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

April 27, 1998 - #32

Oh, it's a busy time for The Real A. But that will not stop me from writing this column, come hell or high water. That's right, dear readers, you heard it here. Come hell or high water, I'm writing this column. The fact that neither hell or high water has come has little bearing on the issue at hand. What does this saying mean??? What do "hell" and "high water" have to do with each other? I mean, I like the sound of it, but what is it, fish? This is a choice? Hell or high water? I can't have medium water? Or low water? It's so random, just like this here column. As I was saying before I got waylaid by hell or high water, this is a busy time for me. The week flies by (no mean feat) and suddenly it is time to write this column, and I have given it no thought whatsoever. So, I go to my special "form" where I write the column, and I see a blank page and I stare at it thinking what am I going to fill up this blank page with? So far, not much of anything, wouldn't you agree?

But, in order to write this column, I must be totally relaxed. I must be totally at one with myself. Not at two. Not at three. At one. However, I was so tense this week that I was at zero with myself. So, I actually had to have a masseuse come to my house. Now, I haven't had a professional massage in over a year, and in that year my body has become a mass of tangled tension (TT for short). Well, you simply can't be at one with yourself if you are a mass of tangled tension (TT). When one has that much tangled tension (TT) you tend to look as if you have been sucking on a lemon for a very long time. So, over came the masseuse, table in hand. She looked like a Marine, and I sensed I was in for a painful evening. Adolph (as I nicknamed her immediately) did not disappoint. I got on the table and she did some perfunctory prodding and said, "Well, aren't we all askew." Now, I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "askew" I just get a little bit nervous. She then said "Just relax, and tell me if it's painful". I told her it was hard to relax when I've just heard the word "askew" but this did not faze her in the least. She then began in earnest. You know, dear readers, that when someone asks you to tell them if they're doing something painful, that if you tell them that they are doing something painful, they will look down on you with derision. So, you keep your mouth shut because one simply does not want to be looked down on with derision, especially when one is on a table, nude, covered only by a sheet. Miraculously, after an hour and a half of Adolph kneading me like so much fish, I felt as if a Giant Behemoth had been removed from my back. I felt no tension whatsoever. I was like a noodle pudding. Just a night's work for Adolph, but a life saver for me. She left, and I immediately cracked every bone in my body - toes, back, fingers, neck - the whole works. I then took a hot shower and sat on the couch like so much fish and thought: Ah, I am at one with myself. If you've never had a professional massage, if the price seems outlandish, just do it. If you can't spend money to make yourself feel as if a Giant Behemoth has been removed from you, then I don't know what.

Isn't "behemoth" one of the stupider words you've ever seen? It's made up of three separate words, "be" "he" and "moth". Somebody actually sat there and thought "I know, I'll put these three words together, even though they have nothing whatsoever in common". And whoever that person was will forever be known as the man who gave the world the word "behemoth". I don't feel that I have found the thrust of this column yet. So far, the thrust has eluded me. This is what happens when you are relaxed. You become totally incomprehensible. You become a babbling nincompoop (a coprophiliac's favorite thing to call someone, by the way). This whole relaxation thing is making me tense. Oh, well, don't you worry, dear readers, because come hell or high water, I'm going to finish this column. Have you ever noticed that this column is sometimes just like Melissa Errico: Some people get it, some don't.

The Horrifying Realization

And just what is this horrifying Real A 'zation? Just this: There are but a few hours until this column gets posted. Why is that a problem, you ask, and I will tell you because I withhold nothing from you, dear readers. It is a problem because I don't seem to have written the column. Somehow, since I wrote the first part of the column, the time simply got away from me. I hate when that happens. It's like time said "I have had it with that Real A and I just need to get away for awhile". And so, the time got away from me which was fine for the time, as I'm sure the time needs a break every now and then, but it has wreaked havoc, let me tell you. So, here I sit, with no time and an entire column to write. Normally I have some idea of what the various components will be, but I have been so damned busy this week, I haven't even given it a thought. What I am trying to say here is that this column, this column which you are now reading will be different than all the other columns. This column will ramble (like I've never done that before!), this column will be free-form, extemporaneous, in other words, without any sense of anything whatsoever. I just can't predict where this column will go. It may go here, it may go there, but one thing is for sure, and this is the thing you must always keep in your mind as this column drones on ad nauseum: At some point, it will end! Yes, at some point it will just stop and be over. Next week we'll go back to the normal-style column, I promise. So settle back, and be prepared for anything to happen, although I'm fairly certain that absolutely nothing will happen.

The Next Section

Well, this is exhilarating isn't it? We are already in the next section. What is this "next" section? How the hell do I know? I'm just typing words, you'll have to figure out what this section is about. I could talk about things that are happening in the theater world, but I don't know anything that's happening in the theater world, so I would just be typing meaningless words in an effort to take up space, and really, aren't I doing enough of that already? ///////// ........ >>>>>>>> {{{{{{{{{{ Yes, dear readers, this is what it's come to. I'm making patterns. Wait! I could write this entire column in code, using the nifty pattern buttons on my nifty keyboard. (*%@$$ !^|\<#+~~ Be honest, how many of you broke the code? How many of you know what I just wrote? All right, I'll tell you. It simply says: For God's sake, put me in a sanitarium!!!

The New Improved Section

Whew. I feel we are in new territory with this column. I feel we are in undiscovered country here, and I, for one, want to get back to terra firma (whatever the hell that is) post haste. Well, what can we talk about? Wait, I know. I haven't even checked my e-mails in the last two days. Let's see who wrote, shall we? I'll just print them out here and see if there's anything interesting. If not, then it will be just like the rest of this column so far.

Date: Sun, April 26, 1998 02:45:16
To: The Real A (
From: Christopher Renshaw (

To Whom It May Concern:

Mr. A, or whatever your name is, I come to you because I know you are completely unbiased and fair, because I know you understand how things work, because I know you will give me a fair shake. As you are aware I directed the brilliant revival of The King and I which recently closed on Broadway, but is still touring, currently starring the wonderful Marie Osmond (she's a little bit country, you know). Nobody liked Hayley Mills, isn't that sad? If only she'd listened to reason and sung Let's Get Together to the King, instead of that tired old Shall We Dance. There would have been mass hysteria, there would have been a mob scene, it would have been fabulous, given the show a whole new life. But no one listens to me. You think Donna Murphy listened to me? She brought in her own acting coach to direct her, for God's sake! Just because I told her, Donna dearest, if you could just try singing on pitch. Was that a crime? So, she brought in her own coach and would not speak to me. Me, the director of the show. And this coach encouraged her to sing a half a tone flat. He thought Anna would sing a half a tone flat, given that Anna wasn't really a singer. Well, I'm all for realism, I'm all for back story and subtext, but this is a musical, this is Rodgers and Hammerstein, this is not a show where the band plays in one key and the singer sings in another. Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't even want to get into any of that. Anyway, my newest production High Society opens this week, and I have been treated with equal disdain, as has my choreographer Lar Lubovitch. They've brought in that Desi Mackenough to "fix" my direction. And that Chorus Line boy to "fix" Lar's choreography. So now it's to be just another standard Broadway show. Don't they know I was trying to do something more? That I am a director with Ideas? I am sorry to vent, but I knew you would be sympathetic to my plight. I mean, I read your column, which is just filled with the most inane things, but no one comes in to "fix" it. You are allowed to be just as ridiculous as you wish, you are allowed to say (over and over until one wants to rip the hair out of their head) "what is it, fish?", you are allowed to write an entire column which has no point, and no one says "boo" to you. I am not treated with respect. That Donna Murphy did not even thank me when she won the Tony, she thanked her bloody acting coach. Lou Diamond Phillips listened to me. He liked me. But he didn't win the Tony, she did. First she wins a Tony for having a wart on her nose (I'm sure she sang flat in Passion, too, but who could tell?) and then she wins one because Julie Andrews refused her nomination. Oh, I know I sound bitter and perhaps I am. Thank you for listening to me and have a good day.

Chris Renshaw

Well, I'm very flattered that Mr. Renshaw thinks I'm a good ear. I think he is a fine director, and I enjoyed The King and I very much. And Hayley should have listened to him and sung Let's Get Together (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah - one of the finest songs ever written, by those talented Brothers Sherman). It makes perfect sense lyrically. Instead of Shall We Dance? and all that dancing around the real point of the scene, she just looks at the King and sings:

Let's get together (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Why don't you and I combi-ine.
Let's get together, whaddaya say,
We could have a groovy ti-me.
We'd be a cra-a-azy team,
Why don't we ma-a-ake the scene?
Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah.

and then the King sings:

Let's get together, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

It would just work perfectly. Well, let's see who else wrote.

Date: Sat, April 25, 1998 11:43:16
To: The Real A (
From: Paul Simon (

Hey, man:

Just thought I'd drop a line now that my first Broadway musical, The Capeman, has closed. I'm not feelin' groovy about this, let me tell you. But it's not going to stop me from trying again. Because Broadway needs people like me. I've written a new lyric to The Sounds of Silence, just to show you how I feel:

Hello, Broadway, my old friend,
The Capeman will not be the end.
Because I'm gonna write another show,
And this one isn't gonna be so slow...
And depressing? I am through with all that
shit... I'll write a hit...
Don't like the sounds of silence.

So I will write a bouncy C,
From now on two-four is for me.
I'll put a button on each song I write,
I'll find a subject that is fun and bright.
I have visions that I'll be the next Berlin,
That I'll win...
And never...
have sounds...
of silence.

Cool, huh? Anyway, I'm already working on my new show, called Bridge Over Troubled Broadway. I'm very excited about it. Keep up the good work. By the way, someone told me it's all happening at the zoo. You know what? I do believe it, I do believe it's true...

Paul Simon (formerly Simon and Garfunkel)

Thanks for writing, Paul, and keep us posted about your new show, it sounds great. Well, let's see what else we have here. Ah, here's two emails that came in back to back.

Date: Sat, April 25, 1998 02:38:18
To: The Real A (
From: Len Cariou (

Dear Real A:

Thank you for thinking I was the best Sweeney.

Len Cariou (the best Sweeney)

Well, let's see what else we have here...

Date: Sat, April 25, 1998 02:38:02
To: The Real A (
From: George Hearn (

Dear Real A:

I am sorry that you feel that Len Cariou was the best Sweeney. Clearly I was the best Sweeney. I was louder and crazier and that is all that needs to be said. I mean, I did the video, what does that tell you? I shall not read your column again.

Disgruntledly yours,
George Hearn (the only Sweeney)

Well, you can't please everybody. It's always nice to have so many e-mails from celebrities. Not that it swells my head. Oh, no, The Real A does not have a swelled head. I am simply not one of those people whose heads are too big for their bodies. Well, there are no more e-mails (except for yours, dear readers, which we will get to very soon in the letters section) so we may as well move on to the next ill-defined section.

The What If Dept.

If I'm not careful here this will actually start to seem like a column. Here is an interesting (to me anyway) "what if": What if Stephen Sondheim at the time of Forum, had written Sweeney Todd instead. And it goes something like this (to the tune of Comedy Tonight):

Something with razors,
Something with meat pies,
Something for everyone
In Sweeney Todd tonight!

We've got Johanna,
We've got Judge Turpin,
Watch out! The blood will flow
In Sweeney Todd tonight!

Nothing that's cute,
Nothing that's sweet.
You'll see it's true
You are what you eat!

You'll find the story,
Gets pretty gory,
You'll find that nothing turns out right...
Company tomorrow
Sweeney Todd tonight!

People get shaved here,
No one gets saved here,
No one finds happiness
In Sweeney Todd tonight!

Old Mrs. Lovett,
Thinks nothing of it,
To bake a little priest
In Sweeney Todd tonight!

Todd gets revenge,
Turpin's the prize,
One thing's for certain,
Everyone dies...

No pretty sets here,
No safety nets here,
Nothing that's breezy and/or light...
Merrily tomorrow,
Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd,
Sweeney Todd, Sweeney Todd...

The Section Right Before the Letters Section

In this section I thought I'd start out by using the word "heinous" (heinous, do you hear me?). No reason, really. You knew, dear readers, that I was determined to use that word come hell or high water. And by yiminy I have used it. No one can say I haven't. That would be a lie. A heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) lie. Or, as The King (in The King and I) would say, "a false lie". That darn King had a way with words, didn't he? Now what? Now I am at a total loss. Now, what do I do, just sit on my couch like so much fish and type mindlessly until I feel that this section is done? Well, certainly that's what I've been doing, so why not? My keyboard is behaving badly. It is leaving out letters, it is capitalizing things all by itself...Why, I think this keyboard is possessed. I'm having to constantly go back and correct the stupid things it's doing. Here, I'll show you what I mean. tHis is a sntence witHOUT my crrections. Isn't that heinous (heinous, do you hear me?)? Keyboards - can't live with them, can't live with them. I wish I could just speak into the keyboard and that somehow magically the words would just appear on the screen. Wouldn't that be swell? Well, (Spock alert) hopefully we will have that capability soon. I feel this section is beginning to run its course. I feel this section is winding down. I feel there is nothing more to say in this here section, but why should that stop me? I'm on a (kaiser) roll here. I'm on a roll straight to hell (or high water) and so maybe it would be a good idea to put this section out of its misery. Perform vivisection on this section, that's what I say. Give this section a C section. Section Eight this section. Say au revoir to ze section. Say auf wiedersein, shalom, amscray, hit the road, Jack, abiento, bon soir, shut me up before I become a raving drooling thing, a miasma of maladjustment, a cranial cretin, a lactose intolerant vegetarian. There is only one word left for the likes of me: Lithium.

Letters... We Get Letters

Or Zanex. I would never take anything called "Zanex" because it sounds like the material they make stretchy pants with. I feel there has been a lot of stretchy pants material in this column. In any case, we had a lot of mail this week, so to it, I say, and to it we will.

Abigail writes to say that she too suffers from allergies. She recommends Clariton-D. But one has to go to the doctor to get said Clariton-D for doctor, and I hate going to the doctor, especially when the doctor puts on that glove. I just don't like that glove. That glove means trouble in my book (Chapter 62 - The Probing Glove). So I'll stick with my Actifed which you can buy over the counter (what a stupid saying - what are they gonna do, sell it to me around the counter, or under the counter?). What was I talking about? Oh, yes, Abigail. Well, dear readers, you won't believe it, but our very own Abigail has won a statewide creative writing competition. Not a citywide or a streetwide competition, no, a statewide competition. I should have had her write this fershluganah column! And the icing on the cake, the hot fudge on the sundae, the whipped cream on the Jell-O is that she has a date for the prom!

Pat dropped me a line and told me that he also did Room Recitals and was also tremendously affected by Anyone Can Whistle. Perhaps Pat and I are really the same person, although Pat is currently attending Wheaton North (go Wheaton North!) and I haven't attended high school since the great crash of '29. Pat also asks if he is alone in hating the newer recordings of older Sondheim shows, like Company and Merrily. Some of them are just fine, and some aren't. Certainly Company is nowhere close to the original album. I like the new Merrily, dislike the concert ACW and Follies (nothing will ever replace those original performances), and am perversely fond of some of the London Follies. Finally, Pat tells me that because of this here column somebody at Wheaton North (go Wheaton North!) got hooked on Sondheim and Follies. I think that's swell, and I promise to have more Sondheim reminiscences next week.

John writes to say that he just appeared in a production of Sunday In The Park and that it was one of the most amazing experiences of his life. He wishes to send a Hail and Hosannah to my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim, and I hereby pass it along.

Larry told me an interesting tale. Years ago he saw a rather chaotic preview of the workshop of Into The Woods in San Diego. Afterward, he wrote a letter to Sondheim offering suggestions, as he thought audience response to the workshop would be welcome. A little while later he received a reply from Mr. Sondheim (who answers all his letters, just like I do). Larry was very excited as he opened the envelope, until he read its contents: "Uninvited advice is obnoxious". I do know that Steve is prone (well, we all know he's prone) to this kind of bitchy response to criticism. He can be very nasty. I can relate to you a story that happened during the tumultuous tryout of Merrily. Nothing was working, everyone was trying to fix the show, and things were a mess. One night after the show, they had a "note" session, and people were encouraged to give their opinions as to what was wrong. One young fellow, an intern, who was/is a huge Sondheim fan, spoke up candidly about what he felt the problems were. Well, several weeks later he received a scathing note from Sondheim, basically saying that he would never acknowledge this fellow again. This fellow went on to become a respected musical director/arranger. And some years after Merrily he wrote Steve a letter trying to patch things up and chalking the whole thing up to reckless youth. And he got a reply back saying "never write me again. If you see me on the street, stay as far away from me as you can". Point being, you want to avoid at all costs getting on Sondheim's bad side. I understand it, because when people get on my bad side, I feel the same way. Just ask Glen or S.M. (Smoked Meat? Stress Management? Spring Mechanism?).

Otto (Otto, spelled backwards) commented on the sound quality of various sneezes. The following bug his butt cheeks big time: tiny squeak sneezes (you know the kind) and enormous bellows. Otto (Otto, spelled backwards) wants to know what my sneezes sound like. Well, they resemble the noise one would make if one were to have a cattle prod inserted into an area that the doctor with the glove is very familiar with.

Leigh (Hgiel, spelled backwards) offers us these synonyms for genitalia - for the male: whanger, Percy and trouser snake; for the female: Muff. Muff and Percy would also be good names for pet birds and mice. Leigh only knew A Chorus Line from the film version and only recently heard the Original Cast Album which he now loves. First, let's call a spade a club and say that the film of A Chorus Line is possibly the worst stage to film adaptation that will ever be made. Leigh can't remember if any songs were cut or changed. Cassie's stage number (The Music and The Mirror) was replaced by an inferior song, as was Mike's I Can Do That. It was just probably not a good idea to give a musical all about dancing to the director of Gandhi.

Spock (yes, Spock) had nothing to say about "hopefully" this week, and hopefully that means that the usage issue has been put to bed. He doesn't remember the Chat Room Event with Tiffany in the same way that Tiffany remembers it, and wants Tiffany to know that he misses her Terribly. As you will read in a moment, Spock, it may be too late for you.

Tiffany (Ynaffit, spelled backwards) writes to say that she finally got up the nerve to ask the fellow she's been interested in to go to dinner. And he accepted. And they had the dinner. And it went really well. And they might just go out again, thank you very much. If you ask me it sounds like Tiffany and Abigail are on the road to romance. This is fine, as long as they don't forsake One From Column A. I am happy for T&A and will await further tales.

Lindsay thinks Spock is incorrect about Dr. Spock being dead. In reality, Dr. Spock is dead, he died in March.

William F. Orr (not William V. Orr) says that his favorite synonym for genitalia (of the male variety) is schwannstucker. He also points out that many words that have to do with the nose start out with "sn", such as sneeze, snot, sniffle, and snuff. To which I would add snore.

kokol just got a scholarship to Milliken University and is thrilled. Doubly thrilled, because they will be doing her favorite show next year, Assassins by that guy whose name adorns this here site.

Louis (everybody loves Louis) wrote me a long note from his Usage Panel, which basically gives me a thumbs up for my use of the word "hopefully". His Usage Panel feels that this current usage is slowly usurping the accepted usage. A usage usurped is a terrible thing, and I think there is room for all usages to co-exist in harmony and peace, to be at one with themselves come hell or high water.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

Lots of guesses to last week's question, with several people getting it correct.

The person who's appeared in the most Sondheim shows is Cris Gronendaal, who has been in Sweeney Todd, Passion, Forum and SITPWG. Tied with him would be Merle Louise, who's appeared in Gypsy, Company, Sweeney and ITW.

The person nobody guessed was Julia McKenzie who has been in Into the Woods, Follies, Side by Side by Sondheim, and Sweeney Todd.

This week's trivia question is:

Name all of the actors who have played the role of Pseudolus on Broadway; in the original production and the two subsequent revivals.

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



Questions? Comments?

Well, I can't believe it. Finished. We have kept hell and high water at bay. This was a close call, dear readers, but I had the constant encouragement of the bird outside, who sang the entire score to Guys and Dolls (Sue Me was especially well handled, I thought). I do hope this column wasn't too off the beaten path. And what the hell is a beaten path anyway? Someone takes a baseball bat and wreaks havoc on the path? And the path just has to sit there and take it? Next week we will be back on the beaten path, that much I can promise you. As long as there has to be a beaten path we may as well be on it rather than off it, as it gives the path no little comfort to know that we are there. In closing let me say once again that I adore you, dear readers. If it weren't for you, only
Mr. Mark Bakalor would be reading this column, and even he isn't reading it these days because he's off doing shows in Acton or Tustin or wherever the hell he is with his broken down jalopy. I, on the other hand, am sitting here on my couch, at one with myself.

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

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

« Features



Recently Overheard...
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

Follow the thread...

“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.

Which is not to say that it is perfect...”
- popcornonmyknees

Follow the thread...

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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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