to blame it on the bossa nova and be done with it. Furthermore, I'd just like to know if the "blame" wanted to be laid? Well, perhaps we should just eighty-six the rest of this paragraph and move on to the letters.
Tom (he is the Ozman) writes to say that he too was saddened by the passing of that fine actor, author and raconteur Dirk Bogarde. Mr. Bogarde appeared in one of my all-time guilty pleasures, the film Modesty Blaise directed by Joseph Losey with whom Mr. Bogarde did many films. Tom would like to know how we Americans pronounce "licorice". Do we say "iss" or "ish"? Well, I don't want to speak for all Americans, but everyone I know says "ish" and not "iss". Athough, when you look at the word itself it seems it should be "itch". Anyway, I go with the "ish" just because that's the way I was taught to say it by an authentic teacher of the English language. Tom also informs me that red licorice is not readily available in Oz. This is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). Black is the standard licorice in Oz, and if you want red you must go to specialty licorice boutiques. I can't imagine then that Oz or Tom has ever tried my all-time licorice flavor, chocolate. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I love chocolate licorice and always have. My parents used to bring it home to us kids and we would gobble it down like Latin pigs. It is hard to find chocolate licorice but is worth the effort. I cannot recommend it highly enough. In fact, I must go out soon and buy some and gobble it up like so much fish.
S. Woody White tells me that when "pruning" the roses it is best to put the prunes at the base of the bush rather than on the roses themselves. If only I'd known that before. Between the base of the bush and the matter of the mulch I feel we are making real progress, gardening-wise.
Jon B. asks if I, like he, believed that "Trade" and "Mark" were the first names of the Smith Bros. of cough drop fame. We were a Luden's family so I can't say that I did. These days if I have a pesky cough I suck on an Allenbury's Pastille. It's quite tasty and gets stuck in your teeth just like JuJu Bees and Dots.
Mordecai has never heard of Red Vines, either the licorice or the football player. He wants to know if Red Vines are thick and textured like Twizzlers or skinny and long like licorice shoelaces. If you think I'm going anywhere near this, think again. I shall not touch this with a ten foot licorice.
James Cloninger (aka cheshirecat, aka Felix Neko) thinks that Mr. Mark Bakalor should set up a section on this site for all the parodies that everyone has written. Mr. Mark Bakalor barely has enough time to keep up with his conga lessons (he's doing quite well, by the way) let alone get up a new section on this site. He soon will be off doing shows for eleven, count them eleven, weeks and will barely have time to get this here column up, so busy is Mark Bakalor.
Joey wants to know where she can purchase the video of Sweeney Todd, which she loves. I frankly don't know if it's in or out of print at this time, but suggest she at least give amazon.com a try. Sweeney is being reissued on DVD soon, complete with commentary by Sondheim and others, just like the recent Sunday In The Park With George. I'm sure it will be issued on tape at that time just as Sunday was. Joey attended prom weekend and was dismayed that they didn't play one damn Sondheim song. Just who do those prom people think they are not playing any Sondheim songs? What, people can't dance to Barcelona? People can't dance to Finishing The Hat? Ridiculous, those prom people. Or, as my Latin pig friends would say, "ompray eoplepay are the itspay".
Tiffany has had the activity photo of her in her fish socks developed. But last time she sent in a photo it was on a disc and this is an actual photo. Well, Tiffany, you just send that actual photo to our very own actual Mark Bakalor and he will scan it and then we can all see those actual fish socks in action.
Only a few people got part of the answer to last week's rather morbid trivia question: Name two actors from a Sondheim show who actually died onstage while doing a show (not a Sondheim show). As usual, you smartypants' named a couple of people I hadn't thought of, although their deaths weren't strictly onstage while doing a show show. The following people all got half the question right: jon (whose name I forgot to include in last week's correct guesses), Jon B., crow, Andrew and steveg. They all named David Burns, the original Senex of Forum, who died onstage while in the middle of performing the Kander & Ebb musical 70 Girls 70. Several people mentioned Henry Lascoe who died while Anyone Can Whistle was doing its tryout, but I have not been able to ascertain if he actually died onstage during the show. Someone also mentioned Dick Shawn, who replaced Zero Mostel in Forum, and he did indeed die while performing his club act. Also, someone mentioned Cyril Ritchard dying during a tour of Side By Side By Sondheim although again I have not been able to ascertain whether it was on stage. The one person nobody named was the second answer to my question - Arnold Soboloff of ACW who died onstage during a performance of the Sandy Duncan revival of Peter Pan.
Next week's trivia question: name all the people associated with Sondheim shows who would go on to be writers, composers, and lyricists (this means they were not any of those things when they were associated with said shows).
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...