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

December 29, 1997 - #15

Well, here it is. The close of 1997. Can you believe it? This year just flew by. Why just a few days ago it seemed like it was the close of 1996. In fact, I don't think there was a 1997. I think someone's trying to pull the wool over our eyes. I think there's some kind of plot to make us think there was a 1997. I think they put something in our water. How could there have been a 1997? I mean, if there was a 1997, it just flew by. But, of course we have irrefutable proof there was a 1997, don't we? Proof that cannot be denied. This column is the proof that there was a 1997. I know I didn't write this column in 1996. Because in 1996 I was still trying to figure out how one could have wool pulled over their eyes. So. There it is. The close of 1997. Wool or no wool, it just flew by, didn't it? 

And what a year it was. In the history books, this will go down as the year of 1997. But more about 1997 later. Did you all have a wonderful Christmas? I hope so. My annual Christmas Eve bash was lots of fun, and well-attended for a change. Usually fifteen or twenty people confirm that they will be coming, and then three people show up. But I've made enough food for twenty people, and you know I can't just let it sit there, I just have to eat it all. Unfortunately, then I look like twenty people. But this year there were twenty people, so I am trim and svelte as ever. I had logs in the fireplace (they looked great, but they would have looked better if I'd remembered to light them - there is nothing more lame than a log in the fireplace just sitting there like so much fish), I had plenty of Diet Coke, lots of good food (prepared by The Real A, and no, I did not make Wacky Noodles! - I made Wacky Spaghetti instead) and a good time was had by all. Then everyone left and The Real A went to bed. And the good news is that not a creature was stirring not even the squirrel, so I got a Real good night's sleep. Christmas morning I found that Santa had been there (the logs had subtly changed positions - like I wouldn't notice a thing like that?) and I got lots of nice presents, including a box of See's candies, which I, of course, ate immediately. 

In any case, here we are at the close of 1997. I just can't believe it. The year just flew by. 1997 is just like Triumph of Love: It's closing and there's nothing one can do about it. But enough about me. 

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors 

As mentioned above, Triumph is closing on January 3rd. Actually, this is a fact, not a rumor. Side Show's producers have given out press releases saying that the show will close on January 3rd as well. The Sunday Times ad for the show says "Closing January 3rd." However, as far as I can tell, no closing notice has been posted, so is it real or is it publicity? You decide. 

The Capeman, the new Paul Simon musical has postponed its opening, and revisions and staging changes are happening daily. The word on the street is not good, but then the word on the street is never good about anything. That is the nature of the word on the street. 

And High Society has been announced for the Richard Rodgers Theater, which means even if Side Show manages not to close, it will be gone come March. 

The Real A's Best of '97 

So, here we have it. Because 1997 is practically over (it just flew by). Here is what has given me enjoyment this year, in the various arts. 


Ragtime, while not perfect, gave me more enjoyment than any other musical I saw in 1997. I was impressed with some of the performances in Side Show. But the show itself remained on the Side, and never got to me. Triumph of Love had its moments, and a fine cast and some lovely music, too. Didn't see many straight plays this year, but I enjoyed Skylight and did not enjoy The Bacchae by Euripides, although Euripides cannot be blamed for the horrifyingly inept production, in which ten nude Bacchae cavorted about the stage (in a fifty seat theater yet!). Now, that is just a little too close for comfort to have ten nude Bacchae cavorting like that. It would have been a perfect time to have the wool pulled over my eyes. I like nude Bacchae as much as the next person, but if they're going to be that close, they may as well just come to my house. Also, when there are ten nude Bacchae cavorting about the stage, let's face it, the plot just goes out the window. I am sure The Bacchae is about something other than ten nude Bacchae cavorting, but you wouldn't know it by me. By the way, did Euripides really write the line "Don't fuck with the gods!" Somehow, I think not. And this thing ran for four months. Oh, well, I guess it was cheap to produce. No set, and certainly no costume budget. Perhaps The Bacchae should be turned into a musical. They could call it 20-Boobs-20


Those who have been following this column know that I have not enjoyed much this year. I haven't seen much for that matter, but most of what I've seen was fairly wretched. Here's some that weren't. 

The Full Monty was the year's most charming picture. Small and intimate and funny, with lovely performances by its ensemble cast. Face/Off was the only big-budget action movie I enjoyed, because it was so out there, and Cage and Travolta had so much fun being each other. Plus Mr. John Woo the director is dynamic and visually interesting, and it moved right along. As Good As It Gets was terrific, too. And I enjoyed LA Confidential pretty much. No Chinatown, but it tried hard and was nicely done. The year's biggest disappointment (in terms of my expectations) was Boogie Nights. I really wanted to love it, and there were things in the first half which were good, but then it just degenerates into one long cocaine and violence bash, which is not to The Real A's liking. Movies I revisited this year, and which I can tell you are worth a looksee are Kubrick's Lolita, Rosemary's Baby, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, City Lights, The Court Jester, and one I watched yesterday, Billy Wilder's Witness For The Prosecution, from the play by Agatha Christie. This movie never ceases to entertain. It has got one of the great twist endings in history and wonderful star turns from Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Elsa Lanchester and Marlene Dietrich. Rent it. 


In Sondheimland, we had a lot to be thankful for this year. What with Bernadette Peters' Sondheim, etc., Sondheim At The Movies, the Terry Trotter A Little Night Music, the Judi Dench A Little Night Music, the London Passion, and others, there's been a lot of Sondheim to listen to. Some better than others, but all interesting in their own way. 


It was a good year for books, and I spent many pleasurable hours reading. Some highlights. 

Peter Delacorte's witty time-travel novel Time On My Hands, Kirsten Bakis' Lives Of The Monster Dogs, Dennis McFarland's The Face At The Window were all wonderful. I also went back and read some classics (in the mystery genre, of which The Real A is very fond, just like his close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim), my favorite of which was Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying, and Margaret Millar's Beast In View, all of which have incredible twists and turns and which will leave you fairly breathless. 

That's my 1997 wrap up. Hope it wasn't too self indulgent and boring, which would be a fate worse than death. And what is a fate worse than death for that matter? I guess seeing The Bacchae would be right up there. 

War and Peace 

I really didn't think I would hear from my two pals this week, but lo and behold ("lo and behold", we'll have to discuss that in a moment) there were the e-mails waiting for me. Here they are: 

Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1997 14:22:38 
To: The Real A ( 
From: Stephen Sondheim ( 

Wise and charming Real A:  

I hope you had a lovely Christmas. I spent mine writing away in that position I so like to write away in. I received your gift and will use it regularly. I have not sent you a gift, because frankly, even though you are my close personal friend, I really don't know anything about you whatsoever. You are an enigma inside of a black hole, in the middle of a dark room within an abyss. Other than that, I like you quite well, but what do you buy an enigma? I could buy you the Enigma Variations but I'm sure you already have them. Speaking of enigmas, how is that old poop Sir Mr. Pal 'O Mine Webber doing? Still sending that drivel to you? What's this week hold in store? I'm sure you'll keep me posted. The next time I write will be in 1998! '97 just flew by, didn't it? As to the Almighty One, here's my New Year's ditty for him:  

He's just a British Boo-boo, 
Writing all his tired songs... 
Somehow pulling in the throngs 
To see all his shows. 
He's just a British Boo-boo, 
Short and squat and none-too-trim, 
Maybe he should try the gym 
And see how it goes. 

Gee I wish he'd see 
He's irking me 
Just Being Alive. 
That his little Cat  
Should just go splat 
So why does it thrive? 

He's just a British Boo-boo, 
How I wish he'd go away... 
Tell me he's not here to stay 
Let him write his sequels 
ALW just equals 
What is Bad On Broadway Now! 

Have a lovely New Year's Eve and a great '98!  

Warmth and more warmth, 
Your close personal friend 

What I like about Stephen Sondheim is that he does not hold things back. He lays it on the table. Lo and behold, there it is. Isn't it easier to say look! rather than lo and behold? Isn't lo and behold just a little unwieldy. Isn't unwieldy a little unwieldy. Unwieldy. This is a word only Jerry Lewis should say. Well, rather than beating around the bush (I'm not touching that with a ten-foot pole, even though I have a ten-foot pole in the garage) here is Lord Webber's e-mail: 

Date: Sun, 29 Dec 1997 20:01:01 
To: The Real A ( 
From: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber ( 

My lovely, fabulous Real A:  

I've finished off the last of the Christmas pudding, and am feeling hale and hearty by my hearty hearth. I am sending along the latest installment of my oratorio, Andrew Lloyd Webber's How I Won The War, with lyrics by that consummate wordsmith Leslie Bricusse (former writing partner of Anthony Newley, who will be playing Stephen Sondheim in the oratorio). I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I have been skipping around Sydmonton singing it all the livelong day. Here it is. Oh, have I said that the music is incredibly superb?  

(Dawn. The battlefield. At one side sits Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. On the far opposite side sits Stephen Sondheim. They each dress for battle as they sing.)  

The sun is rising, 
There went the moon. 
The fog is dense, 
As a Sondheim tune. 

I prepare for battle, 
I prepare to win. 
Very soon the battle 
Will begin. 

I'm alone in Britain, 
But I'll give my all. 
Oh, my head is splittin' 
Need some Tylenol. 

I know Andrew Lloyd Webber 
Is a man among men. 
If I lose this war 
I shan't write again. 

He shan't write again, 
I must win this war! 
If I win this war 
He will close the door 
On his writing... 
Oh, how exciting... 
The best of times! 
No more interior rhymes! 

No more interior rhymes? 
Oh, that's the worst of crimes. 

This Webber is a worthy foe 
This Webber's not an ordinary Joe. 
This Webber means to do me in 
This Webber means to win. 

Is it a sin? 
To want to win? 
You, with ear of tin, 
You will take it on the chin 
And grin 
Like Anthony Quinn 
Did in Zorba the Greek! 
Which I saw last week! 
Yes, I saw him smile! 
And it gave me guile! 

And it gave him guile, 
Does this mean that I'll 
End up just like Lyle 
After Julia dropped him 
A sad and lonely country singer, 
Who's been through the ringer 
I'll have a Vodka Stinger 
I'll drink to that! 
As I'm finishing the hat! 

Let him finish the hat
And that will be that 
I'll just put on my cravat 
And go to bat 
On the battlefield 
What will the outcome yield? 

SS and ALW  
Stand and prepare!
Fight if you dare! 
Loser beware! 
All's fair 
In love and war! 
And this is war! 
We've said it before! 

The time is near! 
No more fear, heaven knows! 
And so...Here goes. 

(And the battle begins.)  

Just when I think Leslie Bricusse cannot possibly top himself, he goes that one step further. Have you ever heard such words as these! That whole Anthony Quinn, Lyle and Julia section just took my breath away. I actually sat here without breath. I could have died. I told Leslie this, and he was most amused. In any event, I wish you a wonderful, prosperous, successful and brilliant 1998!  

Hugs and kisses, kisses and hugs, 
Lord Andrew  

Oh, I just don't think Steve will be happy with the way he's being represented here, do you? I'm sure he'll have something to say about it, if I know my Steve, which I do, as he's a close personal friend of mine. 

The What If Department 

We couldn't not have a what if in our final column of 1997, so here it is. What if Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields had written Sunday In The Park With George. And it goes something like this (to the tune of Big Spender): 

The minute you walked in the park, 
I could see you were a real good artist, 
A painter's painter. 
Good looking, with a beard, 
But frankly George, you're really quite 
Peculiar and weird. 

Oh, yes, he gets right to the point! 
That's the point when you're a pointilist 
You see... 
Hey, Big Painter, 
Paint a little scenery. 

Would you like to make art, art, art? 
How's about a few Dots? 
Can you show me your... canvas? 
C'mon, show me your canvas! 

I'm spending a Sunday with George, 
In the park, that's all we ever do you see... 
Hey, Big Painter, 
Hey, Big Painter, 
Hey, Big Painter 
Throw a little paint on me.


Letters... We Get Letters... 

Pat wants to know if in addition to recommending Sondheim's score to the film Stavisky, if I also recommend the film itself. Frankly, I don't even know if it's out on video. I saw the film once when it came out and remember it with some fondness. I do remember seeking out an obscure record store on 44th Street that carried imports of a few soundtracks right after I saw the movie, and lo and behold they had the album. Also, to those in the Chicago or San Diego areas, Pat recommends a show called Tripple (sic) Espresso. If it were called Tripple (sic) Diet Coke-O I'd be there! 

Rob is getting very confused! First, he usually reads this column as if it were from a man's point of view. This seems to work. But then he read it recently from a woman's point of view, and it seemed to work. Somehow this has led him to believe that I'm a performer and he thinks he knows which performer I might be, and so he asks this question: Was I at the Anyone Can Whistle concert, and am I one of those "Sondheim regulars"? Sorry. Go to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Incorrect. Back to square one. But Rob still asks if I can just tell him if I'm a man or a woman so he'll know "how" to read the column. I say read it twice! Once from a man's point of view, once from a woman's. Then, for a really interesting experiment, read it from the point of view of an extra-terrestrial. That might just be the best way of all. Rob also thinks that I might have slipped up when I said "The Real A raises his Diet Coke in a toast. I did, I admit it. You can't easily put Diet Coke in toast. Have you tried it. It just leaks right off the toast. He also feels that I could just be playing the "character" of The Real A. That I could be a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. Wait a minute! That's a really good idea for a musical! I'll be right back. I have to call Leslie Bricusse and tell him. 

William notes that my sign-off is always the quote from 1776 and wants to know if I've seen the Broadway revival. First off, the only reason I use the quote over and over is because I'm just too lazy to change it. It's not because 1776 is my favorite musical of all time. As to the Broadway revival, I saw it at the Roundabout just prior to starting this column, which is why it was on my mind. I will say only that the revival, while certainly competent, is not a patch on the behind of the original (I think that means that I prefer the original). 

Joe wrote a long and amusing note about appearing in Children of Eden. Unfortunately, I won't be able to share it with you, as this column is already longer than the leading character's appendage in Boogie Nights. 

Steve (not Sondheim) remembers that Steve (Sondheim) said to Barbara Walters (at the time of the Passion opening) that he was in a relationship with a musician, and Steve (not Sondheim) wants to know if they're still together and happy. Sadly (or not sadly) I do believe the relationship ended a while ago. Steve (not Sondheim) also wants to know if the rumor that Putting It Together will be done at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles with Carol Burnett is true. As far as I've heard, if all the details are worked out, it is true. 

Alina suggests that the reason the sleigh passed over Sondheim's house, is because Sondheim is Jewish. However, what Alina doesn't realize is that Santa Claus' real name is Moishe Slatinsky and to "pass-over" is second nature to him. 

Matthew has a few questions, and lo and behold I have a few answers. Do I like Rupert Holmes' work and do I feel that Drood was influenced by Mr. Sondheim. I like to feel that I discovered my close personal friend Rupert Holmes way back when, with his first album Widescreen. I have been a huge fan ever since. I don't really feel he was influenced by Mr. Sondheim, although anything is possible. Rupert has promised to start reading the column as soon as he gets a breather from his show Remember WENN. Perhaps he will comment on influences then. 

Will there be a Broadway revival of my favorite Sondheim show Follies? Hard to say. They are about to do a full scale revival at Paper Mill Playhouse, so I suppose if it's really brilliant it could be brought in. Also, do I like the revisions that were done for the London revival? While I like some of the new things outside the context of the show, I think they should have left Follies alone. I believe Sondheim has gone on record saying he wasn't thrilled with that version, so I don't think any of those changes would be in a revival here. Nor should they be. Any production that would cut The Road You Didn't Take doesn't really understand what Follies is all about. As a listening experience I very much like the new Loveland song, and Ben's new song Make The Most Of Your Music. 

Keep those cards and letters coming... in fact if you have any interesting New Year's resolutions, mail them to me


Trivia and Useless Knowledge Department 

Many many correct answers this week. Mr. Sondheim writes in the prone position, lying on his couch with a legal pad. Sometimes he stares at the piano. If this makes him happy, so be it. I would also write in the prone position, but it is very hard to type that way, and I don't like the word "prone". It makes me edgy. I don't know why but it does. Prone. You see, now I'm edgy. And just look at the word "edgy". Look at it. Have you ever seen a stupider looking word than that? So few letters all clumped together and to what purpose? 

This weeks question is: 

Has Mr. Sondheim ever appeared as an actor? If so, name the show he acted in, the year, and the author of the show. 

Go ahead, you think I can't see you scurrying to the bookshelf? I can. 

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



Questions? Comments?

I know this was an especially long column, but it was the year end wrap up, so I hope you'll forgive me the longwindedness. Only one thing left to discuss: What I will be doing for New Year's Eve. Someone asked the question a few weeks back and I promised I'd answer and The Real A never breaks a promise.

I shall do what I've done each New Year's Eve since 1990. I will stay home and I will contemplate how things are. How I can make them better. What I would like to change. What is working in my life and what isn't. I then make whatever resolutions I feel are appropriate for the new year, drink a Diet Coke and at Midnight, yell Happy New Year loudly (scaring the squirrel on the roof) and go to sleep. This is a safe and healthy way to spend New Year's Eve. And then, I wake up in the morning and lo and behold: 1998! Maybe corny, but you know The Real A can be as corny as Kansas in August. The Real A is not always acerbic and biting. The Real A can be cuddly and soft and warm. If I continue in this vein I really may vomit. And The Real A hates to vomit. But, that's another story for another year. Have a happy, healthy, prosperous and safe New Year.

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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