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

October 27, 1997 - #6

Welcome to The Real A's first annual Halloween column. Now, this year I suggest we all have a Sondheim Halloween. Presuming you aren't going trick or treating yourselves (if you are I don't want to know), then here's how to scare the cute little trick or treaters when they come to your door. Dress up as Sweeney Todd. As soon as you open the door, immediately start singing Epiphany. I guarantee you, the little kiddies' eyes will widen in horror if you are doing this well. Then give them candy and send them on their way. One of two things will eventually happen: Either they'll grow up to be musical comedy queens or become mass murderers. And you will have done your part.

Triumph of Love has opened and the reviews are mixed. A pan from the Times, but mixed to good from lots of others, a rave from Variety and the AP (well, they give everything a rave so it doesn't count), a very good review from Newsday. Miss Betty Buckley came out very well in the reviews, and for the most part so did Susan Egan and the rest of the small cast. Only time and attendance will tell.

Here is an interesting side effect of the Internet. Every night when I'm surfing the net or answering e-mail, I find myself chewing on the top of my t-shirt. Has this happened to you as well? Suddenly you look down and there it is, a t-shirt in your mouth. Certainly one doesn't remember conciously putting the t-shirt in one's mouth. Once I realize it's there, do I stop chewing on it? Noooooooo. Well, the positive side is it has way less calories and fat grams than if you were chewing on chips or popcorn or chocolate. The down side is that the top of all your t-shirts have that "chewed" look which can be so embarrassing when you're out in public. And speaking of embarrassing, you should see The Real A jog. There is nothing more pathetic than seeing The Real A jog. Except seeing The Real A do situps. It's like watching The Life: Everyone's doing their damndest to make it look effortless and easy even though they are not fooling anyone. But enough about me.

The War Rages

Imagine my surprise when my close personal friends Mr. Stephen Sondhem and Mr. Andrew Lloyd Webber sent me further volleys in the Clash Of The Titans. They will not let bygones be bygones.

But before we get to that, let's discuss what the word "bygone" means. Who made up this word? It seems to me to be comprised of two words meaning the same thing. This is interesting to The A. Who is the person responsible for making up the word "pimple" for example? Mr. Pimple? I mean, where do these words come from? Somebody had to make them up and I would like the responsible party to step forward and take credit! Enema. I'd like to know who made that up, wouldn't you? Oh, one could go on and on for hours, but one won't.

Although... it is interesting to contemplate, for example, the human body. Did someone just look at those two things hanging by our side and say, "Ah. Arms. I think I'll call those arms." Why? Why not cars? Why not tacos? If you have any information let's talk. Because language is so interesting. Words are so interesting. And speaking of words (now that is a segue!), here is the latest from Mr. Sondheim:

Poor Andrew,
Silly chap.
Sitting out in Sydmonton
And writing crap.
I'm surprised he hasn't started
Writing rap.
Poor Andrew.

Poor Webber,
Feels so bad.
Whistle Down The Wind has closed
And he's so sad.
Jeeves is going nowhere and he's
Getting mad.
Poor Webber.

Poor Andrew,
Good, he's not.
Things are cooling down for him,
He isn't hot.
Now another tour of Joseph's
All he's got.
Poor Andrew.

And Poor Andrew replied immediately:

Steve ruins everything.
First with music,
Then with words.
Steve ruins everything,
He writes shows for snobs and nerds.
Steve, he cannot write a tune
Or a song to hum along to...

Yes, Steve,
Steve ruins everything.
And we pray for
Someday when...
Steve will never ever write a show

Oops, I was so caught up in this I didn't even notice that somehow my t-shirt had made it's way into my mouth. Now, Steve. Now, Andrew. It's time to let bygones be bygones, whatever the hell that means.

The "What If" Department

As you know, Stephen Sondheim's mentor (and who made up the word "mentor" I'd like to know) was the late great Oscar Hammerstein. So, this week's "what if" is: What If Rodgers and Hammerstein had written Assassins? And it goes something like this:

High in a room,
Stood a lone assassin,
Layee oh de layee oh de layeehoo...
He shot the Prez
When the Prez was passin'
Layee oh de layee oh de loo.
Oh oh, did you hear a gunshot?
Oh oh, from the grassy knoll.
Oh oh, was there only one shot,
Well, why don't we take a poll?

During a play,
Mr. Booth shot Lincoln,
Layee oh de layee oh de layeehoo...
We wonder what
Mr. Booth was thinkin'
Layee oh de layee oh de loo.
Oh, oh, shot him that's for certain,
Oh, oh, shot him in the head..
Oh, oh, didn't wait for curtain,
Did it in mid-act instead!

Samuel Byck tried to shoot Dick Nixon,
Layee oh de layee oh de layeehoo.
Crashing a plane, that's what Sam was fixin'
Layee oh de layee oh to do.
Oh, oh, Squeaky Fromme shot Ford, and
Oh, oh, never felt a pang.
Oh, oh, Jodie was adored. and
Hinckley shot his load and bang!
Oh de layee,
Oh de layee,
Oh de layee...
Layee oh de layee what a gang!

Letters... We Get Letters...

Duane would like to know where he can find the album A Sondheim Celebration on Carlton Records (British import - not to be confused with Sondheim: A Celebration on Varese Sarabande). My best advice for hard to find CD's is to always try Footlight Records in NY.

Deanna writes to say that she's doing a paper on comparison/contrast between a Sondheim show and the source it was adapted from, and wants to know if I have any suggestions. If you have access to a tape of it, I'd suggest Evening Primrose (or if you're in LA or NY you can view it at the Museum Of Television and Radio). It is a beautiful adaptation of the brilliant short story of the same name by John Collier, which is available in any number of short story collections. Otherwise, you can rent the subtitled tape of Passione d'Amore, directed by Ettore Scola, and contrast and compare it to Passion.

Speaking of Evening Primrose, Thomas asks if there is sheet music available. At the time of the broadcast there was published music to "I Remember" and "Take Me To The World." Those two songs are available in one or more Sondheim collections, I believe. But The Real A has learned that there is a new Sondheim music book coming out which, for the most part, is based on the new album Sondheim At The Movies (which has a complete Evening Primrose with Liz Callaway and Gary Beach doing the singing honors) and which should contain all four songs. Thomas also asks about a Primrose video. Strange people in overcoats do have such a video (a bootleg), although it is not legal and The Real A does not want to know about it if you should contact a strange person in an overcoat for purchase of said video. As stated above in the prior paragraph, it is legally available to be viewed at the Museum of Television and Radio in NY and LA.

Julia would like to know if she should give Stavisky a listen. Yes. I cannot recommend this score highly enough.

Melodie was wondering the following: Because I sign off with a quote from 1776, do I have something to do with that show. No. While there have been rumors that The Real A was born in 1776, there is no connection whatsoever with the musical. The sign off came to me quite by accident as I'd just seen the revival of the show at The Roundabout. Oh, and since she asks, William Daniels was John Adams, both on Broadway and in the film.

Rob has heard a rumor that Rosie O'Donnell will be part of the 10th Anniversary concert of Into The Woods. He is horrified at this prospect. He is terrified. Rest easy, Rob. If Rosie does take part, it will only be to introduce the evening.

Rob also wants to know when the cast album to Side Show will be recorded. November 3rd, to be released on Sony.

The other Rob, Rob O (or Rob, the Sequel) wonders why we see the same people in every Sondheim show. Well, we don't see all the same people in every Sondheim show. We didn't see Nathan Lane in Passion. But certain faces do recur, and one presumes it is because Sondheim or the director likes them and is loyal to them.

Rob II also asked if it's just him or do others walk around with showtunes going through their head all day long. Well, certainly I not only have songs going through my head, I will frequently sing them out loud, regardless of where I am. When I do this people look at me with a combination of awe and revulsion, kind of the same way they looked at the musical Carrie.

Christina wants to know what the funniest and saddest songs I've heard are. I would imagine we're talking Sondheim here, so... Saddest would have to go to the stunningly beautiful and rueful Not A Day Goes By (runnerup What Can You Lose?), and funniest is harder, but for boisterousness I'd give it to Everybody Ought To Have A Maid, and for sheer wit, to You Must Meet My Wife (runnersup would be Impossible, A Little Priest and Barcelona).

Finally, Wills asks if Muscle by William Finn ever had a Broadway run. No. It was workshopped and was not well received, and that seems to be the end of Muscle.

Trivia and Useless Knowledge Department

Last week's trivia question brought several wrong guesses, including Angela Lansbury and Lauren Bacall. But many guessed correctly: Tammy Grimes. The Broadway musicals you could have named for her are The Unsinkable Molly Brown, High Spirits or 42nd Street.

Here's this week's puzzler (or non-puzzler to the brainiacs in the crowd):

Anyone Can Whistle was the third and final title chosen for the show. Name the other two titles. The irony of one of those titles will be immediately apparent.

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

What is the Real A

Okay, okay, I'm not ignoring the issue. Some people have said "you write like a man". Some have said "but you give recipes" what's that about? Male or female, tell us, you say, give us a clue, you say. But as the great songwriters have said, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" and "For every man there's a woman". I don't know what that means, but it sounded good and it had man and woman in the same lyric. Anyway, here's another little ditty addressing the issue. To the tune of Love and Marriage (apologies to Mr. Sammy Cahn):

Male or female,
Male or female?
That's the question when you
Send me e-mail.
Should I be confessing,
Or should I simply keep 'em guessing?

Male or female,
Male or female?
Well, supposing that the
A might be male.
Does it really matter,
If it's the former or the latter?

Next thing that you'll want to know is
What's my persuasion?
Gay, Straight, or perhaps the type to rise
To each occasion?

Male or female,
Male or female?
That's the FAQ when
You send me mail.
This I'll tell you brother...
The game is done,
We've had our fun
I'm either one thing or the other!

I hope this puts to rest any more speculation. But I'll give you one last clue: Would Wacky Noodles be created by a guy or gal? Therein lies the answer.



Questions? Comments?

Well, that's it for this week. The Real A has some fancy pumpkin carving to do. And who made up the word "pumpkin" I'd like to know? Also, The Real A has to go eat something; this t-shirt is just not doing the trick.

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...”
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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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