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One From Column A...
by "The Real A"

December 8, 1997 - #12

So, here's the thing: As you are reading this column, I will have just returned from New York. But as I am writing this column I haven't yet gone to New York. I'm feeling very surreal at the moment. I mean, I haven't been someplace I've already been. It's like a time/space continuum kind of thing (actually, I don't know if it's like a time/space continuum kind of thing, but it sounds good). It's a conundrum. So, even though I'm back from New York, I can't tell you anything about the trip because I haven't had the trip yet. I know it sounds like I'm on some kind of trip, but I can assure you that that is not the case. I am here. I am now. This sounds like a Samuel Beckett play. I've lost track of what week it is and I'm very confused and a confused Real A is not such a good thing. Part of my confusion can be attributed to the fact that I left the heat on last night. Whenever I do that, I wake up all groggy and foggy and hazy and fuzzy. But if I don't leave the heat on then I wake up frozen but alert. This is another conundrum. There is a whole conundrum thing going on here. But the real conundrum is that somebody actually had to sit down and invent the word conundrum. It's a wonderful word, but shouldn't it have something to do with a drum? Like a snare drum? Or a bass drum? But noooooo, as usual confusion runs rampant with words. That was quite poetic, wasn't it? Confusion runs rampant with words. And who made up the word "word". If someone hadn't made up the word "word" words might be called toenails and then where would we be? And where are we? Certainly not in New York, where I just got back from. You wouldn't be reading any of this, frankly, if I hadn't left the damn heat on. But then if I hadn't left the damn heat on, you wouldn't be reading it anyway because my fingers would be too frozen to type. Oh, it's a conundrum all right. Have I been rambling? It seems like I've been rambling. Well, you'll forgive me, dear readers, because I am in a time/space continuum. But really, I think it's time to continuum the column, don't you? This whole thing is becoming like Grease: There is no understanding why it's lasted this long. But enough about me.

What's New?

The Paul Simon musical The Capeman has started previews. I've heard from one lucky viewer that it was the single worst show he'd ever seen. Another viewer thought it was interesting. Another thought it was way too long. However, as we've all learned, no matter what people think now, shows can do complete turnarounds in previews (see Titanic). So, it's way too early to predict yay or nay.

The cast album of Side Show comes out on Tuesday. My thoughts on the show itself will be in next weeks column, along with my ruminations on Triumph of Love. I'm sure I'll have some other ruminations but I haven't a clue as to what they will be. I can't possibly be expected to know what all my ruminations are going to be. But I do promise to have at least two ruminations, with the possibility of a lot more, and I for one say never look a gift horse in the mouth. Now, let's stop for a moment and ponder. Say you were to recieve a horse as a gift. Why is it inappropriate to look in that horse's mouth? Maybe you'd like to see if the horse has tonsils, or good teeth. Who are we to say never look a gift horse in the mouth? And yet we say it. Along with all the other stupid horse sayings.

War is Hell

The battle of the bulging egos runs rampant (as do so many things). But before I continuum, let me ask one question: How do you run rampant? Can you also talk rampant? Or eat rampant? Those "toenails" can be hard to understand sometimes. In any case, my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim sent me the following e-mail.

Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997 23:16:01
To: The Real A (
From: Stephen Sondheim (

Dearest Real A:

Hope this finds you well after your recent trip to New York that you haven't taken yet. I do hope we can see each other when you're here, but since you've already been here, did we?

Mr. Webber (Sir, Lord, forget it) is certainly taking this war to extremes. I mean, has he no life? He has time to sit in Sydmonton (as stupid a name for an estate as I've ever heard) and write an entire oratorio? This is a man without purpose. Like that's a surprise. Really Useful my ass. I will not dignify him with any more lyrics. I have better things to do. I got an Ovation Award recently you know. Mr. Webber, write your oratorio. Even though I haven't heard the music for it I'm already humming it. Hopefully, you can get Betty Buckley to be in it, and then she can lay off my songs.

To be honest I have had it with your song and dance, and for all I care you can tell me on a sunday that you've finished your oratorio. You are a phantom to me, and I'm tired of fighting like cats (and dogs). Why don't you get in your amazing technicolor dreamcoat, get on a plane, go to California, and drive west on Sunset Blvd. until you are in the ocean. We could then have a requiem for you. You would be remembered as a superstar (not) and I would be so happy I would whistle down the wind.

Warm warm warm regards,
Your close personal friend

Meow! As you have probably already surmised, Lord Andrew has sent me the latest installment of his oratorio, which I print forthwith.

Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1997 20:23:08
To: The Real A (
From: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (

Extremely Dear Real A:

Forthwith I send you my latest installment of Andrew Lloyd Webber's How I Won The War, with lyrics by Leslie (What Kind Of Fool Am I?) Bricusse. A genius, if I haven't said it before. The music that accompanies this, is so beautiful and haunting I rewarded myself with a sweet after I wrote it.

(Stephen Sondheim sits alone in his New York home, looking forlorn and disheveled in his battle fatigues. He sings:)

I sit in this lonely room,
Feeling full of doom and gloom.
As if in a tomb,
Or a mother's womb,
Where no flowers bloom,
There is no one to whom
I can speak...
I'm feeling so weak...
Am I meek
As a Little Lamb?
Is that what I am?

Webber fights so well,
Webber has panache!
Webber has the guts,
Webber has the cash!

Is this the end of Stephen,
Or can I get even?
I can be so brittle
Yet it does so little...
Clever words I'm choosing,
Yet I keep on losing...
What to do?

I will come to Britain,
We'll fight man to man...
There will be one winner,
That's the battle plan...

Soon, I promise!
Soon I won't go away!
Now! Not later!
Now! Yes, the day is today!

Did I not tell you that Leslie Bricusse was brilliant? This collaboration has been satisfyingly satisfying. Yes! A double positive! Until next week, Real A, after your return from New York where you're about to go. Journey well.

All best to you,
Lord Andrew

Wow! This oratorio is turning into a major work. I can't wait for the next installment. I'm sitting on pins and needles, which is none too pleasant let me tell you.

The What If Department

Yes, we're back with another what if. This time, what if Lionel Bart had written Company? And it goes something like this (to the tune of Consider Yourself, from Oliver):

Consider yourself alone,
Condsider yourself being a bachelor.
We're worried about our Bob,
It's clear, dear, you've got a little prob...

Consider yourself confused,
Consider which team that you'll be playing on.
Your life is a crazy mess,
It's queer, dear, that you just won't confess.

Bobby's our friend, ya know,
Love him so; the way he is
And we say he is
Just great!
Oh, he's the living end,
And a friend
of Dorothy...
And it's good to get that straight!

Consider yourself screwed up,
You're frazzled and all at sea...
Whichever way you go, dear Bobby, we can say, Consider yourself Company!

Letters... We Get Letters...

So, continuing the conundrum of the time/space continuum, I'm actually answering these letters after I actually have returned from New York, as I could hardly have answered them before they were written.

Laura wants to know if I can elaborate on why the second act of SITPWG is "problematic" (which I said to someone in The Hot Tub chat room, if you recall, which you probably don't). Well, I was kind of joking, although personally I don't like the second act nearly as much as the first. The first act is so of a piece, and everything is so smooth and works so well, and then the second act just never involves me like the first act does. That, of course, is just one A's opinion.

Kent wants to know if the proposed HBO movie of Assassins, directed by Barry Levinson, will really happen. Well, you know, so many movie versions of Sondheim shows have been announced (dating all the way back to Company) and then dropped or put in development hell, that until the cameras actually roll, I would take all such announcements with a grain of salt.

Thomas wrote to say that for a time he thought The Real A might be Rupert Holmes. A good guess (no A in Holmes). But, dear Watson, alas it is not true. Although, Mr. Rupert Holmes is a personal friend of The Real A, and a talented and wonderful person. I would be proud to be Rupert Holmes. Of course, that is presuming that I am male, and, as we have learned over and over, we must never presume anything.

Thomas also feels that I am without a "significant other" as I didn't mention taking anyone to the Ovation Awards. Well, I did take someone to the Ovation Awards (you know who you are) but they were not my significant other, if I should have a significant other, which I significantly may or may not.

Andrea (a personal friend of Mr. Mark Bakalor) wants to know what Sondheim is up to. Stephen is currently working on his new musical Wise Guys, which may or may not be ready for production next summer. It has been a very slow journey.

Keep those cards and letters coming...

Trivia and Useless Knowledge Department

Many, many incorrect guesses this week. Ranging from A Chorus Line, to Showboat to Sweet Charity. The most incorrect guesses went to Company, as I knew they would. This is all subjective of course, but since I'm asking the questions I get to be right. Three people (Kent, Andrew and Ted) guessed correctly: The show that changed the way Broadway musicals "sounded" was Promises, Promises by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon. With orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. This show was the first to have the orchestra miked as if they were in a studio (the Bacharach influence) and it was the first time a studio mixing board was used in the theater. It paved the way for Company (which also used "pit singers" like Promises did). Tunick has said that Bacharach taught him how to do a rhythm chart, and that influence is felt mightily in the way Company sounds. And, of course, the mixing board and miked orchestra is now standard operating procedure for all Broadway musicals.

This week's trivia question is:

We know that both William and James Goldman have written with Sondheim. But before they did, both the Goldmans collaborated with another composer on another musical. Name the musical, the lyricist, the composer, and the director. No fair looking in books, either. You either know or you don't.

Send all guesses to me at or use the form below...



Questions? Comments?

Well, I'm still a little jet lagged from the trip I haven't taken yet. I must rest, as I really feel I'm in a time/space continuum. What a conundrum.

Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

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Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...”
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