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March 8, 1999 - #76
What can I tell you, dear readers? What tidbit can I pass on to you like a kidney stone? Well, for one thing, I am going off to New York tomorrow evening. Isn't that a nice tidbit? That is a tidbit that can only be passed on by someone who is in fine fettle, frankly. Before I go off to said New York I will be seeing Cabaret right here in Los Angeles, California at the Wilshire Theater, which is conveniently located on Wilshire Blvd., hence the very creative name of the theater. The Wilshire Theater, by the way, was formerly a motion picture theater, where I saw actual motion pictures. It was one of Los Angeles' premiere movie houses, and it's where The Sound of Music played in 70mm. Oh, how I loved going to the Wilshire Theater and seeing motion pictures in 70mm. I saw Exodus in 70mm. But tonight I will be seeing Cabaret in 0mm. It will be live on stage, starring Miss Teri Hatcher. I will have a full report for you which I will write tomorrow before I leave for New York. Perhaps said report will be in 70mm.
I got a little message from the computer saying there was a virus in one of my files. Can you imagine? A virus (suriv spelled backwards). I had to delete the file because the virus could not be cured. I deleted the file. Isn't it sad to lose a file and all because of a stupid incurable virus that somehow got into my computer without me knowing it? Very sneaky of said virus if you ask me. But now my computer is virus-free and feeling 100% up to snuff, whatever the hell that means. In other words, my computer is now in fine fettle as am I. Speaking of Stephen Sondheim (well, somebody's got to speak of him and it may as well be me since he is my close personal friend), the concert version of Sweeney Todd is happening in just a little while here in the city of Los Angeles. This is the Reprise! concert version starring Kelsey Grammer and Christine Baranski. Let me just say here and now and also now and here that this casting does not interest me in any way, shape, or form. Well, okay, maybe it's interesting in a shape but certainly not in a way or a form. I have no desire to see this concert version, which will have a reduced orchestra (as usual with this series). Also, I am very offended by the way in which they are advertising the concert as the 20th anniversary concert of Sweeney Todd. Since they didn't do a concert of Sweeney Todd twenty years ago (they did the actual show) this cannot be the 20th anniversary concert, now can it? That is just a false lie, as the King of Siam would say. There, I've said it and I'm glad. You know that I love and cherish Sweeney Todd, but I shall live with my memories of the brilliant Broadway production which had the brilliant Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou.
Well, I must go get ready to see Cabaret and just in the nick of time, too, as I have absolutely nothing else to say in this section of the column. Besides, this section of the column is starting to feel like the new musical Bright Lights Big City: It will be over before you know it. But enough about me.
I have just discovered an interesting thing. This is our seventy-sixth column. Do you realize, if you combined this column with our seventeenth column, you'd have 1776? And, if you had a band with as many trombones as this column, you'd have 76 Trombones. I just felt you needed to know that.
Life is a cabaret, dear readers, and here is my handy-dandy review of said Cabaret. I must preface my remarks by saying that I saw the original production of Cabaret on Broadway and the memory of that evening is as indelible as any theater memory I have. The brilliance of that production, directed by Harold Prince and choreographed by Ron Field is hard to convey because it's been imitated so many times since. There had never been a show like Cabaret. The staging and style of it forever changed the way musicals looked. Prince's concepts were startling and innovative and helped disguise some of the book's more standard-issue moments. And the cast. Oh, the cast. To have had the privilege of seeing Lotte Lenya and Jack Gilford perform Frau Schneider and Herr Schultz is simply one of the great treats of all time. Lenya was the stuff, dear readers, and she was incredible. Joel Grey gave a career making performance as the Emcee. And I, for one, loved Jill Haworth. Yes, the very same Jill Haworth who years earlier I had seen in the motion picture Exodus (in 70mm) at the Wilshire Theater. Yes, the very same Wilshire Theater where I, with some trepidation, went to see Cabaret last night.
Let me cut to the chase and say that, for the most part, I loved it. It was very different than Prince's production and I found that refreshing. Having seen Prince's own revival years ago, the show needed a new look and new life, because, as I stated earlier, Prince's original has been copied to death. First, may we talk about what they've done to the Wilshire Theater? I believe we may and so we will. What they've done to the Wilshire Theater is this: The entire orchestra section has been shorn of its seats and said seats have been replaced with tables and chairs. It reminded me of the old Moulin Rouge nightclub in Hollywood. Very atmospheric, I must say. The balcony, of course, retains standard theater seating. The direction and choreography of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall are lots of fun and keep the show moving right along. There have been many script changes, and the show utilizes some songs from the film while losing a couple from the stage show. The cast overall is very strong with one notable exception. The fact that most of them double as members of the band is even more astonishing. The set is terrific and simple, the costumes work perfectly, and the lighting is state-of-the-art. And so, on to the cast. As you all probably know, this production stars Miss Teri Hatcher (she of Lois and Clark, lots of movies, and many pinup posters) as Fraulein Sally Bowles. By the way, she is still the most popular poster-girl on the entire Internet, although not here at the Stephen Sondheim Stage where the most popular poster-person is
All in all, I'd recommend this production without reservation. Actually, you must have a reservation so what the hell am I talking about? Thus, I'd recomend this show without reservation but with a reservation. The show itself remains a great musical, and the score is one of my all time favorites. The music by John Kander is simply superb and Fred Ebb's lyrics are equal to the music. Nothing will ever replace the original production of Cabaret in my memory, but this version works very well and as I've said is totally its own thing. Bravo to all concerned.
The minutes are going by much too fast, so I find I must hie myself through the rest of this here column in short order. Here is an anecdote I told Miss Meryle Secrest because she has an insatiable appetite for anecdotes and who am I to deny her?
Since we were speaking of the Wilshire Theater, it brought back to mind an evening when my parents took me to a special handy-dandy Sneak Preview there. The movie that was playing at the theater was entitled Let's Make Love, starring Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand. For some reason which now eludes me, I remember hating the movie (a rarity for me in those days), so I spent time roaming around the theater, checking out the bathroom and rolling down the stairs. Then it was time for the Sneak Preview to start. I took my seat several rows away from my parents and waited for the lights to dim. I never sat with my parents, because between my mother's sucking on her teeth and my father falling asleep and snoring, one simply didn't want to acknowledge that one was with people like that, parents or otherwise. Anyway, the curtains opened and on came the film. It was a foreign film, dubbed into English, starring Brigitte Bardot. For those who don't know, Miss Bardot was incredibly hot stuff, really hot stuff, hotter than hot stuff. The male contingent of the audience seemed delighted that they'd be seeing Miss Brigitte Bardot in a foreign film, because the one thing that you could count on with Miss Brigitte Bardot in a foreign film is that she would have little to no clothing on. This foreign film was called Come Dance With Me (Voulez-Vous Danser Avec Moi?) and sadly time has eroded memories of the plot (?). However, the one thing time has not eroded the memories of is one specific scene in the film. The leading man and Miss Bardot are on a bed. She is dressed in a skimpy (and I do mean skimpy) little negligee. They kiss, they fondle, they do do that voodoo. Then suddenly the leading man unties one of the stringy straps holding up the skimpy negligee. As the negligee falls, it reveals one of Miss Bardot's well-known and loved bosoms. But before you can get a good glimpse of it the leading man cups his hand over said well known and loved bosom. Well, dear readers, this was mighty risque, let me tell you that. This was just not done in motion pictures that played in the United States of America. This was pretty verboten, this cupping the hand over the well known and loved bosom was. And yet, there it was on the big (but not 70mm) theater screen. The next thing I knew, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and there was my mother, red faced. She said rather loudly, "We're leaving!". She grabbed me by the arm, lifted me out of my chair and hurried me up the aisle. My father, looking very miffed indeed was waiting in the lobby. I do believe my father was rather enjoying Miss Bardot's well known and loved bosom and I do believe he wanted to stay and see more. But my mother was having none of it. She was, in her words, mortified. I was, in my words, annoyed. My father was, in his words, angry. And all because someone cupped Miss Bardot's well known and loved bosom (mosob spelled backwards). Who could have known that a few decades later the cupping of a well known and loved bosom would probably get a PG-13 rating and that we'd also be seeing well known zubricks and yonis and buttcheeks on motion picture screens all over the United States of America? How far we've come, eh, dear readers? If you don't believe me, ask my close personal friend Miss Sharon Stone.
Well, dear readers, I shall only be able to answer the letters I have received thus far. The ones I haven't received thus far I will have to answer in the next column. I have not even packed yet, so I must answer them quickly and hastily and not be as long winded as I usually am. Hopefully I am in fine fettle and my shorter answers will be just as pointless as my longer ones.
Annie (a new dear reader) wrote to say how much she enjoyed this here column, especially the picture of the fish. Because she got so much enjoyment out of the picture of the fish, here it is again.
Sarah sent me a haruuumph for mentioning that she cried when meeting Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Sarah has recently discovered the song So Many People (from Saturday Night) and loves it. She wonders whether it's published. I do believe it's in one of those huge Sondheim compilation books of sheet music, and I hope this information helps rid me of the haruuumph.
William F. Orr informs me that there is a musical by Al Carmines entitled Christmas Rapping, hence I cannot do my very own rap album of the same title. This is heinous, heinous, do you hear me?) and I will not stand for it. I may, however, sit for it.
Tom (the Wizard of Oz) is back home. Tom recently purchased a record album entitled Olympus 7-0000 on vinyl and wants to know if there were any other ABC Stage '67 productions recorded. The only other Stage '67 production that was recorded was "On The Flip Side" by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. "Evening Primrose" was sadly not issued commercially, nor were Getting Married by Styne/Comden and Green, or The Canterville Ghost by Bock and Harnick. Olympus 7-0000 has a score by Richard Adler (Damn, Yankees! and The Pajama Game) but it isn't nearly as good as the others. There are songs from Flip Side, Canterville, and Getting Married (along with tons of other TV musicals) on an album entitled Prime Time Musicals.
Many of you sent guesses as to the Sondheim/Dorothy Loudon obscure connection, but no one guessed the obscure connection that I was looking for. Two people, however, did guess the other obscure connection which was that Sondheim wrote a song for an adaptation of Jules Feiffer's Passionella (Truly Content) which was sung by Ms. Loudon. My obscure connection is much more obscure. Ms. Loudon was married to Norman Paris, a musical director and composer, who just happened to musical direct and orchestrate Mr. Sondheim's Evening Primrose. How's that for obscure?
This week's trivia question: In the 1968 Lincoln Center revival of West Side Story, name the two people who would later appear in major Sondheim shows.
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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