Saturday, May 31, 2008

Nicholas Tamagna, Countertenor

Nick is an old friend of mine from high school whom all of us admired for his gifted ability with music. Whether it be instrumental or vocal, the range of his talent seemed to know no bounds and he went off to college to study music and then specifically, opera. I've been lucky enough to know Nick and to have worked with him on several occasions, academically and otherwise. We appeared together in high school in Funny Girl and Carousel (he was our Nick Arnstein & Billy Bigelow). I also worked on his incredibly amusing concept album - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - the Musical; his final project for AP English. I would actually love to hear the latter, it's been eight years since I last gave it a spin. He also was one of the most accessible and gracious people I've ever known, with a considerable sense of humor and the most unique infectious laugh I think I've ever heard in my life. All around, a really great friend.

Anyway, he's just launched his updated website which introduces him for the first time as a countertenor. The countertenor is a male singer who can sing in the alto/mezzo-soprano range (some of the more flexible and rare venture up into soprano territory), either by use of a good falsetto or a ridiculous extension of the tenor range. He's trained at UNCG, the Manhattan School of Music and most recently at Hunter College. A lot of years, kids, a lot of years. I wish him all the best.

Nicholas Tamagna, Countertenor

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Harvey Korman (1927-2008)

For fans of television, he'll always be fondly remembered for the hilarious contributions he made on The Carol Burnett Show. For film fans, there was his tenure as a Mel Brooks favorite, most notably as Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

Korman was a comic legend who left our world today at the age of 81. He had been suffering for several months as a result of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. His wide-ranging comic ability helped get him started on TV in bit parts, eventually landing on The Danny Kaye Show. He also was the voice of the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones (I never knew that!)

It was working with Carol Burnett that he would achieve his most lasting legacy. Her variety show ran from 1967-1978 and was among the most popular TV shows of the decade. Korman's work as a comic foil was immense, most notably opposite the hilarious Tim Conway, who had the unstoppable ability to crack up the cast (but most especially Korman) in their scene work.

Here's one of them:

And some bloopers:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"It's an honor just to be... wait, I'm not?"

In light of A Catered Affair and John Bucchino being slighted for a Best Score nomination from the Tony voters, Peter Filichia has dedicated a column to the fifty scores he feels were slighted a nomination from the Tony voters over the years. You'll recognize many of these as scores over which I've obsessed and/or gushed repeatedly.

*Please take special notice of number one on his list*


This could be either the most hilarious or most adorable thing I'll see this year...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quote of the Day

"And the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical goes to....Patricia Routledge"


Memorial Day at 'South Pacific'

Frank Rich commented in an op-ed about the current revival of South Pacific and hits the nail on the head about the sort of impact this revival is having on audiences. Many of the feelings described are those I felt when watching this superlative production. I knew it was a hit, but I'm stunned at just how big a hit it is! Can you imagine? $1,000 in cash for a ticket? My word.

From the NY Times (in case you missed it):

Op-Ed Columnist
Memorial Day at ‘South Pacific’

NEW YORK is a ghost town on Memorial Day weekend. But two distinct groups are hanging tight: sailors delighting in the timeless shore-leave rituals of Fleet Week, and theatergoers clutching nearly impossible-to-get tickets for “South Pacific.”

Some of those sailors served in a war that has now lasted longer than American involvement in World War II but is largely out of sight and mind as civilians panic about gas prices at home. “South Pacific” has its sailors too: this 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical tells of those who served in what we now call “the good war.”

The Lincoln Center revival of this old chestnut is surely the most unexpected cultural sensation the city has experienced in a while. In 2008, when 80-plus percent of Americans believe their country is in a ditch, there wouldn’t seem to be a big market for a show whose heroine, the Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, is a self-described “cockeyed optimist” who sings of being “as corny as Kansas in August.”

Yet last week one man stood outside the theater with a stack of $100 bills offering $1,000 for a $120 ticket. Inside, audiences start to tear up as soon as they hear the overture, even before they meet the men and women stationed in the remote islands of the New Hebrides. Among those who’ve been enraptured by this “South Pacific” the most common refrain is, “I couldn’t stop myself — I was sobbing.”

This would include me, and I have been trying to figure out why ever since I first saw this production in March. It certainly wasn’t nostalgia. I was born two months before the show’s Broadway premiere in April 1949 and had never before seen “South Pacific” on stage. It was mainly a musty parental inheritance from my boomer childhood. My father had served in the Pacific theater for 26 months, and my mother replayed the hit show tunes incessantly on 78s as our new postwar family settled into the suburbs.

Like countless others, I did see Hollywood’s glossy 1958 film version. As the British World War II historian Max Hastings writes in “Retribution,” his unsparing new book about the war’s grisly endgame in the Pacific, “Many of us gained our first, wonderfully romantic notion of the war against Japan by watching the movie of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific.’ ” But the movie of “South Pacific,” a candy-colored idyll dominated by wide-screen tourist vistas, is not the show. Its lush extravagance evokes the 1950s boom more than war.

In the 1960s, after the movie had come and gone, Vietnam pushed “South Pacific” into a cultural black hole. No one wanted to see a musical about war unless it was “Hair.” Unlike its Rodgers and Hammerstein siblings “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music,” it never received a full Broadway revival.

Today everyone thinks they’ve seen the genuine “South Pacific” only because its songs reside in the collective American unconscious. “Some Enchanted Evening.” “Younger Than Springtime.” “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame.” But few Americans born after V-J Day did see the real thing, which is one reason why audiences are ambushed by the revival. They expect corn, but in a year when war and race are at center stage in the national conversation, this relic turns out to have a great deal to say.

Though it contains a romance, “South Pacific” is not at all romantic about war. The troops are variously bored, randy, juvenile and conniving. They are not prone to jingoistic posturing. When American officers try to recruit Emile de Becque, a worldly French expatriate, in a dangerous reconnaissance operation, they tell him he must do so because “we’re against the Japs.” De Becque, who is the show’s hero, snaps at them: “I know what you’re against. What are you for?” No one bothers to answer his question. The men have been given a job to do, and they do it.
“South Pacific” isn’t pro-war or antiwar. But it makes you think about the costs. When, after months of often slovenly idling, the troops ship out for the action they’ve been craving, the azure tropical sky darkens to a gunpowder gray. Their likely mission is to storm the beach at Tarawa, where in November 1943 more than 1,000 Americans and 4,600 Japanese would die in less than 76 hours in one of the war’s deadliest battles.

This is a more fatalistic World War II than some we’ve seen lately. When America was sleepwalking on the eve of 9/11, the good war was repositioned as an uplifting brand. Nostalgia kicked in. Perhaps we wanted to glom onto an earlier America’s noble mission because we, unlike “the greatest generation,” had none of our own. The real “South Pacific” returns us to the war as its contemporaries saw it, when the wounds were too raw to be healed by sentiment.
That reflects the show’s provenance. It was hot off the press: a nearly instantaneous adaptation of “Tales of the South Pacific,” the 1947 novel in which the previously unknown James A. Michener set down his own wartime experiences in the Pacific.

Many theatergoers who saw “South Pacific” in 1949 had sons and brothers who had not returned home. Just 10 days after it opened at the Majestic Theater on 44th Street, The New York Times carried a small story datelined Honolulu. A ship had arrived there bearing “the bodies of 120 American war dead,” the remains of men missing in action since 1943. “Thus ended the last general search for the men who fell in the South Pacific war,” the article said.
Watching “South Pacific” now, we’re forced to contemplate Iraq, which we’re otherwise pretty skilled at avoiding. Most of us don’t have family over there. Most of us long ago decided the war was a mistake and tuned out. Most of us have stopped listening to the president who ginned it up. This month, in case you missed it, he told an interviewer that he had made the ultimate sacrifice of giving up golf for the war’s duration because “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf.”

“South Pacific” reminds us that those whose memory we honor tomorrow — including those who served in Vietnam — are always at the mercy of the leaders who send them into battle. It increases our admiration for the selflessness of Americans fighting in Iraq. They, unlike their counterparts in World War II, do their duty despite answering to a commander in chief who has been both reckless and narcissistic. You can’t watch “South Pacific” without meditating on their sacrifices for this blunderer, whose wife last year claimed that “no one suffers more” over Iraq than she and her husband do.

The show’s racial conflicts are also startlingly alive. Nellie Forbush, far from her hometown of Little Rock, recoils from de Becque when she learns that he fathered two children by a Polynesian woman. In the original script, Nellie denigrates de Becque’s late wife as “colored.” (Michener gave Nellie a more incendiary word in his book.) “Colored” was cut in rehearsals then but has been restored now, and it lands like a brick in the theater. It’s not only upsetting in itself. It’s upsetting because Nellie isn’t some cracker stereotype — she’s lovable (especially as embodied by the actress Kelli O’Hara). But how can we love a racist? And how can she not love Emile’s young mixed-race children?

Michener would work out this story in his own life. In 1949, he moved to Hawaii, where he would eventually make a third, long-lived marriage with a Japanese-American who had been held in an internment camp during the war. “South Pacific” works through this American dilemma for the audience, too. Years before Little Rock’s 1957 racial explosion, Nellie moves beyond her prejudices, propelled by life and love and the circumstances of war. She charts a path that much of America, North and South, would haltingly begin to follow. (In the script, we also hear of racism in Philadelphia’s Main Line.) “South Pacific” opened as President Truman was implementing the desegregation of America’s armed forces — against the backdrop of Ku Klux Klan beatings of black veterans.

Then and now, the show concludes with the most classic of American tableaus: Emile, Nellie and the two kids sitting down to a family meal. It’s hard for us to imagine how this coda must have struck audiences in 1949, when interracial marriage was still illegal in many states (as it would be in 16 until 1967). But nearly 60 years later, this multiracial family portrait has another context. The audiences watching “South Pacific” in this intense election year are being asked daily to take stock of just how far along we are on Nellie’s path and how much further we still have to go.

And so as we watch that family gather at the end of “South Pacific,” both their future and their country’s destiny yet to be written, we weep for the same reason we often do when we experience a catharsis at the theater. We grieve deeply for our losses and our failings, even as we feel an undertow of cockeyed optimism about the possibilities of healing and redemption that may yet lie ahead.

Sydney Pollack (1934-2008)

When you consider that the mere fact of his illness was a well-guarded secret, the death of Sydney Pollack is a rather unexpected loss to the film world. I have enjoyed Mr. Pollack's work both on the screen and behind the camera, as he enjoyed a second career as a character actor long after he had been established as a noted director. I had most recently seen him offering stellar support to George Clooney in the excellent legal thriller Michael Clayton (which Pollack also co-produced).

Pollack began his career as an actor, studying with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in the mid-50s. He made one appearance on Broadway in the short-lived The Dark is Light Enough, a comedy that starred Katharine Cornell, Tyrone Power and Christopher Plummer. The play, written by Christopher Fry, lasted 69 performances at the ANTA Playhouse. Shortly afterward, he would move into television direction from which he would eventually launch his film career.

His most notable films include the searing indictment of '20s dance marathons, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? with Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin and an Oscar-winning Gig Young, The Way We Were with Robert Redford (who was a life-long friend of the director) and Barbra Streisand, Absence of Malice with Paul Newman, the gender-bending comedy Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman (and Pollack's uncredited turn as the agent who famously offers the classic line "No one will hire you.") and would win the Oscars for Best Picture and Director for Out of Africa, a rather overrated period drama with Redford and Meryl Streep. Pollack was also nominated as director for Horses and Tootsie, as well as producing nominations for Tootsie and Michael Clayton.

Pollack would direct twelve actors to Oscar nominations: Jane Fonda, Gig Young (won), Susannah York, Barbra Streisand, Paul Newman, Melinda Dillon, Jessica Lange (won), Dustin Hoffmann, Teri Garr, Meryl Streep, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Holly Hunter. He also produced, executive produced or co-produced many films, including most of his later work. His post-Africa work never really maintained the stature of his early pieces. Aside from the blockbuster The Firm, he directed the unnecessary remake of Sabrina, Random Hearts, The Interpreter and Sketches of Frank Gehry. He also had served as host of "The Essentials" on Turner Classic Movies.

Cancer was the cause; he was diagnosed nine months ago. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Claire, and two of their three children. He leaves behind a relatively small but important body of work in various areas of the film world.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"A Musical About the Problems of Housekeeping"

So says the tagline for one of my all-time favorite flops (at the bottom, in the tiny italicized print below the title). Here is the window card artwork in case you've never seen it. Note: no director or choregrapher is listed here. Oh, the turmoil! My obsessions continues...

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I finally caught up with Disney's Enchanted this afternoon. I had wanted to see it back in November, but considering I've been to the movies four times in 9 months, you can see that my priorities seem to have strayed from the silver screen. Anyway, thank goodness for these uber-quick DVD releases they do now. (Does anyone remember when they use to release VHS for rentals only for about six months before they sold them to the general public?)

The film was quite charming and highly amusing, stealthily irreverent with tongue in cheek. So much so, the old school ending seemed overly treacly as a result (the point at which the film loses steam is during the ballroom sequence, just prior to Susan Sarandon's homage to Maleficent). I enjoyed all the celebrations/send-ups of the Disney feature: Julie Andrews serving as the narrator, the old school animation (with includes the original Buena Vista logo used on the older Disney releases) to the more obscure, such as cameos from Paige O'Hara, Jodi Benson and Judy Kuhn (who's quip was one of the funniest lines in the film), also having fun with fairy tale conventions ("Happy Working Song" anyone?) The score was cute and served the project well - I only hope no one gets the brilliant idea of putting this onstage in two years, we've had enough of that. (The songs, with the exception of that awful warbled mess that they tried to pass off as a waltz in the ballroom scene, were pleasant. I'm still glad the kids from Once won the Academy award).

However, the main reason I wanted to see the film was Amy Adams. I've been a huge fan of hers since I happened upon the film Junebug back in 2005. Hers was the most memorable by a supporting actress that year; and was pleasantly surprised when she was nominated for her breakthrough turn as the naive but warm-hearted expecting sister-in-law. If you haven't seen the film, see it for her, she is remarkable. She also had a brief stint on The Office as an early love interest for Jim Halpert and was also Will Ferrell's amour in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I would venture a guess she has gained considerable clout with her star-turn as Giselle here, with an amiable singing voice and that wholehearted likability working in her favor.
(She's Sister James opposite Meryl Streep's Aloysius in the upcoming film version of Doubt).

Certain things were pleasantly surprising: James Marsden as a musical theatre singer. I've only seen him in action movies (and I haven't seen Hairspray), so to hear him bust out in song was impressive. Not to mention how hilarious he was as the brazenly fantastical Prince Charming, particularly in his encounters with New Yorkers (and technology, his scene with the "magic mirror" aka TV is priceless). Patrick Dempsey was affable as the love interest. Idina Menzel was a wet mop as his irritating girlfriend (thankfully not singing).

On top of that, it was a virtual who's who of Broadway talent: Tonya Pinkins as the pending divorcee, the aforementioned Kuhn, O'Hara & Benson, Edmund Lyndeck (the original Judge Turpin) as the decrepit homeless man, Joseph Siravo (yay Piazza!) as the bartender, Helen Stenborg, and Harvey Evans were the people I recognized. I'm sure there were more.

Like I said, the only problem I really had was the final 20 minutes or so. They'd had fun with the cleverness up to that point, but as they reverted to the formulaic, the sense of fun in the film waned, as did my interest. But overall, a pleasant little picture from Disney.

"Losing My Mind" - Dorothy Collins

Dorothy Collins. The definitive Sally. From the David Frost television special about Follies. 1971. Be devastated...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Some Enchanted Evening - reprise"

From General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein. The special featured lots of performers from the R&H hits, including Yul Brynner, Jan Clayton, John Raitt, Patricia Morison, Florence Henderson and Gordon MacRae. Hosted by Groucho Marx. This was at the height of their popularity - a sign of just how popular: this special aired on all four networks, CBS, NBC, ABC and the long forgotten DuMont channel. And you didn't have PBS in the '50s to turn to, so your viewing options were limited. They've included excerpts on the recent 2-disc editions of Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and Carousel. Though it would be fascinating if VAI or Kultur could release the entire evening on DVD. Or perhaps PBS could jump on the wagon and show it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Needle Through Brick"

My brother, a rather fascinating individual (and I think the sort of protagonist Nick Hornby would love to write about in his prose), is an archaeologist and current professor at the Univerity of Singapore. A doctor of philosophy (from Oxford, no less. I even got to go to commencement. Which, after a brief address, was delivered entirely IN LATIN. I gather a stint at a seminary might have prepared one for the afternoon of ancient Tridentine traditions), he has traveled the world extensively (six continents, no less) and hasn't resided in the US since 1997, attending Oxford, spending his summers working on an archaeological project in Marcham, UK. He also spent considerable time in Jordan, Nablus (in the West Bank), Kuching and now in Singapore.

Prior to his position in Singapore, he spent a year working in Kuching, Malaysia, along with our two other brothers (apparently I would have been included had I not been in college at the time; well, at least I got to go over for a visit). It was during his stay here he worked on his film, a piece that examines "the struggle for survival of traditional art and culture in the face of a rapidly changing and modernizing world. The documentary is told from the perspective of time-honored Chinese Kung Fu masters living in Borneo, East Malaysia."

My brother has been working endlessly on this film since it wrapped shooting several years ago. He's made many trips to Brooklyn to work on post-production with his producing partners. Well, the hard work appears to have finally paid off. The film is currently in contention among with several other films, all of which are competing as part of MyFestival @ the Seattle International Film Festival. Voted by viewers on the website, the film with the most votes will be screened on the final night of the actual festival.

Playlist shuffle....

Many that know me are aware of my rather gargantuan 160GB ipod with its shuffled playlists. Anyway, I'm bored, cursed with an irritating post-nasal drip whose cause remains uncertain. (I'm still not sure if I'm sick or it's just another "Bad Allergy Day") so I'm going to just jot down thoughts as I listen..

"Climb Ev'ry Mountain" - The Sound of Music, 1981 London Revival Cast Recording: June Bronhill is probably the first Mother Abbess to look at this aria and tell the powers that be that it's too low... She sings the entire song up a step and a half, ending it on a high B natural after the key change.

"Overture - Irma la Douce. 1960 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Has any other show made such ample use of the xylophone in its orchestration? How rare for a musical about life in the Pigalle of Paris to feature one actress and all men as support; the reverse Nine. Did you know? ...this was Fred Gwynne's first Broadway musical appearance? Yep, Herman Munster did the musicals. This and Here's Love.

"Let's See What Happens" - Darling of the Day - 1968 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Why is this gentle Jule Styne ballad, with its lilting waltz refrain and subdued lyrics not a standard? And wow the string and harp based orchestration of the song is among the best I've ever heard. Oh Pat Routledge, how you charm with that lush soprano sound...

"Two Little Words" - Steel Pier - 1997 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Oh Kristin Chenoweth. Remember the days when this routine of yours was fresh, and not considered your usual bag of shtick tricks? Why does this still work and your glazed ham rendition of "Glitter and Be Gay" come off like yesterday's gardenias?

"Sunshine Girl" - New Girl in Town - 1958 Original Broadway Cast Recording. A fantastic number from Bob Merrill. An early 1900s period number with honky-tonk piano and several part harmony - that also comments on the action. (Girl jilted by guy. Girl sad. Girl becomes hooker. You know the drill... Hey that's what happens when you turn O'Neill into a musical comedy).
Favorite lyric:
"You hear the fallin', the pitter and pat
She wears a raincloud instead of a hat
She still remembers the day that they met
She may forgive him but never forget
An angel's heart became the devil's prize
The sunshine girl has raindrop in her eyes..."

"My White Knight" - The Music Man - 1957 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Thank God for Barbara Cook. One of the only major problems I have with the film adaptation of this show is the use of "Being in Love" in its place, which just shows us that Marian's pretty much hot to trot for any man she's ever met, as opposed to this gentler song which expresses her yearning for the ideal suitor, someone she doesn't want to settle for, and someone whom she'd wish to respect and share her life. It's extraordinary... Oh and that high Ab. I remember vividly the night I saw the revival: Rebecca Luker stopped the show cold with this. But, my goodness, we're blessed to have had Barbara in our lives.

"Home Sweet Heaven" - High Spirits - 1964 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Tammy Grimes sings Elvira!! One of my favorite songs from this score, with its brassy bluesy feel. The lyrics are so witty, one can only imagine how she brought down the house with this eleven o'clock number. Apparently she wasn't big on performing the song and had to be pushed out onstage and delivered it with a pouty demeanor that brought the show to a complete halt, much to her surprise. She performed it the same wistful way every night to similar applause.
Favorite lyric:
"After I've lunched with Keats and Shelley
Posed for Boticelli
Martin Luther asks me out to dine
And it would really bowl you over
Watching Casanova
Try to flirt with Gertrude Stein
(she's a gas is a gas is a gas is a gas is a...)"

Tammy's delivery is definitive. And it's got a spectacular rideout.

"Nobody Steps on Kafritz" - Henry, Sweet Henry - 1967 Original Broadway Cast Recording. The show was an unfortunate failure, but left behind an amusing score. I guess this doesn't really fit into the story too well, but Alice Playten managed to walk away with the entire show with this raucous paean to adolescent evil. (She left the opening audience wanting more by denying them an encore when they refused to let the show continue. Besides, she had another showstopper in the second act, anyhow). Every time I hear this song, I always think of Natie Nudelman from How I Paid for College. Seriously, with their shameless personalities and monetary schemes, the two are soulmates. I think Alice needs to perform this one for us at the Theatre World awards, don't you agree?

"I Can Cook Too" - On the Town - 1960 Studio Cast Recording. If you pay enough attention to the lyrics, you will discover that they are RAUNCHY. But that's the glory of the double entendre, you can get away with practically any sexual euphemism as long as it's cute. Nancy Walker is marvelous, I can't begin to imagine how this brilliant comedienne must have been in the original 1944 company. For obvious reasons, this showstopper was excluded from the sunnier MGM musical adaptation (along with most of Bernstein's score, which execs felt would seem too sophisticated for film audiences). Who's Hildy in the Encores! production?

"What Did I Have That I Don't Have?" - On a Clear Day You Can See Forever - 1965 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Forget that movie with ol' what's-her-name. Barbara Harris is the perfect combination of quirky and charming on the cast album (and at bluegobo, in televised clips from the show). If there was one thing that Ms. Harris did in her two big Broadway musicals (this and The Apple Tree) was show a penchant for great comedy, but also with a heartbreaking vulnerability that made audiences fall in love with her. Another problem I have with the film rendition of this song is how Streisand decides to reprise a verse a la "Don't Rain on My Parade," to paraphrase from the stage show, don't tamper with perfection. The cast album is where you want to go (especially with John Cullum in glorious voice as her co-star). This is one of those cases where I wish the original performer had made the transfer to the screen version. Harris lives in reclusivity somewhere in Arizona, having given up performing without regret.

"The Money Rings Out Like Freedom" - Coco - 1969 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Say what you will about the musical, about Hepburn attempting to sing or the material itself. There is something fascinating in the score that I can't quite put my finger on. Hepburn gives it the ol' college try, even if she is Katharine Hepburn and no where near being Coco Chanel. (Word has it Chanel was thrilled about Hepburn as Coco, because she thought they meant Audrey. She was disheartened when she learned it was Kate and decided to have nothing to do with the show). The show is also important for its emergence of Michael Bennett as a director; Michael Benthall was pretty much useless and Bennett took over for him. This number is Chanel recalling her history (in part of a 16 minute musical monologue, during which we get a choreographed fashion parade of actual Chanel designs). What can I say, it's a fun guilty pleasure. And in spite of her limitations in the part, Hepburn gave a star turn. (She regularly received standing ovations on her entrance; and at her closing this number received a showstopping hand that lasted almost two minutes). (I keep writing because this is a really long song...) Hopefully, if Encores ever gets around to it, they'll cast Harriet Harris in the part; for all its flaws, the book has some spectacular lines for Chanel. Andre Previn's music is fascinating too. Lerner's lyrics not so much...

"Duet for One" - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - 1976 Original Broadway Cast. Oh hell, I've written enough about this already. I'll take this opportunity to make myself a snack.

"I Had a Ball" - I Had a Ball - 1964 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Karen Morrow, another great voice cursed by a series of Broadway flops belts out the title song here accompanied by the ensemble. There is an extensive dance break, as can be seen on the bluegobo clip, but for the album (with Quincy Jones as a co-producer I might add), they chose a belly dance section that has a spectacularly orgasmic brass transition back into the final chorus. It's really one of those sock it to the back row kind of numbers that is so good you wonder why the rest of the score and show didn't hold up. "She'll sing the hell out of it."- Jerry Herman. He ain't kidding.

"The Revolutionary Costume for Today" - Grey Gardens. Original Broadway Cast Recording. Hands down, the best list song heard on Broadway since "A Little Priest." The song, which beautifully encapsulates our introduction to Little Edie and her sense of fashion (which reveals so much about Edie as a colorful and amusing character). Frankel and Korie perfectly adapted her monologue to the Maysles brothers about her clothing philosophy to act as exposition, with sharp imagery, topical references ("those Nixon-Agnew voters") and brilliantly sophisticated syntax, telling the audience everything you need to know about where Little Edie is at the top of the second act. One of the best new musical numbers of the past decade. The hook is also insanely catchy. I dare you to listen and not go around humming "da da da DA dum." This is the best musical theatre composition we've had on Broadway in years. And how it lost Best Musical, Book and Score is still beyond me.

"Overture" - High Spirits. Original Broadway Cast Recording. A favorite overture of mine. Full out 1960s Broadway brass. Framed by a blast of the lead-in for "Home Sweet Heaven," it switches into an uptempo version of "Forever and a Day." goes for another "HSH" blast, before it softens to the strings of "If I Gave You," the charming act two opener. Then back to the brass for a very early 60s Broadway sound with "I Know Your Heart," "You Better Love Me." This all builds with such energy into the coup d'grace: "Home Sweet Heaven." They pull it back a bit and let it burlesque out. But oh no, they're not done yet. They pull back even further with every instrument going full-out. After giving you a tedious play-by-play, why not just give it a listen and see what you think.

And... I'm done. Time for bed!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"At these prices, I'm an ecdysiast!"

Just a shout-out to the students from my alma mater, SUNY New Paltz who are presenting an encore presentation of their semester-ending "Alpha Psi Ecdysia: Touched for the Very First Time," in which the theatre students of New Paltz took a workshop in burlesque performance and had their own evening of entertainment. They'll be at the Rififi Club in the Village in a couple of weeks. My only complaint: they didn't offer anything this cool when I was in college.

From their release:

Saucy coeds, funky themes, uncomfortable parents, and academic tomfoolery with a side of nudity! One of only two burlesque troupes on an American college campus, SUNY New Paltz's Alpha Psi Ecdysia offers comedy, live music, circus, and the sexiest girls (and boys) to ever pursue a useless degree. See New York State taxpayer dollars put to good use as "America's Hottest Small State School" takes its title literally. Tip 'em well! College ain't cheap.

Alpha Psi Ecdysia remounts (ooh!) its debut show at burlesque favorite Rififi in Manhattan's East Village. Similar (but not identical) to the recent Toscani's show. Support the guys and dolls of APE in their New York debut!

Hosted by Lucida Sans and Anton Jackov, the Rififi show features performances by...
Coco Corset
Izebel Vivant
Lady Legs
Equa Fellashio
Spartacus Rising
Gigi Ozon
Gemma Stone
Ophelia Dipthong
Virago Sadine
live music by Anton Jackov and The Threesomestersand more!
$10 tickets
by subway: L - 1st ave
N R Q W 4 5 6 - union squareF V - lower east side 2nd ave

For what it's worth, Ophelia Dipthong may be the greatest stripper (or for that matter stage) name I've ever seen.

Family Guy: The Pirate Chase

This moment of inspired lunacy comes from the current season finale, in which Peter obtains a pirate and decides to become a pirate.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Longest Feud in Hollywood History Continues...

Sisters Olivia de Havilland (the last surviving star of "Gone With the Wind") and Joan Fontaine ("Suspicion") are both Oscar-winning actresses, legends of the golden era of Hollywood. However, they have been feuding since either can remember. But even now, with both in their 90s, they will not reconcile; apparently they haven't spoken to each other since 1975. Sounds like a Hatfield-McCoy situation. Here's an interesting article that shows that time doesn't heal all wounds...

Sibling Rivalry: Hollywood's Oldest Feud

For what it's worth, I've always enjoyed de Havilland more than Fontaine.


So What's All the Fuss?

That was the name of a reply thread to Terry019's enthusiastic post about beloved PR in 1600.

Here's my reply:

Though "Take Care of This House" was the breakaway song from the short-lived "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," the "Duet for One (The First Lady of the Land)" creates what is arguably the most memorable onstage moment in the piece.

Routledge, who was playing all successive first ladies in the show, is given the task of portraying both the outgoing Julia Grant and incoming Lucy Hayes in the same scene, each soliloquizing during the Hayes inauguration; sharing their thoughts on the election results and insulting the other. Routledge accomplished this with a trick wig that she would literally flip; with an immediate change in voice and character to delineate between the two. Routledge started off the number as Mrs. Grant, introduced us to Mrs. Hayes, then in a fit of schizophrenic delight, juxtaposed between the earthier beltier Grant and the haughtier treacly-sweet soprano of Hayes. Again, all with the flip of a wig.

The musical number is the most challenging soprano showcase Bernstein had written since "Glitter and Be Gay", a ten minute mini-opera in which Routledge utilized three octaves of her vocal range, which builds to a coloratura climax capped with a D above C. The audience response was overwhelming, as evidenced by Terry and many, many others fortunate enough to be in attendance. (Ken Mandelbaum in 'Not Since Carrie' calls it "one of the most brilliant and least known showstoppers in musical-theatre history"). Routledge, with her impeccable comic timing and glorious voice created an unforgettable tour de force that completely drove the audience wild.

As I wrote below, the individual attending "A White House Cantata" a few weeks ago commented on the "Duet for One" during the talkback. He said, and Routledge's understudy Beth Fowler agreed, that the ovation for the number was unlike any they had ever seen before; the audience would not let the show continue until Routledge gave them an encore. And she did.Unfortunately, there was no official cast album recorded (the endlessly troubled show has enough of a fascinating history it could use its own book), but Judy Kaye performed the song on John McGlinn's "Broadway Showstoppers" CD and June Anderson recorded it for "A White House Cantata."

While I understand that there are many numbers on the boards today which one would consider a showstopper, the sort of ovation that "Duet for One" received (and still receives from those who remember fondly the thrill of that number) is one of considerable uniqueness and rarity, that just doesn't come around too often.


Hell, I figure I give this lecture so much, I should take it on the road like Hal Holbrook on Mark Twain.

PS...From a conversation with Miles:

Miles: PR?
Me: Patricia Routledge
Miles: YES!
Miles: The original Patti

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some Random Movies I Love

I have a touch of the OCD (and don't we all?) and was going through my DVD collection, which at this writing is I think 809 and counting. Yes. That's a lot. But my brother, who is a filmmaker and he should know, always insisted that a good film library is key to any true cinema aficionado. Okay, he didn't say it quite like that, it's my spin. But you get the gist.

Anyway, getting things in order I realize I always want people to see the movies I have and to enjoy them. So I figured why not recommend some here. It's not my "greatest movies of all time" AFI pretentious bullshit sort of list. I kinda went randomly through and just jotted them down.

The Third Man (1949) - Okay, I had to put this one first to get it out of the way, because when I am pegged to name my favorite movie of all time, this is it. I've loved it and admired it since the first time I saw it. Joseph Cotten was never better. Carol Reed's direction is among the best in film history, as well as his use of post-war Vienna as something noirish and sinister. And as always there's the cuckoo clock monologue. And the jaunty and bizarre zither score.

Don't Look Now (1973) - Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland are parents in Venice mourning the accidental drowning of their daughter. Directed by Nicolas Roeg, it's symbolism is fierce and its suspenseful build starts out deliberately paced, but by the last twenty minutes of the shocking climax, it's overwhelming. Detailed, nuanced and with one of the most famous love scenes in film history (which, really folks, is more beautiful and heart-breaking than ironic). Add a bizarre priest, a blind psychic and her sister, a series of murders and a Venice that is frighteningly sinister and unwelcoming and you've got one of the most impressionable horror films of the '70s.

His Girl Friday (1940) - Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell star in the fast-paced, rapid fire remake of The Front Page (only with a gender-bend that improves upon the original) about a snake-oil salesman of an editor who is trying to keep his ex-wife and former star-reporter from getting remarried (but all the while landing the story of a convict being executed for political motivations). Satiric, screwball and brisk, its one of the most rewatchable comedies of the screwball era. I can never not watch it if it is on TV and will pop it in when I need a pick-me-up.

The Lion in Winter (1968) - I love Katharine Hepburn. I love Peter O'Toole. And together, they create one of the most riveting period dramas of all time in this adaptation of James Goldman's play about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine's war over who will inherit the throne of England. Hepburn tied for the Oscar, in what I think is my second favorite performance of hers (trumped only by her spellbinding work in The Lion in Winter). Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton and John Castle provide ample support.

Howards End (1992) - I'm a stickler for period films. Especially British costume period films. Merchant-Ivory's adaptation of Forster's novel is one of the most superb adaptations of a literary work to screen. Emma Thompson, one of my favorite actresses, won the Best Actress Oscar heading the cast which includes a headstrong Helena Bonham Carter, a staid Anthony Hopkins and a resplendent Vanessa Redgrave. Such attention is paid to detail and nuance in every facet.

The Remains of the Day (1993) - Consider it a double-bill. I love both movies so much, I've never been able to decide if I prefer one over the other. Made immediately following Howards End and it's enormous success, Merchant-Ivory teamed once again with Emma and Anthony, this time taking us to the rural manse of a nobleman who is a Nazi-sympathizer working towards appeasement with the Germans prior to WWII. However, the heart of the story is the repressed and unspoken love between the housekeeper and butler (the latter being so good at his job, he fails to convey his feelings); with quietly devastating results. Damn, I love these two.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) - A superlative satire on American politics and the Cold War scare (suggesting that the extreme of both the left and right become the same thing). Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh star in this tale of brainwashing, Communist intrigue and assassination. The film becomes legendary as a result of Angela Lansbury's scene-stealing supporting turn as Mrs. Iselin, one of the most chilling characters ever presented on film and a marvel of screen-acting from Lansbury, who should have won the Oscar for her performance, the best of her career. Forget the bland, insipid and totally unnecessary remake with Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington.

All About Eve (1950) - The greatest movie ever made about the theater. Even now, the dialogue crackles with caustic wit and the story remains timely. Bette Davis as Margo Channing. That's about as iconic as you can get. Such perfect support from Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, an Oscar-winning George Sanders and the always-dependable Thelma Ritter in one of her no-nonsense, down-to-earth roles. Davis has one of the best exit lines I've ever seen in a movie. I just picked up the recently released 2-disc special edition with a newly restored print. I'll be writing about that when I get the chance to take a look.

Happy Liza Doolittle Day!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Has anyone ever seen a real showstopper?

Terry019 opened up this thread on All That Chat today and I had to share:

"Has anyone ever seen a real literal show-stopper? The only one I've seen in many years of going to the theater was the very short-lived "1600 Pennsylvania Ave". It followed a number performed by Patricia Rutledge where she sung at once as both Lucy Hayes and Julia Grant. She then exited (her scene finished)and the actors assembled for the next scene. The audience however would not stop screaming and applauding. They tried to continue the show but the audience would have none of it. Finally, Ms. Rutledge returned, in a robe since she had obviously changed out of ther costume and received the audience's adulation. It was only then that the show continued. That was a REAL show-stopper. Anyone else have an experience like that?"

As much as I love hearing about my favorite show-stopper, alas I wasn't alive to see it. In my theatre-going experiences, I have seen numbers stop the show, in varying ways, sometimes that extra burst of applause that keeps the praise going just a little longer than usual to the audience out of their seats going nuts sort of deal. Or sometimes, a great star appears onstage and that in itself is cause for the audience to erupt in an overwhelming display of vocal affection. The first memorable experience with a showstopping moment was the day my life changed forever. That was May 30, 2004 at the Shubert Theatre, where Bernadette Peters was playing her final performance in the Gypsy revival. Sondheim got entrance applause during the overture as he ducked into his seat. The overture got a standing ovation - and that itself should have warned for the Vesuvius to come minutes later. People were anticipating the moment. And there she was, in the back of the house shouting out "Sing out..." I didn't hear the Louise. I don't think anyone did. People rose as she walked down the aisle of the theatre, with the same reverence one would give at a commencement or wedding. Except we were loud, and there was no stopping us. They finished the scene and Bernadette had to wait until we were ready to let her go on. And that boys and girls was the first time I saw a show legitimately stopped. There were several other moments that very day, especially the "Turn." Now, the theatregoing experience remains ranked high on my list of events, but it was because of that show I met Noah, and indirectly how I met Sarah, two of the great theatregoers whom I admire and respect greatly. Let's face it, if it weren't for BP, I wouldn't be typing this blog at this very minute, because Sarah and Noah would never have convinced me to do it. So for that, one must be grateful to the kewpie-diva supreme.

Others that followed, Hugh Jackman's "Once Before I Go" in The Boy From Oz, "La Cage Aux Folles" and "I Am What I Am" in the revival of La Cage Aux Folles. Brian Stokes Mitchell's "This Nearly Was Mine" at the Carnegie Hall South Pacific (what you've seen on TV and heard on record is cut down considerably from the lengthy ovation he received that night). At the closing performance o The Light in the Piazza, several numbers got extended applause including "Statues and Stories," "Il Mondo Era Vuoto," and "Dividing Day" (with an emphasis on the latter). Christine Ebersole's entrance as Little Edie at the top of Act Two in Grey Gardens brought about an immediate standing ovation until Ebersole's hands-on-hips pose broke and she covered her mouth from the emotional response she had. When it died down, someone shouted out "We love you" and completely as Little Edie, she countered with heartfelt "Oh - and I love all of you too." and immediately continued into "The Revolutionary Costume for Today." Audra's "Raunchy" at a Saturday matinee of 110 in the Shade brought the proceedings to a screeching halt; "Totally Fucked" at Spring Awakening; and it goes without saying Patti LuPone as Rose last summer at the City Center and on her opening night at the St. James had a couple of showstopping moments, including the "Turn." Paulo Szot's "This Nearly Was Mine" on the opening night of South Pacific. Juan Diego Florez's "Pour mon ame" from La Fille du Regiment; Emily Pulley's "Duet for One (The First Lady of the Land)" at A White House Cantata. And most recently, Beth Leavel's "Where-Has-My-Hubby-Gone Blues" at Encores! No, No, Nanette.
The only time I've seen that sort of reaction at a play was the opening night of August: Osage County after the second act button. The roaring of approval from the audience continued after the house lights had come up after intermission. I've never had that experience at a drama before, and doubt there are many plays that offer a moment of such adrenalized electricity.

What are yours, folks?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"The Ingenue Who Roared"

Charles Isherwood's love letter to Kelli O'Hara in today's NY Times.

We know who he wants to win the Tony this year...

"Little Boxes"

I finished watching the third season of Weeds on demand tonight and damn that was some season finale. I picked up the first season of the show on DVD when it, as many of my television ventures are, ridiculously discounted in some retail chain around town. I think it $15. Not bad for a Showtime series. Anyway, I'll never forget: I was just going to pop in and watch the pilot. I ended up watching the entire first disc, as it would turn out, was also half the season. I was immediately engrossed with Nancy Botwin in her conflicting roles as widowed suburban soccer mom and drug dealer. I was also immediately taken by the brilliant Elizabeth Perkins as her frenemy Celia Hodes, in one of the most captivating characterizations I've ever seen on any television show, period. (Someone give this woman an Emmy, dammit!) Add to that Kevin Nealon as a pothead accountant, Justin Kirk as Nancy's ne'er-do-well brother-in-law, Romany Malco as Conrad, Nancy's supplier and you've got a top-notch cast. And no, I haven't forgotten Mary Louise Parker, who shoulders the series as Nancy, endlessly naive in the world of drug-dealing, constantly getting in and out of scrapes, shuffling between motherly duties, grieving the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband, all the while setting up shop in town in an attempt to maintain her extravagant lifestyle in suburban Agrestic, CA. Parker, who is one of my favorite actresses on the planet, is a total MILF. There. It's been established. She just is. An incredible hot, flirtatious mom, constantly appeasing her caffeine addiction, slurping through a straw with those seemingly innocent eyes. And that works entirely to her advantage on the series, which shows her barely hanging on by a thread in her ever-uncertain world. Chaos is the norm. The satire is potent, especially as established through the opening credit montage and the use of the great Malvina Reynolds' classic "Little Boxes" as the show's theme song. And never once does it seem to cross Nancy Botwin's mind to downgrade to a more affordable lifestyle. Oh we class-conscious Americans with our pre-fabricated homes and committees and lattes and hybrids. Cue Elaine Stritch.

This was prior to the DVD release of the second season, so I took to youtube to catch up on season 2, which took less than a week. And now, with the arrival of Showtime in my house, I can finally catch up on what I missed of the third season. And oh boy, was it something else. I cannot wait until June 16 when the fourth season starts up. I caught a preview in passing and it looks to be something good, particularly with all the questions that have been raised in the most recent episode (which in many ways plays like a series finale). The writing is as sharp and incisive as ever, the acting stellar. The show remains one of the best currently offered on TV today.

I still have a couple seasons of Six Feet Under to go. Plus Lost and I have yet to catch up on the season finale of The Office. So much viewing. So little time in which to view.

"And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same..."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Gypsy Rose Lee interviews Ethel Merman


"Hellloooo, I'm Julie Andrews"

From Army Archerd:

Julie is also starting rehearsals for her spectacular program heading to the Hollywood Bowl July 18-19. The first half of the program boasts Rodgers and Hammerstein selections from "Cinderella," "The Sound of Music" and "The King And I" -- with Julie singing selected numbers in her carefully-limited range. The second half of the program features Julie hosting/narrating "Simeon's Gift," also written with daughter Emma, featuring a cast of five, music by Ian Fraser, the lyrics of John Bucchino and Harold Wheeler's charts for the 82-piece Hollywood Bowl orchestra. The show will premiere in Louisville on July 11 before moving on to Atlanta in Philadelphia in August. Of course, these are only a few of the projects propelled by the inimitable Julie Andrews.

(The title of this post comes from the PBS documentary Broadway: The American Musical, which Andrews hosted. For many years in college I acted as a teaching assistant for my musical theatre professor and he would often use this six-part documentary as a supplement to his lectures, often to give names and faces to the people in discussion. The first time he popped in disc one each semester, it automatically started to play Andrews' introduction. And each and every time, without fail, the classroom would fall completely to pieces).

"Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks"

It's Always Fair Weather is one of the fascinating MGM musicals that gets lost in the shuffle of On the Town or Singin' in the Rain, et al. Made in 1955, toward the end of the peak of the Freed unit, the film was originally rumored to be a sequel to On the Town, when that proved impossible, it became more of a loose follow-up where three WWII buddies reunite ten years after the end of the war, only to discover that they have very little in common anymore. The film, surprisingly cynical and dark-edged for a musical, stars Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse (who has a fantastic dance number set in a boxing ring), Dan Dailey, Michael Kidd and Dolores Gray.

Gray was a musical comedy star, winnings raves for the original London production of Annie Get Your Gun and on Broadway in Two on the Aisle and the flop Carnival in Flanders, which netted her the Tony award and the record for shortest Tony-winning run (the show closed after six performances in 1954). The following year, she would find herself under contract to MGM, where she made this and also the film adaptation of Kismet as the seductress Lalume. Her tenure as a major supporting player would end a couple years later after two more films: The Opposite Sex, a semi-musical remake of The Women and in the highly-underrated Designing Woman, a comedy starring Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck (and featuring choreographer Jack Cole in a supporting role). Gray would soon return to Broadway in Destry Rides Again with Andy Griffith, and focus the remainder of her career on stage and concert work (including the flop Sherry! and the original London cast of Follies).

Playing a shameless television star, who is also an incredible self-promoter, this is her big number from the film, done as part of her live TV event. I first became aware of the song when I heard Audra McDonald sing it in her New Year's Eve Live from Lincoln Center concert. The music's by Andre Previn with lyrics by Comden and Green. Enjoy.

Well, I guess there's always gotta be a first...

I left a show at intermission. I've never done this before. And to be quite frank I'm not sure how I feel about it. Perhaps a touch guilty, because I've prided myself on never doing that (even when I've wanted to run screaming into the streets; ie - Cats and a lugubriously unfunny production of Lucky Stiff that my college put in its summer rep a few years ago). I guess it's not really a big deal, but for some reason I like to stick it to the end, even when it's not good just because, you become that "someone walked out of..." and mostly respect to the performers, who are almost all of the time giving 110% in spite of the staging or material.

Well, I also happen to be an asthmatic, and as luck would have it, I suffered a rather terrible flare-up this afternoon while in Manhattan. Fortunately, I had my inhaler on me, or else this blog would be posted via medium (Madame Arcati, anyone?). The show was La Clemenza di Tito at the Met, starring the powerhouse mezzo-soprano extraordinaire, Susan Graham. I was feeling fatigued, with the feeling someone was pushing on my chest, leading into the performance. When I stood up for intermission, that feeling was compounded with dizziness and I told Noah I had to go. I left, and aside from a precarious elevator ride down (where I felt like I was about to do my best Lucille 2 impression) I got home safe and sound, where I immediately medicated and am much, much better. That's just one of the miseries of the allergy season for you, especially when pollen becomes your worst enemy.

Of what I saw and could appreciate of the opera (which wasn't much, I couldn't follow the story or characters and I had difficulty with my supertitles), Susan was dynamite. The recitative got irritating (every time we'd switch between the orchestra and the harpsichord I wanted to throw something, but that could have been the way I was feeling). But she executed some rather thrilling mezzo coloratura runs; the kind that give chills, that's how genius they are. However, I don't feel I've given the score or Ms. Graham justice, really. Especially since I was supposed to meet her afterward. Anyway, I still feel weird about the whole evening, not sure why, but I do. I hope I get the chance to see Ms. Graham sing once again, and to be able to shout "Brava!" upon her curtain call.

Oh, almost forgot. To add to the fun of it all, I also bashed my knee into a turnstile in the subway, all while juggling my wallet and phone in one hand, ipod and metrocard in the other and hip-checking my way through. Hilarious. You should see the gorgeous storm cloud that used to be my right knee.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The 64th Annual Theatre World Award Winners!

The Theatre World Award is presented to those making an auspicious debut or breakthrough performance in the NY theatre, whether it be off-Broadway or on. The event is held every spring, and is hosted by Peter Filichia. Past winners act as presenters, and most often the afternoon's entertainment consists of certain performers singing big numbers from the shows for which they won. The awards will be on June 10th at the Helen Hayes Theatre. As I said in an earlier post, I appreciate this awards ceremony more than the Tonys because the spirit is a genuine celebration of theatre and community, without the competition. Congratulations to the winners!!

de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Cassie Beck, Drunken City
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Hoon Lee, Yellow Face
Alli Mauzey, Cry-Baby
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park with George
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing
Loretta Ables Sayre, South Pacific
Jimmi Simpson, The Farnsworth Invention
Paulo Szot, South Pacific

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hello, My Name is Patti...

So vote for me, or I will unhinge my jaw and swallow you whole.

Patti LuPone rocking out her shirt at today's Tony Award press function, courtesy of


"Here I was born...and there I died. It was only a moment for you. You took no notice."

One of my favorite films is turning 50 this week. Being an enormous fan of Hitchcock films since I was a child, I was the brazen 13 year old who went out to the store and bought Vertigo without really knowing what sort of bizarre exercise in obsession on which I was about to see. The first time I saw the film, the ending completely stunned me. Literally sent me walking through the house unnerved. Uncertain of how I was supposed to synthesize the film, I was confused and almost disappointed. However, I knew and almost instantaneously, that I had to see it again. I watched it again two days later. It's remained an all-time favorite ever since.

Has Kim Novak been any more alluring? Has Jimmy Stewart ever played a character as tormented or complex? (Alright, I can understand arguments for George Bailey, but with all due respect, he's no where near as messed up as Scottie Ferguson). And who can forget Barbara Bel Geddes as Midge, who harbors an unrequited crush on Ferguson? Bernard Herrmann's score (with its shades of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde) is mesmerizing. And that final shot...? Wow.

As the case with so many films that are regarded as classics, the film was eviscerated by critics in 1958 and the property performed underwhelmingly at the box office. Its failure led Hitchcock to drop Stewart as the protagonist of his upcoming North By Northwest, instead going with Cary Grant. Of course, it is now regarded as a masterpiece today. I certainly hope that there will be some screenings in honor of the film's 50th anniversary.

To honor the occasion, Terrence Rafferty muses on the film in the NY Times. (Potential spoiler alerts? Don't spoil the film for yourself in any way. Just see it!)

50 Years of Dizzy, Courtesy of Hitchcock

“I LOOK up, I look down,” says Detective John (Scottie) Ferguson of the San Francisco police, standing nervously on a stepladder in an early scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”

Scottie (James Stewart) is trying to cure himself of the title affliction, recently discovered during a rooftop chase in which his fear of heights resulted in the death of a fellow officer. So, impatient with his recovery, he gingerly mounts the three steps of the ladder, looks up, looks down, looks up and looks down again, then collapses into the arms of his college friend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), who always seems ready to catch him when he falls.

Fifty years and two days ago, at a preview in San Francisco, moviegoers looked up at the screen and saw “Vertigo” for the first time, and maybe some of them looked down too in confusion or dismay, wondering, as in a dream, where they were and how they had gotten there and how they would make it back to safer ground.

With “Vertigo” you never know. It’s a movie that — even if you know that it will always end the same way, tragically — never takes you to that inevitable conclusion by the same route. You feel as if you are wandering, which is the word Scottie and the object of his desire, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), use to describe their days.

Neither, actually, is quite as purposeless as that sounds. Madeleine is chasing the ghost of her great-grandmother, Carlotta Valdes, and Scottie is tailing Madeleine, a private-eye job he’s doing as a favor for another old college chum, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who is her husband. But it’s a desultory sort of surveillance, which turns gradually and with a mysterious inexorability into something else: a love story in which Scottie and Madeleine wander together, pursuing the past and running, with all deliberate speed, from themselves.

You can’t help wondering what those first Bay Area viewers 50 years ago must have thought as they watched this strange, drifty, hallucinatory romance unfold on the big screen, with the strains of Bernard Herrmann’s lush score — brazenly echoing the “Liebestod” from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” — swelling on the soundtrack. It wasn’t what they had come to expect from Hitchcock, the beloved portly “master of suspense,” who had been making impishly macabre thrillers for 30-some years and had since 1955 also been the host and impresario of a very popular mystery-story anthology series on television.

“Vertigo” — based on a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the authors of “Diabolique” — features one murder and two other deaths, but it isn’t built like an ordinary suspense film. Its only action sequence is the first scene, that rooftop chase. The detective never really investigates the movie’s lone murder because he doesn’t know until just before the end that one has been committed; the killer is not brought to justice.

And Hitchcock doesn’t content himself simply with violating genre conventions. He seems determined to unsettle every reasonable expectation — anything that could give us a footing in the shifty, unstable world he’s creating before our eyes.

A couple of years later he notoriously killed off his lead actress in the first 40 minutes of “Psycho,” but that is only marginally more perverse than what he does with Kim Novak in “Vertigo”: in the first third of the picture, when Scottie is following her, she has precisely one close-up and not a single line of dialogue. And in the movie’s final third, every supporting character drops off the screen, leaving Mr. Stewart and Ms. Novak to work out their characters’ awful fate alone. Along the way Hitchcock also throws in a bizarre, partly animated dream sequence and a startling scene in which, as the lovers kiss, the camera pans 360 degrees around them and the background changes from a small hotel room to the stables of an old Spanish mission, where they had kissed once before. You never do know quite where you are in “Vertigo.”

The film wasn’t a hit in its initial release, and it wasn’t enthusiastically reviewed either. But its stature has increased exponentially in its five decades of screen life, especially in the 12 years since its brilliant restoration by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz; it now routinely places in the Top 10 in critics’ and viewers’ polls of the greatest movies ever made.

For a movie so revered, “Vertigo” hasn’t been terribly influential. The films that try hardest to recapture its twisted, doomy romanticism, like Brian De Palma’s 1976 “Obsession” (with a score by Mr. Herrmann) and Mike Figgis’s 1991 “Liebestraum” (in which Ms. Novak plays a supporting role), always wind up proving that Hitchcock’s dark vision is too wayward, too eccentric to be imitated: there’s never enough wandering in them.

And in a way the wandering is all that matters when you’re watching “Vertigo,” for the first time or the 10th or — like the fictional correspondent of Chris Marker’s beautiful essay-film “Sans Soleil” (1982) — the 19th. This movie isn’t constructed, as most thrillers are, to get us from point A to point B as swiftly and as efficiently as possible. “Vertigo” instead circles compulsively around a set of visual and verbal (and musical) motifs — spirals, towers, bouquets, the words “too late” — which keep bringing us back to the same places, turning us in relentlessly on ourselves. There’s a wonderful scene in which Scottie follows Madeleine through the dizzying streets of San Francisco to his own home. He looks puzzled, utterly disoriented, and the viewer knows exactly how he feels.

Seeing “Vertigo” on DVD is maybe a shade less overwhelming, less deranging, than seeing it as its first audience did, but it has the compensating quality of seeming a more solitary and more intimate experience, and this is, always has been, a movie that makes you want to be alone with it. It’s like Scottie’s surveillance of Madeleine: he watches from a distance, then there’s no distance at all, just him and her, no one else around. Jean-Luc Godard once described the difference between cinema and television as the difference between raising your eyes to the movie screen and lowering them to the TV screen. Whether you look up at “Vertigo” or look down, the effect is the same: You fall and hope that somebody’s there to catch you.

Musing on City Center Encores!

You know, I'm really looking forward to On the Town. I like that Encores! has found a way to celebrate Mr. Bernstein's 90th birthday along with the rest of the crowd, in spite of the fact that he's no longer with us. Perhaps his 100th will finally beget a staging of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue... But I digress. I've admired the stage score for many years, but have never had the privilege of seeing the show performed live. Don't ask me why, but one of my favorite pieces in the score is the "Carnegie Hall Pavane: Do-Do-Re-Do" - and it's all because of the ride-out, especially on the 1960 studio album where the ladies hold out the note forever while we get a true Broadway finish to a number that is pretty much a throwaway, especially in regards to the standards that emerged from the show. I'm also excited we'll be getting Music in the Air (while I would have preferred Very Warm for May), but I gladly take my Hammerstein and Kern when I can get them. (Anyone going to the Show Boat concert at Carnegie Hall on June 10?)

I have to admit I'm pretty less than excited about the prospect of Finian's Rainbow as an Encores! entry next season. I think the score to the show is very engaging and enjoyable. (a Burton Lane and Yip Harburg collaboration is nothing to scoff at) but unfortunately I just don't care much for the show itself. The book, while solid satire in 1947, creaks along a bit too much today. I'm not sure how they got away with it in the Irish Repertory revival in 2004. There just seem to be a lot of shows I would like to see in its stead, more of the Napoleonic "If I Ruled the World" syndrome. However, if Encores! should bring back Malcolm Gets and Melissa Errico, so we can hear their fine voices with the original orchestrations, I might not be as reticent about its selection. And as much as I love Follies and will see it every time it's staged until my death, it didn't quite fit the criteria of the Encores! mission. With that said, what a fantastic production it was too! Also, I feel like we're slipping away from the lost shows. So many musicals exist that won't see the light of day in commercial productions unless you find a producer with the reckless abandon or in search of a tax relief.

If I were planning Encores, we'd be set for the next few decades. Or perhaps I'd add a fourth show a year to the list.

These are some of the things I'd like to see at the City Center:

Darling of the Day (w. Victoria Clark), New Girl in Town, Irma La Douce (w. Mara Davi. There I've decided), Very Warm for May (preferably with Kelli O'Hara leading "All the Things You Are"), Street Scene, Do I Hear a Waltz?, Good News, Irene, Dear World, The Grass Harp, Carmen Jones, A Time for Singing, Pipe Dream, The Golden Apple, Carmelina, Coco (w. Harriet Harris!), Fanny, Henry Sweet Henry, Tovarich, The Girl Who Came to Supper, Donnybrook!, Redhead, On Your Toes, Lost in the Stars, Milk and Honey, Oh Kay!, Sugar, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Woman of the Year. And of course: the no-shot in hell: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If you got to plan an Encores! season, what three shows would you select? (And optional, why?)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet"

Patricia Routledge delivers one of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues on the BBC. In this particular story, Miss Fozzard is a lonely clerk in a department store who has to take care of her brother, who is recovering from a severe stroke. It starts with the retirement of her chiropodist, and the relationship she has with his replacement and it goes someplace entirely unexpected. This was a part of Talking Heads 2, Bennett's second entry that aired in 1998, with this particular piece written expressly for Ms. Routledge, who incidentally, is also his favorite actress.


If you live in the tri-state area, you are probably very familiar with Sue Simmons, who's anchored the local newscasts on WNBC for almost thirty years. She was taken to town a couple years back for an broadcast in which she fell out of her chair (come on, people, lighten up). However last night during a teaser she dropped one of those seven words you can't say on network television. It was followed by several seconds of awkward silence and later an apology from Simmons on the actual newscast.

Just when you thought you were safe from Patti...

The City Center Encores! 2008-2009 Season

On the Town
Music: Leonard Bernstein
Book & Lyrics: Betty Comden & Adolph Green
November 19-23, 2008

Music in the Air
Music: Jerome Kern
Book & Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
February 5-8, 2009

Finian's Rainbow
Music: Burton Lane
Lyrics: E.Y. Harburg
Book: E.Y. Harburg & Fred Saidy
March 26-29, 2009

Oh well, I guess I'll have to wait at least another year for my trifector of Darling of the Day, Donnybrook! and A Time for Singing...

And they're off...

The 2008 Antoinette Perry (remember her?) Award nominations were announced this morning. I shall spare you a complete listing, but will touch on a few talking points. In the Heights (13 noms? not bad...), Passing Strange (7) and Xanadu (4) seemed the most likely to receive nominations from the comittee, but I think most people were expecting the fourth slot to go to A Catered Affair before it went to Cry-Baby, a show that has received unanimous pans from everyone I know who's seen it. However, it's practically no surprise that the critically eviscerated juggernauts Young Frankenstein and The Little Mermaid didn't get much love. (Disclaimer, I've not seen a single new musical this season). In terms of Best Play, August was a no-brainer there, but I was also quite pleased to see The 39 Steps get recognition as well. Also, was it absolutely obligatory that the Tony committee had to give out four nominations for Best Musical Revival? It's asinine to think that Grease is anywhere near the other three superlative revivals. I've seen the latter three, but will not under any circumstances venture towards Grease. I even turned down a free ticket to that too. Another minor quibble: since when is it Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific? (However that's nothing in comparison to The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. What the hell...?)

Let's hear it for Deanna Dunagan, Amy Morton and Rondi Reed, the three superlative Steppenwolfe actresses of August: Osage County in three landmark performances that are helping this play's reputation as the must-see of the season. Other nominated performances that I've seen and am thrilled for: Patti Lupone, Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines in Gypsy; Paulo Szot, Kelli O'Hara and Loretta Able-Sayres (who is such an unbelievably adorable person, I almost can't stand it) in South Pacific (not Danny Burstein though, I feel that Matthew Morrison deserved his slot); Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell in Sunday in the Park With George; S. Epatha Merkerson in Come Back, Little Sheba. (I was secretly hoping that they'd just give an award to Harriet Harris for her triumphant apartment trashing in Old Acquaintance, it's up there with the act two finale of August as one of my favorite moments in a play this season). There was no Tony love at all for the revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which scored zero nominations. Also, Kevin Kline didn't make the final cut for Cyrano de Bergerac.

Let it also be known that Robert Russell Bennett, quite possibly the greatest orchestrator in the history of the American musical, is getting a posthumous Tony award for his contributions. A recipient of a special 1957 award, I'm mildly curious as to why (other than the fact that his spectacular South Pacific, which is one of the best of the best in terms of orchestrations, is currently a smash-hit revival) they felt the need to give him another, not to mention waiting until 27 years after he died to do it. He is best represented in an abbreviated list of his original orchestrations: Show Boat, Of Thee I Sing, Anything Goes, Oklahoma!, Annie Get Your Gun, Finian's Rainbow, Kiss Me Kate, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Bells Are Ringing, Juno, The Sound of Music, Camelot, The Girl Who Came to Supper and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (to name only a few). Not too shabby, huh?

Oh, and Sondheim's getting one too for the whole "Lifetime Achievement" thing. ;)

I guess we'll see what's what on 6/15. Not that the Tony's play politics or award commercial shows based on whether or not they will tour. Hmmm? What's that you say? They do? Fiddlesticks! (Yeah, let's take another look at the Best Musical Cry-Baby).

The Theatre World Award winners will be announced on 5/15. I'm much more excited about what will happen there.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

From the 5/9 Riedel on Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara in South Pacific:

"I didn't want to contemplate what it was like for Mary Martin to crawl into bed with Ezio Pinza, but with these two, you wish you had the porno tape!" says one nominator, stepping into a cold shower.

"Allegro" to get new cast album...?

Browsing through the news section of Liz Callaway's website, I came across this recent update:

Liz recently recorded two songs for the new recording of the show ALLEGRO. Among those also appearing on the CD will be Patrick Wilson and Judy Kuhn. Liz recorded “The Gentlemen Is a Dope” and “Allegro”.

I'm hoping for a complete studio cast recording as the original Broadway cast album of this legendary Rodgers and Hammerstein obscurity is considerably abridged (no overture and a length of thirty-three minutes). Given that the show is the most experimental of the R&H canon, it would be nice to have it on record in its entirety, to give us a better idea of the overall scope and size of the show. Unfortunately, when it was presented as the premiere Encores! vehicle in 1994, no one thought to record it. Hopefully this will change in the near future. Anyone hear anything about this?

"I Want to Be Happy"

Ruby Keeler and the ensemble of No, No, Nanette on the 1971 Tony awards.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Bloggers Who Brunch

Well, gang, I've come to the end of what was a near perfect day. I make an attempt to never speak in superlatives, strange foible of mine, but oh well. Anyhow, I spent the majority of my day having new adventures (as Sarah would put it) with many new friends, most of whom I've encountered through starting my blog. Brunch commenced at Joe Allen's, in what I would like to term our own version of the Algonquin round table (the password to join is "Marian. Marian Seldes." But remember kids, it's not what you say, it's how you say it...). There I met Esther, Steve, Doug, Joe and Eric; all intense theatrephiles who reside out of town, and all of whom I admired and enjoyed instantly. Of course the days adventures would be incomplete without Kari, Sarah and Jimmy. While others traipsed off to matinees of some sort or other, I went hung out with Sarah for the afternoon, which of course involved Angela Lansbury and Prettybelle. Then in another first, I actually rode the city bus.

Some of us attended that evening's performance of Encores! No, No Nanette which is probably the strongest production I've seen at the City Center. I had but one qualm with the entire effervescent evening: that it was over. The plot is shaky thin, but that's what one expects from the pre-Show Boat musical comedies. The music (Vincent Youmans, with lyrics from Otto Harbach & Irving Caesar) is infectious, the choreography (Randy Skinner), direction (Walter Bobbie) and costumes (Gregg Barnes) were top notch.

Usually, the Encores! crowd presents the original version of the show at hand, but in an unusual turn of events, there are two available editions of this musical: the 1925 original and the even more successful 1971 revisal (by Burt Shevelove) that played two years (and featured Ruby Keeler in a triumphant return to Broadway after 41 years). For this production, the powers that be decided on the '71 version of the show, and I have to confess I'm glad they did.

In reviving the show in 1971, the country was into what is being referred to as its nostalgia craze. They were reissuing the Busby Berkeley musicals, other musicals about the 1920s and 30s were being written. Plus given the context of the virulent 60s, it made sense that entertainment leaned toward the more innocent escapism of these earlier years. Berkeley was even initially hired to direct, but wasn't well enough to handle the task (Shevelove took over direction, Berkeley retained credit as "Production supervised by"). Donald Saddler provided the choreography. Ralphs Burns charted the orchestrations (the twin pianos provided chills, I kid you not) and Luther Henderson created the dance music.

In this evening's performance, everything was spot on. It was a celebration of the 20s, without becoming overly campy and most refreshingly without the di rigeur self-referential satiric edges that have become so commonplace in the musical comedies of the present decade. What also was so refreshing was the audience's complete surrender to the show. Sandy Duncan is 62 years old, which incidentally is the same age as Ruby Keeler when she did it, and from the way she carried her two big showstopping dance numbers, you'd think she was a youthful chorine. We need her back on Broadway, and how. A dancer's longevity is rare; exceptions like Donna McKechnie and Chita Rivera come to mind instantaneously. I would place Duncan up in that area. Perhaps, since her signature musical role comes second hand, she might not be considered as such. But, my God, she delivers, high-kicking, fan-tailing and limber with endless energy and effortlessness. It felt like the auditorium was going to come tumbling down around us as she led the sure-fire "Take a Little One Step" that precedes the finale. Kudos to Beth Leavel, who knows how to bring the hilarious, can move like the breeze and can sock it to the rafters. ("The Where-Has-My-Hubby-Gone Blues" was a definitive showstopper. So was her next line). Did anyone else notice the subtle wink she gave the audience when the ovation continued to roar? Michael Berresse is a good dancer. Alright, you got me, an understatement of the grossest sort! He made Skinner's moves look effortless - he's certainly a throwback to the Gene Kelly mode, no? The ever-reliable and affable Charles Kimbrough was the philandering Bible-salesman who's habit of keeping secret women (all of whom he gives money to keep happy, but it's seriously strictly platonic) leads to most of the conflicts. Mara Davi, a soubrette who deserves her own vehicle, was even better than I had anticipated. Shonn Wiley (who, incidentally, I also saw at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Crazy For You in 2000 opposite his now-wife Meredith Patterson) had the thankless role of Tom, her beloved, relishing in the role of the square-cut, straight-laced type. Oh yes, and the maid. There's always the wise-cracking maid. Here it was played the lover extraordinaire of all things Broadway, Rosie O'Donnell, providing laughs with her world-weariness, a showdown with a vacuum cleaner and even a brief tap solo towards the end of the show. I am thrilled to have seen the show, mostly because of its place as an early 20s hit. A show that most would scoff at under normal circumstances, but is the epitome of the type of musical theatre that should be celebrated by Encores!.

The show is strong enough that it could seriously transfer to Broadway. The polish and caliber for a mere 8 days of rehearsal is beyond the call of duty in concert situations like this. I didn't even catch anyone really glancing at their concert prompt-binders either. I'm not sure if anyone would be interested in a transfer, but believe me, I wouldn't mind seeing it again. And I'm sure most of those who saw it this weekend feel the same way. Post-show was spent at what is the post-City Center hangout, Seppi's on 56th for some food and my usual white Russian. Not to mention "I Want to Be Happy" stuck in our heads. It should be criminal to have had as much fun as I did today. I look forward to the next time people come back into town.

The final line from Sandy Duncan's bio: "And, contrary to urban myth, she does not have a glass eye."

And now you know the rest of the story...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Musical Theatre Zen

Musical Theatre Zen is a term I use for those rare occasions that a musical number is so transportative and transcendent that the moment will forever burnish in my memory and bring myself and my soul to a place of extraordinary warmth, comfort and serenity. All is right with the world. I've felt it when I saw Barbara Cook sing "Ice Cream," I felt it the first time I heard "Dividing Day" from The Light in the Piazza and on several other occasions. Here is one of those:

The Music: Jerome Kern
The Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
The Orchestration: Robert Russell Bennett
The Song

The show was Very Warm For May, a flop musical comedy from 1939 that failed because Max Gordon disliked a farcical subplot involving a gangster chase sufficiently turning the musical into a summer stock affair similar to the smash hit Babes in Arms, which opened two years prior. Mixed reviews and audience indifference led to the show's shuttering after 59 performances. Kern went to Hollywood, where he continued to work until his death. Hammerstein would eventually resurface in 1943 with Oklahoma! and Carmen Jones. In spite of its obscurity, the Kern-Hammerstein score was something special, as evidenced in the recordings of the original cast that have surfaced in recent years. The recording of the "song," "All the Things You Are," was featured on John McGlinn's Broadway Showstoppers CD. In context, the song is presented as a double duet. One couple offstage is soliloquizing on the verse, alternating back and forth about their repressed feelings for the other (here voiced by Jeanne Lehman and Cris Groenandaal). At a certain point in the song, the couple onstage rehearsing are able to express what the lovers cannot (sung by Rebecca Luker and George Dvorsky) and supported by the ensemble. It's my favorite song.

This is sheer poetry (aka, the chorus):

You are the promised kiss of springtime
That makes the lonely winter seem long.
You are the breathless hush of evening
That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.
You are the angel glow that lights a star,
The dearest things I know are what you are.
Some day my happy arms will hold you,
And some day I'll know that moment divine,
When all the things you are, are mine!

Friday, May 9, 2008

What Do You Do on a Friday Night Alone...?

I blog. Or as I already know and you will soon find out, I ramble.

Had an interesting week. I almost did something theatrical. I missed out on a ticket to the final preview of the legendary flop of the season Glory Days, the one-night stand at the Circle in the Square that came into town against everyone's better judgment (as per the bloggers and chatterati... then came the reviews... ouch). The one performance flop is that rare phenomenon - a show with either the arrogance or blind faith that they will be a hit, not seeing the writing on the wall during previews, rehearsals, try-outs, etc. The most recent one night closure was The Confederate Widow Tells All in 2003. Aside from that, many flops try to push as far as they can, like Urban Cowboy's rescinding their initial closing notice to run a few more weeks. Amour's 17 performances comes readily to mind. In spite of that show's drastic failure, it still copped several Tony nominations, including Best Musical - once again proving that anything is possible. (I believe Rags, with its 4 performance run in August 1986 holds the dubious distinction of shortest lived Best Musical nominee). It was surprising to see the musical fold so abruptly, you'd think they would have tried to eke out some sort of a run however brief. It was deemed ineligible for Tony consideration, which I think is more because the nominators didn't have time to see it as opposed to its actual quality, however poor.

Freed the house from the shackles of the oppressive Cablevision and their evil optimum for Verizon FiOS... (Let the Marxists among you bask in the irony of that statement). So far, so good. The internet is a faster and more reliable connection. On the amazing front - I get TCM, FXM, IFC, Showtime, Sundance, and every show I ever wanted on demand. Oh the goodies. I have season three of Weeds and season four of Entourage at my disposal. (I can actually watch a first-run episode of Weeds, what? Choir of angels is that you hosanna-ing on high? Yes. Wondrous). Seriously, its just nice to feel further in the digital age. Hell, we even got wi-fi going on in here. This is some impressive technology, folks. Not to mention as all this exciting new-age digital technology was being installed, my parents were having the windows replaced. All of this happening on one of the wettest days in recent memory. Yeah, we all got all sorts of wet.

I'm uber-psyched for Sunday morning brunch. I look forward to meeting other bloggers and having a generally kick-ass sort of day. There's a poll. I can tell you've all devoured the idea with ravenously reckless abandon (all two voters... one of which was yours truly...). Oh well.

Did anyone catch the 30 Rock season finale...? Ohhhhh my. Some interesting goings-on with our favorite Lemon. Only wish there were another Stritch appearance. (Does anyone else share my enthusiasm for wanting Jack to encounter Nathan Lane, Molly Shannon and Stritchie in a good ol' fashioned Irish-Catholic Walpurgisnacht?) I'm also looking forward to the season finale of The Office next week. Oh what a weird and tragic year for the sitcom in general. Hopefully we can be spared an encore with the negotiations involving SAG & AFTRA.

I have to admit I'm surprised at myself. May 4-7 came and went and I didn't even think to blog about my beloved 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Been a crazy week folks, a crazy week. Hopefully, next week brings nothing but good things.

Tony nominations will be revealed shortly, as will the recipients of the 2008 Theatre World Award. It may surprise you, but I'm more excited for the latter than the former. Perhaps that's because I've actually attended the Theatre World event in the past and it is a good time had by all. You get a feel of that community that industry professionals talk about when they work in NY theatre. Nothing but positive energy all around - and since there are no nominees, there's no sense of competition. As I've said before, when it comes to the Tonys, I'm interested in the plays and revivals, but not the new musicals. Sad to say it, but not one title that has opened this year has made me go "I've got to run and see this!" That's already not true of next season, because Billy Elliot is opening at the Imperial. I am uber-psyched for this one (Elton John's score, while hardly Sondheim, or even Schwartz, is his best theatre composition yet). And the fact that they aren't dumbing down the show's political undertones and anti-Thatcher sentiments makes me even happier. Other shows have got to learn: trust your audience once in a while, sometimes we can be insightful, intuitive and understand context and subtext. Then again, if we live long enough, someone might write a musical adaptation of The Hottie and the Nottie. I realize that you are laughing, but that laughter is tinged by your underpinnings of fear because you and I both know it could happen.

I also re-read Marc Acito's How I Paid for College and the recently released sequel Attack of the Theater People this week. (I am an incredibly fast reader: I'm already well into book three: Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, a hilarious first person plural narrative about the goings on in a Chicago ad agency on the skids). It was fascinating to revisit the first book, since I hadn't read it in about two and a half years. I was still in New Paltz at the time and we had a wonderful independent bookstore in town called Ariel's (that sadly closed my final semester of college) and I happened upon the title accidentally. When I noticed "musical theater" on the cover, it sounded like it would be an interesting time. It certainly was. The characters created, while on the broad side, bring to mind many of the theatrical people I knew both in high school and college. While extreme in their actions (ohhh the reveling in crime), at heart the characters genuinely care for another (in spite of their severe aversion to monagamy). As the title suggests, you follow protagonist Ed Zanni's highly illicit heists and capers to secure his tuition for Juilliard (master-minded by his nerdy sidekick Nathan Nudelman, who, really, is the hero of us all - and the character with whom I most identify, minus the interest in dubious financial practices). The follow-up takes us two years down the line to Edward being rejected from his third year at Juilliard by Marian Seldes, who wants him to discover life and rediscover the raw truth that was present at his audition, but never in his classwork. Many of the old crew are along as he unwittingly becomes involved in illegal insider trading, masquerading as a British vee-jay for a party planner and once again fights off his mortifyingly unbearable ex-step-mother Dagmar. A lot of the gang is along for the ride, The Music Man with a deaf Harold Hill, Starlight Express is a major plot point (and hilariously described by Ed) and we get a few new additions, the most notable being Willow the sprightly, not quite there, but lovable actress (sort of the Juilliard equivalent to Luna Lovegood). It's too involved and farcical for me to describe, just pick up the book.

In spite of all the fun to be had, it's Acito's two wonderful choices in the later chapters that left the greatest impression on me. In lamenting the then-current state of the fabulous invalid, his protagonist encounters an older woman who ushered in Broadway theatres for years and years, and magically recounts the moment when the opening night audience gave itself over wholeheartedly to My Fair Lady. It's magical. Plus, Ed and Paula have what I call musical theatre zen when they second act Barbara Cook's A Concert for the Theater. I especially relate on the latter, having seen Ms. Cook's Mostly Sondheim a few years ago, she remains one of my all-time favorite solo performances. Everything that he feels, my friends and I felt as well (even at 75, she could still hit the B natural in "Ice Cream" and how). However there are certain questions that I have for Marc: what happens to Mr. Lucas? Why is Kelly's mother missing from the story this time around? and when does the third book come out? (oh, you've got to...)

For reasons I won't reveal here, I'm in a very bizarre mood. When I get into this particular mood I usually spend money to make me feel better. Needless to say, a brand new laptop is suddenly looking really, really lucrative right now... Oh boy, temptation is a wonder, ain't it?

But should I see No No Nanette on Sunday instead? Oh, the decisions... And I just realized I forgot to pick up a MegaMillions ticket for tonight. Well, maybe next time...