« One From Column A...
October 12, 1998 - #55
I am still a bit tired from my journey to New York (from which I am back having not eaten any Baked Alaska). Shall I tell you about the weird dream I just had while it's still fresh in my mind? I was in some sort of green room, you know, where performers gather in a theater. I can't quite remember who I was with, but there I was in said green room. Anyway, in walked Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella. Nathan didn't really look like Nathan, but someone said it was Nathan, so there you are. Nathan was brought to me and someone introduced us. Nathan said "We've met before, haven't we?" and I replied "Oh, I'm sure of it". Then he smiled and said "I've been trying to set you up with friends of mine for ages. Have you connected with any of them?" Ernie Sabella began to laugh. I said "No, nothing's worked out yet, so I'm on the Internet now". Nathan said, "I met Ernie on the Internet". Ernie laughed. Then I woke up. Isn't that a strange dream? Why was Nathan Lane (who I've never met) trying to set me up with his friends (I presume romantically)? Who are his friends? Why was Ernie Sabella laughing at everything Nathan said? Why was I in a green room? This dream was "one for the books" as some wag once said.
Do you know what woke me up from this surrealistic dream? The bird, dear readers, that's what woke me up. Not only our beloved bird, but the bird's new friend, who, believe it or not, also sings. They were out there, singing away loudly. It was a rousing rendition of If Momma Was Married which, coincidentally (what does that word mean? Coincidence of the teeth?), has lyrics by my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim, who I did not see while I was in New York (I'm back, you know). I mention Mr. Stephen Sondheim, because one of our dear readers has suggested (in a letter to me, which I'll deal with in more detail in the letters section) that this column has too much "me" in it. They feel that I just go on ad nauseam about me. They feel that basically this here column is just an excuse to talk about me, me, and me. So, I went back and read a few of our past columns and you know what I found out? This column is about me! I couldn't believe it. Me, of all people! I was about to write myself a nasty letter when I noticed that the title of this column was One From Column A and that the author of this column was The Real A. I pondered that for many minutes and suddenly realized that I am The Real A, so, of course this column entitled One From Column A is about me. It all suddenly made sense. And do you know who it made sense to? Me! I do hope, dear readers, that the person who thought there was too much me in this here column, was an isolated case, and that the majority of you don't find that there is too much me in this column, because, frankly, I am this column and this column is me, hence there will be me in this column, although I do mention other things occasionally, like Baked Alaska.
When I went up to the top of this here column to make sure the title was One From Column A, I noticed a strange thing. I noticed a hovering Fosse. Have you noticed this, too, dear readers, this hovering Fosse? This hovering Fosse I believe was designed by Mr. Mark Bakalor (who is always off doing plays in Saugus or wherever the hell he is - in fact, he is now in a new musical entitled Die, Die, Diana - don't ask) . I find this hovering Fosse a little surreal, frankly. I presume it will lead to a new site, celebrating Bob Fosse, and perhaps there will be a One From Column B there, above which will be a hovering Sondheim.
I saw two plays whilst I was in New York (yes, I'm back). I saw a play entitled Communicating Doors by the prolific English playwright Alan Ayckbourn. It was very clever, very enjoyable, funny and ultimately touching. Very nicely directed, and, with one exception, beautifully acted. It starred Mary Louise Parker as a hooker named Poopay, and she was truly magical. Patricia Hodges (whose work I wasn't familiar with) was great, as was Gerrit Graham. And it was a treat seeing David McCallum, who was very funny as a hotel security guard. One actor in the show was just not up to the high playing of the others, which was unfortunate. The other show was called More To Love and was written by and starred Rob Bartlett, a rotund comic I'd never heard of. Basically, this "play" is his act in the guise of a play. There are two other characters, his wife and his agent. He would have been better off just doing his act, because the "play" he's concocted is cumbersome and pointless. The "plot" of the "play" is whether Rob Bartlett will get to do an HBO special. I think you can see the "who cares" factor here. But he's a funny fellow and there were lots of laughs and the audience rose to its collective feet at the end (of course, when don't audiences rise to their collective feet? It's what audiences do these days). As you all must know by now, I ate all meals except one at Joe Allen. Table 20. I saw lots of my friends, and even saw a cousin I hadn't seen in many years. In fact, this cousin was the son of my Uncle Rube, who you may remember used to visit us kids, and who I used to watch shoot up with insulin every morning.
This certainly is turning into an extra long column, isn't it? We're still in the first section and I feel like I've written a novel. You won't believe it, but I just looked out the window and our bird has been joined by three others who are now singing Lida Rose from The Music Man. And the harmonies are perfect. An amazing bird barbershop quartet is what we have here. I ran to get my camera, but by the time I got it, they'd finished and obviously retired to the green room. I have lots of activity pictures to share with you, but they were not back from the developers in time for this extra long column. We'll have them in time for next week's normal length column. As for this week's extra long column, it's starting to feel like the new musical Footloose: Maybe with a few changes it will work better. But enough about me.
Oh, boy. Here we go again. Another section of the column which is all about me. Can you believe it? You'd think I was writing this column, there's so much me in it. But what can I do? Miss Meryle Secrest keeps pushing me, keeps pulling at the tissues of my memory, the Kleenex as it were, of my quickly deteriorating mind. Besides, I've got an extra long column to write here. What am I going to do, fill it up with stuff about Sondheim? Why should I? He's got his own book, by the very selfsame Miss Meryle Secrest, who is now writing my book, which, coincidentally, is about me. If you are, in fact, tired of reading about me, you can skip directly to the next section. Unfortunately, it's also about me, so you may as well just stay here and read about me.
When I was in high school (roughly the same time as when Mark Twain was writing Tom Sawyer) I had a choir teacher named Mr. Teaford. Mr. Teaford was, to put it plainly and simply, crazy. He had a mane of the ugliest hair this side of a Brillo pad, and, in fact, it looked like a bad hair transplant, although this was long before hair transplants. Perhaps he yanked the hair from the back of his head and glued it in the front, which would make Mr. Teaford the inventor of the hair transplant. Which makes sense, because soon after I noticed his weird hair, Mr. Teaford became Dr. Teaford, the world's first person to perform a hair transplant on himself. Dr. Teaford would direct the choir as if he were an escapee from the road company of Marat/Sade. Arms akimbo, flailing like someone who has being given electroshock therapy, face as red as a beet, with spittle coming out of his mouth. We choir members gave our all when Dr. Teaford would direct us, because the more we gave, the more spittle we saw. Dr. Teaford also had a wooden leg, and when he would get really angry or frustrated (every three minutes or so) he would pound on his wooden leg with great elan. The wooden leg would not respond well to the pounding with elan and would almost give out right from under him. His desk was also made out of wood, but apparently it never occurred to Dr. Teaford to pound it instead of his very own piece of wood. He would scream at us if we sang flat, he would rant and rail at us if our cutoffs were ragged. He would tell us we were driving him crazy (not a long drive, believe me). He played the piano like he directed the choir. With maniacal fierceness and pounding percussiveness, which was fine for the loud bits, but unnerving for the pianissimo sections. Dr. Teaford did not tolerate pianissimo. Dr. Teaford was a forte man. There was no inbetween. Forte. Period. Everything else was alien to Dr. Teaford. And Dr. Teaford was an alien to us choir members. Sometimes we would have "assembly" and we'd have to put on our choir robes and go sing for the rest of the school. The student body would endure these performances because they had no choice. If they laughed or behaved inappropriately, Dr. Teaford would turn on them, spittle flying, and transfix them with his "if you don't shut up I will come out amongst you and personally rip the heads off each and every one of your shoulders" look, and that was that. This was a madman, and he would brook no derisiveness from anyone at any time. I saw him some time after I'd graduated, and there he was, exactly the same, red-faced, spittle dribbling down his chin, conducting the choir as if he were a rabid dog. I went up to him afterward, and was dismayed to find he didn't remember me at all. I, who had caused him to pound on his wooden leg more than anyone. I often wonder where Dr. Teaford is today. I know he no longer teaches at the school. If anyone has any information, please let me know so I can send him this reminiscence.
And then there was my drama teacher, Mr. Gordon. He was, if possible, even more peculiar than Dr. Teaford, albeit with less spittle. Mr. Gordon hated Musicals. He did not want to know from a Musical. Musicals were anathema to him. So, I never got to do a musical in high school. No, I got to be in plays like The Crucible and The Glass Menagerie, brilliant plays to be sure, but maybe just a wee bit over the heads of high school acting students. I remember him making us do a scene from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. My scene partner and I bravely got through it. Afterwards, Mr. Gordon yelled at me and said I had no idea of what the character was about or what the meaning of the scene really was. I screamed right back that I was fifteen and what did I know from Edward Albee and his weird allegorical play. I wanted to do Musicals. I wanted to sing. I liked comedy. Mr. Gordon hated Comedy almost as much as he hated Musicals. No Barefoot In The Park for us. No, we had to do A View From The Bridge by that very serious Arthur Miller, for whom the word "comedy" has never existed. Mr. Gordon hated me, because somehow, when I did the lines from A View From The Bridge they sounded like Barefoot In The Park. The way I played it, A View From The Bridge was tremendously amusing, which was not amusing to Mr. Gordon, who seemed to age visibly during rehearsals with me. Today my high school is a magnet school and they only do musicals. Go figure. I often wonder where Mr. Gordon is today. If anyone has any information, let me know so I can send him this reminiscence.
Mr. Gordon was not my first acting teacher. No, that was Jerry Bloom, who owned the Jerry Bloom Acting School For Young Adults. My parents, in order to appease me, sent me to said acting school. I have very little memory of it, other than that I was very shy and would never volunteer for any of the weird exercises Mr. Bloom would have us do. This was in the summer just before I began high school. Interestingly, there were two people in that class I've never forgotten. One was Monique Vermont, who was a little younger than I and a nice freckle-faced girl. On my first day, I walked in, saw Monique Vermont sitting there and I went into shock. Because Monique Vermont had played Amaryllis in the motion picture of The Music Man! Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I was in acting class with Amaryllis. I found that extremely neat, and we became friends and even spoke on the phone quite a lot. And then there was a girl named Steffi, who was a bit older than I, and who, I'd discover a month later, went to my high school. I recognized her immediately too, because she'd been in the film of Bye, Bye, Birdie. She didn't have a speaking role, but she was instantly recognizable from the film, because she had fiery red hair which I'd noticed when I saw said film. We became fast friends, too, although when I began high school we drifted apart, as she really couldn't be seen talking to a first semester student. I often wonder where Monique Vermont and Steffi are, and if anyone has any information please let me know so I can send them this reminiscence. Jerry Bloom I know about. He was arrested a few years after I attended his class, for molesting young boys, and he died in prison. Go figure.
I must say, this is really an extra long column, isn't it? I'm really making up for that extra short column from last week, you know, when I was in New York. I am now back, by the way.
This week I have unearthed a real gem from the pens of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz. This song shows that they not only had the ability to write simple tuneful songs, but that they had real depth when they wanted to. They could address real concerns. Have you ever addressed real concerns? Did it look like this:
Real Concerns 10 Anystreet Ave. Anytown, USA 11111
BURY ME A LITTLE
Here are three more songs that "get" to me. Yes, me. After all, it says My Favorite Things, doesn't it? Not Mr. Hathaway's Favorite Things or Freddie Blassie's Favorite Things. Anyway, I am enjoying this little trip down my musical memory lane. I'm sure everyone's got their favorites, those songs that shape and change us, that move us, that make us laugh, cry, feel romantic, make us want to dance and sing along.
This first song is from Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. This show is about to have a major Broadway revival, starring everyone's favorite, Bernadette Peters. I have loved this score since the first day I heard it. Every song is incredible, both musically and lyrically. This ballad "got" to me instantly, and I've never grown tired of it. Wonderful music, wonderful words.
I GOT LOST IN HIS ARMS
Don't ask me just how it happened,
I got lost in his arms,
How I felt as I fell,
I GOT THE SUN IN THE MORNING
Finally, a terrific Kander and Ebb song, not from a show. First done by Barbra Streisand, and a simple, haunting and beautiful bit of business.
MY COLORING BOOK
My goodness we had a lot of letters, two weeks' worth, in fact. Several of you have sent in your Love On The Internet profiles. Soon I will begin seeing if we have any suitable matches. In the meantime, let's get right to the letters, shall we?
Jim wants to know if Sweeney Todd is available in a concert version for performance by an amateur group. Even though Sweeney Todd has nothing to do with me I shall endeavor to answer Jim's question. I don't believe Sweeney Todd exists in a separate "concert" edition, but that doesn't mean you couldn't perform a "concert" version (no sets, no staging, no costumes) of the piece, although you'd have to procure the rights to do so. Jim would also like to know if there are any recordings that George Hearn (the video Sweeney) can be heard on (other than La Cage Aux Folles). Yes, is the answer. He can be heard on the cast albums of A Doll's Life, Sunset Blvd. (Glenn Close version), Follies In Concert and A Stephen Sondheim Evening.
RuperDiva (I just print 'em) tells me that her school is also doing Tommy and that she's playing Sally Simon. She also recently did Assassins and Gypsy, not necessarily in that order. Also, she appeared in a cabaret show devoted to songs from flops, in which songs from Carrie were sung. She wants to know if I know anything about Carrie. I've heard the score (some good, some bad) and I've seen a video of the show (all bad) which was hideously mis-directed by Terry Hands and horribly mis-choreographed by Debbie Allen.
sparkleneelysparkle asks if my Love On The Internet is just a whim, or do I actually have a track record in matching people up. It is not a whim (I don't have "whims" because I don't like that word, which is merely "him" with a useless "w" tacked on). I don't have a track record because I ditched gym class regularly, but I suspect I might have a talent for this sort of thing. sparkle wants to know if a successful match is one hot date with fabulous sex, or a long term relationship with so-so sex. I believe a successful match is one that does not end with either participant trying to choke the other.
Spock (yes, Spock) is back with us, and once again complaining about my "abuse" of grammar. In this particular instance he thinks my use of the word "badly" should have been merely "bad" without the offending "ly" on it. It's always the offending "ly's" that seem to rankle Spock. So, I believe I should start putting "ly's" wherever I can, just to annoy him. Don't you thinkly that's a splendidly wonderfully idea? I think highly of itly and francely, too.
Tom (from Oz) also loves Randy Newman, especially his film scores to James And The Giant Peach and Ragtime. I concur, and would also add The Natural to the list.
Pat King (he of Wheaton North) tells me that his school is not doing Tommy. They are doing Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I would personally like to inform all schools that there are other shows besides these two musicals. Some are even written by someone named Stephen Sondheim.
Emily informs me that she is naked... Underneath her clothes, that is. Whew. I, on the other hand, am naked outside of my clothes (no mean feat). Emily also tells me this fish story: Looking at the menu at school, she noticed they were serving fish. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, they were serving, what is it, fish. She asked the server what kind of fish said fish was and was told that said server didn't know. Said server said it was "just fish". Emily passed on the mystery fish and had mystery salad instead. I myself have eaten Just Fish many times and have found it to be very tasty indeed. I suggest Emily try the Just Fish next time they have it, but only if she is naked... Underneath her clothes, that is. Emily's school recently celebrated Mountain Day. No classes were held on said Day, so Emily was going to drive to Boston and see the Monet exhibit, but then got lazy and stayed home and read Stephen King's The Stand instead. I have never heard of such a thing as Mountain Day, have you, dear readers? I've heard of Mountain Dew and Susan Dey, but never of Mountain Day. Next thing you know her school will be celebrating Leaf Day and Bush Day, and Doris Day. Emily hasn't heard any further grunts or groans (aka sex noise) from the floor above, but she did hear her next door neighbor loudly talking about a friend who was going to have her nipple pierced by a bearded lady. It sounds to me like Emily has taken up residence with the Ringling Bros. circus. To my female readers, please do not pierce your nipples. This is simply heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). Do not pierce anything other than the odd lobe. That goes for you males, too.
Owen likes the confectionaryness of this here column and thinks it's eye candy of the highest order. Owen's favorite candies are Scrumdiddliumptious Bars, Everlasting Gobstoppers, Mary Jane's, and Gibraltor's. I have never heard of the latter two, but have partaken of the former two. Isn't that a Rodgers and Hammerstein song?
Oh, the latter and the former
Brendan doesn't mean to be mean, but he feels that this here column could be more interesting. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, Brendan thinks there is too much "me" in this column, and that he never gains knowledge about my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. He feels all I talk about are my home and my brand spanking new couch on which I sit like so much fish, the fact that I'm home on a Saturday night (itself a Sondheim reference for those who are looking for one) alone, writing, instead of having a life. He feels that this here column could use some structure. I do believe I have explained this throughout this particular column, so no need to beat a dead horse or any other dead animal. Brendan is fifteen and entitled to his feelings and opinions. I had feelings and opinions when I was fifteen and I did not like to have them belittled or bebigged. So, I am not belittling Brendan's feelings or opinions, merely explaining that I always try to throw in a few meaningful things here and there, and I, in fact, have talked about Stephen Sondheim quite a bit in past columns. Not recently, because frankly I have run out of things to say, especially in lieu of the massive biography by one Miss Meryle Secrest, who also happens to be my biographer. As to structure, by its very nature a column has structure. The Romans knew this very well, hence all the columns in Rome (which have excellent structure by their very nature).
Tiffany's excitement at school beginning has abated, hence her excitement is no longer. Happily (yes, "ly"), she's graduating this year, so said school will be but a memory in short order. Nellie the cat is feeling better and recently tried and failed to kill a bird. As Nellie leapt at the bird, the bird broke into a chorus of I'm Flying and beat it like a bat out of hell, whatever that means.
Royce would like to know where he can acquire a complete score to Follies. I know one was published in the 70s, but I'm not sure if it's in print or not. You can try the library, or Colony Records in New York who have a handy dandy supply of music scores available for purchase. So does the Drama Book Shop on Seventh Ave.
The Blob (yes, The Blob) is writing to us for the first time, having been a reader but never a writer. The Blob is currently in rehearsal for Merrily We Roll Along, which is being directed by Ann Morrison, who was the original Mary Flynn in said show on Broadway. The Blob would like to know what I think of the various versions of Merrily. I feel Merrily is a troubled show, with a brilliant score. I feel the final version fixes certain problems while causing others. It is more melodramatic in places, which I don't like. I do like the new songs, though, and think they help. But for me, the problem has always been the unlikable characters. That is the fundamental problem. We start out seeing them at their worst, then work backwards to see how they got that way. But that takes a long time, and I have found that I cease to care as the journey back continues. The show does have wonderful things in it, and Sondheim's work is ineffebly touching and poignant.
Robert is back with us and dismayed that Tiffany won those fish socks instead of him. Robert's school isn't doing Tommy or Joseph. They are doing Edward II, which, I suppose, is the sequel to Edward.
Mark (not Bakalor) asks me to which classic musical revue did Mel Brooks contribute a sketch called Of Father and Sons (starring Paul Lynde)? I would have to say it was one of the New Faces revues. Probably '56.
Seth wants to know what I think of Chess (the musical, not the game). I have only seen it staged once, at a small theater in West Hollywood, and it was quite bad, although with a good cast. I also saw the concert version that was done in New York in June, which I enjoyed. I like some of the music, and some of it I find annoying. But that's what makes horse racing, some idiot once said.
Beef meemies (don't ask) informs me that to find out the meaning of the "screaming meemies" to which I alluded in a past column, we must all journey to www.meemies.com where we will be illuminated, meemie-wise.
grehf (some of you dear readers should sign your e-mails) wants to know what scores I've heard that I'd like recorded. His choices are Lolita, My Love, Romance In Hard Times, Rockabye, Hamlet, Sensations and the already mentioned Carrie. I like Smile, La Strada, Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, and lots of others. Of course, songs from all these shows are available on a variety of different albums.
Josh wants to know what the expression "tool around" means. I really don't know the derivation of it, but it means to cruise around in your car. Perhaps the expression was coined by a driving hammer.
Paul tells me my memory is mistaken and that the end of the film Charade, in fact, does take place in a theater. I stand corrected. I also sit corrected, and sometimes I even lie corrected.
Daniel asks this: Suppose your school was doing an extremely degrading show. Suppose said show was Bye, Bye Birdie. Should Daniel take part in said show, even though it is an obvious violation of his own moral standards? I don't really know how to answer this, as I find Bye, Bye Birdie a charming show, although a show very much of its time. It's a period piece, so any moral repugnancy depends on how politically correct you care about being. Most people accept that these are shows written in another era, and that they don't reflect today's values. However, if it truly bothers you, you absolutely shouldn't take part. But, if you can look beyond that, you'll probably have a ball doing the show, which is tuneful and funny.
You people are just too too smart. The trivia question from two weeks ago was just too too simple for all you too too smart people. Who wrote the book for the musical All American was the question, and all these people got the answer right: Gary, Mark, Seth, Kevin, grehf, S. Woody White, Andrew Milner, Christopher, Sara, Jeremy, Ted, Steve G. and Daniel. And the answer: Mel Brooks, who would go on to write and direct the brilliant comedy The Producers, in which he used his experiences on All American to lampoon the musical theater (Springtime For Hitler).
However, several people pointed out that All American was not Mr. Brooks' only book for a musical. Mr. Brooks was brought in to help rework the book on the legendary flop known as Kelly, and he also contributed to the book of Shinbone Alley (Archy and Mehitibel). However, I don't believe Mr. Brooks was the sole author of those works, so I wasn't totally wrong in saying that All American was Mr. Brooks' only book for a musical. So there.
This week's trivia question: Name at least three contemporary Broadway composers who have written film scores (not song scores) and name the films for which they've written the scores.
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
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
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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