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August 2, 1999 - #93
Yes, to be or not to be, that is the question, is it not? And obviously since you are reading this column right here and now and also right now and here, the answer is obviously "to be", as in yes, Virginia, there is a column. That William Shakespeare sure could pen a line, couldn't he? And so could Virginia for that matter. I especially like Mr. William Shakespeare's line, "Oh, that this too too solid flesh" because, frankly, I have had way too much of my beloved Coconut Custard Pie with Whipped Cream at my beloved Table 20 at my beloved Joe Allen and my flesh is definitely "too too" at this time, although my flesh is not "solid" as I have not been to my beloved gym in over three months. Another Shakespeare line I like is, "Out, damned spot" which is an especially meaningful line if you happen to have a dog named Spot. I knew someone who had a dog named Spot and that dog was simply tops, let me tell you that. Of course, it is only appropriate that the dog named Spot was tops since "Spot" spelled backwards is tops. Has anyone else noticed that this column has a severe crimp in it? Just asking. Shakespeare was amazing. Who else could have written, "Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears"? Of course, this begs the question, why did he need to be lent ears? Didn't he have any of his own? Did he collect them? Was he intending to return the ears to their rightful owners when he was through with them? "Lend me your ears". I mean, come on, would you lend someone your ears? Especially someone named Shakespeare? Did this guy think we were fools? Yes, he did, because he also wrote, "What fools these mortals be".
I had a very nice trip to New York last week, although it was unbearably hot. "Unbearably". Why is there a "bear" in "unbearably"? Why not a "beaver"? Or a "zebra"? Why a bear? Why a duck? Are the Marx Bros. writing this column? Oh, it's all so arbitrary, animal-wise. Anyway, it was uncowably hot and humid. I managed to catch a couple of shows, about which more later.
Do you know what, dear readers? I feel this column has a severe crimp in it. I feel these long delays between columns cramp my style and the cramp causes the crimp.
I went to an Antique Mall yesterday. The mall itself wasn't an antique, but there were antiques in the Antique Mall, hence the name. At the Antique Mall I bought a Player's Directory from 1961. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I bought a Player's Directory from 1961. Obviously, someone considered it an antique because it was in the Antique Mall. But if a Player's Directory from 1961 is an antique I would hate to think what that makes me. For those who don't know what a Player's Directory is, it's a book (now called the Academy Directory) in which actors and actresses put their photos and their agent information, so that casting directors and producers can easily look up said photos and information. The photos are broken down (no mean feat) into categories, such as Leading Ladies, Younger Leading Ladies and Ingenues, Girls and Children, Leading Men, Characters and Comedians, etc. I began by looking at Younger Leading Ladies and Ingenues. The first thing I realized was that all these younger leading ladies and ingenues are probably now close to sixty. That frightened me more than The Blair Witch Project. Then I looked under Girls and Children. And do you know whose photos were there, dear readers? Well, I will tell you whose photos were there, dear readers, because it would be unseemly of me to bring it up and not tell you whose photos were there. The first photo I came upon belonged to Kay Cole. That's right, Kay Cole, the original Maggie in A Chorus Line. Now a choreographer. And there she was, a child, with lots of credits, like the national company of The Music Man (she played Mayor Shinn's youngest daughter), and Bye, Bye Birdie and lots of live television. I then turned a few more pages and you will not believe whose photo I came upon. Bernadette Peters, that's whose photo I came upon. Bernadette Peters: Age range 13-15. Let me tell you, this photo was cute as a button. "Cute as a button". Are buttons cute? I just looked at a button and frankly it skeeved me. No, I would not call a button cute. And even if I did call a button cute, being a button it would not respond because buttons are inanimate objects. I myself have been known to be an inanimate object, but not all the time, whereas buttons are inanimate objects all the time unless they are being unbuttoned in which case the button does have some movement. What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes, Bernadette Peters and the cute-as-a-button photo. Now, as some of you are aware, there has been much discussion about Ms. Peters' age (discussed right here at Finishing The Chat). I believe she just had her 50th birthday not too long ago. Now, this book was published in 1961. If Ms. Peters age range was between 13 and 15 we can assume she was 14 or 15, although she might have been 16. Simple arithmetic will tell you that the one thing Ms. Peters is not is 50 years of age. Mr. Mark Bakalor has been vehement in rebutting everyone who said she was 50 years of age, and Mr. Bakalor was/is correct. Not that it matters one or two whits whether she's 50 or 51 or 52 or 53 or 54, but why bother shaving two or three years off your age? Age is just a number, and the fact is Miss Bernadette Peters looks damn fine for whatever age she is. Now I feel like rebutting someone. Of course it would have to be someone I have already butted as I would be rebutting them. Where was I? Oh, yes. This is not the end of the story. No, I came upon one other photo at the very end of the Girl and Children section. This was the most shocking photo of all. This photo was of a girl named Pia Zadora. Yes, Pia Zadora. And do you know what? Pia Zadora was not the cute-as-a-button sexpot she would later blossom into. Oh, no. Pia Zadora was a chubby dark-haired mousy little girl, which just goes to prove that if mousy little girls marry ugly older men with lots of cash, anything is possible. Also, in the younger departments were many Sondheim regulars, including several Gypsy and West Side Story cast members. The other thing you notice while perusing these photos are the number of people who have had work done on their faces. Yes, I speak of plastic surgery, dear readers. Nips and tucks, face lifts, nose jobs and bobs, eye jobs, chin jobs. And do you know what else? I liked all these people much better without said nips and tucks, etc. Speaking of nips and tucks and jobs and bobs, if you want a rare treat, see if you can ever find the Warner Bros. film About Face from 1949. It is a musical version of the classic film, Brother Rat. About Face starred Gordon MacRae and introduced a young song and dance man named Joel Grey (yes, 1949!). As all of you know, Joel Grey has a cute-as-a-button little upturned nose. Well, not in About Face he didn't. In About Face Joel Grey had a huge proboscis, a giant schnozzola, rather like his father's huge honker, his father being Borscht Belt comedian Mickey Katz. At some point in the 50s Joel Grey got a new nose, which was, by the way, cute-as-a-button. Years later his daughter Jennifer Grey did the same thing to her nose. Frankly, I liked her old nose better, and frankly, she doesn't even look like the same person. That is what usually happens with nips and tucks and bobs and jobs. Said nips and tucks and bobs and jobs may tighten, may remove bags and other anomalies, but they also change the way people look and for my money not for the better. I find it difficult to watch Carol Burnett or Mary Tyler Moore for that reason. Bea Arthur doesn't look like Bea Arthur anymore. In fact, she looks like she is in a permanent state of shock. Even Angela Lansbury looks weird since her facelift. The worst, however, is Robert (Baretta) Blake who now looks rather like a monster from an old Universal horror film. It's too bad we live in a society where youth is all (especially in the film business). It's not like we don't remember what these people used to look like (in the case of film people, it's easy - the proof is on the screen). I myself have had no facial work, although I occasionally stretch my face to the side with my hands just to see what I'd look like. Oh, wait a minute, I'm just getting some e-mail. Let's see who it's from, shall we?
Dear Real A-hole:
So what if my face-lift is bad? So what if I don't look like me anymore? So what if dogs shy away from me in the street? That's the name of that tune, ain't it, and if you have a problem with it, let's get together so I can beat the living crap out of you with a pipe.
Well, I feel I should move on to the next section of the column, because this section feels like it has a severe crimp in it. Although, I suppose I could call Robert (Baretta) Blake and have him beat the living crimp out of it with a pipe. Frankly, this section of the column is starting to feel like the new Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut: Endless and incomprehensible. But enough about me.
Yes, Virginia, I finally managed to catch up with the Broadway production of Cabaret. As you all know, I saw it here in Los Angeles with Miss Teri Hatcher and enjoyed it. However, it's much better in New York, much sharper, with more teeth. There have been many cast changes since the show opened. This particular cast is, for the most part, very good. Susan Egan plays Sally Bowles and she's pretty much terrific, singing the role instead of shouting it as some have done. She also plays the effects of her drug use really well. The character, as played by Miss Egan, is tough, funny, touching and pathetic. Her performance of the title song is great and was marred only by a woman seated at the front table who fell off her chair rather loudly. Michael Hall as the Emcee, doesn't have the fey, sly, knowing quality that Alan Cumming had (I didn't see Mr. Cumming in the show, but saw him perform a couple of the numbers on television where he had a fey, sly, knowing quality) but he's fine and has a good time with the role. It's interesting that Mr. Hall and Mr. Norbert Leo Butz who played the Emcee in Los Angeles, are much "butcher" than Mr. Cumming. Carole Shelley and Laurance Luckinbill are fine as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, and Vicki Clark is good as Fraulein Kost. I very much liked Boyd Gaines' performance too, in the tricky role of Cliff. The staging remains interesting, but I still prefer the original of Harold Prince and Ron Field. I was seated at one of the front tables nearest the stage and I did notice something I hadn't in Los Angeles, which is that all of the Cabaret girls are "au natural", that is they do not shave under their arms or anywhere else for that matter. I know it shouldn't, dear readers, but frankly this skeeved me. Miss Egan, however, is not "au natural", hence she did not skeeve me. The other amazing thing about this production are the actors who double as musicians. The fact that they can sing, dance, act and play an instrument extremely well, is just incredible. It must be a hard show to find understudies and replacements for.
There have been those who read this column who have suggested that I might be Gerard Alessandrini, author of the Forbidden Broadway shows and parodies. So, I thought it would be a good idea to see the show, just in case I am he. Actually, I have seen two other incarnations of this show, and frankly they were both funnier than the current version, which has a few inspired bits, but seems tired. There is a hilarious take on Cats using A Chorus Line songs, which was my favorite thing in the show. Mr. Alessandrini wasn't in attendance so I suppose I still could have been him.
I saw Play On! on Broadway and enjoyed it very much. It's a musical of Mr. William (To be or not to be) Shakespeare's Twelfth Night set to the music of Duke Ellington. It wasn't a great show, but it had great music and a superb cast, especially Cheryl Freeman in the leading role of Viola, who disguises herself as a man named Vi-Man. The show is being done at the Pasadena Playhouse, where it's directed by Sheldon Epps, the man who directed it on Broadway. The production uses the Broadway sets and lighting, too. The only thing the production doesn't use, is the original cast (with one exception) and this is the production's downfall. With the exception of Yvette Cason (the one original cast member) not one person in this company comes close to being as good as the original cast members were, so the show doesn't have the energy and sparkle it had on Broadway. However, you wouldn't know it by the audience reaction, which is filled with stomping and cheering, which just goes to show you something or other. Very disappointing, although if you haven't seen the original company you might enjoy it. It also contains another immortal W. Shakespeare line, "If music be the food of love, play on". Do you know if you write that whole line backwards, "No yalp, evol fo doof eht eb cisum fi" it sounds just like a Latin sorority motto.
I also attended the new production of Sunset Blvd. which is touring the country. I had to drive all the way to San Diego to see it, a long three-hour drive in traffic. This new production stars Miss Petula Clark as Norma Desmond, and Lewis Cleale as Joe. It is very different than the Broadway and London productions, with scaled-down sets and production values, like an embarrasing prop car which unfortunately gets unintentional laughs. Some of the through-sung sections are now spoken, and I must say, that change works for the better, as the spoken bits are written by the brilliant Billy Wilder. Some of Lloyd Webber's music is nice, some banal, and some just plain awful. His main theme (The Greatest Star of All) is just warmed over Rachmaninov (Piano Concerto 2), but I do like As If We Never Said Goodbye. Miss Clark acquits herself well on her two big songs (Goodbye and With One Look) and gets a swell ovation on both. Her acting is a bit over the top, playing Norma a bit too insane all the way through. Norma may be theatrical, she may be pathetic, she may be a little off, but you've also got to believe her as someone who once was the greatest star of all. Gloria Swanson, in the film, achieves all that and more, but of course she once was a great film star. Miss Clark does mine much more of the comedic side of Norma than Glenn Close did (the only other Norma I saw). Lewis Cleale is okay as Joe, a bit too dramatic in his singing for my taste. His Betty, Sarah Uriarte Berry, is okay too. They've moved the big Act Two ballad, Too Much In Love To Care, from its original position, and it doesn't work at all now. The rest of the company is fine, as is the orchestra. This production is directed by Susan Schulman, and I'm afraid I don't find her an interesting director (she did the recent revival of The Sound of Music and the York Merrily We Roll Along, which, by the way, is a musical by someone we haven't mentioned in ages, my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, who once set a whole sonnet by Shakespeare, Fear No More, to dark and brooding music).
Did you know that there is now a website for Diet Coke? It is dietcoke.com So, I went looking for a website for Red Vines and surprise, I found it at redvines.com. I then went looking for a Wacky Noodles website but it was not to be found. Seemingly, there is a website or newsgroup for almost everything, although obviously not Wacky Noodles. If you want to know about musicals, there are several websites and newsgroups that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know and then some. If you want to know about detectives, there is a private investigator newsgroup. What did we ever do before the Internet, I wonder? Everyone, no matter who they might be, can have a web page. If you want to create a webpage about a severe crimp you can. You can now buy anything your heart desires via the Internet. You can take part in auctions, whether they're at my beloved eBay, or at amazon.com or yahoo.com. You can search yahoo.com for Yoo Hoo chocolate drink. You can go to maps.com and get directions to wherever you're going. You can see jpegs and mpegs and all manner of pegs. You can learn about cheese slices and ham chunks. And yes, Virginia, you can purchase Viagra on the Internet, too. You can visit chat rooms and chat. You can see male and female nudity. You can hear actual music over the Internet, and you can hear said actual music whilst looking at male and female nudity if you so choose. Why am I going on and on about the Internet? I have no clue, but I'll bet I can find out why I'm going on and on about the Internet right here on the Internet, because the Internet has an answer for everything, including the age-old question, "What is it, fish?" Speaking of fish, the wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can sit on your couch like so much of it, and go places you've never been. Of course, there are some who actually prefer to go places rather than to see them on a screen. But that is neither here nor there. Since it's neither here nor there it must be somewhere in a black hole, which, by the way, you can also find on the Internet. Perhaps if I go to www.whatthehellareyoutalkingabout.com. I'll be able to ascertain what the hell I'm talking about. I feel this whole paragraph has been one long vamp, which is what happens when someone has put a cramp in your style. When you have a cramp you vamp and that's all there is to it. Even though the vamp may have your particular stamp you sometimes need a lamp or an amp to see and hear it. Well, as Shakespeare once said, "To be or not to be, that is the question". The answer can be found at www.tobeornottobe-theanswer.com. Yes, Virginia, I do feel we've had an influx of effluvia and the sooner we get the effluv out of here the better. Or, as William Shakespeare once said, "What light through yonder window breaks".
These letters are older than the Leading Ladies and Men in my 1961 Player's Directory. I hope they make some kind of sense given that they were written weeks ago. If not, then so be it. Be it so. It be so. By the way, when I arrived home this evening to proof this here column, Mr. Bakalor had forwarded me thirty-six new letters! This made me very happy because when we miss a column I immediately think that no one is reading it anymore. But I should know better, because you are loyal and true, dear readers, and that is what I adore about you. Make no mistake about it - I will answer each and every one of your delightful missives in our next column.
Grehf asks me what the worst musical I've ever seen is. The worst Broadway musical I've ever seen would have to be Nick and Nora. Even though parts of the score are nice, the production, the book and the direction were so god-awful it was just a travesty. But I've seen many worse musicals in smaller theaters right here in Los Angeles. Grehf's worst musical is Money Tree, which, I must say, I've never heard of.
Jill writes to say "arrghh". She has been having one of those days. And then she came to read this here column and it was an abbreviated column (I told you these letters were old) and she simply said "arrgh" which, by the way, is not easy to say. Let's all say it now, shall we? One, two, three: "Arrgh". See? It is not easy to say "arrgh". For example, how many of you pronounced the "gh" as "f" so that it sounded like "arrff"? How many pronounced the "gh" "g" so that it sounded like "arrg"? How many didn't pronounce the "gh" at all so that it sounded like "arrrrrrr"? Jill recently went shopping at Sears and bought a pretty new shirt. When she came out of the store, her car looked as if twelve flocks of birds had joined forces to leave their bird business on her car, which was covered with white spots. As it turned out, the white spots were not in fact bird business, they were ice cream drippings. Jill will tell us how she figured this out at another time. Until then, we shall all just have to say, "Arrgh".
El Super Tevye has the following questions: In the first scene of Company what do the stage directions mean by saying the friends "intone". I can't really remember the dialogue section you're speaking of, but I assume it means they all say whatever it is they're saying in a flat tone. Tevye (I have five daughters) also mentions that on the Original Cast Recording of Company the title song begins with the Vocal Minority singing, followed by the friends singing, but in the script there is no Vocal Minority section. Tevye wants to know if the production I saw included the Vocal Minority section. It's a long time ago, but I believe it did. The next question is, in You Could Drive A Person Crazy where is the line "Bobby is my hobby and I'm giving it up" supposed to go. It occurs directly before the bridge of the song if I'm remembering correctly. For the cast album, they used it at the end as a button. I may be wrong, but that is my memory of it. Tevye also wants me to continue the My Favorite Songs section of the column, so I shall endeavor to do so in an upcoming column, as long as the upcoming column doesn't have a crimp in it.
Pitgirl wrote her letter from the Carnegie Science Museum in her favorite city of Pittsburgh (an appropriate favorite city for Pitgirl). She feels that they have computers there so people can explore science-related sites, but also because they might feel that the Internet is a science. This is very much in keeping with the Effluvia section of this column, where I went on ad nauseum about the Internet. I could spend the rest of this column going on ad nauseum about the Internet, however this would only cause nauseum and ultimately we would all say "Arrgh" rather like the Vocal Minority in Company.
Jon tells me that he has an Alice At The Palace video and that it is fabulous. He thinks Meryl Streep is wonderful in it. I no longer have any memory of why Alice At The Palace was brought up, but I'm certain that someone less senile than I will.
I know I asked a trivia question in our last column, but I no longer have any idea as to what it was. I shall, however, search it, and hopefully when Mr. Bakalor forwards me all the latest letters I will be able to answer it and tell you who got it right.
In the meantime, here's an impossible to answer question for this week:
While glancing through my 1961 Player's Directory, in the Child and Boys category I came upon a picture of someone who turned out to be well-known actor Christopher Walken. However, Mr. Walken's first name, at that time, was not Christopher. What was it?
Last week's trivia question was: Lerner and Loewe wrote one of the musical theater's biggest hits, My Fair Lady. However, they were not the original choice to write the show. No, another team actually began writing My Fair Lady and then bowed out. Who were they? Practically everyone got the answer to this question including: Pat, Mordecai, Super Tevye, Joseph, Frank, Buck, Alan G., Jon B., Rafael, Ted, Anita, and William F. Orr. The answer is My Fair Lady which was to have starred Mary Martin.
Mr.Mark Bakalor has just informed me that there will be no column next week but that after that we will be back to our normal schedule. This is good because this here column hasn't been "regular" in quite a while, and frankly
that is a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) thing. And all
because of Mr. Bakalor's need to sing and dance and whatnot. Well, I
must now go eat some foodbits because I am starving. Perhaps I shall
eat some meat products or, at the very least, some cheese slices.
Yes, Virginia, hunger is gnawing at me like a gnat. Have you ever seen a gnat gnaw? Gnats are
gnotorious for gnawing and that is gno lie. And, as Porky Pig would
say, "Gnat's all, folks".
Until next time, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Mr.Mark Bakalor has just informed me that there will be no column next week but that after that we will be back to our normal schedule. This is good because this here column hasn't been "regular" in quite a while, and frankly that is a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) thing. And all because of Mr. Bakalor's need to sing and dance and whatnot. Well, I must now go eat some foodbits because I am starving. Perhaps I shall eat some meat products or, at the very least, some cheese slices. Yes, Virginia, hunger is gnawing at me like a gnat. Have you ever seen a gnat gnaw? Gnats are gnotorious for gnawing and that is gno lie. And, as Porky Pig would say, "Gnat's all, folks".
Until next time, 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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