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March 29, 1999 - #79
Here we are in a brand spanking-new paragraph and I have no more headache. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, my headache is gone with the wind. It is ever so much nicer not to have a headache. By the way, the sky is now blue, not as in the color, but as in down in the dumps, which means the sky is gray even though it is blue, and not only is the sky blue yet gray it is raining little teardrops on account of being so blue yet gray. Well, I've got just the antidote for the blue yet gray sky. I have a picture of beautiful flowers, and beautiful flowers, as you know, always serve as a pick-me-up. So, here are said beautiful flowers.
I am beginning to think this column would be better if it were set to music. Or set on fire. Certainly it needs to be set on something. I feel this particular column is just a jumble of words all thrown together in a giant column olio. I feel this particular column is just a hodge-podge of words. It's as if someone had put all these words in a bag, shook them and then just dumped them willy-nilly all over the page, and here these words sit, like so much fish, incoherent as the day is long. Perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor can rearrange these words and make them less incoherent.
Did you all see The Very Important Event known as the Academy Awards? I did. The show lasted four hours and eight minutes, during which time I ate four slices of pizza and some spinach artichoke dip. I also drank four Diet Cokes. I know this listing of the food and drink is not really interesting, but it's a lot more interesting than the Academy Awards was. Not that there weren't moments. Oh yes, there were moments. And if you added those moments up you would have a show that ran twenty-three minutes, not four hours and eight minutes. May I just say here and now and also now and here that every year the Academy Awards insists on letting Miss Debbie Allen be the choreographer, and every year Miss Debbie Allen manages to come up with a more embarrassing number than the last embarrassing number she came up with. This year was no exception. What on earth was Miss Debbie Allen thinking? She had people tap dancing to music from a movie about the Holocaust. I, who have a great understanding of things surrealistic, could not believe my eyes. And the tap dancing to music from a movie about the Holocaust was the highlight of her choreography. I'm sure that Debbie Allen is a very nice person, but someone should let her know she should never attempt to choreograph again. This was the 71st Academy Awards. Isn't that amazing? Of course that is not as amazing as the fact that this is our 79th column. It took the Academy seventy-one years to have seventy-one Academy Awards shows, and it took this column less than two years to do seventy-nine columns. There is a lesson to be learned here, and when I figure out what it is I shall let you know. As to the show itself, Roberto Bengini was a lot of fun, climbing up on people's seats and Whoopi Goldberg was a lot of fun as the host. Have I said that Debbie Allen was not fun? Have I said that Chris Rock should not be allowed out in public? And may I say that the duet between Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston was one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen anywhere anytime? The two of them trying to out "riff" each other was nauseating and I almost threw up my slices of meatball and mushroom pizza. Not to mention the spinach artichoke dip. Otherwise it was a fine show, especially the part with the horse.
This week saw the release on DVD of the musical entitled Sunday In The Park With George, which just happens to be written by my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Aside from containing a video of the show, the DVD also contains an audio commentary track with Mr. Stephen Sondheim, Mr. James Lapine, Mr. Mandy Patinkin and Miss Bernadette Peters. The commentary was recorded as the four of them sat in a studio watching a tape of the show without sound. They have many good anecdotes to share, some touching, some very funny. Miss Bernadette Peters says the least. Mandy talks a lot, but it is Steve who never stops talking, and, in fact, there are times when no one can get a word in edgewise. He just talks up a blue streak, whatever the hell that is. But the fact that he talks up a blue streak is good news, since he has many interesting things to say about the entire creative process and gestation of the show. Sometimes memories clash, so one never quite knows who to believe. Lapine has interesting things to say, too. They are obviously moved by the tape they are watching, and at one time or another Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Patinkin are moved to tears. What's most amazing is that the audio commentary runs the entire length of the show, almost 150 minutes worth. If you love this show, or if you love hearing intensely creative people talk about their work, this DVD is for you. The tape source is not aging so well, therefore the video is a bit soft and has several glitches. And the sound, while acceptable, might be a bit jarring to those who only know the wonderful cast album. The mix of the orchestra is downright peculiar at times, and it never sounds as clean or defined as the recording. The video direction is also peculiar at times, missing wonderful moments because the camera is on a close-up when it should be on a wide shot and vice versa. Other than those minor caveats, it's a splendid affair.
Did you know that the person who wrote the score to the above mentioned Sunday In The Park With George had a birthday? That's right, Mr. Stephen Sondheim turned sixty-nine years of age. It has taken Mr. Sondheim sixty-nine years to turn sixty-nine years of age, and yet here we have our seventy-ninth column, which turned seventy-nine in less than two years. There is a lesson to be learned here and when I figure out what it is I shall let you know. Why does this sound familiar? Have I written that already? Am I being repetitious and redundant? I certainly hope so, as we cannot have enough repetitious and redundant sentences, as this repetitious and redundant sentence is so vividly proving. In any case, we hope Mr. Stephen Sondheim had a wonderful birthday and that he celebrated by eating a cheese slice and ham chunk.
I am really in an Art mood, having just watched Sunday In The Park With George. So, I will now share some more of the Art that adorns the walls of my handy-dandy home. To begin with we have a lovely piece by a gentleman named F. Sands Brunner. He was a well-known illustrator who did covers for the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. This painting was done for the cover of a magazine entitled Country Gentleman, way back in 1936.
The next painting was also done for a mystery story. Another mystery is who the artist is, as the painting is unsigned. Still, I really like it a lot.
This week I attended a benefit concert entitled Forbidden Bradway. This concert was a fundraiser for Brad Ellis, a musical director/composer/arranger who last year had a heart transplant. Held at the Pasadena Playhouse, the evening was a splendid affair, with wonderful performances from the likes of Jason Graae, Davis Gaines, Tim Curry, Malcolm Gets, Susan Egan, Karen Morrow, Billy Barnes, Nancy Dussault and many others. The audience was filled with interesting people, too including lyricist David Zippel (City of Angels, The Goodbye Girl, etc.), Bruce Vilanch (he wrote all of Whoopi Goldberg's jokes for the Academy Awards, especially the ones with "queen" in them), Gordon Hunt (fine director and father of Helen and brother of Peter), and many others. The show was funny, fast and ultimately touching. At the end of the evening the entire cast sang You've Gotta Have Heart, which was, of course, a fitting thing to sing. Did you notice I just had three words ending in "ing" all in a row? Perhaps I could write an entire column made up of words ending in "ing". Wouldn't that be a fine column, ing-wise? Anyway, a good time was had by all, and Mr. Ellis got some much-needed help with his tremendous medical bills. Hearts don't come cheap, you know. You can't just go to Target and buy a heart you know. They don't price match for hearts, you know. There is a waiting list for hearts, you know, and Mr. Ellis was on it for three months before he got his. We must never take our hearts for granted, because without our hearts we would simply be like a large lifeless tuna and that would serve no purpose whatsoever. If you've ever looked at a large lifeless tuna you know exactly what I mean.
Speaking of a large lifeless tuna, Miss Meryle Secrest has been waiting on pins and needles (no mean feat) to find out about my adventures writing a musical comedy. I mentioned to her that she might want to try only waiting on pins as waiting on pins and needles seems both redundant and redundant. You know, I just reread the first sentence of this section, and from rereading it I realized one could misconstrue its intent and think that I meant that Miss Meryle Secrest is a large lifeless tuna and nothing could be further from the truth. She is not like a large lifeless tuna. She is more like a medium-size smelt and I mean that as a compliment. When I said "Speaking of a large lifeless tuna" it was meant as an ironic comment on the title of this section. I feel that we must have the occasional irony in this column every now and then, don't you, dear readers? Irony is sometimes the spice of life. Irony is the paprika or season salt of life. The cayenne pepper of life. The oregano of life. But what I would really like to know is who put the "iron" in "irony"? Why "iron"? Why not "steel", or "tin"? Oh, well, I suppose we'll never know, which of course is the irony, isn't it? . Before I go on, has anyone ever eaten a smelt? What type of brain would name a fish "smelt"? Unless said brain took a whiff of said smelt and said, "Whew, did you smell that thing? It smelt to high hell." And thus a fish was born. Didn't that sound like something Charlton Heston said in The Ten Commandments? What the hell am I talking about? Aren't I supposed to be writing about something? Oh, yes, How I Came To Write A Musical Comedy.
As you may remember from last week's column, I saw the touring production of Stop The World, I Want To Get Off at my beloved Huntington Hartford Theater and was very taken with it. I loved its theatricality and boldness. Right around this very same time I discovered a singer/songwriter named Oscar Brown, Jr. Oh, how I loved Oscar Brown, Jr. I first discovered Oscar Brown, Jr. via his albums on Columbia Records. I can't tell you why I bought them but buy them I did. The album covers just spoke to me. It's odd when album covers speak to you. People who overhear album covers speak to you tend to look at you askance. Anyway, Oscar Brown, Jr.'s songs were/are phenomenally wonderful and his singing of same was also great. Now, it just so happened that several songs on one of Mr. Brown's albums were from a failed musical of his called Kicks and Co. Kicks and Co. was apparently too hip for the room and never made it to Broadway. But the songs from it were the coolest, especially World Full Of Grey and Hazel's Hips. To this day, without any prodding, I can quote you lyrics from Hazel's Hips:
Hazel's hips are a concert
I'm in like with you,
Think of the future,
I feel a craving for a smelt, don't you, dear readers? Do you realize that if you combined a hamburger and a smelt you'd have a patty smelt? I, for one or two, would like to have a patty smelt with a cheese slice right this very minute, but nooooooo, I cannot have said patty smelt and cheese slice until I finish answering your letters. Therefore I will forego the patty smelt with cheese slice until I have finished and then I will beat a path to the market. I don't know how the path will feel about being beaten, but I shall beat that path nonetheless. And now, on to the letters.
Rafael writes to tell me that reading about Cabaret in this here column has made him recall another Kander and Ebb musical entitled The Act, and a torch song that Miss Liza Minelli sang called The Money Tree. Rafael loves the song but can't figure out one of the lyrics in it. He wants to know if any of us can help him figure it out. Here is the lyric in question:
Yes the time will come
When the green sun sets
jo wrote to say that she couldn't believe this here column. She said she's coming back next week (which would be this week) to make sure her mind was not totally blurred by the doobie she'd had prior to reading this here column. jo asks what I was on when I wrote it. I was on my couch, where I was sitting like so much fish. First of all, let me just say that I hope my assumption that jo is female is correct. I suppose the spelling of "jo" could also be for a male, but frankly the spelling of "jo" as "jo" just felt female to me. If jo is not a female I do hope he will forgive me. If jo is a female I hope she will congratulate me on my prescience, "jo"-wise. If "jo" is both male and female, I hope he/she is happy.
Alina tells me that if the Leslie Parrish I spoke of (Li'l Abner's Daisy Mae) is brunette with big brown eyes that said Leslie Parrish may have appeared on the daytime soap Capital about twelve years ago. Well, the Leslie Parrish I spoke of is blonde, and I don't remember her eye color. However, there is an actress named Julie Parrish and I believe that is whom Alina is thinking of. Alina saw the motion picture The Last of Sheila on TV a few days ago. The Last of Sheila, of course, is written by my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim in conjunction with his close personal friend Anthony Perkins. She notes that there was bad sound quality, words being chopped off in the middle, bad transitions from scene to scene, etc. She wants to know if this was a problem in the original print or just the television print. There were no sound problems in The Last of Sheila so I think it's safe to assume it's with the way the TV print has been spliced or unspliced for commercials.
Tom (the Wizard and Boy from Oz) was upset that Randy Newman, despite being nominated for an Academy Award in three categories, once again lost out. I agree, as Randy Newman is one of my favorites.
Craig saw an experimental staging of Ibsen's The Master Builder in Cambridge, which he enjoyed. I have never seen Ibsen's The Master Builder in Cambridge, or anywhere else for that matter. I was quite a Master Builder myself, when I was a youngster. I once built a house made entirely out of Popsicle sticks, which is better than building a house entirely out of Popsicles. Craig also saw a dance performance set to the music of Carl Orff's O Fortuna from the Carmina Burana. Doesn't Carmina Burana sound like a pasta dish? Just asking. Craig also sang The Impossible Dream in a master vocal class. I hope he built the song well, because you must be a Master Builder when you are in a Master Vocal Class.
RupertDiva saw the revival of Annie Get Your Gun with Miss Bernadette Peters. That is to say that Miss Peters was in the revival, not that RupertDiva actually went with Miss Peters to see Annie Get Your Gun which would be very difficult as Miss Peters would then be seeing herself in Annie Get Your Gun (no mean feat). This is getting a bit too metaphysical for my taste. My taste would like a patty smelt with a cheese slice. RupertDiva felt that everyone tried hard, but that basically the show sucked. RupertDiva did get to meet Miss Peters after the show, so the evening was not a total waste. RupertDiva also likes Footlight Records and agrees with me that it is the best.
Max asks if I've ever heard Ute Lemper's cd called City of Strangers. I haven't. Max says that there are some decidedly odd interpretations of Another Hundred People, The Ladies Who Lunch and Being Alive. Max can't decide if they are just plain silly, really bad, or a stroke of genius. Perhaps they are all three; a really bad, plain silly stroke of genius. I only have one Ute Lemper CD and that is Ute doing Kurt Weill, which I rather like. Max adds to the list of those who recently passed away the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
Robert is very apologetic for not having written in weeks and weeks. He has been extremely busy doing two shows, in addition to having a full roster of classes. Not only has Robert not written in weeks and weeks, he hasn't even read the column in weeks and weeks. That is just heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). Robert must simply spend his entire Spring Break catching up on his missed columns. If not, we will have to send Robert a large lifeless tuna.
kokol had to dress all in black for a performance art piece at her school. She liked dressing all in black. She feels that dressing in black (or noir as our French friends would say) makes people look at you, wondering if you're morbid, depressed or a beatnik, or perhaps all three; a morbid depressed beatnik. kokol (real name Emily Jane) asks me if I know what international event is on April 7th. The only event that I know of on April 7th is National Smelt Day, which is a celebration of the Smelt and all that goes with it.
Jon B. tells me that The Tenth Man, which I wrote about last week, does, in fact, occasionally get performed. It was revived at Lincoln Center around seven years ago, with a cast that included Ron Rifkin, Phoebe Cates and Peter Friedman. Good cast and I wish I'd seen it. Jon B. also asks the following question: If there are decorative styles known as "Art Nouveau" and "Art Deco", wouldn't the style of painting seen on circus and carnival sideshow posters be called "Art Carney"? If Jon B. keeps this up, I do believe he will soon be writing his very own handy-dandy column, called One From Column B.
Cinderella (The Real C) writes to say that she saw the Chicago that is currently in Las Vegas when it was in Toronto, although when Chicago was in Toronto Ute Lemper wasn't in Chicago in Toronto. No, Stephanie Pope was in Chicago in Toronto and Cinderella thought she was excellent. I have not seen Stephanie Pope in Chicago or anywhere else. I do know that Pope spelled backwards is epop, for whatever that's worth which isn't much.
Joey wrote me a nice tribute set to some Sondheim songs, and it was much appreciated. The first line of said tribute was:
Not a day goes by,
Mordecai has broken his ankle. Why anyone would want to break their own ankle is another question for another day. I broke my arm once. My arm was then in a cast, although not the cast of The Master Builder.
Emily has been enjoying her Spring Break (which is much more pleasant than an Ankle Break). She is house sitting for her lighting design teacher. While house sitting she made a casserole. She did not mention what was in the casserole, but we can hope it was a smelt, because as Rodgers and Hammerstein almost once wrote, "There Is Nothing Like A Smelt".
Well, dear readers, I have finally stumped all of you, each and every one. Only two people even had a guess as to the Sondheim/There's No Business Like Show Business connection, and those guesses were incorrect. The connection is an obscure one, but here it is: During the Heat Wave number with Marilyn Monroe, if you look hard (or soft) you will clearly see that one of the dancers is none other than George Chakiris, who would go on to play Bernardo in the film version of West Side Story and Bobby in the national tour of Company.
This week's trivia question: There was much brouhaha over whether Elia Kazan should win the honorary Oscar, because of his naming names during the blacklist. Name the actors or actresses who were affected during the blacklist who would end up working in a Sondheim show.
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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