31 January 2009

Not a Musical

Well, I suppose a music video is in essence some sort of music theater. But that's a stretch, and not necessarily a discussion that I want to start/think is all that interesting. (What IS theater?)

Anyway, this is a music video for a song called "Her Morning Elegance" by Oren Lavie* It's cool

*According to Wikipedia, Oren is also a playwright and "Theater Director", just in case YOU were interested in asking what IS theater.

28 January 2009


So I've been listening to a lot of submissions over the past 36 hours for an event I'm putting together that is (tentatively) titled ADDRESS. For those of you who saw--or intended to see-MUSEUM PIECES last year, this will seem similar...except with addresses instead of art. One of the pleasent surprises in my inbox was this song, written for Museum Pieces last year. (Rather tricky for a team to resubmit using a song they wrote last year...but I'll take it.) This is the last 1/3 of a piece inspired by the painting "Improvisation":

The piece began with 3 colors (Red, Yellow, and Blue) debating the goals and purpose of visual art. Out of their arguments spring other colors (Green, Purple, etc) ending in a swirl of color/sounds. This track starts with the end of Red's soliloquy and goes into the multi-hued finale. Not sure who did recorded these tracks, though it seems that David Andrew Anderson and Blake Whyte reprise their roles of Red and Green, respectively. Embeded below, or available here.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

24 January 2009

FAME will Live Forever

In the beginning there was the movie. And the movie had Irene Cara and some great songs by the guys who would eventually write the infamous musical version of Carrie. And the world said "It is good".

Then there was a TV show, which I suppose people enjoyed (it was before my time), but it doesn't seem to have had much of a life in syndication.

Then there was the BIG BROADWAY (style) MUSICAL. I guess it played in London for awhile, and it toured the US. It was a big hit when the youth theater did it my summer at Barrington Stage Company. The musical was not the film on stage, though it did feature the title song. Instead it was a look at a whole new class of troubled-but-talented youngsters putting in time at the High School of Performing Arts. (The writers are also trying to shop around a sequel to the musical in which the kids from the musical version show up for some sort of reunion or something. A character that dies in the 1st musical comes back as an angel or something. Did I mention these are the guys who wrote Carrie: The Musical?)

With the High School Musical Trilogy giving tykes a renewed interest in seeing teenagers look like homos (perhaps HSM--and the consternation in parents of overly obsessed young boys--indirectly led to the passing of Prop 8), FAME is coming back as a Major Motion Picture. From the looks of this promo-reel, I garner that this will focus on yet another new set of kids and follow them through their time at the High School of Performing arts. Anyway, here's that promo reel. Anyone who saw that production of Dark at the top of the Stairs I worked on a couple of years ago may recognize Paul Iacono who played The Boy Who Mumbled.

Okay, I admit it, I'm excited.

Also, while we're talking about the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, I might as well share this video, taken from their recent production of Ragtime. The "Girl-on-the-Swing", incidently, was also in a show I worked on. And we reminded her of this video daily.

23 January 2009

Surprise! Patti Lupone is Crazy

Aside from the fact that her name is TWICE the size of the title what is largely considered to be the best musical ever written (and she isn't playing the title character), Patti LuPone is clearly a whack job. Evidence is everywhere, but observe this reaction to someone taking photos of her during "Rose's Turn" in Gypsy (the crazy starts in at about a minute)

21 January 2009

Stephen Sondheim is Kinda a Dick

I mean, he's brilliant and probably justified, but still, home-boy is a player-hater. (Not nearly as bad as Arthur Laurents, who is a terror to work with, and STILL--even after his acclaimed revival of GYPSY won 3 Tonys and unanimous raves--won't shut-up about Sam Mendes. Maybe when I'm old and legendary I'll be an ornary prick. If that happens, I will be more then happy to have this thrown in my face. (I would also be more than happy to be in the same room with either above mentioned cantakerous foagies.)

In any case, here's a brief article about a live interview SJS (the "J" stands for "Joshua", FYI) gave. Wish I was there.

Sondheim Calls Critics ‘Ignoramuses,’ Disses ‘South

By Philip Boroff

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Since Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”
opened at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater
in April, it’s been a favorite of critics and audiences and has won seven Tony Awards, the most of any Broadway musical

On Sunday, Stephen Sondheim tore
it apart.

Interviewed at Avery Fisher Hall by New York Times columnist Frank Rich, the
78-year-old composer-lyricist explained why he’s no fan of the 1949
classic. “I think it’s personal taste,” he said. “I find it, um, obvious.”

“South Pacific” was adapted from the James Michener book “Tales of the
South Pacific.” It’s set on two islands during World War II and tells
intertwining stories of two romances obstructed by prejudice and a secret
mission to gain intelligence about Japanese troop movements.
Hammerstein II, who wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book, was weak with
contemporary language, Sondheim said. And his characters are unrealistic,
particularly a cheery battalion of U.S. Navy Seabees who build aviation
bases. “I don’t believe for two seconds that those are Seabees,” Sondheim
said. “It’s the happiest war I’ve ever seen.”

Rare Dig
Seldom does Sondheim, the most revered living
composer- lyricist in musical theater, publicly criticize a contemporary. But
he’s free with opinions when the artist is dead, even when it’s Hammerstein, a
mentor and father figure. (The musical was key in Sondheim’s life: At the
opening, on April 7, 1949, 19-year-old Sondheim was introduced to 20-year-old Hal Prince, who would
go on to produce and direct on Broadway. The two would collaborate on some of
Sondheim’s biggest successes, including “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “A Little
Night Music.”)

On Sunday, Sondheim singled out the last line of “There is Nothing Like
a Dame” from “South Pacific” for ridicule: “There ain’t a thing that’s wrong
with any man here/That can’t be cured by puttin’ him near/A girly, womanly,
female feminine dame.”
“The whole lyric of ‘There’s Nothing Like a Dame’
drives me crazy,” he said. “It doesn’t sound to me like what the character is
trying to convey. Where he (Hammerstein) is at his best is in the romantic

Sondheim rarely gives extended interviews and Avery Fisher Hall, with
some 2,700 seats, was packed. The audience included fans, producers, critics,
collaborators such as John Weidman and
performers such as Bernadette Peters --
the original Dot in “Sunday in the Park With George.”

‘Reviewed By Ignoramuses’
Other nuggets from the 90
minutes: Sondheim showed his contempt for critics, many of whom were slow to
embrace his shows.

“Musicals are the only public art form reviewed by ignoramuses,” he
said. “There are very few of them, I can guarantee it, who know anything about
music at all.” (“I know what I like,” Rich, a former Times chief drama
critic, said in his defense.)

The composer-lyricist was asked about the public’s increased appetite
for his work the second time around. Last season, the Roundabout Theatre Co.
staged a lauded revival of “Sunday in the Park.” Next season, it’s planning to
revive his 1981 flop “Merrily We Roll Along.”
“Tastes get more sophisticated
as time goes on,” he said. “Sometimes a show grows into its own clothes.”

Sondheim disclosed that a CD of “Road Show,” which wrapped up a run at
the Public Theater last month, is likely. “It looks like we will be
recording it in February,” he said.

As previously reported, he’s compiling a collection of his lyrics for a
book, with essays by him about writing. And he’s “nibbling” with “Road Show”
collaborator Weidman about another piece.
“I should be getting back to the
piano,” he said. “I’ve got to start writing music again.”
“There isn’t
anything in particular. There will be.”

17 January 2009

Sample from Shrek

This isn't anything exclusive (it's available at the Shrek website), but it's the only song available in any form until the cast recording comes out. I really like it, and feel it well respesents the tone of the show musically and lyrically. Subtle, tuneful, witty, but dramatically compact. The number is a bit of a montage which introduces us to the Princess Fiona. We see here as a young girl 23 days after arriving in the tower, then a teenager, then, finally, as her wonderful Suttony self. When I saw the show, Sutton was out and I saw her passable but generally bland replacement. Just listening to this number (which is farily evenly distributed amongst Leah Greenhaus, Marissa O'Donnell & Ms. Foster), I realize how much I missed by not seeing Sutton perform. I do appreciate, however, having a legitmate excuse to dismiss the idea of a savings account to see the show again.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

12 January 2009


Before I even saw Slumdog Millionaire I thought, "how long until this is made until a musical?" Mind you, at this point I only knew 3 facts about the movie:
  1. It takes place in India.
  2. It is about someone who overcomes odds and succeeds--and this process involves Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
  3. A. R. Rahman wrote the score.
A. R. Rahman has had an incredibly successful career as a Bollywood composer. He also wrote two large, lush, lavish scores for equally large, lush, lavish productions, which have cemented his reputation as...an incredibly successful Bollywood composer. The first was Bombay Dreams, the second was the musical version The Lord of the Rings.

Both of these shows are victims of their own excess, but there is a catharsis in the music that is, well, cinematic. In fact, it's his sheer inability to pull back that seems to prohobit Rahman from scoring a successful musical. A musical Slumdog--with or without Rahman--would need a firm director with vision and restraint. Stephen Daldry--who seems to be making people happy with Billy Elliot--might be a good choice. But I actually think James Lapine would be the go-to-guy to make the project work.

In any case, for your listening pleasure, here is some of the A. R. Rahman theatrical songbook.

The first is "Love's Never Easy", from Bombay Dreams, chosen because I kept hearing snatches of it throughout Slumdog Millionaire (and, as it turns out, Rahman's LOTR...perhaps variety is not his thing).

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

The second is "The Journey Home", also from Bombay Dreams, chosen because I think it's a great song. Your iPod will thank you.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

You can download these--plus a 3rd from Bombay Dreams ("Like an Eagle") and a taste of what Irish Bollywood (Blarneywood?) would sound like ("Lothlorian", from LOTR)--here.

You've Probably Already Seen This...

...but I feel obligated to post it anyway.

Neil Patrick Harris is cool.

10 January 2009

Old News is Good News

I've been kinda obsessed with this song since I saw it in London.  At one point, when I was in the Berkshires, someone put this on at a party (clearly wanting to wow everyone with the ferocity that happens in this video at the 1m30s mark).  Sadly, the rest of the party was less interested in hearing show tunes (I actually believe they were fronting...because only an undying love of musical theater would bring you to Pittsfield MA) and someone went to change the ipod and I tried to tackle him.  That's right, I tried to TACKLE some one.  Like they do in that football game I hear so much about this time of year.  I was not, for the record, successful.  Luckily, you are now able to appreciate this free of obstruction.   

08 January 2009

Reidel takes on Piven

Today's Reidel Report takes on J Pivs and the "mercury poisoning" which forced him to pull out of Speed the Plow. This is my favorite Broadway story of all time, and any/all reporting on it is akin to crack, so this is more than welcome. To top it all off, he ends with an Anecdote about David Merrick (the likes of which are also like crack to me).

SOME backers of "Speed-the- Plow," still seething over Jer emy Piven's
abandonment of the production last month, are pushing for an investigation into
the actor's laughable claim that he was felled by "mercury poisoning."
laughing myself.)
The backers are hoping to "squeeze some money out of him,"
since he destroyed "our chances of making a profit," a source says.
"Speed-the-Plow" was one week away from returning its $3.5 million
investment when Piven skipped off to Los Angeles, waving a note from his doctor
saying his hearty appetite for sushi "elevated the levels of mercury" in his
(I'm still laughing.)
The producers didn't have star insurance
on Piven. If they had, their insurance company would almost certainly
investigate the actor's claim before paying out any money.
But under the
Actors' Equity contract, the producers are entitled to have Piven's medical
records examined by another doctor. If they suspect fraud, they can sue him.
"If it turns out this is phony, it can really kill him," says a veteran
producer who's not involved in "Speed-the-Plow."
Yesterday, the show's lead
producer, Jeffrey Richards, said that Piven has in fact been examined by another
Richards declined to divulge the results, saying, "They are
He adds: "We're in the process of discussing what our next
step will be."
Several top Broadway producers say that if "Speed-the-Plow"
were their show, they'd go after Piven.
"I'd kill the jerk," one says,
"You have an obligation to your investors to make sure he did not
get out of this in an illegal way," says another. "You have recourse, and if I
had suspicions, I'd nail him."
"I'd only bother if the show fell short of
recoupment," says a third. "But I'd let it be known that he's destroyed his
career in the theater."
Legal action is rare on Broadway. Disputes are
usually settled quietly around conference tables or over dinner at Orso.
(Not long before he bolted, Piven was spotted at Orso in the company of two
babes. I note that Orso is an Italian restaurant and does not serve sushi.)
But producers have taken their stars to task before.
In the early '90s,
producers Fran and Barry Weissler accused Anthony Quinn of medical fraud while
he was in a national tour of "A Walk in the Woods."
According to press
reports at the time, Quinn collapsed onstage and had to have triple bypass
surgery. The Weisslers and their insurance company later found out that Quinn
had a history of heart disease but ordered his doctor to lie about his condition
on insurance forms.
The Weisslers won a settlement against him.
Short of
a lawsuit, a producer can always take a page out of legendary producer David
Merrick's playbook and publicly humiliate the "ailing" star.
When Anna Maria
Alberghetti checked into a hospital during the run of "Carnival" in 1961,
Merrick told the press: "She'll be back shortly. And as soon as my doctors get
to her, she'll be OK."
When she returned to the show, as Howard Kissel
reports in his biography of Merrick, "The Abominable Showman," Merrick sent her
wax roses and arranged for photographers to see a man dressed as a doctor headed
to her dressing room with a lie detector.
Now that's producing!

07 January 2009

Prettybelle, Pretty...swell?

Prettybelle was to come into the Big Apple the same season as Follies. Sadly it never made it out of Boston. Why? As you will soon learn, the score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill (both of whom had many successes--and flops--alone, but had Funny Girl together) is downright fantastic. And Angela Lansbury was in it, and I mean Angela Lansbury was in it. We ain't talkin' Deuce here. Oh, and Gower Champion--you know, the Bye Bye Birdie/Hello Dolly! guy--directed and choreographed. So what went wrong?

Well, to start off with, it is about a nymphomaniac, alcoholic schizophrenic who is raped by her racist, corrupt law officer husband and thus ultimately institutionalized. Now, I do not believe there are any inherently bad ideas for a musical, but this certainly seems like a tough sell. And if this subject matter were to be musicalized today, it would start someplace fringey, or have 37 staged readings, workshops, and regional productions before attempting the Great White Way, regardless of the writers reputations.

And Prettybelle wasn't created by those edge, innovative folks who would go on to write a musical about turning people into meat pies. This was by a couple of gents who would go on to do shows like 42nd Street and Bar Mitvah Boy (which is also obscure, but about as edgy as its title indicates). Not that Champion, Styne, or Merrill aren't necessarily capable of darker work--Styne had Gypsy, Merrill made a musical out of Anna Christie, and Champion killed off Bernadette Peters with a drug overdose. Yes, unlikely pairings of collaborators and collaborators to source material work all the time. But, as a general rule, musicals fail more often than they succeed, and those with a 2nd act number extolling the positive side effects of rape as per Reader's Digest--no matter how "ironically" it is intended to be performed--fail most often.

There are however, many wonderful songs, 3 of which I will post below. The rest of the score can be found, for the time being, here. This recording, by the way, was made 10 years after the fact with "members" (i.e. Angie and whoever had the afternoon free) of the Original Cast.

1. Manic Depressives--This is Angie's first number, and the first number of the show proper (after the title song, which seems to function as more of a prologue) wherein she sets up the show's framing device: She is in a mental institution and writing her memoirs. Probably mildly offensive to some, but I have a feeling you'll enjoy it.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

2. Small Degree--A lovely, subtle, ballad in the midst of all the insanity wherein Prettybelle ruminates on the limitations of her marriage, and her grief and her husband's passing.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

3. I Met A Man--This song is a bit of an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in bacon. Yes, it's that delicious. I no longer have the liner notes with me (I had burned this CD after borrowing it from the NYPL about 3 years ago), but I remember them being frustratingly vague as to the context of this song. Perhaps that writer was frustrated as well. Whatever, enjoy.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

05 January 2009

WICKETS: Another thing I'm excited about.

One of my favorite theatrical experiences in my post-collegiate life is back in NYC! The show is called WICKETS, and it's a 60's Airline Stewardess version of Fefu and Her Friends (which I admit I have never read/seen).

Here is a review I wrote about the show when I first saw a developmental production of it in Feb '07 (written for a now-defucnt online newsletter for a now-defunct "industry jobs" website). (NOTE: It looks like the Moira Stone who so impressed me will not be reprising her role. In fact, it looks like the whole cast is new this time around. I have to admit, the original performances is not quite so vivid in my mind now as the overall experience, so I doubt I will notice the change...though I do wonder where Moira Stone is now.)

Before Heidi had Chronicles, Fefu had friends. Maria Irene Fornes' 1977 play FEFU AND HER FRIENDS concerns a group of women convening in a New England home and sharing their womanly fears and wants with a probing, if not always sympathetic, Fefu as their leader. Like Heidi, Fefu does not always buy into the notion that women are all "in it together".

WICKETS, presented as a "work in progress" by Clove Galilee and Jenny Rogers' company Trick Saddle as part of HERE Arts Center's Culturemart, surrounds Fefu—and the audience—with a 1970s jetliner. There is no formal stage per se, although the curtain to the cockpit does occaisionally open up to reveal a singing angel of sorts. So completely realized is the play-within-a-plane device that any fears of gimmickry dissipates into the controlled air, allowing the insight to outshine the conceit. If there is a more rigid image of womanly values than that of the vintage flight attendant, aside from June Cleaver and Laura Bush, I'd like to see it. The fact that the pristine hair and make-up, the devotion to the selfless-service to men, comes at the peak of the feminist-movement points up its ridiculousness, as well as its relevance to Fornes' original play.

The coup de theatre of Fornes' work—wherein four scenes happen simultaneously as the audience, split into four groups, travels from one to he other—is perhaps one-upped in the Trick Saddle version. Here the audience remains stationary and is quatro-sected by curtains under the guise of turning down the plan for the overnight portion of the trans-Atlantic flight. Here, configurations of stewardesses come into each compartment and, in hushed tones (so as not to awaken the sleeping passengers) perform their respective scenes. The timing of the assorted traffic patterns—with some characters appearing in more than one scene and with that scene depending on his/her respective appearance—is dazzling, but only after the fact. During the scenes, as in the rest of the evening, the acting is what inspires.

Moira Stone. Moira Stone. Moira Stone. Remember that name. (What name? Moira Stone) As Fefu, Ms. Stone has the gravitas, charm, wit and class to clearly set her apart as a leader, both as a character and an actress, in an ensemble that is uniformly excellent.

So what made this fully realized, beautifully acted, production a "work in progress"? Well, it likes to think of itself as a "celestial rock opera" (remember the angelic man in the cock-pit?), a label I have a hard time with. There were only three songs proper, plus in impromptu, a capella, rendering of "Leaving on a Jet Plane". The music contributed to the style and feel of the evening, but disoriented more than enlightened. But Trick Saddle is planning a January 2008 remount where I trust these issues to be resolved. I, for one, plan on racking up quite a few frequent-flyer miles when they do.

02 January 2009


Back after a long hiatus. Why? Because I am covering the phones at work today, and as of 9:15 there are 2 people in the office, neither of whom is really expected to get a lot of calls. Also, a new year is a time of new beginnings and well intentioned efforts to keep on top of things that will eventually be neglected.

(Note: a 3rd person has entered the office)

Anyway, here is my short list of things I am looking forward to in 2009.

1) Vegetables! One of my New Year's Resolutions is to eat vegetables with most every meal, and I am looking forward to learning to how prepare them. Soon, I will be one of those people who goes to Farmer's Markets with canvas totes buying weird things and knowing what to do with them.

2) 9 to 5 The Musical I think we can all agree that Dolly Parton is a genius. If you are a friend of mine, you probably can also agree that the movie 9 to 5 is pretty great in the same vein as Steel Magnolias or Working Girl. So, from the get-go, I had high hopes once the musical version was announced. Then the cast was announced, and Alison Janey is in it. Then I heard this song.

I may need a second job to afford frequent visits throughout previews...

3) Obama 'Nuff said? 'Nuff said.

(ps: there are now 6 people in the office...and that's where it's going to stop)