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

October 20, 1997 - #5

Warning: This week's column is going to be all over the place. There will be non-theatre related things in here. Parental guidance suggested...

First off, Side Show opened on Thursday night. It received some raves, some pans, some in-the-middles. It did get the all-important Times rave (with some caveats). It will be interesting to see what happens now and whether audiences will support it. Prior to the reviews appearing, the show had very little advance. Only time will tell if the Hilton Sisters will stick together.

The Real A has just sneezed twenty-four times in a row. Yes, it's allergy season and I, for one, suffer every year at this time. Now, The Real A is not a dainty sneezer. The Real A makes a lot of noise. Heads turn. It is an indescribable sound. An Alien sound from Another World. And when you're sitting in a quiet movie theater and it happens, it's like being the toy boat at the end of the first act of Titanic: everybody looks at you and doesn't know how to react, and you feel totally out of place and stupid. But enough about me.

Cabaret (and I don't mean the show)

Is anyone else getting just a wee bit tired of the proliferation of cabaret artists and their theme shows? Everywhere you turn, in every city, there are hundreds of artists doing Cabaret (and I don't mean the show).

Now, these range from consummate artists like Miss Babara Cook and Miss Julie Wilson, to the totally obscure and horrifyingly inept. Basically, anyone with some sheet music and an accompanist is a cabaret artist. I attend a lot of Cabaret (and I don't mean the show) and see a lot of bum acts. And they all seem to do the same songs by the same people. I mean, is there an "official" Cabaret (and I don't mean the show) songbook they all use? It simply isn't enough to get up and sing a bunch of songs you like. It's a "show". It should be structured and have a point and build. And have you ever noticed how much water is consumed by these people during the course of an act???? It's amazing they don't have to go pee in the middle of their set.

I recently saw an act in which a man sang and played the piano and the harp at the same time. Talk about Side Show. He played the piano with his left hand, the harp with his right and managed to croak his way through a song. Did I need to see this? No. There were fifteen people in the audience, but that didn't stop him from doing an hour and half. It seemed like The Real A had three birthdays during his act. And at The Real A's age this is not a good thing.

Lots of people like to do Mr. Sondheim's music in their cabaret shows. He is probably one of the most "done" songwriters in this regard. How many ways are there to do Send In The Clowns? They do it happy, they do it sad, they do it with heavy irony, they do it as a comedy number. Enough with the clowns already. Send in something else. I went to a cabaret show once where the singer was doing an all Craig Carnelia evening. Now, I like Craig Carnelia as much as the next person, but a whole evening of this guy singing Craig Carnelia was like listening to the same song thirty times. Not a good idea. Variety, surprise, interesting arrangements, good patter, that's what makes for good Cabaret (and I don't mean the show). This is not to discourage up-and-coming cabaret singers, because when cabaret acts are good, it is a very magical experience.

The Real A Does Chat

Recently, The Real A has discovered the internet phenomenon known as The Chat Room. This is a concept. The first time I visited a chat room there were forty-nine people in it. Despite the room being a theatre related Chat Room, it seemed to me that everyone was trying to pick up everyone else. In other words, like the Nineties equivilent of a singles' bar. The chat was going so fast, that by the time I'd type a response to something, five topics had gone by and my response made no sense whatsoever. Very disorienting. I got nauseous watching the screen.

One fine day I visited another chat room. There were only a handful of people in the room, which made things much easier. They were, of course, trying to pick each other up. There was one person in there with the alluring moniker of Sexy4U. She and some guy were getting rather, well, shall we say "het" up. So, I asked if anyone had seen Passion. Sexy4U misunderstood and thought I wanted to get involved with her and the other guy. To cut to the chase here, Sexy invited me and the other guy into a "private room" called The Hot Tub. Now, you know I just had to go and see what that was about. I know there are young people who read this column, so I will not go into detail here, other than to say that they did not want to discuss Sondheim, did not appreciate when I printed the lyrics to The Miller's Son, and when I tried to tell them why the second act of Sunday In The Park With George was problematic they threw me out of The Hot Tub. What did I do wrong? Let's put it this way: I knew where the conversation was heading when there was a lewd reference to a female body part, and I asked if they were talking about Cats.

The "What If" Department

Since Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lloyd Webber seem to taking a breather this week (probably retrenching and gathering ammunition for a new attack), I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce the "what if" department. This grew out of the "what if" Andrew Lloyd Webber had written Passion, or "what if" Sondheim had written Cats section of my first column. This week the "what if" is: What if Jerry Herman had written Sweeney Todd? And it goes something like this:

Hello, Sweeney,
Well, Hello, Sweeney!
It's so nice to have you slitting throats, it's true.
The blood runs red, Sweeney,
Then they're dead, Sweeney,
And your barber chair's not filled with hair, it's
Filled with grue.

You look like, hell, Sweeney,
You're not well, Sweeney,
And you covet Mrs. Lovett and her
Pie Shop...
Slit that throat, Sweeney,
You're screaming every note, Sweeney,
Promise you're never ever gonna stop!

I went away from the lights of London Town,
And into my personal hell..
But now that I'm back in the lights of London Town...
My Razor and my Arm have never felt so well.

Well, well, Hello, Sweeney,
Well, hello, Sweeney,
For the closest shaves in town you get the prize!
We say Encore! Sweeney,
Kill some more, Sweeney,
First they're sliced and then they're diced
Into some nice meat pies!
They taste so good, Sweeney,
Well, they should, Sweeney,
Mrs. Lovett bakes them and they smell
Quite odd! God!
Love that chair, Sweeney,
Do something with your hair, Sweeney,
You'll never be a meanie, Sweeney Todd!

Not to mention:

Razor little hand and whisper so long, Sweeney,
You ain't gonna be around no more.
For Judge Turpin there will be no in-between 'e's
Goin' through that trap door in the floor (right in that floor)
While Turpin's baking I'll be singin' that song,
That says "You dog, I told you so!" So,
Everyone is gonna end up in the oven,
That's the kind of story Mr. Todd is lovin'
Sweeney should have said so long, So Long Ago.

Cast album anyone?

Letters... We Get Letters...

Lots of mail this week, so let's get right to it.

Joe wants to know if I have any info on what happened to the Columbia University radio station WKCR's program called Musical Theater Today, hosted by Ezio Peterson. I wish I had information to impart, but have never heard of the aforementioned station, show or host. I do like that Mr. Peterson's parents had the chutzpah to name their son Ezio. Probably after the great Ezio Pinza star of South Pacific. Or Ezio Schwartz, the famous Pastrami eater.

James wanted me to take on the topic of "Worst Interpretation of a Sondheim Song on Stage". Without naming any names, I will only say that I saw a major production of Company and that the fellow who played Bobby never sang one note of Being Alive on pitch. Listening to it was like sucking on a lemon for four minutes.

Glen wrote me a stern letter saying he thinks I should use my column for intelligent and factual reportage of the musical theater scene and that The Real A's "failed attempts at camp humor are inconsistent with the goals" that I set for the column. Now... admit it... you're all waiting for me to answer this, aren't you?

Firstly, let me say that whatever humor I attempt (successful or not) is totally consistent with whatever goals I set (my credo). If you want serious factual reporting read Kenny Mandelbaum (although the "factual" would be stretching it). I do what I do. While I do think I have some knowledge I am not what I would call a "theater historian" nor does that interest me. Glen then asks me to "think about it rationally". As if The Real A was ever irrational?

As to "failed attempts at camp humor", it has been years since I attended camp, and I recall there was nothing humorous about it. The only humor I remember is the following joke:

Camp kid sees a Counselor coming toward him. He looks at the Counselor and can't believe what he's seeing. He goes up to him and says "Um, excuse me, but you have a banana in your ear". The counselor looks at the kid and says "What?". The kid says louder, "You got a banana in your ear!" The counselor looks at him and says "what?". The kid shouts as loud as he can "YOU GOT A BANANA IN YOUR EAR!!!!" The counselor looks at him and says "I can't hear you, I got a banana in my ear".

Failed camp humor? You tell me.

Sean wants to know The Real A's thoughts on Mr. Sondheim's score to the film Stavisky. Well, I like it a lot. The themes are haunting and beautiful, and, interestingly, a couple of them were discarded themes from Follies. Sean also wants The Real A to give a Real Clue as to the A's identity. I will repeat a clue that I once posted: The letter "A" does not appear in The Real A's real name.

Deb wants to know why Fear No More couldn't have also been a correct answer to last week's trivia question. While the song does contain lyrics by somone other than Mr. Sondheim (someone named W. Shakespeare) it is from The Frogs, a show with multiple songs, and not a straight play with one incidental song.

Laura has more questions about The Real A's Real Identity. Male or Female? I would truthfully have to answer yes. I am one of those rare people who have a lot of male and female in them, without being a hermaphradite. What is it about my work that I love so much? I suppose it's the fact that I get to do what I love, get paid to do what I love, and am reasonably good at doing what I love. Finally, she asks if I've ever appeared on Letterman, Leno, O'Donnell or any other talk show. No, to the first three, yes to "the other".

I think Franco wanted me to provide a list of what's playing on Broadway from 10/12 to 10/29. Your best bet is to check with Talkin' Broadway's Broadway show listings: On the Boards.

S. Woody White wanted to know what other plays I thought fit into the Getting Away With Murder and The Last of Sheila genres. He named several of his candidates, and to them I would add the following two off the top of my head (it was very fortunate that these two just happened to be sitting on the top of my head, taking it easy): Frederick Knott's brilliantly clever Dial 'M' For Murder and Rupert Holmes' second play Solitary Confinement.

Robert thinks I might be "Forbidden" from revealing my identity, which means he thinks I might be Gerard Allesandrini of Forbidden Broadway. Some of you may remember there was a whole thread on Finishing the Chat about this. But, it's not who I am. Remember the clue: No A in The Real A's name.

Finally, several people wrote to tell me I had incorrect info on Muscle, and (I hang my head in shame) it is true. The Real A was given some bum information. Muscle was originally paired with a one-act version of Passion. When Sondheim dropped Muscle it was then written anew by William Finn.

Well, as expected, many many people (too many to list here - you know who you are) knew the answer to Part One. The correct answer is Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, whose orginal title was Who's Afraid of Stephen Sondheim. Not many people got Part Two, and I suspect most of those who did ran to their VCRS and ran the scene. The song played at the beginning of Sondheim and Perkins' The Last Of Sheila is Anyone Can Whistle, an in-joke for both Sondheim and director Herbert Ross, who had also directed Anyone Can Whistle.

Now, I've come to the conclusion there is simply no fooling you people. You've got your Zadan and your Banfield and your Gottfried (lot of good that will do you), but I'll keep doing it for those who enjoy playing.

When it looked like Glynis Johns was going to have to bow out of A Little Night Music, who was brought in to watch the show as a potential replacement. Name the actress and name two Broadway musicals she appeared in.

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

And now, remember your assignment for the upcoming week... Whatever is on your mind, whether Sondheim related or not, but preferably about the musical theatre. I will respond to your topic.



Questions? Comments?

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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