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

February 2, 1998 - #20

I'd just like to make mention right here and now of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. There. You see. The first sentence in this week's column uses the name Stephen Sondheim. I mean, it's right there, in your face. However, this is just a ploy to suck in the disgruntled naysayers. Those darn naysayers have just realized the ploy and are kicking themselves really hard (and believe me it is really hard to kick yourself - have you ever tried it?) for having read extra sentences that have nothing to do with Sondheim. But... To string them along, I think I'll occasionally just drop in a Sondheim every now and then, just to fool them and give them hope that maybe, just maybe, they will find a morsel of useful information about Sondheim. But you, dear readers, of course, know better.

So, I'm just sitting here on my couch like so much fish, listening to the rain. I am listening to the rain because it is raining, hence the sound of rain. Sondheim. Now, sitting here on my couch like so much fish has brought back memories of my grandfather. Why, you ask, as well you should? Because my grandfather loved the word "fish" and would use it whenever possible. No matter what plate of food they would set before him, whether it was steak or a hot fudge sundae, he would look at it and say, "What is it, fish?" I mean, at every meal I ever ate with my grandfather, he said this. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Ham and eggs? "What is it, fish?" Baked potato? "What is it, fish?" And sometimes, if he was in a particularly jolly mood he would add "Is there sauce on it? I wouldn't eat it if there was sauce on it." I asked my parents many times why he would say that, and they had no answer. My grandmother had no answer. No one had an answer. Only my grandfather had an answer, and his answer was "What is it, fish?" Which, of course, is not an answer at all, it's a question. A question with no answer. No wonder I turned out the way I did. I think we can lay the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of my grandfather. He was what is usually referred to as a "character". He would sometimes excuse himself from dinner, go to the bathroom, then come back in and announce that he had made a stool and we should all go look. Now, remember, we were eating. But apparently, at his age, making a stool was no mean feat, so some members of the family dutifully trotted off and admired his handiwork. You will be happy to know, dear readers, that I did not. I drew the line right there. I simply would not, as a child, and will not, as an adult, get up from a meal and look at a stool. Why am I talking about this? Why have I dredged up these memories? Why have I used the word "dredge", surely one of the ugliest sounding words ever created. Dredge. What function can a word like that serve? Of course, one might also ask what function this entire paragraph has served. Yes, one might, if one were a naysayer. Oops, that reminds me. Sondheim. Glad I dredged that one up, and just in time, too.

Now, having ended the above paragraph (and none too soon, as far as I'm concerned), I have started this here new paragraph and I realize now that I started it with no idea what it was going to be about. I realize there are some who think the entire column is written this way, but it is just not so. In any case, this appears to be a paragraph without point. And what is the point of a paragraph without point? No point, that seems clear. The only thing one could possibly say after reading a paragraph without point is "What is it, fish?". And that of course, would be the point, now wouldn't it?

Thank God that paragraph is over. Every word of it seemed dredged up from the bowels of paragraphdom. Oh, and by the way, don't forget... Sondheim. In any case, I think it's time to move on, don't you? I think we've had enough of bowels and stools, don't you? I don't want this column to be like Smokey Joe's Cafe: Fun once, but why is it still around? But enough about me.

What's Happening

By now, you all know that The Capeman opened and got some of the worst notices I've ever seen, although almost all of them were respectful of Paul Simon's music. Actually, I feel that every one of the reviews I read was a ripoff of my review. So, I did a little research and found out that every critic in New York and environs (as Carol Channing is wont to say) reads this column. Damn them (as Marlene Dietrich is wont to say)! Before we go on, let's just check out that word "wont" (well, you know I just have to). This is a word which cannot make up its mind. It is in that Twilight Zone world between "want" and "won't" and is basically just one more word that should never have been invented. In my book it's just another case of a word inventor with too much time on his/her hands. What the hell was I talking about? Oh, yes, the ripoff reviews of The Capeman. I just want to know if these critics who rip off this column wholesale think they're getting away with anything? Do they think that you, dear readers, are dumb? They cannot pull the wool over our eyes. Or the rayon, the cotton, or the tricot. We know what's going on, because you who read this column are in the loop. In any case, given the reviews, the question now is how long will the producers of The Capeman keep the show running? Some (yes, the ubiquitous "some") are saying it will last through the Tonys. Some (yes, the other ubiquitous "some") are saying it will be gone within the month. Mr. Ward Morehouse III (yes, the ubiquitous Ward Morehouse III, and isn't it just too frightening to contemplate that there were two Ward Morehouse's before this one) says it is close to closing now, which means it will probably not close now, because we know just how accurate Mr. Ward Morehouse III is. As I always say: Time will tell. Or, as my grandfather always said: What is it, fish?

No new casting news for Follies, although as it turns out, my scoop about John Cullum playing Ben may have turned out to be premature. I hate that. It is so embarrassing to have premature scoop. I guess he said he would do it, then, for whatever Cullumesque reasons, he decided not to. They have been auditioning everyone this last week, including someone I think would be swell, Pam Myers, who is up for the role of Sally. But frankly, I don't hold out much hope out for wonderful casting decisions, because I think the director of the production, Robert Johansson, is just not a great director. Having seen his production of Showboat, which I thought dreadful, and then his production of City Opera's Cinderella, which was also not very good, well, we can only hope for the best, which is what Follies deserves. I will keep you posted as I am kept posted and will endeavor to not have any more premature scoops. Oh, yeah, Follies has a score by Stephen Sondheim, whose name graces this very site, the Stephen Sondheim Stage, which, conincidentally, is all about Stephen Sondheim, except of course, ninety percent of this column, which is, as we have all come to learn, sheer drivel.

A Celebration

I'll bet you thought I'd forgotten. I'll bet you thought I was going to let the moment go by. I'll bet you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Well, what I'm talking about is, it's time for a celebration. Yes, it's February, but that's not the reason. And speaking of reason, what is the reason for the spelling of "February". It doesn't look right, it's stupid and no one, but no one, pronounces it the way it's spelled. But we are not here, dear readers, to go on and on about February, even though I'm getting annoyed just looking at it. No! We are here to celebrate the fact that this is the twentieth One From Column A! Can you believe it? It seems like only yesterday that I was writing the first column. I mean, I know it wasn't really yesterday, otherwise I'd have written nineteen columns in one day and that would have been no mean feat. All right, hold the celebration! No mean feat??? I said that earlier and here I've gone and said it again. I just want to throw a tomato at that phrase. Look at it. And the shocking thing is we all know what it means! No mean feat. I ask you. And why are there three different spellings (and meanings) for the word feat? Feet, feat, and fete. Sounds like a law firm. Was someone being lazy? Did someone not realize that here (hear) we have three words that sound exactly the same. I mean they came up with celebration (the very title of this section) so we also needed fete? C'mon, people, this was unnecessary. So, if your feet do a feat, do you fete your feet? You see the problem here. Where was I? Oh, yes, we're having a celebration/fete on our (hour) twentieth column (shall we pronounce that "columnuh" so we don't waste that pointless "n"?).

If you go back and look at the first few columns, you will see that The Real A clearly has no idea what the style of the column should be. The Real A is clearly flailing wildly in every direction trying to find a form. I look at those early columns and think, what is it, fish? But finally it all seemed to coalesce (a nice fancy-shmancy ten dollar word - nice, but unnecessary) into something. And that "something" is what this celebration/fete is all about. I have received several congratulatory e-mails, which I (eye) share (Cher) with you (ewe) now.

Date: Sun, February 1, 1998 12:54:32
To: The Real A (
From: Stephen Sondheim (

Dear A:

I think it's remarkAble that you've written twenty totally pointless columns. I fete you, A. No one rambles incessantly like you. You have become A mAster of the pointless ramble. Which is no mean feat, by the way. Here's a little something for your anniversary (to the tune of Old Friend, for those Sondheim expert naysaying nincompoops):

Great, Real A,
Let's celebrate Real A,
Naysayers hate Real A,
Yes, we can say that that's true.

When I read
All of your pointless drivel.
No one writes
Drivel the way that you do.

So, Real A,
Say what you've got to say,
Let all the Glen's say nay,
Don't let it change you one whit!

Good show, Real A,
Keep up the flow, Real A,
Here's to you,
We fete you,
That's it.

All the best,

I am so touched. I'm sorry, I get really emotional when my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim shows his support like that.

Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 01:20:04
To: The Real A (
From: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (

My lovely Real A:

Just a note to wish you congrats on your twentieth column. I write this note from hospital, where I am recuperating. I didn't even know I was ill, frankly, until I read about it on the Internet. So, I immediately went to hospital where I'm being treated for eating too much boiled meat. We English love boiled meat, you know, but they tell me I simply must cut down. And please thank Ben Brantley for the lovely review. I'll write again as soon as I'm out of hospital and finished with the boiled meat treatment.

Love, love, and more love,
Lord Andrew

How sweet of him to write from the hospital. How come the English say "I'm in hospital" instead of "I'm in the hospital", which is what we Americans say? To get through the sentence faster? Peculiar, those English. And reading his e-mail I see we have a similar situation to fete/feat/feet with meat/meet/ mete. Can you meet the meat? Um, I can see that I just better stop right here.

Date: Sun, February 1, 1998 20:56:56
To: The Real A (
From: Ben Brantley (, Vincent Canby (

To whom it may concern:

Ben and Vincent here, and we just wanted to say that we enjoy the column tremendously. It is very piquant and tart. It is like a gin fizz. It has pith and moment. We totally agree on this (as we seem to agree on everything these days - although that is just coincidence, we assure you. ) We like you better than The Capeman, but not quite as much as Side Show. And scads more than Ragtime, which worked much better as a novel. In any case, we have to go now, as we have reviews to write. And there is no truth to the rumor that we read your column to rip off your thoughts on shows. Good luck on your upcoming columns.

Ben and Vincent Brantley and Canby

Thanks guys, really. Has anybody thought about this: That the reason Ben and Vincent liked Side Show so much is because they are really Siamese Twins? Think about it. Anyway, I've had so much fun writing the first twenty columns, and hopefully I will keep having fun writing the next twenty. If I'm not having fun, you, dear readers, will be the first to know. Because, if it's not fun then it will be sheer drudgery, and when things are drudgery then you have to dredge things up, and between the dredging and the drudgery lies madness. And where lies madness, so goeth The Real A. Frankly, I think The Real A wenteth to the madness longeth ago. Okay, I'll knock off the "eths" and just say, thank you dear readers for without you what would be the point, as there'd be no one reading this column, which would make the writing of this column more pointless than it already is.

Letters... We Get Letters...

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful e-mails of support in regards to Glen's letter of last week. Mr. Mark Bakalor and I have forwarded some of your choice comments to him. Here are some of the ones that we received:

Kate writes, "I love your column and have loved it ever since you began here! Truly, if those people don't care for it, they can just point their browsers elsewhere. I mean, nobody's pointing a gun to their head (tempting for some, I know) and telling them to read your column."

Jon writes, "Well well well, A, there seems to be a problem with your people reading your posts who do not like them. This seems to me to be vaguely masochistic, and therefore sick. Now, I should say that I do pity people who are sick, and we might as well be nice and humor them. So, how about you and I buy some chains and tie them up? That would make us sadistic, but, as I said, we should humor ourselves by tying the nay sayers in chains."

Abigail writes, "Ooh! Do not let that terrible Glen fellow get you into a blue funk(isn't that a great phrase? Blue funk...) I, for one, personally adore you and your column, and anyone who thinks otherwise deserves to be slapped upside the head and dunked feet-first into a vat of boiling mayonnaise. Unfortunately, this action is frowned upon in our society, otherwise I would take more action and do it. Also, it is hard to find large vats of boiling mayonnaise."

Joe writes, "I think Glen and the disgruntled few should take some object and place it in an upwards direction of a body part of their choice."

Amber writes, "I LOVE your column and simply would be lost without it. The disgruntled few can Kiss my patootie. And you can tell them that, too!"

Erzulie writes, "I would also like to say, that I think this is a VERY appropriate place for the column... and that if you let the disgruntled few get you down and you stopped writing it, I would become quite disgruntled. Thats all I have to say."

But, before we move on and answer this week's mail, well, you just won't believe it, I received another e-mail from another disgruntled reader! And you know I just have to share it with you, although this will be the last time I dignify something like this by printing it. If I receive any more of these from any disgruntled readers, I am warning them here and now, they will rue the day they sent it. Take this seriously, you few. You will rue the day like you've never rued before. Those who are rude will rue, mark my words. Anyway, back to the email. I know that you want to be in the loop, so in the loop you'll be. I print this letter in its entirety, exactly as I received it:

"You suck... There's no question about it. Your weekly column isn't just idiotic and irrelevant (which one could forgive), IT'S BORING!! Do you really think anybody cares about you or what you have to say? Do you think we care about your oral hygene practices? Do you think we value one thing you say about Life? Teeth? Sondheim? The answer is a loud resounding "NO". My guess is that you're a big, fat, pathetic, loser, high school geek who actually feels that his presence on the internet is important. Sorry, but this fish ain't biting. S.M."

The first thing that's interesting about this letter is that Mr. Mark Bakalor (who knows such things) tells me that it emanated from a computer at Playbill Online. I will allow you to draw your own conclusions about that. The author, S.M. (Simply Miffed? Sorry Moron? Somnambulistic Misanthrope?), poses several questions worth answering.

Here is a person who finds my column idiotic and irrelevant and boring. And yet this person is reading my column. Now, reading a column you find idiotic and irrelevant is pretty idiotic and irrelevant all on its own. As to whether I think anyone cares about what I have to say, I really don't think about it. But, given the response of the majority of people who do read this column (yes, you, dear readers), it seems to give some people happiness, whether they care about what I have to say or not. While I am neither big nor fat, I take exception to your negative use of those words. "Pathetic" and "loser" are two words I would ascribe to someone who would use words like "big" and "fat" in a negative way. And, while I am no longer in high school (and haven't been since the late 1800s), I will freely and proudly admit to having been "a high school geek". The best people are, you know. In any case, I do thank S.M. (Sado-Masochist? Steve Martin? Surely Misguided?) for the "idiotic and irrelevant" comment, which I take as high praise, indeed.

And now on to the rest of the mail...

Peter wrote to tell me that he's just discovered the column, and unlike S.M. (Sullen Meathead? Scary Monster? Supine Sybriate?) seems to be enjoying it. Welcome, Peter!

Pat thinks he's done it! Thinks he's finally figured out my Real identity! By watching and looking for connections he has deduced who I Really am. He is confident that he is right! Now, remember, so far we have the following guesses:

male, female, gay, straight, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Gerard Allesandrini, George Clooney, William F. Orr, Rupert Holmes, Young Simba from The Lion King, the Tony-nominated Billy from Big, a cast member from one of Sondheim's shows, Michael Tough the singing janitor, Bruce Kimmel... and now: Richard Christianson of the Chicago Tribune! Why? Because every time I go off to New York and then come back and write about what I've seen, Richard Christianson has also just gone off to New York and has written about the very same shows! Pat acknowledges that the only weak point of his guess is that there are "A"s in Richard Christianson, and I have gone on record as saying there are no "A"s in my Real name. So, that would be like a really strong weak point. But, that is not to say that I couldn't have once been Richard Christianson of the Chicago Tribune, although I find Chicago to be way too cold (yep, there's another one of those word triumverates - to/too/two) and find they pronounce their "A"s funny there. But a fine guess, Pat. Coincidentally, in another letter, Kate guesses that I'm George Furth. I could be George Furth, presuming I am male, and wear a really bad toupee. Pat also asks how he can write my close personal friend Stephen Sondheim. While his Real Address isn't much of a secret, the best thing to do is write him care of his agent, Flora Roberts, in New York.

Pat (not Pat) tells me that sometimes he awakens at five in the morning, only to find he has no feeling in his arm.

Emily Jane assures me that she loves my drivel (and is there anything better than loved drivel?), and I thank her, and also thank her for her succinct and perfect comment for Glen: Bite me.

Abigail sent The Real A a Mail-A-Meal gourmet on-line Dessert postcard. A great big thanks for it. The Real A loves desserts, and it was a mighty mouth-watering postcard at that.

Trivia and Useless Knowledge Department

Well, what started out as a suggested trivia question with one answer, has blossomed into a much larger thing, as I suggested it would. The question was, which person who's appeared in a Sondheim show also provided a voice for an animated feature. The answer the person who suggested the question was looking for, of course, was Liz Callaway. But we, dear readers knew there were more, didn't we. Many more. And here's a list of them, based on the answers that many of you sent in:

Liz Callaway
Nathan Lane
Angela Lansbury
Jason Alexander
Ernie Sabella
Bernadette Peters
Mandy Patinkin
Charles Kimbrough
Kelsey Grammer
Bette Midler
Jonathan Dokuchitz
La Chanze
Victor Garber

And I'm sure there are others we're forgetting. This week's trivia question:

We all know that Carol Lawrence played Maria on Broadway in West Side Story. But who almost got the part, and what musical did she go on to star in? No books are going to help you here, so just start flailing away.

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



Questions? Comments?

So, here we are at the end of our twentieth column. And next week we'll dredge up our twenty-first column. Hopefully it will include a mention or two of Stephen Sondheim, but you never know. And hopefully, we will hear no more from the disgruntled naysayers, for if we do they will rue the day. And to S.M. (Stern Miscreant? Sloppy Mudslinger? Strange Mustard?): if you've been reading this column again, my dear readers and I would like to say to you, in unison: What is it, fish?

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...”
- Mark Bakalor

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“I found [the Sondheim Celebration's Company] to be completely delightful. Almost all of the numbers excited and energized me, and most of the scenes were about as pitch-perfect as you can get. I just sat there with a big smile on my face the whole show.

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Music, Books & More
Elaine Stritch
With three hand-held cameras, one major theatrical milestone and nearly nineteen hours of footage, this rare and intimate look with Original Cast Album - Company is a must for any Sondheim fan.

DVD: $26.96
VHS: $24.95

One of Sondheim's most beloved works is sure to be Sunday in the Park with George, available on DVD, video tape, and CD.

CD: $13.99
DVD: $25.49
VHS: $19.98

Nathan Lane
All Sondheim completists are sure to now own the first complete recording of The Frogs coupled with Evening Primrose. Do you?

CD: $18.97

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