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

January 5, 1997 - #16

Welcome to the first column of 1998! Only fifty-one more to go. Wow, it just took me a half hour to write that brilliant opening. I have just been sitting on my couch, staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out how to open the first column of the New Year. And this is what I came up with. Let us proceed to the second paragraph immediately.

There, much better. All the pressure is gone. I hope you all had a lovely and safe New Year's Eve and Day, and that all your resolutions will come true. As I'm writing this, I get the distinct feeling that I'm trying to kill time, that I have no clue what to talk about, that I am sitting here devoid of ideas. No, that can't be it, that's how I always feel when I write this column. What else could it be? Why do I have this feeling of malaise? And what IS malaise? A form of mayonnaise? Which reminds me. I was sitting on my couch on New Year's Day, and I was eating a turkey sandwich, and I suddenly looked at said sandwich and thought, why is this called a sandwich? We really have to figure these things out. This will be our quest for '98. I try to put myself in the mind of someone who has just put a piece of turkey between two slices of bread (with a hint of mayonnaise) and looked at that and thought: Wait! I'll call this a sandwich! Why? I need to know. And the thing is, it looks like a sandwich. It doesn't look like a suppository (not that I know what a suppository looks like, I'm just guessing). The darn thing looks, acts and tastes like a sandwich. And mayonnaise. Why not "icky weird white stuff"? How do you even begin to come up with mayonnaise. This is not a normal word. Of course, mayonnaise isn't normal, so maybe it's appropriate. And then there's "appropriate". Why are the two p's in the beginning and not in the middle? Who decided? They didn't ask me. Oh, enough. I am feeling a general malaise about the second paragraph. Let's move on to the third, shall we?

We shall. Here we are in the third paragraph in the year 1998. I'm killing time. There is no doubt about it. And all because I feel a malaise. Well, you know what the problem is? Nothing has happened in 1998. It's too new. There's nothing to write about. So, all one can do is kill time (even though time never did a damn thing to me, here I sit, wreaking havoc on it). Yes, that's the problem. I should have seen it all along. Well, I feel much better now, knowing the cause of my malaise. If feel the malaise slipping away. I will soon be malaise-free. I feel by the time I hit paragraph four I will be back to my old self. Let's just see.

Yep. This fourth paragraph has done the trick. I feel like The Real A again. No more malaise. I am back on track. I have nothing whatsoever to say, and I'm proud of it. I have not a thought in my head, and I revel in that knowledge. I sit on my couch typing words, one following another, with absolutely no meaning or point. Yes! The Real A is back. And frankly, none too soon. I was beginning to feel like the Richard Rodgers theater: Empty. But enough about me.

Stop the Madness

Have you heard the latest? Side Show is closing. But the producers have sent out a press release saying their plan is to shut down and the reopen in the spring! To capitalize on the Tony nominations. Now... What's wrong with this picture? Well, first of all what Tony nominations? Are these producers clairvoyant? Did someone named Clair invent that word? Was she feeling voyant? Where was I? Oh, yes. Can the producers of Side Show see into the future? Of course, in the press release (printed verbatim by Playbill On-Line and The Post - which have become the competition for Mad Magazine) they admit that they don't have a clue as to what theater they'd go in, or if the cast will still be around, but, that doesn't stop these producers from sending this press release out. Good PR or shameless behavior? You decide.

Of course, lost in all the Side Show side show is the fact that Triumph of Love has also closed. Too bad for both shows. It's sad when anything has to close, but in my opinion neither show achieved what it set out to. They both seemed in search of a final form.

The buzz on Ragtime is very good. Of course, there are already naysayers (sayers who say "nay" FYI), which is to be expected. The show has had so much publicity and so much hype, that for some it cannot possibly live up to it. It will be interesting to see how the press responds to it.

Interestingly, no one is talking about The Capeman. You'll recall that last year when Titanic was in previews, everyone was talking about what trouble the show was in, and every change and fix was reported ad nauseum (the only Latin word The Real A likes, because it has nauseum in it, which amuses The Real A for reasons which are unfathomable). But not one word about The Capeman. I hear there is major work being done, and there was talk of several show doctors coming in to help. Will it help? We'll know in three weeks time.

Bulletin: Right after I'd written this, it was announced that Jerry Zaks (Forum, Smokey Joe's) was taking over as director of The Capeman. Of course, it was announced by The Post, so we'll just see.

The Nature of Dreams

"Last night I dreamed I was at Manderly..." Classic line from Rebecca. Last night I dreamed Cindy Williams was starring in a new sitcom, playing twins. Now, the first question that springs to mind is... why? What on Earth triggered this dream? Which, of course, got me to thinking about dreams. The Real A has always had a Real fascination with dreams. Ever since I was a little child. When I would close my eyes and in the blackness I'd see what I describe as little color dots (close your eyes, you'll see what I mean) and I thought that each of those dots had a dream in them. I can vividly remember dreams from my childhood, and I can remember a lot of dreams I have had since. In detail. Even dreams I've only had once. Which brings us to the phenomenon of the recurring dream. I have had several and they recur to this day. I'll tell you about them. See if you've had similar dreams. The first is a fairly common dream, in which I'm being pursued by something or someone and I'm running and all of a sudden my feet leave the ground and I take flight. This is an exhilarating dream and the reasons for the dream are obvious. Freedom. Nothing or no one holding you down. A perfect evocation of this dream is in the prologue to Fellini's brilliant film 8 1/2.

The second recurring dream is a funny one. When I was younger (a long time ago in a galaxy far away) I had a favorite movie theater. I spent most of my childhood in this movie theater, so obviously it held great memories and moments for me. It was like a second home. I always sat in the same seat (10th row, aisle seat, left side), had the same food (buttered popcorn - real butter of course, and Dots), and felt like I was in a magical land. Well, when I was thirteen they closed it and turned it into a Temple. I was appalled. I was horrified. And ever since, I have had a dream wherein I'm walking by the Temple and I hear the sound of a movie coming from within. I am sure they have returned to showing movies there, but no one I speak to will admit it. I scream at them "I know you're showing movies in there!" but they just smile and assure me that this is not the case. I pretend to move on, then, when they've gone away, I sneak in. And guess what? They are showing movies. I hurry down to my favorite seat (10th row, aisle seat, left side) and I am in heaven, and happy as a clam.

Before we get to the third recurring dream, don't you think it's just a little bit presumptuous to think that a clam is happy? I mean, did anyone ask the clam if it would like to be so represented. Maybe the clam is miserable. Maybe the clam is manic depressive as so many shellfish are. The life of a clam is so great? They're born and we eat them. What do they have to be happy about? I have lost my train of thought... Oh, yes, dreams. The third recurring dream. It is my favorite. In it I meet the person of my dreams. Of course it's a dream, so meeting the person of one's dreams takes on a mirror-like effect. This person is perfect in every way for me. Great looking, smart, witty, and I just want to be with this person forever and ever. And in the dream I think: I know this is a dream, but this is where I want to stay. I don't want to wake up. I'm happy here with this perfect person. Maybe the life that I call "real" is really the dream, and maybe "this" will be my new reality. Of course I wake up, but as I do I can feel myself fighting to fall back asleep and recapture the dream. It's always the same person, too. I haven't met the person yet. The question is, do they exist somewhere? This haunts me. Perhaps someday I'll find out, and when and if I do I can assure you I shall be happy as a clam. I might even eat a clam sandwich with mayonnaise and no malaise.

The War Lover

I have been waiting on pins and needles (this is none too comfortable, let me tell you - but I do it because I am literal) for the next installment of The War. First though, I thought you'd like to see the latest e-mails from the Duelling Dynamos.

Date: Sat, 3 Jan 1998 16:34:46
To: The Real A (
From: Stephen Sondheim (

Dearest Sweetest Real A:

Well, here we are... 1998. After reading the first part of your column, I feel you are just killing time. I feel you are grasping at straws. But you'll get over it. In fact, I had a dream that you got over it rather quickly. Speaking of dreams, I had a nightmare in which a certain British composer came to my home and tried to get me to write in a non-prone position. I awoke in a cold sweat, which I really hate. I like a nice warm sweat. Before I go (I am writing a new musical you know) I just want to pass along to your readers my advice for the new year: Lay off the fatty meats. And speaking of fatty meats, bring on Webber's latest. I'm sure he and Mr. Bricusse have outdone themselves as only they can.

My best to you always and forever,
Your close personal friend,

It's always good to get an e-mail from Mr. Stephen Sondheim. But I must take exception to the line "I feel you are grasping at straws". I have never, to my knowledge, grasped at a straw. Why would I? I drink from the can. I am not obsessed by straws. Why would anyone grasp at straws? I see no reason to grasp at something that is so readily available to all. There is no straw shortage that I know of. So, if someone out there is ridiculous enough to grasp at straws, it isn't me. That is all I have to say on the subject. Here is Mr. Webber's latest.

Date: Sun, 4 Dec 1997 22:16:54
To: The Real A (
From: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (

My precious Real A:

I have just finished a lovely meal of venison and quince pie and am feeling veddy English. We British cherish our fatty meats, and if Mr. Sondheim or others don't like it, let 'em eat cake, as the Gershwins once said. Shall we get to the latest installment of my oratorio, Andrew Lloyd Webber's How I Won The War, with lyrics by the astonishing Leslie Bricusse (The Candy Man)? It is a doozy, as someone (not the Gershwins) once said. I know you will obsess on the word "doozy" but don't. It will do you no good and will cause you to feel a general malaise. Anyway, forthwith... the latest

(The battlefield. Mr. Stephen Sondheim and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber stand face to face. They sing:)

At last, Mr. Sondheim
We meet face to face.

At last, Andrew Lloyd Webber,
This is the time, this is the place.

Do you have anything to say,
Before I do you in?

Words will only get in the way,
Let the bloody battle begin.

Words will only get in the way?
That's something coming from you, you big twit.

Well, you have a point, I will grant you that,
You way too famous Brit.

Don't try to woo me
With your wily words.
I've always felt your words
Were strictly for the birds.

Words, you want words then here they come...
Word: hatred
Word: cretin!

Word: loser
Word: beaten!

Word: loathing
Word: quitter

Word: sicken
Word: bitter

Enough with the banter,
Enough with the foreplay
Take that! Lloyd Webber!
First strike... no more play.

He dodges, he darts, he's hither, he's yon,
He's here, no, he's not, now he's there,
Now he's gone.
Doesn't that upset you?
Doesn't that just get you?
Doesn't it make you want to yell?
That Webber is so clebber
Like the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Stand still, you devilish dastard,
Stand still and I will strike,
Stand still you devilish bastard,

That's exactly what you'd like!

Why should I make it easy?
Why should I make it fun?
Why should I make it breezy
So, that you can say you won?
Well, you won't be winning,
This is just the beginning.

Who can take a battle,
Dip it in a dream?
Make SS yell uncle
Make him simper and then scream?
The Andy Man can.
The Andy Man can
'Cause he really is the best,
And makes the world go 'round.

Oh, I surrender, stop all your blows
I can't keep up with your brilliant bon mots.
I retreat, in defeat

Oh, Victory is sweet.

I hold no malice
On the steps of the palace.
I'll have decorum
On the way to the forum.
I'll rest now
I've done my best now,
But there will come another day

What is that you say?
Then this war is not quite finished
For the chord is still diminished
Let's take a break and start anew

That's exactly what we'll do.
This war is not yet through.

(They each retrench.)

Next week will bring this stunning work to its conclusion. Mr. Bricusse's work here surpasses anything he's ever written. His depiction of Mr. Sondheim is so accurate, don't you think? Can't you just hear Steve saying these things. It's like Leslie was inside his head. Oops, I must away. Michael Crawford has arrived for a little soiree I'm having. He's not only going to sing all my biggest hits, he's going to recreate his role of Cornelius in Hello, Dolly! and will be singing Put On Your Sunday Clothes, which he sings while wearing his Phantom mask. Thrilling. Not as thrilling as my songs, but thrilling nonetheless. We will be serving ham chunks and cheese slices.

With much outward affection,
Lord Andrew

Next week will bring the end of the oratorio? I can't wait, but I'll be sorry to see it end, frankly. Somehow, though, I don't feel as strongly as Lord Andrew does, that Mr. Bricusse has captured Steve's voice.

Letters... We Get Letters...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the lovely e-mail this week. And away we go.

Abigail thinks ALW may have a "thing" for The Real A because he signs his e-mail "hugs and kisses, kisses and hugs". I noticed that, too, but I let it slide. I try never to read too much into the way people sign their e-mails to me. You know how people are. So frivolous. She also wants to know if 1776 is really one of my favorite musicals, as she doesn't really care for it much. I was lucky enough to see the original production, and it was pretty terrific. I would not, however, classify it with my all-time favorites, and certainly the revival did nothing to erase my memory of the original production, even though the revival was certainly competent.

Kokol has recommended a book to me, which I pass on to you, dear readers. It is Tim Burton's (yes, that Tim Burton) "The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories". This book apparently made Kokol happy as a clam, which is good when you're reading a book about the death of an oyster boy.

Steve (not Sondheim) wants to know what the scoop is regarding what performers will be taking part in the William Inge Theater Festival tribute to Steve (Sondheim) come April. I shall endeavor to find out the scoop, and then will pass the scoop on in this very scoop-filled column as soon as the scoop makes itself known to me.

Brad writes to tell me that for his 21st birthday he received an actual signed photo of my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim - signed "To Brad Sims - Thanks for the enthusiasm". What a lovely birthday present. Brad also worked in a music store over the Christmas holidays, and looked up the number of jazz cds of Sondheim, and found three, including two that I mentioned in my jazz treatise, Terry Trotter's Sweeney Todd... In Jazz, and Trotter's Forum...In Jazz. He also found Color and Light: Jazz Sketches On Stephen Sondheim. I must say I am not so fond of that album, as I feel that many of the artists just go too far afield of the tunes, and we lose sight of what is Sondheim. There are others that Brad didn't find in the Trotter series, and they are: Company... In Jazz, Passion... In Jazz, and A Little Night Music.

Thanks to S. Woody White and his ever-lovin' der Brucer for the report on their recent trip to NYC. His reports on the shows he saw pretty much reflect the way I felt, too. And extra brownie points for going to Joe Allen's (The Real A's home away from home).

Matt wants to know how much I get paid to write this column. Ooops - I just spit up my Diet Coke. He feels that whatever it is, it isn't enough, which is a very nice thing to say. Perhaps this is a question for Mr. Mark Bakalor. But I'll be more than pleased to answer it. For writing this column, I receive the grand sum of $0.00 I know to some that will seem like a lot, but frankly I'm worth every non-cent of it. I feel I earn that princely figure and I just don't want to hear any bellyaching about it. Case closed. [The Real A has just been given a 100% raise. - Mark Bakalor] Oh, and Matt, coincidentally, is working on a paper on Sondheim for the Inge Theater tribute.

Jon thinks that ALW is getting confused - is Anthony Newley playing Steve or Andrew? Or both. Well, ALW vacillates. How do you make up a word like that. Never in my wildest imaginings would it occur to me to make up a word like that. But apparently it occurred to someone, and he never vacillated, he just made it up willy-nilly. And let's not even go there. Willy-nilly. Oops, I went there. Stop me before I wreak havoc.

Sam is confused (confusion seems to be a theme this week) as to my location. I don't blame him. I'm confused, too. Let's just say that I frequent both coasts quite frequently, which is the only way to go when you frequent. He also brings up an interesting point, in that he thinks it's incorrect to refer to ALW as Mr. Webber. That, in fact, Lloyd is really part of his last name. For example, his brother is Julian Lloyd Webber (a fine cellist) and his father was named William Lloyd Webber, so yes, it would appear that to address Andrew as Mr. Webber would be incorrect. Well, hush my mouth. Just think if Andrew had a sister and she married someone named Lloyd Lloyd, she'd be Mrs. Lloyd Lloyd Lloyd. Oh, stop me. I am wreaking havoc all over the place. Sam also wants to know what I find compelling in my close personal friend Rupert Holmes' ouevre (now there is a word even I can admire), since Sam is obviously less impressed by his ouevre than I. Well, in a nutshell, I respond to it. It gets to me. I love his music and I find his words for the most part clever and witty and heartfelt. Especially Letters That Cross In The Mail, Widescreen, Studio Musician (which, interestingly, is a staple of Barry Manilow's stage act, although Barry never gives credit to Rupert, thereby leaving the impression that he wrote it) and others.

Joe thinks I've gone and slipped up again, gender-wise, by saying "...of which The Real A is very fond, just like his (italics mine) close personal friend..." Joe thinks he's caught me red-handed. I prefer to be caught blue-handed, Joe. But don't you think I could be doing that on purpose? Just to confuse. Besides "his" seems much righter than "hers". "Hers" just doesn't sound right. But whether "his" or "hers" I'm still The Real A. Gender doesn't change that fact. I am me. I am pleased to be me. I am happy. Therefore, I suppose I could even be a clam.

Trivia and Useless Knowledge Department

Yeah, so it was easy, what about it? They can't all be hard. Yes, yes, yes almost everyone knew the correct answer, although not all the details were correct (some consolation!). Anyway, Stephen Sondheim's professional acting debut was in 1974 on PBS. The show (part of Theater In America, I think) was George S. Kaufman and Ring Lardner's June Moon. It was directed by Sondheim's buddy Burt Shevelove, who co-wrote A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Some could argue that Sondheim had made his acting debut on the cast album of Gypsy, in which he uttered the immortal "you ain't gettin' eighty-eight cents from me". But I don't believe he was paid for the privilege. Here's an interesting aside (to me anyway): When I was growing up (in the early 1900s - only kidding) the two biggest influences on me comedy-wise were James Thurber (of whom more next week) and the above mentioned Mr. Ring Lardner. It is worth seeking out Mr. Lardner's play satires as they are very funny. Very surreal and wry. Quite a few years ago they did a workshop (well, this was before "workshops") of a Ring Lardner revue, which starred Orson Bean and Melinda Dillon. Although it didn't work very well, I still think someone out there could put together a really funny and clever Ring Lardner revue. I even have the title (from one of his stories): Shut Up, He Explained. Mr. James Thurber of course had a revue done of his work, called A Thurber Carnival, but, as I said, more of that next week.

This week's trivia question: Stephen Sondheim has never discussed his private life much, but at the time of Passion he gave several interviews saying that he was finally in love (sadly, this did not work out). But long before this, he had a serious relationship with someone he knew very well, and with whom he collaborated. Who?

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



Questions? Comments?

Well, has this column been all over the map or what? But you'll be happy to know that I am no longer suffering from a general malaise, am happy as a clam, and believe me, I am not grasping at straws when I say that.

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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