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

May 3, 1999 - #84

It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, it is the lusty month of May. April has had its thirty days of fame and now May is on the march. I wonder how march feels about this? Do you suppose that in March, March is on the may? Just asking. In any case, it's May, it's May the lusty month of May. I feel lusty, don't you, dear readers? I feel we should all go out and do lusty things like eat a cheese slice. I feel like we should all put on pantaloons and drink from goblets. Wouldn't that be lusty? I feel we should all throw caution to the wind. Of course, does the wind really want caution? Yes, it does, by yiminee, because the wind is feeling lusty, too. The air is filled with lusty wind, but of course that could just be from the people who ate a lusty Mexican meal. Oh, I think May will be a fine lusty month, I feel it in my bones (no mean feat). There are so many lusty things to do, dear readers, for example take part in a square dance. Not a round dance, mind you, no, no, a round dance would not be lusty at all. Only a square dance would be lusty, although I for one find the pony and the frug equally lusty. The Pony and The Frug. Doesn't that sound like a novel by Hemingway? Or was it Steinbeck? Or Faulkner? I feel that in the lusty month of May we must satisfy all our wanton cravings. We must all go to the nearest Chinese restaurant and tell them of our wanton cravings and then order lots of wanton wontons (snotnow spelled backwards). Yes, I feel that in the lusty month of May this column will reach a high water mark. Of course, this column has it's very own high water Mark, and that would be Mr. Mark Bakalor. I even just happen to have an activity photo of said Mark Bakalor. The activity in this photo is being high, although not on water.

Yes, that is our very own, very high high water Mark. Do you know what I just thought of, dear readers? Of course you don't because I have not shared what I have just thought of although I'm about to share what I have just thought of because I feel you should know what I just thought of. It's no fun keeping what I just thought of to myself, is it? No, that is no fun at all. So, here is what I just thought of:

Hmmm. I seem to have forgotten what I just thought of. I just spent so much time writing about what I just thought of that I have up and forgotten what I have just thought of. That is simply heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). I know I thought of something but I can't, for the life of me, remember what the hell it was. And now I'm left with that annoying space where what I thought of should have been. Oh well, the Germans have a saying about this sort of thing: Ist das nicht ein schnitzelbonk? Ya, das ist ein schnitzelbonk. Which roughly translates to: When you forget what you thought of it means you have veal in your head.

Have I mentioned that it's the lusty month of May? It is, and I can prove it.

You see? There is our very own high water Mark, who has obviously been celebrating the arrival of the lusty month of May. Oh, I feel we must end this section of the column right this very minute so that we can all go outside our front doors and shout to the world at large that it is the lusty month of May. I, however, will remain on my couch where I sit like so much fish because I know it's the lusty month of May. I have, after all, mentioned it seventy-three times. Three more times and we'll bring out the trombones. How many of you are still trying to figure out what "we'll bring out the trombones" means? Well, you'll get no help from me. Those who haven't figured it out must put on their thinking caps. While you have your thinking caps on, think about the fact that this column is beginning to resemble the Best Book of A Musical category for this year's Tony Awards: Why bother? But enough about me.

An Interesting Thing

No, we simply cannot have an Orwellian slant to this here column. Therefore let us not do any column gene-splicing otherwise the clocks will begin striking thirteen and then where will we be?

Another Interesting Thing

I was at dinner the other night and someone ordered eggplant. Well, that just got me to thinking, so when I got home I put my thinking cap on and thought about the eggplant. And I realized that I'd never grown an eggplant in my garden. So, out I went and planted an egg. Now, I must tell you dear readers, that this planting of an egg is not yielding an eggplant. It isn't yielding anything. The dirt just sits there like so much fish and no eggplant sprouts forth. This seems a little Orwellian to me, although I'm not certain why. I believe if you plant an egg you should get an eggplant. It only stands to reason. And why does It only stand to reason? It can't sit to reason? It can only reason when standing? What about kneeling? Can It reason while kneeling? Can It reason while being prone, like my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim? I'll bet you were all just wondering when I was going to mention him, weren't you? Where was I? Oh, yes, the egg that I planted which did not issue forth an eggplant. Anyway, I don't like eggplant so it is no great loss in my book (Chapter 388 - Eggplant, Phooey!).

A Fifth of May

Did you think I'd forgotten, dear readers? Did you think I'd forgotten that grand holiday, Cinco de Mayo? Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, soon it will be Cinco de Mayo and there will be celebrations and festivities and the wearing of serapes and tortillas. What a wonderful holiday is Cinco de Mayo. It was the very first condiment holiday ever, although it was closely followed by Siete de Catsup and Ocho de Mustard. Cinco de Mayo is, of course named in honor of the Spanish nobleman Jose Robles de Juaquin Salazar Rodriguez-Alejandro Lopez III, who, while making a sandwich one fine day (the 5th as luck would have it) created what is now known as mayonnaise (mayo for short). That is all he had to do to have a whole day named in his honor. His discovery of mayo was so popular with the populace that they created a special clinic where his invention could be doled out to the hungry peasants of San Gregjbarra. This, of course, was the famous Mayo Clinic. Anyway, I hope we will all be celebrating Cinco de Mayo in fine fashion and that much mayo will be consumed by all.

Reefer Madness

I just got back this very minute from seeing a brand spanking-new handy-dandy musical comedy entitld Reefer Madness. It was derived from the incredibly inept bad movie of the same name. It is meant to be campy good fun like Little Shop of Horrors, but it lacks that show's wonderful score and solid book. Towards the end of the second act it finds its tone and is actually amusing. But too much of the first act falls flat and the show moves much too slowly, with endless scene changes and songs which just aren't good enough. It's a good idea though, and hopefully the authors and director will keep working on it. The cast does just fine, although there aren't any real standout voices. It is very hard to pull off this kind of thing. If the effort shows. it just doesn't work. The idea is to create a believable universe (no matter how far-fetched) and then let whatever happens happen within that universe. Plus, what makes Little Shop work so well is that you care about Seymour and Audrey no matter how wacky things get, plot-wise. The show has an anchor, something Reefer Madness doesn't. Still, with some good hard work they might have something here, because the few times when it works it works really well.

Welsh Rarebit

I don't know why, but I just thought it would be fun to have a section of this here column called Welsh Rarebit. Is there any stupider name for a food than Welsh Rarebit? Well, eggplant, but we've already exhausted that topic. What the hell is Welsh Rarebit anyway? When I was young I always thought the menu said Welsh Rabbit, which frankly just skeeved me. I thought it was rabbit served in grape juice (Welch's grape juice was big in our house). Later, when I was older I realized that it wasn't rabbit at all, but Rarebit. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I simply don't know what a rarebit is! And why is the rarebit Welsh? Can a rarebit also be Irish? Or Taiwanese? Anyway, I think it's just lovely that we've had a section of this here column entitled Welsh Rarebit.

The Real A: A Life

Miss Meryle Secrest. The very name is synonymous with questions, endless questions. Oh, she couches her questions very carefully, gently leading her subject (that would be me) into whatever territory she sees fit. Frankly I'm tired of her couching her questions. Why doesn't she loveseat her questions, or arm chair her questions? But nooooooo, she always couches them. Of course who am I to talk? And what does that mean? "Who am I to talk?". Duh (hud spelled backwards). I'm me, that's who I am to talk. Anyway, Miss Meryle Secrest always couches her questions, but that is entirely appropriate because when she couches them I am sitting on my couch like so much couched fish. Anyway, she feels I have been avoiding her, not wanting to plod on. That is not the case, however. I am perfectly willing to plod on and divulge more shocking unknown things (the rarebits) from my so-called life.

For example, did you know that my parents thought it would be a good idea if I played the accordion? Oh, yes, they thought that was a splendid idea. I, on the other hand, took one look at that humungously ugly box and said "Over my dead body". How on earth would I ever get people of the opposite or same sex to desire me if I was an accordion player? Did you see Grace Kelly playing an accordion? Or Cary Grant? No, I simply could not play the accordion. And so, I took up the guitar instead. The only problem was that I had no aptitude whatsoever for playing said guitar. Those damn frets were the problem. I just didn't understand those damn frets. I fretted about those damn frets endlessly. My fingers just refused to coordinate properly and I picked when I should have strummed and I strummed when I should have picked, all the while never getting the correct fingering of the frets. In our house there was an instrument known as a piano. For some reason, it never occured to my parents that I should take up the piano even though we had a piano sitting there like so much fish. My father, who was a violinist in his youth, sat at the piano occasionally and played songs in fourths. This made all the songs he played sound Oriental, but I liked it. Anyway, one fine day it was decided that I should take piano lessons. My mother had found a wonderful teacher whose method was to teach what he called "musical shorthand". "Musical shorthand" didn't really involve reading notes so much as learning the names of the keys on the piano, and learning how those keys worked with each other. I'd learn how all the notes in the key of "c" would work, then "d" and so forth and so on and also so on and so forth. He would then teach how putting certain notes together would create chords, and how adding other notes to the basic chords would create new and more interesting chords, my favorite of which was the major seventh. I was just in love with the major seventh. Oh, I played major sevenths whenever I possibly could. Then, after several weeks of this basic learning technique, he asked me what song I wanted to play. I immediately replied, That's All, as that was then my favorite song. So, what he did was write out the names of the notes on a piece of paper, and above certain notes he'd write several notes together which would make a chord. He'd then put a circle around those grouped notes so that I'd know it was a chord. On the paper it would look like this:

You'd play the single notes in the right hand and the circled notes (the chords) in the left hand. If you will all now go to a piano and play the above, you will have the first line of That's All. It was surprisingly easy to learn with this technique and in no time at all I was playing up a storm. Every song I played had lots of major sevenths, of course. Soon, I'd gather all sorts of music books, pick my favorites and then he'd notate in his fashion and I'd play from his notations. Eventually, he taught me the basics of actually reading notes, too. I took lessons from this man for only six months, but by the end of that time I could play in any key without any problem, and could fake my way through most any song. Isn't that amazing? And would you like to know whose songs I played the most? Not Stephen Sondheim, no, his songs didn't have chords written out, so they were a bit too difficult, although I did fine with Anyone Can Whistle and A Parade In Town. No, the songs I played the most were by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, from The Fantastiks and 110 In The Shade. My favorites of theirs to play were Soon It's Gonna Rain, I Can See It and Gonna Be Another Hot Day, all of which had lots of major sevenths. I can play them all by heart, still to this day. I am very grateful to that teacher (whose name is lost to time) because in his own unique way he opened up worlds of music to me.

Letters... We Get Letters

I'm beginning to think this column could use an Orwellian slant, or at the very least a Koontzian curve. Yes, a nice Koontzian curve would just pick this column right up. It would give it Intensity and preclude it from going to The Bad Place where there would be far too many Whispers. No, we would Fear Nothing if we had a Koontzian curve to this here column. Besides, if we had an Orwellian slant this whole thing would be an Animal Farm. Haven't we just had it with the literary allusions? Aren't I supposed to be answering letters here?

Rafael hadn't realized Mr. Anthony Newley had passed away. He hadn't realized it because somehow he'd managed to not read the column which contained that news. And because he'd somehow missed reading that column he'd also been unaware of the passing of Lionel Bart. Both passings sadden Rafael. He especially liked Mr. Bart's song Where Is Love? from Oliver! and Mr. Newley's song Cheer Up, Charlie from Willy Wonka. That song contains another lyric which Rafael can't understand. It is:

When the world gets heavy,
(can't understand this line)
Up and at 'em boy.

The hard-to-understand lyric is:

Never pit a pat 'em

Jon tells me he hopes I'll keep writing until the cows come home. He also notes that if the cows don't come home there will be no cream from which to make my beloved Pistachio Pistachio ice cream. That is fine by me as I am now quite sick of my beloved Pistachio Pistachio ice cream.

Duff writes to say that Into The Woods opened and he is quite exhausted, especially from having to wear the Mysterious Man costume. Apparently the opening went well and performances continue apace.

Emily is very excited that classes end next Tuesday. She asks me if I've seen any new movies lately, and I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't. I do want to see Mr. Clint Eastwood's True Crime as I enjoyed the book it is taken from very much. That book, by Mr. Andrew Klavan is a real page-turner. That is a good thing for a book to be, otherwise you'd just sit there and read the same damn page over and over again. Here is a mini- trivia question for you experts: Mr. Klavan, a well-respected novelist of suspense, has a brother with whom he wrote an Edgar award-winning book called Mrs. White (they wrote it under the name Margaret Tracy) which was turned into a film called White Of The Eye. Mr. Klavan's brother also wrote a musical. What was it?

Tiffany informs me that she does not have a photo of her fish socks to share with this column because she has not been able to locate the film on which said photo exists, hence said film remains lost and undeveloped. Well, we simply must see those fish socks residing on Tiffany's feet, so how about buying a brand spanking-new roll of film and taking a brand spanking-new activity photo to share with us? We await with much perpetual anticipation. Tiffany asks what "too too" means when I write a sentence like, "Isn't that too too?" It simply means that what I am talking about is too much for one too. One too will simply not describe what clearly can only be described with two toos. For example, if I were describing a beautiful tutu I could only say, "Isn't that tutu just too too?". I hope that clears up The Mystery of The Extra Too by Agatha Christie, who, by the way, is just too too.

Joey writes to say that she respects a man who eats popcorn, hence she respects me. However, am I a he? Or am I a she? This debate has been going on since I began writing this here column. Here is a song Mr. Stephen Sondheim wrote about this very topic (to the tune of You Must Meet My Wife):

A male or a female?
The Real A plays fair.
The Real A could be a she-male,
But let's not go there.
The answer to the query: who might I be?
The Real A is me!

The Real A's a human,
The Real A's a snot.
The Real A looks like Paul Newman,
Well, sort of...well, NOT!
I think with all these clues you'd have to agree;
The Real A is Really Me.

Some think that I am full of ego,
Full of other things I can't say here.
Would you be sad if you saw me go,
Well, I'm here and I'm crowing, I'm going to
Stay here!

The Real A is charming,
The Real A is nuts!
The Real A can be disarming,
Or be quite a putz.
When all is said and done the one I must be...
The Real A? Quite simply: Me.

I do hope that clears up The Mystery of The Unknown Gender by Agatha Christie. Joey also tells me that she finds it beneficial to swim before singing Sondheim. Apparently it creates good breath control, especially if singing Another Hundred People. I would go outside right this very minute and try it if I had a pool, but unfortunately I don't. I suppose I could swim on my handy-dandy lawn but that would be a mere pretense and we simply cannot have any mere pretenses as that would be just too too.

Tom (Ozzie) asks how he should address his letters to me, Mr./Ms./Mrs. Just like that would be fine. But let's just see what Mr. Sammy Cahn and Mr. James Van Heusen had to say on this very subject (to the tune of Love and Marriage):

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!

Tom has heard that the soundtrack to Reds is going to be issued on CD and wants to know if it's true. I'm happy to report that it is indeed true as I have purchased it this very day. It is on the Razor and Tie label, and for those who don't know, it includes music by both my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, and by that wonderful film composer Dave Grusin. Tom also asks if I've heard Whistle Down The Wind by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman. I haven't. Tom has a weakness for Mr. Steinman's work, and I must say I have taken a perverse liking to Mr. Steinman's musical version of Roman Polanski's Dance Of The Vampires. Tom's final question has to do with a singer named Guy Haines, who appears on many Varese Sarabande albums. Tom has heard that Mr. Haines is in fact album producer Bruce Kimmel and wants to know Mr. Kimmel's background as a singer. If I'm remembering correctly, someone once guessed that I was Mr. Kimmel. Let's take a look at our list of guesses, shall we?

male, female, gay, straight, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Gerard Allesandrini, George Clooney, William F. Orr, Rupert Holmes, Young Simba from The Lion King, the Tony nominated Billy from Big, a cast member from one of Sondheim's sh ows, Michael Tough the singing janitor, Bruce Kimmel, Richard Christianson of the Chicago Tribune, George Furth, New Line Theatre's Scott Miller, Leigh's father, Waiting for Guffman's Corky, Mr. Mark Bakalor's word processor, Charlie Sheen, dear reader Matt, Pitgirl's physics professor, Michael Larson director at the Stagedoor Manor, Yves of Finishing the Chat, record producer Bruce Yeko, the Cosmic Anchovey, and Miss Meryle Secrest.

My goodness, what a long list of guesses that is. Why, I could be any of those people or all of them at once. I see that Mr. Kimmel is on the list, along with some other fine folks, such as Bernadette Peters and Michael Tough, the singing janitor. Unfortunately, I can't really provide any information on Mr. Kimmel or Mr. Haines' background as a singer. Tom asks if I've ever sung professionally (certainly if I were Michael Tough, the singing janitor that would be the case) and if so what is my background as a singer. My background as a singer is usually blue. I like a nice blue background as a singer, although I once sung with a yellow background. I found the yellow background didn't bring out my round tones, so I always insist on a blue background now. As regards my very own singing talent, my mother once said about my singing, "Shut up, for God's sake, you sound like the plumbing is backing up". My grandfather was much kinder and simply said, "What is it, fish?".

annyrose has been busy doing sound for her school's production of The Diary of Anne Frank. annyrose also saw a production of Mr. Stephen Sondheim's musical entitled Assassins, which she thought was the coolest thing she's ever seen.

mrsmig feels that with all this bogus hoopla about Mr. Frank Wildhorn being the first person to have three shows on Broadway in the last five minutes, that surely the great George M. Cohan must have had three shows running concurrently on Broadway. I do not have an answer to whether he did or didn't, hence I shall be no help whatsoever.

P. Wilkes wrote to say that he read my review of the musical entitled Cabaret and would like to include it on an L&C message board which is gathering as many reviews on the show as possible. Mr. Mark Bakalor and I have given our permission, so I will now have a "published" review on an L&C board. Just what is an L&C board anyway? A Liverwurst & Cheese Board? A Lying and Cheating Board? I guess I am just not Internet savvy, L&C-wise.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

Well. You certainly have outdone yourselves, dear readers. Last week's question was: In the last thirty years, many Sondheim alumni have gone on to star in sitcoms and tv series. Name as many performers and series as you can, We had more responses to this question than to any question posed heretofore whatever the hell that means. Yes, we heard from our regulars, we heard from people who've never written before, we heard from everyone. The following people all contributed correct answers: jennbook, Chris, grehf, Anita, crow, Cinderella, jc, Rizzo, jon, and S. Woody White, who called this trivia question addicting, which it is. Here are the plethora of answers. Even given all these, I'm sure we could go on for several more weeks finding others. Here are the multitudes of answers:

Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, Yvonne De Carlo, Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander, John Rubinstein, Michael Callan, Jack Klugman, Mary Louise Wilson, Carol Burnett, Mandy Patinkin, Kelsey Grammar, Christine Baranski, Charles Kimbrough, Beth Howland, Jane Krakowski, Brent Spiner, Phil Silvers, Mark Linn-Baker, Carol Bruce, Madeline Sherwood, Stuart Damon, Dean Jones, Barbara Barrie, Elaine Stritch, Mary McCarty, Steve Elmore, Victoria Mallory, Victor Garber, Greg Germann, Dana Ivey, Glynis Johns, Ernie Sabella, Patricia Elliot.

Isn't that amazing? All those people appeared in regular roles on sitcoms, series and soaps. As I said this could go on for weeks, with obscurities like Donna McKechnie on Hullabaloo, George Chakiris on Superboy, Elizabeth Allen on Bracken's World, and, as The King would say, etc. etc. etc. The fact is if you want to have a successful career in television you should do a Sondheim show. More amazing is how many on that list appeared in more than one series.

This week's trivia question:

Other Sondheim alumnus went on to become well-known producers and directors for film, television and the theater. Name as many as you can.

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



Questions? Comments?

Well, dear readers, I believe we've come to the end of another column. And that is fine, because one simply must get out and revel in the lusty month of May. We must put flowers in our hair and eat grapes and grab our loved ones by their buttcheeks. We must carouse and cavort, although not necessarily in that order. And don't forget to celebrate by having a fifth of Mayo on whatever sandwich you're partaking of. I shall now go read Nineteen Eight-Four just in case Big Brother is watching me.

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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Recently Overheard...
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

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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.

Which is not to say that it is perfect...”
- popcornonmyknees

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Elaine Stritch
With three hand-held cameras, one major theatrical milestone and nearly nineteen hours of footage, this rare and intimate look with Original Cast Album - Company is a must for any Sondheim fan.

DVD: $26.96
VHS: $24.95

One of Sondheim's most beloved works is sure to be Sunday in the Park with George, available on DVD, video tape, and CD.

CD: $13.99
DVD: $25.49
VHS: $19.98

Nathan Lane
All Sondheim completists are sure to now own the first complete recording of The Frogs coupled with Evening Primrose. Do you?

CD: $18.97

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