Saturday, April 30, 2005

What's Wrong With This Picture: Right This Minute, Hugh Jackman Is Knocking Them Dead in Las Vegas and I'm Sitting In Front of My Computer

Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh! Must. See. Hugh. Must. See. Hugh. From this soul-searing article in Playbill:

On April 30 Tony Award winner Hugh Jackman follows in the footsteps of Peter Allen, the late entertainer he memorably portrayed in Broadway's The Boy From Oz.

Jackman will play a one-night, by-invitation-only engagement in Las Vegas, one of Peter Allen's more frequent concert destinations. Jackman will play the brand-new Wynn Resort with his concert act, which boasts direction by Caroline, or Change's George C. Wolfe and choreography by Wonderful Town Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall.

According to a recent report in the New York Post, Jackman is also considering bringing this new show to Broadway for a limited engagement. The Tony-winning actor will also return as host of this year's Tony Awards telecast.

Hugh Jackman received a Tony Award for his portrayal of the late Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz. He received an Olivier Award nomination for his work in the London revival of Oklahoma! and an MO Award for his performance as Joe Gillis in the Australian production of Sunset Boulevard. Jackman's film credits include "The X-Men," "Someone Like You," "Swordfish," "Kate and Leopold" (Golden Globe nomination) and "Van Helsing."

Of course, the good news is that this year, I'm going to the Tony Awards, and Hugh is the host. Yeah!

And if Hugh takes his show to Broadway, I'm in the front row, tossing my panties!

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Stephen Schwartz's Captain Louie Takes Off!

When I was down at the New York Musical Theatre Festival last September I went to a reading of Captain Louie, a new family musical by Stephen Schwartz (Music and Lyrics) and Anthony Stein (Libretto) based on the picture book The Trip by Ezra Jack Keats.

It is the story of Louie, who feels lonely in a new neighborhood. Looking for something to cheer him up on a Halloween Night, he returns to his old neighborhood friends in an imaginative journey on the wings of his favorite toy, a little red plane. If I remember properly it was described as being about friendship and the ability to make new friends and the importance of old ones.

It was a true reading, with all the kids sitting with music stands and just piano accompaniment. I was dazzled by the talent of the kids, entertained by the music (very easy on the ears), but underwhelmed by the story. Now there wasn't any choreography and I believe it was presented in a somewhat shortened version. So I promised myself I would go and see the full-up production if and when it came to be.

Good news! Captain Louie, opens at the York Theatre (NY, 54th St. off Lexington) on May 8 for a 6-week run. Captain Louie is directed Meridee Stein who co-produced with Pam Koslow and Kurt Peterson at the York (James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director).

Apparently, a tour is in the works for 2006-2007 and the Captain Louie CD will be available from PS Classics in May.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Myrna Conn Stars as Mr. Bumble in Oliver!: Please Sir I Want Some More!

My daughter's class did excerpts from Oliver! at her music night last night and they left us wanting more! They did two numbers: "Food Glorious Food" and "Oliver!" and Myrna played Mr. Bumble.

She was fantastic! What a star! And I am going to take credit for assembling an awesome Bumble costume and pinning a large pillow into her costume (w00h00 Mom!). She was wonderfully portly. Actually the whole night was musical theater -- the grade 4s did "Summertime" from Anne of Green Gables and the grade 6s did "Sunrise Sunset" and "Wedding Dance" from Fiddler on the Roof, complete with a bottle dance!

Minimal sets, but great costumes and wonderful piano playing by the music teacher -- way to go Mrs M!. The kids really loved doing the musical theatre numbers because the music is so great and it gives them a chance to be dramatic and and discover a different world than their own. (and also because dressed as orphans they got to wear bare feet and ripped clothes!)

There was also a wonderful performance by the grade 5 and grade 6 string ensembles. (Myrna is in grade six strings.) It was so cute with all the girls dressed in their orphan rags playing the violin! Way to go Mrs C!

Bravo Myrna! Encore! Encore!

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UPDATE: Rosie O'Donnell's Haiku Blog Moved!

UPDATE: Rosie's moved her blog from the somewhat sad sounding sub-domain "onceadored", using an equally lame Blogger template at blogspot.com (with the somewhat daunting tagline: *the unedited rantings of a fat 43 year old menopausal ex -talk show host * -married mother of four- read at your own risk - my spelling sux (add * ocd * adhd * lmnop * suv * dvd * y not me) to the much more impressive rosie.com.

Her traffic is remarkable...586 comments on her latest post! And lots of good Broadway stuff under a separate link.

It's sort of like blogging meets Haiku, meets Broadway, meets Flickr.

Here's a little taste:

slept with a guy named kevin
on the red eye
i 2A - he 2B
i worried about snoring
as i am told i do

blake says it sounds
"wike a weal scawry bear"
gentelman kev never mentioned it

i pulled into my house at dawn
all the twerps were up
a stampede at the door
midget rugby

also in attendence
my in laws
melanie and joel
kels red state born again parents
who - much to my suprise
i adore

when kel and i met
she was positive
they would never come around
the gay thing
was not ok with them
never would be

now we can't get rid of em

we have woven ourselves
into a real family
where a left wing looney
has a place
among the right wing righties

after baby bush won
i told them how upset it made me
to know they voted for him
how he did not consider our family
a real family
deserving of the same rights
all her other married kids had
i blah blah blhaed
for a good four minutes

when i was done
melanie said
"mermie is coming over tomorrow
she's bringing a baums cake"
and that was that

sometime after forty
u settle into yourself
there are many ways to be
in this world

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Yip" Harburg Postage Stamp Unveiled!

E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, who wrote the words to "Over the Rainbow," "Old Devil Moon" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," was honored today (April 28) with a commemorative U.S. postage stamp. How cool is that?

According to this article in Playbill:

The United States Postal Service's new 37-cent commemorative postage stamp shows a picture of Harburg smiling on his older years, with the words "Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue" floating around him.

I've always been a huge fan of Finian's Rainbow (and yes, I appeared as a chorus member in my High School production) written by Harburg (with music by Burton Lane) but I didn't know that Finian's Rainbow was the first Broadway show in which black and white performers danced together.

Apparently this was pretty typical for Yarburg whose passion for social causes "seeped into his shows". The article says:

A wildly playful writer who penned antic verse (and choice romantic lyrics) for the musicals Bloomer Girl, Finian's Rainbow, Jamaica, The Happiest Girl in the World, Darling of the Day, Flahooley and the film The Wizard of Oz, Harburg (1896-1981) was also fiercely supportive of liberal social causes. His political feelings often seeped into his shows, offering views on slavery, freedom, women's suffrage, class, the arms race, war and more.

Women's suffrage? Yip Yip hooray!

Of course, he is most famous for the classic "Over the Rainbow", co-written with Harold Arlen. It was named the number one film song of all time by the American Film Institute, and in 2001 it was chosen as the greatest song of the 20th century in a Recording Industry Association of America/National Endowment for the Arts poll.

Over the Rainbow...Finian's Rainbow...I guess he liked rainbows!

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"Lyrics and Lyricists" Concert Series

How did I not know about this?

There's still time left to catch the last concert (Paul Trueblood on Betty Comden and Adolph Green) in an amazing series called "Lyrics & Lyricists", which unbenownst to yours truly, has been running since 1970! Sheesh, I gotta get out more!

Lyrics and Lyricists 2004-2005 35th Anniversary Season

Tickets/Registration: 212.415.5500

PAUL TRUEBLOOD ON BETTY COMDEN & ADOLPH GREEN / MAY 14-16

ABOUT "LYRICS & LYRICISTS"

The granddaddy of American songbook programs, Lyrics & Lyricists was launched in 1970 when longtime Broadway conductor Maurice Levine and lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg took to the stage of the 92nd Street Y to talk about the then unusual topic of songmaking. The series has featured every great Broadway and Hollywood lyricist and composer, laying the groundwork for more recent series like Lincoln Center's American Songbook, Carnegie Hall's American Popular Song Celebration and City Center's Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert.

Lyrics & Lyricists has been one of the most popular series at the 92nd Street Y since its inception in 1970, when Arthur Cantor, a trustee of the Billy Rose Foundation, approached Hadassah Markson, then the director of the 92nd Street Y Music School, about presenting a music series focusing on lyricists. Markson enlisted longtime Broadway conductor Maurice Levine, who in turn enlisted lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg ("The Wizard of Oz") to launch the series on December 13, 1970. Eventually, the ries expanded to include composers, and in 1984 went from first-person histories of the American musical theatre to a series of narrated musical revues. The series has featured some of Broadway and Hollywood's greatest songwriters, including Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Johnny Mercer and Stephen Sondheim.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

American Musical Theater San Jose

I definitely have to check this out when I'm at the Blogher conference in July (and tramping in my old stomping grounds in Palo Alto!).

It's the American Musical Theater San Jose, and they have an impressive season schedule. It's a really aggressive schedule of some of today's best-known musicals. This is what they did in 2004/2005:

CHICAGO
January 11 to 23, 2005

A CHORUS LINE
February 22 to March 6, 2005

LORD OF THE DANCE
March 15 to 20, 2005

TAPESTRY: THE MUSIC OF CAROLE KING
April 12 to April 24, 2005

CATS
May 17 to 22, 2005

MOVIN' OUT
June 14 to 26, 2005

THE PRODUCERS
July 6 to July 25, 2004

RENT
September 21 to 26, 2004

PETER PAN
October 26 to November 7, 2004

I can live without Lord of the Dance, but gosh, Tapestry: The Music of Carole King sounds really cool. From the site:

The Ultimate Theatrical Tribute to the Music of a Generation!

Our production of TAPESTRY: THE MUSIC OF CAROLE KING will be a high energy, dazzling show starring incredible singers and musicians in a two-hour theatrical tribute featuring some of the greatest songs of all time, including I Feel The Earth Move, You've Got a Friend, Natural Woman, Up on the Roof and Locomotion. Carole King's album Tapestry was one of the best selling albums of all time and stayed on the charts for over five years at its release and continues to top charts around the world to this day. You will be astounded at the list of songs Carole King wrote that were performed by some of the top artists from the past four decades including The Shirelles, James Taylor, and even The Beatles. Whether you are a die-hard fan of American Idol or whether you still have a weathered copy of the Carole King LP, Tapestry, you are going to love this show!

And this is what's lined up for 2005:

THE WIZARD OF OZ
September 13 to 25, 2005

LITTLE WOMEN: THE MUSICAL
October 11 to 23, 2005

WEST SIDE STORY
November 1 to 13, 2005

THE LION KING
January 20 to February 26, 2006

GYPSY
March 28 to April 9, 2006

HAIRSPRAY
June 6 to 18, 2006

I'd love to see how they produce this work...

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There's No Business Like Show Business!

Last Sunday's New York Times Arts & Leisure section profiled a new film called Show Business by Dori Berinstein, a filmmaker and theatrical producer. ("The Film About The Show Behind The Show" by Jesse Green, New York Times, Sunday April 26, 2005 ).

This film, which opened Monday April 27, 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival, focuses on four musicals (Wicked, Avenue Q, Caroline, or Change, and Taboo) as they face their first performances, their opening night reviews, and their hopes for Tony awards. Okay, I'm loving it already and I haven't seen it!

I can imagine how fascinating the different journeys would be to watch, given how differently each of the shows ended up.

In the article Jesse Green interviews three of the directors of the four profiled musicals (Jason Moore of Avenue Q, Joe Mantello of Wicked, and George C. Wolfe of Caroline or Change) about their role in the process.

They talk about how the creation of a musical is an intimate, sometimes plodding process. About how a musical is a long, arduous emotional journey. (Yes and Yes). And they talk about the conflict that is inevitable when creative heads collide.

I loved the expression Peter Stone (a Broadway book writer) used to describe such conflict on a musical "Let me put it this way: The patient lived, the doctors all died."

Joe Mantello talks of experiencing sympathetic nausea when he hears of a show that is in trouble. He goes on to say "In a business that's full of schadenfreude, it's the last thing that I take any pleasure in."

But difficulties aside, they all share the passion, the joy, and the excitement of this fantastical musical theater business. As Jason Moore says, the part he loved in the movie was "that little girl who's crying when Kristen Chenoweth signed her Wicked CD."

Yep, I know how that feels.

Here are some tasty bits from the interview:

Q: I think the popular image, if there is a popular image, of what a director does is that he or she moves the actors around onstage.

MANTELLO: If you've done all the other work, the staging starts to stage itself. Sometimes I think that the main part of my job is to be a stand-in for the audience until they get there. So when I'm working with the writers, I say, "I don't get this." Or, "I'm confused: How do we get from here to here? What is the tone? What are you aiming for?"

Q: You become part of the story, in a way. It's not just the authors' story anymore, but yours.

WOLFE: And the performers' and the audience's, in turn. When you form a collaboration, particularly on a musical, be careful who you marry because that's who the child is going to look like.

Q: Well, that raises a question. In the movie, one of the songwriters on "Avenue Q" talked frankly about the conflicts he had with Jeff Whitty, the book writer, and how they were miraculously healed upon receiving the Tony Award.

MOORE: Imagine that.

Q: Is conflict inevitable in the development of a musical? Is it useful?

MOORE: What's tricky about a musical is that it's not just two people in a room. You've got a lot of heads butting up against each other. What our role becomes is to facilitate that conflict in a way that channels everybody's energies in the same direction. It may not be fun, and it may look awful, but eventually you get the thing on track. You have to keep your distance as much as possible to facilitate that.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Roger Bart back in The Producers!

Funny, I was just talking about Roger Bart with my oldest daughter Myrna, when I read this article about Roger returning to The Producers on Broadway.

My daughter is practising some songs from You're A Good Man Charlie Brown for an upcoming audition and we were thinking how great it would have been to have seen Roger Bart (Snoopy) and Kristin Chenoweth (Sally) in the 1999 revival of said show.

They both won Tonys for their performances...sigh.

Anyways, then I got to thinking about how Roger Bart was the one redeeming feature of the movie remake of The Stepford Wives, and how much I enjoyed him on his stint on Desperate Housewives. And how he was a highlight of The Frogs when I saw it at the Lincoln Center last summer.

Then don't you know I go and read in Playbill that he's coming back to The Producers on Broadway May 3 to July 3 reprising his role as Leo Bloom (next to Richard Kind whom I know from Mad About You and Spin City: Who knew he could sing?).

I've always regretted not seeing Roger as Carmen Ghi , his original The Producers role.(although he'll do that in the movie version!) This is my chance to set things right! I wanna see him as a producer!

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Blogway Baby Boosts Brits: Today it's Anthony Newley!

First it was Lionel Bart, then Mary Poppins and now, Anthony Newley!

While I was re-watching my The Ed Sullivan Show: The Best of Broadway Musicals DVD I was mesmerized by the segment of Anthony Newley singing "Who Can I Turn To". His voice, his movements, are uniquely compelling. But for some reason he, like Bart, doesn't seem to have retained his profile since his death in 1999, at least in North America.

I remember the first time I heard his voice -- listening to the record of Stop The World I Want To Get Off in my parents living room. I was first attracted by the whimsical art of the album cover, but once I listened I became a bona fide Newley fan! I became also became a fan of the score to The Roar of the Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd as well, but I never saw either show on stage nor did I have the pleasure of seeing him perform live.

I also love the 1968 movie Sweet November, starring Anthony Newley and Sandy Dennis (he wrote the title song with Leslie Bricusse, his long-time writing partner). He always seemed to be on the verge of bursting into song which made the film so poignant and charming. I also happen to loathe the remake with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, which is utterly without charm.

There is a great tribute site called "The Anthony Newley Appreciation Society" (also "officially recognized by the family of the late entertainer"), which outlines his impressive career:

ANTHONY GEORGE NEWLEY, who died at age 67, was an actor, singer, songwriter and director of unusual versatility; his career spanned more than 50 years and embraced film, repertory theatre, rock and roll, comedy revues, music hall and television.

He was the original East End boy made good, born illegitimately in Hackney and leaving school at 14. He then found success as a child actor, most notably as the Artful Dodger in David Lean's 1948 film OLIVER TWIST. Propelled by his role in OLIVER TWIST at the age of 17, Newley made his U.S. debut in 1956, appearing in six films that year. In the 1950s and 1960s, Newley was everywhere - on the screen, on television and, seven times, in the top ten.

His singing career came about almost by accident. In 1959, he took the part of rock and roll star Jeep Jackson - a spoof on Elvis Presley - in the film IDLE ON PARADE. A ballad from the film, I've Waited So Long, took Newley to the top of the British charts and started a three year run of hits which included Personality, If She Should Come to You, And The Heavens Cried and the novelty numbers Pop Goes the Weasel and Strawberry Fair. He also had two No 1s, with Why and Lionel Bart's Do You Mind? "So overnight I had this incredible power," he said years later. "I was a rock and roll singer and and it lasted for ten wonderful years."

His film appearances included DOCTOR DOOLITTLE and THE COCKLESHELL HEROES. But he is likely to be best known for co-writing and starring in the hit musicals STOP THE WORLD - I WANT TO GET OFF and THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT - THE SMELL OF THE CROWD, as well as a number of best-selling hit singles, including What Kind Of Fool Am I?, The Candy Man and Goldfinger. In 1987 he and frequent collaborator Leslie Bricusse were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

STOP THE WORLD was a landmark in the history of the British musical, notable for its freedom of form and cynicism of content as it charted the bitter-sweet rise of its central character, played by Newley, from teaboy to millionaire. For Newley, its lasting legacy was its songs. They included Gonna Build a Mountain and What Kind of Fool Am I? which sold more than a million records and became his signature tune.

STOP THE WORLD for which he was the director, star and co-author (with his longtime collaborator, Leslie Bricusse), was his greatest showcase. The show was conceived as "a simple, lighthearted satirical life cycle of the seven ages of man." (Namely, youth-and-adolescence, decision, sophistication, maturity, sagacity, retirement and senility.) In the UK, it played to packed houses for 15 months before transferring to Broadway in 1962, where it ran for 555 performances. An allegory about acquiring fame and power but ending up disillusioned, STOP THE WORLD was a tour de force for the star, who portrayed a symbolic Everyman named Littlechap.

In the States he became one of the very few British crooners to make it big on the US cabaret circuit (In Las Vegas he commanded the same attention as Tony Bennett, Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra) and his Cockney rags-to-riches story made him a chat show favorite. In 1977 he was voted the Male Musical Star of the Year in Las Vegas.

He had a gift for striking an emotional chord with a mass audience. But Anthony Newley was also an influence on David Bowie among later performers, because in all his songs he maintained a distinctively British voice, ending with his right arm extended for effect in his trademark signoff.

In addition to writing the score with Leslie Bricusse for 1971's film WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Newley wrote the score for the 1975 film MR. QUILP (now broadcast on TV under THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP) and, with Bricusse, the title song for the 1968 film SWEET NOVEMBER; and, finally with Bricusse, the songs for the 1976 TV version of PETER PAN. He also co-wrote with Stanley Ralph Ross the book, music and lyrics for the 1983 stage show CHAPLIN and created the 1985 revue ONCE UPON A SONG. Newley had been working for many years on a musical version of RICHARD III and sang some of these songs during his last New York cabaret appearance at Rainbow and Stars in 1996. The BMI database lists over 150 songs for which Newley wrote the music or lyrics. His four U.S. hit songs were Why?, If She Should Come to You, Pop Goes the Weasel and What Kind of Fool Am I? By contrast, he had 12 hit singles in three years in the U.K., all included in the 1997 CD, THE VERY BEST OF ANTHONY NEWLEY. Newley went from child star to pop idol, to composer, author, director and leading man and leaves an amazing body of work.

His third wife, Dareth Newley Dunn, described him as "a dear, sweet, loving friend and father ... consummate performer and ultimate composer".

Not bad, not bad at all.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Mary Poppins: The London Cast Recording -- It's Practically Perfect!

The other day, my friend Michael Rubinoff gave me a copy of the London Cast Recording of the new West End musical Mary Poppins. It might be one of the first copies in North America: It's not currently available in outside the UK, but Michael was able to get a copy from the Dress Circle Musical Theatre Shop, which is an unbelievably cool online musical theater store in the UK. They specialize in Stage Musicals, Cabaret, Nostalgia, Soundtracks, Karaoke, Comedy, Big Bands. From the Dress Circle Web site:

Dress Circle, nestled between Drury Lane and Leicester Square, in the heart of London's West End, is the World's best on-line store for Show CDs, Videos, DVDs, Merchandise, Sheet Music, Books and Gifts. If we can't get it -- No one can!

I looked for a copy of Lionel Bart's Twang!, which has been buried deeper than a Pharoah, and guess what...it actually returned a result! Now, this is a compilation of songs from British musicals between 1950 and 1975, but still, where do you find any Twang! recordings? From the site:

The soprano Gabrielle Bell and pianist Rex Walford open a portfolio of neglected songs from British musicals, including Twang!!, Grab Me a Gondola, The Buccaneer, Lady at the Wheel, Chrysanthemum and others. Gabrielle Bell’s freshness brings a breath of spring to 20 songs from a golden age.

Anyway, back to Mary Poppins.

I must admit I was a bit skeptical of the whole business. After all it is yet another film-to-stage production project, and a classic film with songs ingrained in my brain since childhood! But I am happy to announce I really loved it! The voices are amazing, and Laura Michelle Kelly who plays Mary has that same smooth, effortless quality of Julie Andrews' voice. Bert, played by Gavin Lee, has a completely different sounding voice from Dick Van Dyke, but I still love it.

The original Sherman Brothers songs are all there with new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, who wrote the Olivier award-winning HONK!. Now I love HONK! (and so does my daughter), and I think their songs are, as Cameron Mackintosh says in the liner notes, a perfect complement to the Sherman Brothers' material.

Hearing those Sherman Brothers' songs again in these new orchestrations really emphasizes how truly brilliant they were and still are. The new songs don't stand out the way the old ones do, but still seem to fit seemlessly, holding the whole score together. I'm already starting to hum one of the new songs "Practically Perfect". That song was written on spec for Cameron Mackintosh by Stiles and Drewe in 1993 when they were first approached about writing the new material.

One small disappointment was "Feed the Birds". In the movie there is a great swelling instrumental interlude which always gave me chills. In the musical arrangement there are always voices singing and I don't get that same chill. Now I haven't seen the show so maybe they do it there at another time.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to seeing the show when it hops the pond!

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Broadway Voices Sing American Art Song

Andrew Gerle is the writer of the superb Meet John Doe, which was part of the inaugural 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Now he is directing a new concert series, called "ALLOY: Concert / Theater", which is a new fusion of American art song and theater featuring some of Broadway's greatest voices performing works by Ned Rorem, Jack Beeson, Charles Ives, and Samuel Barber in a dramatic setting. The show stars Rebecca Baxter, Suzzanne Douglas, Merwin Foard, Jenny Giering, Danny Gurwin, Rosena Hill, and Ryan Lowe.

The show is on Monday, May 2 at 8 pm, at the Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

All the performers and composers are listed on Andrew's Web site, and there are booking details at the Miller Theatre's Web site as well.

Check it out!

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

REVIEW: DECIDE Left Me Un-Decided

Last night I went to see DECIDE, which defiantly bills itself as "THE Urban Musical".

It is written, directed, and produced by Stuart Knight, a 30-year old motivational speaker.

Stuart also acts in it alongside five other actor/singers. It plays every Saturday night in a loft on Queen Street West. It's a musical revue about deciding to be the master of your own life, making changes, relationships, connectivity, sensitivity, nativity, and hyperactivity (sorry, I can't seem to stop rhyming ever since I walked out of the show...). It combined dialogue scenes with songs and hip hop poetry. Lots of hip hop poetry.

Here is Stuart's explanation of the show's theme, from the Web site:

Why Did I Write This Show?

It's 2am in the morning and I've just been asked to come up with text explaining why I wrote this show. The answer is simple, turn on your TV at 2 am in the morning, channel surf for 5 minutes, and you'll know why.

When people ask me where I want to take this show, I am reminded of interviews of big time television executives. Almost always in those interviews, you'll hear a sentence saying "I want to take this to every household in the country." I'm always bothered by those kinds of lines because it assumes that people want you in their personal space. Does the idea of having my material rooted in every home in the country excite me? Of course it does; but, only if I'm invited. It's like a relationship, there's nothing worse than being with someone that you know does not want to be with you. So, when people ask me, where do I want to take this show? I want to be able to walk down the street and see nothing but open doors.

If you find that confusing, keep reading. If that makes perfect sense to you, stop reading now and go see the show next Saturday by reserving a seat off the Web site at www.decideshow.com.

Here's my quick summary: When the cast was talking I wished they were singing; and when they were singing I wished they were talking. And then I wished it would end.

First of all let me say that I applaud Stuart for doing it. He's out there doing live theater every Saturday and people are paying money ($20) to see it. So kudos for that. And the cast are extremely committed and gave it their all. So kudos for that too.

But overall it was a self-indulgent, preachy, pretentious, cliche-ridden show. Imagine a musical written by Tony Robbins, and you'll get a pretty good idea of last night's experience.

In my opinion the music and lyrics were amateurish. Every song was wailed a la American Idol to signify its emotional importance.

And Stuart likes to talk...a lot. I can't help but think that, as the writer, if he was really worried about the quality of the show he would get off the stage, cast another actor to play his roles and sit in the audience and watch it.

But I think the show has a bigger purpose. It is designed as a show and an after party where you mingle with the other members of the audience. You're invited to wear a Snuggle button if you wish to be approached for conversational purposes (a technique from Stuart's "Art of Conversation" workshop, we are told).

It is also designed as a springboard for Stuart's motivational workshops and other party venues (we were also invited to head over to the big hip hop party he was throwing on King Street that night). As a former marketer I really like this whole concept of using a show to market other stuff, but as a result I'm not sure the show itself receives top priority.

With all that being said, the audience (an urban, late '20s, early '30s crowd) loved the show, seemed to be having a good time, and they gave the show a standing ovation at the end.

Me, I stood up to leave.

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Lionel Bart: One of the Greatest Musical Comedy Songwriters of the 20th Century

My daughter is appearing as Mr. Bumble from Oliver! in her school play this week, so I've been spending some time thinking about Oliver!'s composer/lyricist, Lionel Bart (b. 1930 / d. 1999).

In short, Lionel Bart parlayed a massively successful '50s pop-song writing career into musical theater. He succeeded with Oliver! and Blitz!, and was personally and financially ruined by the flop Twang!! (maybe it was the second exclamation mark...).

But the real story is a lot more interesting, and comes with a much happier ending. In the interest of accuracy, I've included it here:

The comparative inactivity of Bart for many years tended to cloud the fact that he was one of the major songwriters of twentieth-century popular song. The former East-End silk-screen printer, was at the very hub of the rock 'n' roll and skiffle generation that came out of London's Soho club scene in the mid-'50s. As a member of the Cavemen with Tommy Steele he later became Steele's main source of non-American song material. In addition to writing the pioneering "Rock With The Cavemen" he composed a series of glorious singalong numbers, including "A Handful Of Songs", "Water Water" and the trite but delightfully innocent "Little White Bull". Much of Bart's work was steeped in the English music-hall tradition, diffused with a strong working-class pride, and it was no surprise that he soon graduated into writing songs for full-length stage shows. Lock Up Your Daughters and Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be were two of his early successes, both appearing during 1959, the same year he wrote the classic "Living Doll" for Cliff Richard. "Living Doll" was a fine example of simplicity and melody working together perfectly. Bart could mix seemingly incompatible words such as "gonna lock her up in a trunk, so no big hunk can steal her away from me", and they would come out sounding as if they were meant to be together. Bart was also one of the first writers to introduce mild politics into his lyrics, beautifully transcribed with topical yet humorously ironic innocence, for example: "They've changed our local Palais into a bowling alley and fings ain't wot they used to be."

As the '60s dawned Bart unconsciously embarked on a decade that saw him reach dizzy heights of success and made him one of the musical personalities of the decade. During the first quarter of the year he topped the charts with "Do You Mind' for Anthony Newley, a brilliantly simple and catchy song complete with Bart's own finger-snapped accompaniment. The best was yet to come when that year he launched Oliver!, a musical based on Dickens' Oliver Twist. This became a phenomenal triumph, and remains one of the most successful musicals of all time. Bart's knack of simple melody, combined with unforgettable lyrics, produced many classics, including the pleading "Who Will Buy", the rousing "Food Glorious Food" and the poignant "As Long As He Needs Me" (also a major hit for Shirley Bassey, although she reputedly never liked the song). Bart was a pivotal figure throughout the swinging London scene of the '60s, although he maintained that the party actually started in the '50s. Bart befriended Brian Epstein, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, became an international star following Oliver!'s success as a film (winning six Oscars), and, although he was homosexual, was romantically linked with Judy Garland and Alma Cogan. Following continued, although lesser, success with Blitz! and Maggie May, Bart was shaken into reality when the London critics damned his 1965 musical Twang!!, based upon the life of Robin Hood. Bart's philanthropic nature made him a prime target for business sharks and he lost much of his fortune as a result.

By the end of the '60s the cracks were beginning to show; his dependence on drugs and alcohol increased and he watched many of his close friends die in tragic circumstances -- Cogan with cancer, Garland through drink and drugs and Epstein's supposed suicide. In 1969, La Strada only had a short run in New York before Bart retreated into himself, and for many years maintained a relatively low profile, watching the '70s and '80s pass almost as a blur, only making contributions to The Londoners and Costa Packet. During this time the gutter press was eager for a kiss-and-tell story but Bart remained silent, a credible action considering the sums of money he was offered. During the late '80s Bart finally beat his battle with alcohol and ended the decade a saner, wiser and healthier man. His renaissance started in 1989 when he was commissioned by a UK building society to write a television jingle. The composition became part of an award-winning advertisement, featuring a number of angelic children singing with Bart, filmed in pristine monochrome. The song "Happy Endings" was a justifiable exhumation of a man who remained an immensely talented figure and whose work ranks with some of the greatest of the American "musical comedy" songwriters.

In the early '90s his profile continued to be high, with revivals by the talented National Youth Theatre of Oliver!, Maggie May, and Blitz! (the latter production commemorating the 50th anniversary of the real thing), and the inclusion of one of his early songs, "Rock With The Caveman", in the blockbuster movie The Flintstones, in a version by Big Audio Dynamite. In December 1994 Lionel Bart's rehabilitation was complete when producer Cameron Mackintosh presented a major new production of Oliver! at the London Palladium, initially starring Jonathan Pryce. In a gesture rare in the cutthroat world of showbusiness, Mackintosh returned a portion of the show's rights to the composer (Bart had sold them during the bad old days), thereby assuring him an "income for life". With Oliver! set to make its North American debut in Toronto, Bart died in April 1999 shortly after overseeing the first major revival of Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch, in England. He spent his last few years living alone in his apartment in Acton, West London and died after losing his battle with cancer. He had been able to experience a just and well-deserved reappraisal during his last years, with Oliver destined to continue in perpetuity.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Is Li'l Abner Really a "Kid's Classic"?

One of my favorite Broadway musicals and movie musicals of all time is Li'l Abner.

I have a soft spot for it 'cuz I played one of the wives (Put 'em back the way they wuz!) in my High School production of Li'l Abner many moons ago.

It has a fantastic score: I love the silliness of it and all the songs are super catchy, at least to my ear. I know it's not often mentioned as a "classic" but I love it.

But in the Friday April 22, 2005 Globe and Mail Review section the imminent release of the 1959 Li'l Abner movie musical on DVD was under the heading "Classics for Kids".

Huh? I mean, I take my kids to all kinds of musicals (my oldest saw Chicago when she was six) but I didn't think that was something the general population did.

The Al Capp comic strip always had very buxom women busting out of their shirts, and one of the characters in the movie is named "Appassionata von Climax". Not exactly Bambi, if you know what I mean. And Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones ain't exactly Mary Poppins!

Li'l Abner a kids classic? Well don't that take the "Rag Off'n The Bush"!

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Kristin Chenoweth: From the West Wing to The Apple Tree

She's On Fire!

Wow, Kristin Chenoweth seems to be everywhere these days -- doing a Dolly Parton impersonation on Letterman, singing for Katie Couric, appearing in The West Wing, and filming the movies Bewitched, The Pink Panther, Asphalt Beach, Running with Scissors, and Stranger Than Fiction.

If that wasn't enough, according to this article in Playbill, she is now planning to star in the Universal Pictures biopic of Dusty Springfield's life.

Hollywood Reporter says that the biopic will be written and directed by Jessica Sharzer, the recipient of a 2002 student Academy Award for the movie "Speak," which she wrote and directed. The Springfield film, which will focus on the singer's life in the sixties and the recording of her classic album, "Dusty in Memphis," will be produced by Universal's Marc Platt, actress Chenoweth and Untitled Entertainment's Danielle Thomas. Springfield's manager, Vicki Wickham, will serve as a consultant for the motion picture.

Dusty Springfield was born Mary O'Brien in the U.K. in 1939. Her many hits included "I Only Want to Be With You," "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" and "Son of a Preacher Man." The latter was released on her album "Dusty in Memphis," which is often regarded as her finest release. Springfield battled substance abuse and faced financial difficulties, although she did have another hit in the nineties when recorded the duet, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?," with the Pet Shop Boys. Springfield died of cancer in 1999. She was 59.

Now that sounds right -- acting and singing. I love Kristin, so don't get me wrong, but she's just not working for me on The West Wing. I saw her in Epic Proportions, a not-so-great play that opened on Broadway in 1999. She was very funny and she always exudes that special star quality, but I love her best when she acts and sings: Then she's totally unstoppable!

Even more exciting (for me at least) is that according to this article from Broadwayworld, Kristin will star in the final City Center Encores! production of the 2004/2005 season: The Apple Tree in May.

Kristin Chenoweth is set to star in The Apple Tree, the final Encores! presentation of the 2004-5 Season, it was announced by Artistic Director Jack Viertel and Music Director Rob Fisher. The engagement, which runs May 12-16, 2005, also marks Mr. Fisher's final production as Encores! Music Director - a position he has held for Encores! entire 12-year history. The production is directed by Gary Griffin.

The Apple Tree features music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, Fiorello!); and a book by Messrs. Bock, Harnick and Jerome Coopersmith.

The Apple Tree is a unique and innovative evening of three one-act musicals about men, women and a little thing called temptation from one of Broadway's most beloved songwriting teams. Act I is based on Mark Twain's "The Diary of Adam and Eve", Act II on Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger?", and Act III on Jules Feiffer's "Passionella". Notable songs include "What Makes Me Love Him?"; "Go To Sleep Whatever You Are"; and "Oh, To Be A Movie Star".

Under the direction of Mike Nichols in his first musical outing, The Apple Tree opened at the Shubert Theatre on October 18, 1966 where it played for 463 performances. The original Broadway cast featured Alan Alda and Barbara Harris. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards including Best Musical; with a win for Harris as Best Actress in a Musical.

I saw an old excerpt from this musical on Broadway's Lost Treasures.

It was an adorable scene called "Passionella" about a woman (Ella) who works as a chimney sweep during the day, and dreams of being a movie star at night. Then, one day her Fairy Godmother (on the TV) transforms her into a Marilyn Monroe-type gorgeous voluptuous blonde (Passionella). Barbara Harris played the role of Ella/Passionella and she was amazing. She also won the Tony for it.

I can totally see Kristin Chenoweth doing it. She certainly has the figure to pull off the voluptuous side of the character...I know that Letterman would agree based on the way that he ogled her the other night!

I'm wishin' and hopin' that I can see it!

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Reefer Madness The Movie Musical

I just picked up a copy of the May 2005 Vanity Fair so this is a little late.

Inside is an ad for Reefer Madness The Movie Musical, which premiered on Showtime last Saturday, April 16.

Neato!

With music by Dan Studney and lyrics by Kevin Murphy it boasts a bunch of well-known names: Neve Campbell, Alan Cumming (from Cabaret among other things), Steven Weber (who was in The Producers for a short while) and Ana Gasteyer (from SNL and who is playing Elphaba in the Chicago production of Wicked).

The subtitle is: "The Feel-good Hit of the Year!"

I'll bet after you see it you'll be hungry for more...

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Little Women Starting the First Cast Blog

About a month ago I published this post about the musical Little Women which told the story of Alison Hubbard and Kim Oler who won the Rogers Award for Little Women, and were then KICKED OFF THE PROJECT when it went to Broadway.

Well, here's a different, more positive spin on the Little Women story.

I got this message from Kaliya Hamlin:

Hey Suzy, I was noticing your Blog about Broadway. Great Material. I am based in California but I have been working with Little Women the Musical to get their Show Blog up and running. We have been live for over a month and the Cast is about to start posting. This may be a first for a broadway show -- cast blogging. The first posts will be up within the next few days. http://littlewomen.typepad.com is the blog address. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and I would be happy to put you in touch with folks inside the show to talk about this development.

Cast blogging? I LOVE IT! What a great way to get an inside look at the show...but the cast has to be honest. If it's going to be interesting, it's got to be real. Let's hear about those Broadway rats...

Maybe we can get them to do a guest blog on Blogway Baby!

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Charles and Nick and Nora...

I was watching another one of my The Songwriters: An Intimate Evening of Songs and StoriesDVDs last night. This one was devoted to Charles Strouse and Arthur Schwartz.

I really enjoyed the Charles Strouse segment as he threw in a couple of bits of acting. He and his Annie cowriter Martin Charnin did a mock backer's audition, feebly describing the concept of the show to a very rich backer (played by Debbie Shapiro who had an amazing voice). They play, she smokes, they play, she looks distant, they play, she smokes. Finally at the end her one question is "Annie has no pupils, how are you going to cast someone without pupils". Then "Good luck with your show" and she leaves. Very funny. I've experienced something similar...

Charles Strouse sure can write show tunes (Bye Bye Birdie was his first show on Broadway) but he is more of a shouter than a singer. (Dammit Jim, I'm a writer not a singer). It was another great sing and tell and he told the story about Annie being troubled and needing fixing and re-writing.

In one great story, they had finally written the song that would really help the show and then they promptly lost it. Since they were so stressed, neither could remember a note or word of it! After searching through bags of garbage and having a nervous breakdown, the conductor finally found it -- "Easy Street"! It's a great number, and it would have been a shame if it had ended up lining a gerbil cage. I also learned he wrote "Those Were The Days" for All In The Family! Kewl -- I love it when my two favs, musical theater and TV, dovetail!

I hadn't known that Charles Strouse wrote the music to Nick and Nora (book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.) so when my husband gave me the original Broadway Cast recording of it, I was anxious to hear it. Looking at the writers and the amazing cast list (Joanna Gleason and Barry Bostwick star, with Christine Baranski, Chris Sarandon, Faith Prince, and Debra Monk among other luminaries) I was puzzled as to why this wasn't a smash hit.

Now, I'm a hug fan of the Thin Man movies. My husband and I watched them so much while we were dating we decided to name our first born Myrna, after Myrna Loy. (If it had been a boy we would have called him Powell, after William Powell).

Maybe it's because I have such a strong vision of who these characters were from the movies, that the story as described in the liner notes ("Nick and Nora are forced to confront their own hidden demons...they also investigate their marriage, working on the case and their personal problems...") didn't seem very Nick and Nora-like. And to be honest I was underwhelmed by the music and lyrics.

Charles Strouse had played some tunes on that DVD that I had never heard before and instantly fell in love with ("Once Upon A Time" from the show All American starring Ray Bolger) so I was kinda disappointed in this CD. The songs never quite seem to measure up to the spectacular voices. However, the liner notes point out "The show features extended musical scenes, but it is not through-composed and gives equal weight to song and spoken word. Because of the fragmentation and unorthodox structure of many of the musical numbers, the score tended to be underappreciated by many at first hearing, and rewards repeated listening."

Hmm...maybe I should give it another listen...

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Blogger Woes

Yikes! I've been struggling with Blogger the last 24 hours, and I think I've finally tussled it to the ground. It looks like Blogger has lost its DNS service, so when I've tried to post to www.blogwaybaby.com it couldn't find the sftp site. I was getting the following message:

005 Unable to connect to SFTP server: java.net.UnknownHostException: www.blogwaybaby.com

I fixed the problem by replacing the post to address from "www.blogwaybaby.com" with the actual IP address, and now I can post again. Sheesh.

I can't say I was blown away by Blogger's customer service. After going through their blogs and seeing no service outage warnings, I sent a Help message and got the following automated message 10 hours later:

Hi there,

Thanks for contacting Blogger Support. Since we cannot always respond personally to every message we get, we encourage you to check Blogger Help, where you can find answers to many common questions. Here are some of the top articles which could help you out:

CHANGES ARE NOT APPEARING ON THE BLOG
http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=639

A BLOG IS MISSING FROM YOUR DASHBOARD
http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=656

HOW TO WORK WITH BLOGGER'S COMMENTS
http://help.blogger.com/bin/topic.py?topic=23

HOW TO HANDLE PROBLEMS WITH INVITATIONS
http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=642

HELP WITH HTML OR CSS CODE
http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=1116

If you don't see what you need in these articles, you can use the search form in the upper right corner of any Blogger Help page. Be sure also to check our Status page and our Known Issues page. These cover many known bugs and current operational problems.

BLOGGER STATUS
http://status.blogger.com/

KNOWN ISSUES
http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=791

If your question or problem is not addressed anywhere in our documentation, please simply reply to this message and let us know. We will help you out as soon as we can. Thanks for your patience.

Sincerely,
Blogger Support

Geez guys, D it up, K?

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It's That Time of the Millennium

I've always thought that the time was right for Plane Crazy, a Fun Feminism musical.

But I'm seeing more and more evidence that its time has come! First of all we all know that Menopause the Musical has been running for a while, and the Canadian hit We're Still Hot (similar topic) opened off-Broadway in January.

When I was in Chicago, I noticed a show called Respect: A Musical Journey of Women opening April 17 at the Chicago Center For The Performing Arts. It is billed as a musical revue celebrating women through American pop music, with more than 60 songs, including "What's Love Got To Do with It?" and "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'". Next stop: Plane Crazy on Broadway!

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Saints and Sinners at the 2005 Stratford Festival!

The theme for the 2005 Stratford Festival is "Saints and Sinners".

Wow that was fast! Just a couple of days ago in my post on the Theatre Building Chicago Mini-Musicals I mentioned that we were given the theme of "Saints and Sinners" for our 10-minute musicals! So then Stratford comes along and steals that idea! Have they no shame? Well anyways, it's a weird coincidence. As part of the 2005 season they are staging my favorite Sondheim musical, Into The Woods, which starts in previews this week.

Here's the article from Playbill:

The Stratford production of Into the Woods is directed by Peter Hinton. Musical direction is by Berthold Carrière. The set and costume designer is Dany Lyne, the lighting designer is Robert Thomson and the sound designer is Jim Neil. Movement is by Julia Sasso and fight direction is by John Stead.

Into the Woods features Marion Adler as Lucinda, Thom Allison as Cinderella's Prince/Wolf, Kyle Blair as Jack, Peter Donaldson as the Narrator/Mysterious Man, Bruce Dow as the Baker, Barbara Dunn-Prosser as Cinderella's Mother/Giant's Shadow, Barbara Fulton as Jack's Mother, Susan Gilmour as the Witch, Christina Gordon as Cinderella's Stepmother, Stephanie Graham as Snow White, Lawrence Haegert as the Steward, Martha Henry as the Voice of the Giant, Laird Mackintosh as Rapunzel's Prince, Mary Ellen Mahoney as the Baker's Wife, Jodi-Lynn McFadden as Florinda, Dayna Tekatch as Cinderella, Jennifer Waiser as Little Red Ridinghood, Amy Walsh as Rapunzel, Heather E. Wilson as Sleeping Beauty and Barrie Wood as Cinderella's Father/Granny. Understudies are Mark Huculak, Phillip Hughes (also dance and fight captain), Robin Hutton, Chad McFadden and Valerie Stanois.

Opening is set for June 3. For ticket information, call (800) 567-1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

I was also pleased to read that Jennifer Waiser is playing Little Red Ridinghood. I first saw Jennifer Waiser at an M. Rubinoff Productions Cityscapes Cabaret (which I hear will be starting up again soon: Yeah!) and I was really impressed.

She went on to play Little Sally in the Canstage production of Urinetown last summer and was tremendous.

Hello Dolly! is also a part of the line-up. Boy I haven't seen that on stage since I saw my sister in the chorus of an Earl Haig production back in the 1970s -- it's not easy to sing, walk and twirl a parasol at the same time! Should be a great season!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bye Bye HoJos: Now Where Will I Get My Cocktails?

The Howard Johnson's at 46th and Broadway in Times Square is finally being torn down.

The land is being sold for over 100 million fried clams! I can't tell you how many times I've walked past that restaurant and smiled at the "cocktails" sign that encouraged you to come in and have "a decanter of Manhattan, Martini or Daiquiri". Of course I never went in because it looked a bit too seedy, a bit too 1970s Times Square for me. And I guess nobody else did either, not even the Broadway actors. Although this article in Playbill says that the restaurant once employed Lily Tomlin as a Waitress and Gene Hackman as a Maitre'd:

Howard Johnson's, one of the last functioning remnants of the rough-and tumble, Runyonesque Times Square of yesteryear, will be torn down sometime this year, the New York Post reported April 19.

The restaurant and the land it sits on, a prime site on the northwest corner of 46th Street and Broadway, was recently sold for "more than $100 million" by longtime owner Kenneth Rubinstein to Jeff Sutton's Wharton Acquisitions. Sutton plans to flatten the four-story edifice and replace it with a gleaming new retail outlet.

The Howard Johnson's was built in 1955 and is the oldest, continually operated business facing directly on Times Square. Its squat dimensions once fit in nicely with the low-scale, slightly down-at-heel architecture that for a long time characterized the area. But the real estate revival of the late 1990s saw it dwarfed by glass towers and glossy stores like Toys 'R' Us and the Virgin Megastore. Increasingly, the venerable old institution looked like an anachronism.

In the years following World War II, Times Square boasted not one, but three Howard Johnson's eateries (including one directly across the way, on Seventh Avenue). The restaurants -- one of the first to be franchised nationwide -- teemed with locals and tourists alike, and matched the homely qualities of other eating destinations of the era, such as Lindy's. In his recent book "The Devil's Playground," James Traub described how people would line up down the street to sample the trademark fried clams and ice cream.

Hey, how about a show about a bunch of old maitre'ds and waitresses coming back to the Howard Johnson's the night before it gets demolished, a la Follies? You could have songs like "Too Many Happy Hours", "Could I Leave You Without A Tip?" and of course, "I'm Still Here Waiting For My Fried Clams!".

A moment of silence, please.

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Suzanne Somers' The Blonde In The Thunderbird: I'm Intrigued!

There was a huge full-page ad in this weekend's paper for a new one-woman musical coming to Toronto called The Blonde In The Thunderbird, starring Suzanne Somers.

It will be playing at The Princess of Wales Theatre from June 16 to 26 in a pre-Broadway run. I'm guessing that it's before they start renovating for the LOTR musical which will open in The Princess of Wales next spring. Either that or Suzanne will get an unexpected chorus of Hobbits as her "back-up boys". Nasty.

Playbill also ran this article on the production, which runs down the pre-production history:

The Blonde in the Thunderbird at the Brooks Atkinston this summer will be none other than "Three's Company" star Suzanne Somers. The "one woman musical show" will play a limited run July 8-Sept. 3.

In the show, written and directed by Ken and Mitzie Welch, Somers will talk "intimately and honestly about her journey to become the successful and well-known performer and entrepreneur she is today, just as she did in her best-selling autobiography, `Keeping Secrets.'" She will also sing, her repotoire including well-known songs and tunes of her own composition.

The title refers to the role that first brought Somers attention: a mysterious blonde pursued by a young Richard Dreyfuss in the film "American Graffiti." She went on to much greater fame in the sitcom "Three's Company," in which she played the ditzy sexpot Chrissy Snow, one of two women sharing quarters with John Ritter.

Prior to coming to New York, the show will play an engagement at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, June 16-26. Blonde had its world premiere at the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego, CA, in January 2004.

Like I said, I'm intrigued. I was in a bookstore the other day and there was Suzanne on a video screen making some sort of healthy dessert custard from one of her zillion cookbooks, and I thought to myself "you go girl".

She's managed to keep her profile up over the years in a positive, friendly way. When I saw the ad for the show I said "hey, that sounds like fun" -- not, "ick, sounds creepy".

So we'll see. I hope it does better than Farrah's show!

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Blogway Baby Blue Man Group Boycott Booster!

This Blue Man Group vs four Toronto theatrical unions feud is like bad case of genital herpes -- it just won't go away. Not that I'd know anything about genital herpes...it's just what I've read...

Another article in The Globe And Mail on Saturday April 16, 2005 ("Tangled Up In Blue" by James Adams) describes the participation and ticket buying boycotts of various Toronto unions and their affiliates (and U.S. Actors' Equity!) against the Blue Man Group, which is opening in June in our fair-ish city.

I can't say I was that excited about seeing Blue Man Group in the first place. After seeing the ads, watching excerpts on late night talk shows and hearing a friend of mine who saw it in New York describe the show in detail, I had no great desire to see it. Just not my cup of tea, that's all.

Blue Man Group has started its advertising campaign. The unions are lighting their torches. So which way is this thing gonna go? Will the union bring the Blue Meanies to their Blue Knees? Or will Torontonians, so desperate for some real blue theater (tired of just Baby Blue CityTV!), cross the picket-ticket line?

Will our mayor David Miller be able to resist the free opening night tickets and VIP limo service? Stay tuned.

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Maximum Broadway Radio: 24/7 Showtunes

This is a FANTASTIC Broadway site called Maximum Broadway Radio that broadcasts Live 365.com Internet Radio with 24/7 showtunes! It's a BROADWAY RADIO STATION! I've got it running on my laptop now, and forever. Also includes links to a library of songs, theatres across America and a News section, which includes yours truly...

Here's a few facts about how Live 365.com works:

How is this legal?
Maximum Broadway Radio pays royalties via Live365 to both artists and song writers and abides by the regulations contained in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which makes the broadcast legal. Thus, when you listen, you are supporting the artists who create the music.

How can I support the station?
Besides listening, the best way to support the station is to become a Live365 VIP. Packages start at less than $4 a month, and part of that fee goes directly to offset the cost of the broadcast. Plus, as a VIP you can enjoy the station without ads.

You can also support Maximum Broadway Radio by purchasing items through the BUY buttons on the Library pages.

What software do I need in order to listen?
You can listen with just about any music player that can play mp3 streaming audio. The most commonly used players are iTunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player, and RealPlayer. Live365 also has a player of their own that you can download at their download page.

Do you take requests?
Absolutely. You can request any song in the library directly from the Requests section. Feel free to email suggestions for shows or singers you would like to see added to the library.

Why didn't I hear my request played?
All requests must be delayed by at least 1 hour to comply with the DMCA. In addition, the DMCA places limits on how many songs can be played from the same album in a 3 hour period. Thus, it may take several hours for a requested track to play in order for the station to stay in compliance. Just sit back and relax. You'll hear some great tunes while you're waiting.

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Jorge's Place: A Personal Tribute to Musicals

This seems like the ultimate Broadway fan site. Nicely designed too! Here's a quick taste:

I was 24 years old the first time it happened to me and I'm not talking about sex, but about something much more exciting.

Since I remember I always loved musicals. It began with the old Astaire-Rodgers movies that I saw on television at the matinees and then, later, I saw the likes of THE SOUND OF MUSIC and HELLO, DOLLY! at the cinema. But I had to wait until I was 24 to see a musical live on stage.

By that time I was already completely in love with the cast albums and I was always dreaming of musicals, even imagining me in them. The truth is, that kind of music really touched me and had the power to make me feel happy. Living in a country like Portugal, with no musicals at all, wasn't easy for me. When would I be able to see one on stage? But the cast albums filled my days with dreams and kept my love alive.

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Real Men Don't Eat Quiche While Listening to Showtunes...

I read an interesting article in The New York Times Arts and Leisure section last Sunday ("Spamalot Discovers The Straight White Way" by Jesse McKinley, Sunday April 10, 2005) about how Spamalot is bringing a new group of consumers to Broadway -- the "kinds of teenagers and 20-somethings who find jokes about fish, flatulence and the French absolutely sidesplitting and who normally wouldn't be headed to the theater unless dragged by a girlfriend, school trip, or court order."

Mike Nichols, Spamalot's director, is quoted as saying "They are what the movie preview experts call young males under 35...and we have them."

The article talks about how there are finally longer lines for the men's washroom than at the women's washroom. It goes on to say that groups of men without wives or girlfriends are going out for night of theater at the Shubert in New York. And industry officials say they ae impressed by the show's ability to draw men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

First of all, I think anything that gets anyone to go to live theater for any reason is a good thing. So way to go Spamalot!

But this isn't the first time we've heard about how men generally stay away from Broadway shows, especially musicals.

Is this whole "real men don't go to Broadway" thing a recent phenomenon? Wasn't there a time when men went to see shows, be it play or musical? And weren't those shows more than just people covered in blue paint banging on garbage pail lids?

Weren't men just as in awe with Marlon Brando in Streetcar, or just as stirred at the opening of a new Arthur Miller or Eugene O'Neill play, or perhaps just as inspired by Oklahoma! (before they went off to fight), as women were?

But why did these guys in this article seem to take pride in the fact that they have never seen anything on Broadway before this? There have always been a myriad of sexual preferences represented in the theater. Why is it such a problem for men now to go? And why doesn't it stop them from going to the movies or rock concerts, which as we well know also represent that same wide spectrum of sexual preferences! Why are they boycotting Broadway? Did they use to stay away in droves or is this a recent thing?

I mean, for crying out loud they all chant Queen songs at sports games...either "We Are The Champions" of "We Will Rock You".


We Will Rock You

Browsing through the same paper I also noticed an article in the Lifestyle section about what you call it when two straight male friends have dinner together. ("The Man Date", Sunday Styles, Sunday April 10,2005). Apparently there are rules. Meeting for dinner is OK. Brunch is not. A walk is fine -- as long as one guy carries a ball. Wine by the glass is fine. Sharing a bottle is not.

Sharing a bottle of wine? Is this for real? Are you kidding?

How awful to have to be so aware of what's acceptable and not acceptable when planning some time with a friend. Again I'll ask the question -- has it always been like this? Or have we Neanderthal-ized these poor guys into such rigid roles? So guys, loosen up. Call up a male friend and go kill a bottle of wine at a cafe and then walk over to the theater and buy a couple of tickets to The Producers, and learn about how real men bond...

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Theatre Building Chicago Mini-Musicals

The last assignment in the first year of the Theatre Building Chicago Musical Theatre Writers Workshop is to write a 10-minute "mini-musical". The class is divided into seven groups, each with a lyricist, book writer and composer. We are all given a theme: This year's theme was "Saints and Sinners". We are also given access to five fresh-faced Loyola University musical theater students (there are two groups of five students). These students do a mock audition for us so we can size them up and get an idea of their range and talents.

Then all the lyricists get together and come up with a visual phrase, the book writers come up with one line of dialog and the composers come up with a four-note sequence. All of these must be used somewhere in the musical. I guess it's kinda fun for the audience to try and figure what those phrases are and where the notes might pop up. Even when you know the phrases, it's fun to try and see where they might be used. I quickly regretted the lyrical phrase we lyricists came up with -- "a jelly filled balloon" -- but I think I was able to work it into the lyrics somewhat naturally (HA!).

We've spent since mid-February writing and re-writing these mini-musicals with a couple of peeks into the rehearsal process to see how the piece was working. To be honest, it's been a challenge doing this long distance, but thank god for MP3s! I'm doing lyrics with Greg Silva (composer), and Bill Zorn (book writer).

Bill has entitled our musical "The Day Sister-Sister Found Her Husband Getting A Blowjob From A Member of His Flock While the Deacon Confesses His Secret Love". I'm not sure that would play in Peoria, but at least I finally got a chance to write a hymn...

The rule is that each person has the final say over his/her domain. The book writer has final say on the book, lyricist on the lyrics, and composer on the music. Thank goodness that Greg and I fell into a writing relationship pretty easily!

There are six other musicals to choose from (one is on speed dating, which I think is a brilliant idea for a 10 minute musical!). They will all be presented at Theatre Building Chicago on Sunday May 1 and Monday May 2 in the evening and at Loyola on Tuesday May 3. Tickets are $15 -- hey, not bad for seven shows!

Call Theatre Building Chicago box office for more info on how to buy tickets at 773.327.5252.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

REVIEW: Floyd and Clea Under The Western Sky

I was in Chicago this last weekend and was stuck with nothing to see. I couldn't bear to sit through Les Mis again and I couldn't scrounge up a ticket to the Steppenwolf Theatre production of Lost Land with John Malkovich for love or money.

So I went to the Goodman Theatre to see a play in their small space (the Owen stage) called Floyd and Clea Under The Western Sky starring David Cale (who also wrote the book and lyrics) and Faryl Millet, and featuring three country musicians on stage. It was a play with music, not quite a musical.

Given my songwriting start in country music, I was intrigued and for $27.50 I figured I had nothing to lose. It was the story of a washed-up singer-songwriter who is living in his beat up old car, and whose life is changed when he meets a young aspring singer. And of course, he changes her life as well.

He only sings in the show "on stage", as a performer in seedy clubs, and as the show progresses the lyrics to the songs reflect what is going on in the story. David Cale was great -- great voice, great character.

Clea was not quite as strong, both acting-wise and singing-wise, but the latter sort of worked for her character. The show itself was a bit thinly written (some of the emotional moments seemed forced and out of the blue), but there were some nice funny bits well delivered by David Cale, and it had a nice happy ending which suited the overall gestalt of the show. The show succeeded for me because it was just two people and very intimate, and therefore delivered a pleasant evening of theater. The country music was forgettable but fun while you are listening to it, as country music can so often be...

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Airline Bag Lounge

Wow, how cool is this? If you're an airline nut like myself, you'll love this site which features a treasure trove of airline bags. I want that Pan Am Makeup Bag!

via Jim Gilliam, via MetaFilter

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Friday, April 15, 2005

City Youth Players Cabaret a BOFFO SMASH...

Life is a City Youth Players Cabaret, Old Chum!

I had the great pleasure of going to the first annual City Youth Players Fundraising Cabaret held at the Vaughn City Playhouse. This was CYP's first year and they staged two wonderful productions: HONK! and Footloose with a very talented group of under 25 year old performers. My daughter has the distinction of being the youngest member of CYP!

The Cabaret included 21 numbers, from HONK!, Footloose and other solo acts as well as a couple of group performances care of CharActors Travelling Troupe (who perform regularly with Judy and David).

The solo acts also included pop tunes, ballet, jazz and ballroom dancing. I've always been a huge fan of ballroom dancing so it was fun to watch. They also had a silent auction at which a good friend of mine managed to score some Blue Jays/White Sox baseball tickets (thanks Lisa!).

Each act was so joyful, refreshing, energetic and fun that the time flew. Of course, the highlight of the evening was the duet my daughter Myrna sang with John-Michael Scapin. They did an amazing performance of "For Good" from Wicked. Of course, Myrna sang the part of Elphaba, the naughty witch!

And although I've always been a bit of a Rent curmudgeon, I shed a tear during the finale of "Seasons of Love", sung with slide show of the kids over the past season. Pass the tissues please!

Next season they are mounting Annie Warbucks, which I'm not familiar with, and Chicago. Hey, maybe I can make a comeback as Velma Kelly...

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Olestra Lightning!

In all the hubbub of launching the Plane Crazy Web site, I've forgotten that Plane Crazy isn't my first stage show!

About a million years ago, when I worked at Procter & Gamble, a group of us long-haired creative types decided to "Old Spice up" the fall dinner dance with an employee stage show.

What started out as a small talent show quickly blossomed into a full-fledged musical revue called Fiscal Follies (insert groan here). I was one of the writers who took well-known songs and wrote new, P&G relevant lyrics.

I also performed in the show, singing and dancing in the final number (dressed in black tights and a tuxedo jacket -- how incredibly professional!) which was the Michael Jackson song "Man in the Mirror", but rewritten to inspire organizational change.


Man in the Mirror

We even had the president of P&G at the time, Doug Grindstaff, come up on stage to join with me to say "Make That Change!" (insert groan here).

But my two favorite numbers, which I wrote, were "Summer Intern" about summer business school interns sung to the tune of "Summer Lovin'" from Grease, and "Olestra Lightning", about P&G's new fat substitute, sung to the tune of "Greased Lightning", also from Grease (duh).

What made the former special was that I sang it, but what made the latter even more special was that two senior managers, Tim Penner and Mike Kehoe, sang it -- dressed as '50s greasers. Tim Penner has gone on to become the President of P&G Canada (27 years with the company -- Wow!). Mike Kehoe has also gone on to fame and fortune as the leader of the Crest White Strips introduction.

Actually what brought this all back to me was when I saw a big pic of Tim in the business section of the The Globe and Mail last week, costumed up for P&G's Cultural Diversity Day. Yikes...I was soooooooo not right for P&G: I can't believe I lasted four years. And I've been a full-time songwriter ever since I left.

To top it off we videotaped the entire Fiscal Follies and I still have the videotape. I'm prepared to sell the last remaining copy of this incriminating tape to the highest bidder...eBay here I come!

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Plane Crazy a finalist for NYMF!

I just found out that Plane Crazy has been selected out of over 300 applications as one of 36 finalists for the New York Musical Theatre Festival for 2005! Here is an exerpt from the e-mail:

Thank you for submitting Plane Crazy for consideration to the 2005 Next Link Project. As you may be aware, we received over 300 applications for this year's Festival, and the process of winnowing down the options has been exciting, enjoyable, and challenging.

We are pleased to inform you that after careful consideration the Reading Committee has selected your show as one of the 36 finalists for the Next Link Project. All 36 are now being evaluated by the Next Link Jury (comprised of leading theatre professionals Rob Ashford, Thomas Cott, Joanna Gleason, Kevin McCollum, Susan H. Schulman, and Jack Viertel), who will select the final line-up of 18 shows for inclusion in the Festival.

How cool is it that one of my musical theater heroes, Joanna Gleason (another Canadian), will be reviewing Plane Crazy?

Keep your fingers (and stew legs) crossed!

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Mamma Mia!'s Louise Pitre Finds Next Musical Role

This is so weird. I go for a swim, almost every day. It's a great time for me to meditate...I usually write lyrics while I'm in the pool. Today, I was thinking, "Gee, I wonder what Louise Pitre is doing these days..." (nice site BTW).

I was recalling a TV news piece from a few years ago when Louise first hit Broadway and was up for a Tony (Best Actress, Mamma Mia!, 2002). She walked into the famous Colony Records store on Broadway and pointed out her album on the shelf and she talked about finally fulfilling her dreams of Broadway stardom. It was cool to see this Canadian girl being celebrated as the toast of Broadway, and relatively late in her career too.

I'd seen Louise in tons of Toronto shows before she finally became the toast of Broadway, including I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and Mamma Mia! in Toronto.

Well, no sooner than I had said "Doo doo doo doo", I ran across this article in Playbill on Louise Pitre's next gig. She's coming back to Toronto for a month to star in Annie Get Your Gun.

Canadian actress Louise Pitre will trade the tunes of ABBA for those of Irving Berlin in her next stage outing, Annie Get Your Gun.

The award-winning singer-actress, who opened the Broadway company of Mamma Mia!, is set to play Annie Oakley in a month-long run of the Berlin classic this summer in Toronto. The Toronto Star reports that Pitre will play opposite the Frank Butler of country music star Paul Brandt in the mounting of the musical at Toronto's Massey Hall.

Like the acclaimed City Center Encores! series, Annie Get Your Gun will be presented on a stage filled with a 25-piece orchestra. There will be lights and costumes but no additional scenery. Donna Feore will direct and choreograph the musical about the sharp-shootin' Oakley; Rick Fox will conduct the onstage orchestra.

Annie Get Your Gun will begin performances in early August. Dates and ticket information will be announced shortly.

For her performance as Donna in the Canadian, Broadway and touring companies of Mamma Mia!, Louise Pitre received the Dora Mavor Moore Award, the San Francisco Critics Circle Award, the U.S. National Broadway Award as well as a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. Her numerous theatrical credits include roles in Piaf; Les Miserables; The World Goes 'Round; I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change; Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pitre's solo recordings are titled "Songs My Mother Taught Me" and "All of My Life Has Led to This." Pitre was also recently involved in the world-premiere production of the late Cy Coleman's The Great Ostrovsky.

The original production of Annie Get Your Gun -- featuring a score by Irving Berlin and a book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields -- opened at the Imperial Theatre in May 1946, playing 1,147 performances before closing Feb. 12, 1949. Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton starred. The most recent Broadway production -- March 1999 to September 2001 -- cast Bernadette Peters as Annie Oakley. Peters won her second Tony Award for her performance opposite Tom Wopat's Frank Butler. The Berlin score features such classic tunes as "There's No Business Like Show Business," "They Say It's Wonderful," "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" and "I Got Lost in His Arms."

I saw Bernadette Peters in Annie Get Your Gun...twice. Louise has big (well, small in size, but you get my meaning) shoes to fill.

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MetaFilter Discussion Thread

There's a good Plane Crazy discussion thread on MetaFilter. I'm heading over to weigh in on the discussion.

From MetaFilter:

I should probably state for the record that it is likely Ms. Conn is using this 1960's music style ironically, applying it as both a commentary on the era and the world as it was then. I'm sure she'll hear about this post and comment in some way or another (and likely already has).

The problem is, a lot of these "short-cut" aesthetic styles that came out of mass entertainment always do an amazing disservice to the eras they portray, since they cut out a lot of humanity for the ease of using some tried and true "phrases" to lock the "setting" and move on.

Here's the topline on my philosophy: I have two daughters, and I want them to fully achieve their potential. I don't understand a world that would deny them that opportunity, and I don't understand cultures that hold down the potential of 50% of the population.

Why did I choose to base a musical about feminism in the 1960s? Well, in a way, it was an easy choice since the '60s were the decade where the modern feminist movement came to life. As well, the spirit of optimism of the 1960s is important to the hopeful message of Plane Crazy. The 1960s represented an era that embraced change, and had great hope for the future.

So, in fact, I am using the decade as a dramatic device to reinforce the message of the show.

Now, a moment on the message of the show.

Today, the term "Feminist" has become loaded with a lot of negative baggage. Feminism is sometimes typecast as a dour, man-hating, bankrupt philosophy. This makes me very sad.

So I call my philosophy "Fun Feminism".

Fun Feminism embraces the innate female traits of love, joy, and sexuality. Some of us like men. Some of us want to have children. Most of us like sex...but don't tell us what we do or don't want, don't tell us how to think or how to act. If I want to be a Mommy...that's cool. If I want to be a corporate ladder climber...that's cool. If I want to be a musical theater writer...that's cool too (but who would want to do anything that silly!)

Fun Feminism is about choosing who you want to be and what you want to do, and not having your limits set by anyone else -- or by society.

It's no coincidence that by the end of Plane Crazy, one character becomes a mommy, one character becomes a feminist organizer, and one character decides to go and beat the ad men at their own game.

Finally, while I appreciate the seriousness of these issues (which are important to me), I also want to be entertained when I go to the theater.

I'm a huge fan of Tom Lehrer who always managed to wonderfully combine the serious with the silly. I've been heavily influenced by Tom Lehrer, and I believe that you can teach people more when you entertain them, when you engage them, when you make them laugh and when you get them singing!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Simba and Timon Together again!

Maybe I'll finally get to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on stage together...

I've always regretted that I wasn't able to scrape together the clams to see this dynamic duo in The Producers, during their original run or during their very expensive comeback run.

Now I've read in this article in Playbill that the Broadway revival of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, starring the golden duo of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, will begin previews on October 4 at the Brooks Atkinson. Although Nathan will play Oscar and Mathew will play Felix, they plan to switch roles occasionally, which is pretty kewl.

The only time I've enjoyed the two of them performing together was in The Lion King movie, with Nathan voicing Timon and Matthew voicing the grown Simba. (And yes, I am on a first-name basis with both of them...)

Definitive Musical Theatre Writer's Guide by David Spencer in stores July 25

David Spencer wrote the lyrics to the 1987 musical version of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz with Alan Menken...how's that for weird synchronicity? Hang onto your hats folks: It's Duddy Kravitz week at Blogway Baby!

From Broadwayworld.com:

David Spencer's The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide, a comprehensive reference book like none ever published before, about creating musical theatre, will be released by Heinemann Publishing on July 25, 2005.

The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide is a wholly unique "guide-to-the-game" filled with never-before-published information ranging from indispensable principles of art and craft to practical considerations of politics and presentation. From the pen of award-winning composer, lyricist, librettist and teacher David Spencer, The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide offers a bracing refresher for industry veterans, an invaluable sourcebook for aspiring musical dramatists, and a lively and accessible look at the form for all musical theatre enthusiasts.

Tony Award-winning composer-lyricists Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who shepherded Avenue Q from the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop (where they first encountered Spencer as teacher and colleague) to staged readings to Broadway, share their journey and endorsement of Spencer's trade techniques in the foreword.

Spencer's comprehensive guide navigates the complex landscape of developing a musical from the page to the stage, with invaluable, time saving and tried-and-true techniques that can save the beginner years of shooting blindly; and that can likewise rescue the struggling veteran from career-stalling traps, bad habits and false assumptions. Among the topics included in The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide are:

1. What it takes to get your name and project to interested and effective producers.
2. The ten (open) "secrets" of successful musical book construction.
3. The overt and hidden elements of successful musical theatre songwriting.
4. The keys to healthy, effective and fruitful collaboration.
5. Writing musicals for young audiences.
6. Choosing the right director for your project.
7. Assessing and developing relationships with agents, directors and producers.
8. Proper play script formatting.
9. Conceiving, producing and presenting the most effective demo recording of a new score.

DAVID SPENCER is currently writing the music and lyrics for The Fabulist, a 2002 Richard Rodgers Development Award-winning musical for which he also received a 2000 Kleban Lyrics Award and two Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation grants. He has been lyricist-librettist for two musicals composed by Alan Menken: Weird Romance (WPA, 1992; York Theatre Mufti, 2004) and, upcoming, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Spencer made his professional debut in 1984 with the English adaptation of La Boheme at The Public Theatre and has since written music and lyrics for Theatreworks/USA's award winning TYA versions of The Phantom of the Opera (cast recording, 1996 world premiere and seven national tours), and 1999's Les Miserables. Books include the original Alien Nation tie-in novel Passing Fancy (Pocket, 1994) and the published libretto of Weird Romance (Samuel French, 1993). Spencer is on faculty at the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and is the Webmaster and principal NY drama critic of the theatrical website Aisle Say (www.aislesay.com). Contact David at ScriptConsult@aol.com for script consultation services, readings, public appearances or lectures.

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Why Do We Blog?

On the Q107 morning show with John Derringer and Maureen Holloway this morning, they began a discussion string with the fact that Britney Spears has announced that she's pregnant. Much blather followed, spattered with the words "skank" and "bloated". Whatever. Then, Maureen mentioned that the news of Britney's pregnancy was broken on Britney Spears' own blog. So then my ears pricked up.

Maureen then began talking about other celebrities who have blogs, such as Rosie O'Donnell (who appeared on Blogway Baby a couple of weeks ago), and Dave Barry. And then Maureen said:

"Why do they feel the need to communicate with people in this manner...I have no desire to have a blog or a Web site..."

Ouch. MAUREEN! You're breaking my heart!

First of all...if you could see how many hits Blogway Baby gets from the search term "Maureen Holloway" from a single article I posted in February (Blogway Baby | What's With the Big Glasses) you'd realize that YOU SHOULD HAVE A BLOG.

Come on Maureen: Jump in, the water's fine.

Meanwhile, MSN Spaces is ON FIRE...here's the next big aggregated community. Can dating be far behind? Apparently, 4.5 million people have signed up for the free feature in less than five months. There's an article in Ad Age today (sorry: Requires registration) that reviews the implications behind the fact that Volvo has taken a major sponsorship deal with MSN Spaces. Here is the article if you don't feel like signing up:

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Microsoft Corp. has signed Volvo Cars of North America as the sponsor of its recently launched blogging tool for the masses, MSN Spaces, according to the company. More than a million people a month signed up for the new blog-creating tool.

Pushed live as a Beta test in December, the MSN Spaces concept, which provides anyone with an easy way to start a personal Web log, has proven wildly popular. MSN said 4.5 million people -- or more than a million a month since testing began -- signed up to use the free feature.

WEB LOGS
MSN Spaces are Web pages with which users can quickly create a Web log, or blog, of personal writings, photographs, lists of favorite music and other personal tidbits. Users can choose to make their blogs available to the public or to keep them private -- accessible only to people they designate.

The new online venue of user-created content and advertising is one of several MSN has introduced recently as part of its reinvigorated branded-entertainment efforts.

"As the Web becomes more personal, what is the right way for the advertiser to integrate itself into an increasingly personal experience?" asked Gayle Troberman, MSN's director of branded entertainment and experiences team. "Once a user chooses to go to a branded experience -- the advertiser is not just creating an impression, they are creating an advocate."

VOLVO ADS
Volvo is advertising on the home page of Spaces and through text links with graphics at the top of users' personal spaces.

MSN has also introduced two new ad products through MSN Messenger, Microsoft's proprietary instant-messaging system. One, called theme packs, offers advertiser-branded characters, backgrounds, photos and audio messages that users can incorporate into their instant messaging. Advertisers include Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite brand and Adidas.

For example, a user can choose the Sprite-obsessed animated spokescharacter Miles Thirst from Sprite's Web site to greet friends on Messenger. The Adidas theme packs, available in eight countries, will promote the new Adidas 1 shoe. Adidas ads will also be integrated into customers' MSN Messenger game plays.

VIDEO-MESSAGING ADS
Messenger is also debuting an audio-video instant-messaging service for which advertising is available. This product, for users who have a PC camera, will present an ad in the seven to 10 seconds it takes for one Messenger user to reach another. "Instead of an hour glass, we show a full-motion video ad," Ms. Troberman said. No advertisers have signed on to the audio Messenger service yet.

Some 155 million users log on to MSN Messenger service each month, according to the company. Messenger and Spaces appeal to an audience of 25- to 39-year-olds who are more Internet-savvy and more affluent than the norm, Ms. Troberman said.

I don't know about banner ads creating "advocates", but it's always exciting when mainline advertisers start adopting new media channels.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

BROADWAY TICKETS: Sweet Charity

The Blogway Baby ticket engine is powered by Broadway.com, so you can order your tickets from confidence with the largest ticket reseller in the world.

Today we are featuring Sweet Charity. Click here to get tickets.

From the Broadway.com Ticketing Center:

With a book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, Sweet Charity is a funny, poignant and tender look at the misadventures of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance-hall hostess who always gives her heart -- and her earnings -- to the wrong man.

Headlining this snazzy new production as Charity is Christina Applegate, best known for her hilarious portrayal of Kelly Bundy on ten seasons of the hit Fox series Married...with Children and her Emmy-winning turn on the hit series Friends. Denis O'Hare, who won a Tony Award for the Broadway hit play Take Me Out, will co-star as the lovelorn man who falls for Charity after finding himself trapped with her in a broken-down elevator.

The original Broadway production of Sweet Charity, which was staged by Bob Fosse and starred Gwen Verdon, opened at Broadway's Palace Theatre on January 29, 1966. Sweet Charity subsequently opened at London's Prince of Wales Theatre on October 11, 1967. The film version, with Shirley MacLaine in the title role, premiered in 1969 and received three Academy Award nominations. On April 27, 1986, the first Broadway revival of Sweet Charity opened at the Minskoff Theatre starring Debbie Allen, going on to receive four Tony Awards, including Best Revival.

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BlogHer Conference: Santa Clara July 30th, 2005

Well, now I know exactly where I'm going to be July 30th...I'll be in Santa Clara at the BlogHer Conference. WHAT A GREAT IDEA...a conference on female bloggers. I love it.

As Elisa C of 42nd Street Moon Blog and Worker Bees Blog says:

As you might or might not know, I have been consumed the last few weeks with first proposing, then actually planning to launch a new organization and its first conference.

The organization is called BlogHer. The BlogHer Conference '05 has been set for July 30th, 2005 at the Tech Mart in Santa Clara, CA.

And I think it's going to kick ass!

We've got our site and registration up and running as of 2PM this afternoon, so please check out: http://www.blogher.org

In true bloggy fashion we have started blog threads on the agenda and specific sessions we're planning...and we're looking for feedback. We don't plan to finalize the agenda until May 1st to give us time to incorporate the feedback we get. So, comment away.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

DUDDY: The Musical

I get a great weekly newsletter from the ACLCL that has all sorts of great tidbits on Canadian musical theater.

In this week's issue they talk about DUDDY, a musical based on Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which was a book (1959), then the movie (1974) that launched the career of Richard Dreyfuss, and then the Canadian musical in 1984. Or, was it the off-Broadway musical by Alan Menken in 1987? Or is it this one from 1997 with lyrics by Edward Gallardo? Or is it this one, also from 1997, with lyrics by Eyal Bitton? How many musical versions of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz are there?!?

From the ACLCL Newsletter:

DUDDY was a musical based on the book and the movie The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. April 7, 2005 marked the 21st anniversary of the opening night of DUDDY at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton in 1984. This past Monday night, many of the cast members had a wonderful reunion party at Grano's Ristorante on Yonge St. in Toronto. And a wonderful time was had by all.

DUDDY was a unique experience mostly because the cast became a family on the first day of rehearsal as we went around the room introducing each and every member of the company. And stellar company it was, starting with writer Mordecai Richler, and working through the cast to David Gale who introduced himself as playing "3rd Jew from the left". They came from all across Canada plus a few from New York. The family survived the loss of its original director, a de-moralizing re-rehearsal period, cancellations of the promised major tour, and an early closing in Ottawa. We bonded on that first day and the love and friendship continues.

Many attended the reunion party and those who couldn't, sent greetings or phoned because they couldn't make it in person. No one forgot. Our special surprise was the presence of Lonny Price, the star of the show (and the heart and soul of it too), who took the time to fly up from New York for the event.

Sadly we have lost some of our family*, but I would like to remember everyone here, because it's important to remember our history. This seemed an appropriate place since everyone on this e-list cares about musical theatre. La Chaim!

The company/family of DUDDY included: Wendy Abbott, B. J. (Judy) Armstrong, Ted Beniades, Jim Betts, Sal Bienstock, Marshall Borden, Jay Brazeau, Howard Cable, Faye Cohen, Ed Connell, Louise Currie, Diane Fabian, Jan Filips, Donald Finlayson, Dom Fiore, Robert Fox*, David Gale, Sam Gesser, Marcy Anne Goldman & Benjy Gutkin, Rosanne Hopkins, Don Horsburgh, Scott A. Hurst, Howard Jerome, Reid Jones*, Judith Lee, Jerry Lieber, Brian Macdonald, Sam Malkin, Larry Mannell, J. Gordon Masten, Clarice McCord, Suzanne Mess, Peter Messaline, Jack Northmore*, Marlane O'Brien, Ted Pearson*, Marshall Perlmuter*, Lonny Price, Max Reimer, Nicholas Rice, Mordecai Richler*, Jason Ross, Stephen Ross, Joey Shulman, Philip Silver, Anna Starnino, Mike Stoller, Vinetta Strombergs, Anne Wootten and "Broadway Joe" Shoctor*.

DUDDY -- The great Canadian musical experience that never made it to Broadway. But those who went through the experience just refuse to forget what a wonderful time it was. May you all have the good fortune of being a part of something so special.

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BROADWAY TICKETS: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The Blogway Baby ticket engine is powered by Broadway.com, so you can order your tickets from confidence with the largest ticket reseller in the world.

Today we are featuring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Click here to get tickets.

From the Broadway.com Ticketing Center:

After delighting scores of West End audiences, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the most fantasmagorical stage musical in the history of everything!) makes its American premiere at Broadway's Hilton Theatre, beginning previews on Sunday, March 27, 2005 and opening on Thursday, April 28, 2005.
The enthralling story of the adventures of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the magical car, as it sails the seas and flies through the air will bring back a host of memories for fans of the beloved 1968 film. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty's eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts, and his enchanting children, Jemima and Jeremy, join the truly scrumptious Truly Scrumptious and batty Grandpa Potts to outwit the dastardly Baron and Baroness in this non-stop adventure for all ages.

Based on the film and Ian Fleming's timeless original story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang features a beloved score, including memorable classics such as "Truly Scrumptious", "Toot Sweets", "Hushabye Mountain" and the Oscar-nominated title song "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

BUY TICKETS NOW: City Youth Players Cabaret

OK, this is a plug for a performance featuring my oldest daughter. She is appearing in the City Youth Players 1st Annual Fundraising Cabaret this Wednesday, April 13, 2005.

The fundraiser is described as:

A wonderful evening of entertainment at the City Playhouse Theatre featuring a silent auction and great performances from the talented cast members of Honk! and Footloose. One night only: Wednesday, April 13, 2005.

Myrna is doing a duet from Wicked. It will be fantastic!

Now, I know that there are lots of theater-loving Blogway Baby fans out there...and some of you live in Toronto. This is a great organization that is keeping musical theatre alive for our children: Please buy a ticket and come out for a great eveneing of entertainment, while contributing to a good cause. Mention that you heard about the fundraiser from Blogway Baby, and you will get a free Plane Crazy t-shirt.

Tickets are only $20, and can be ordered at 905.882.7469.

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My Favorite Plane Crazy Post


Well, there's been a flurry of Plane Crazy activity since we launched the site. This is my favorite post. Here's a priceless extract:

Many reading this blog are old enough to remember When Stews Were Sexy and the World Was Sexist, which is the subtitle of an off-Broadway play about life as a stewardess in the 1960s.

Visit the show's brand new website and let the opening song play for a while. Then check out the show synopsis.

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Thanks Boing Boing!

A great big thank you to Cory Doctorow and Boing Boing who blogged the launch of the Plane Crazy Web site. Thanks guys: Much appreciated.

Cory had some really nice things to say about the workshop he attended last year:

A year ago, I got to see the musical performed at a workshop at Toronto's Poor Alex Theatre and it was fantastic: funny, catchy, engrossing, with a really authentic sixties-kitsch feel: like Hair at 30,000 feet, with seasonings of Jesus Christ, Superstar and Germaine Greer.

I've been a Boing Boing reader since Cory started working on it in 2000, and it's been amazing to see it grow in reach and popularity. I've also known Cory since Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was just a glimmer in his eye, and I listened to my husband describe this cool story that Cory was writing as they took the train to a client in Kingston, ON. Cory is a great example of how to succeed in this brutal creative business, and his focus, discipline, and work ethic is something to which all creators should aspire.

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

BROADWAY TICKETS: Wicked

A lot of people don't realize that they can buy their Broadway tickets through Blogway Baby. Hallelujah! The Blogway Baby ticket engine is powered by Broadway.com, so you can order your tickets from confidence with the largest ticket reseller in the world.

Today we are featuring Wicked. Click here to get tickets.

From the Broadway.com Ticketing Center:

Long before Dorothy drops in, two girls meet in the land of Oz. One, born with emerald-green skin, is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. Wicked tells the story of their remarkable odyssey and how these two unlikely friends grew to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.

This fantasy-filled musical was the winner of three 2004 Tony Awards including awards for Best Costume Design and Best Scenic Design. From real flying monkeys to a trip to the Emerald City and a soaring, modern score by Stephen Schwartz, Wicked is a true spectacle for the eyes and ears.

The twists and turns in Gregory Maguire's incredibly imaginative back-story to The Wizard of Oz makes audiences literally gasp with delight. But not only that, Wicked is a truly heartfelt story of friendship and love. As Richard Zoglin of Time Magazine put it, "If every musical had a brain, a heart and the courage of Wicked, Broadway really would be a magical place!"

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Flora the Red Menace: My Daughter Fawns Over Flora!

Here's a special musical that is generally referred to as a flop, but which has been unfairly maligned (IMHO).

I think I've mentioned before that my youngest daughter Trinity, who is eight, just loves the Kander and Ebb musical Flora The Red Menace.

I guess I was a bit surprised since the subject matter is something she doesn't encounter much at school and the CD I have is an off-Broadway restaging from 1987 with just Kander's piano accompaniment. Not a lot of bells and whistles.

She was taken with Kander's famous vampy musical style and Ebb's engaging lyrics. In particular, she really enjoyed the song "Sign Here" which is sung by the character Harry who is trying to get Flora to join the Communist Party (free milk for kids, don't make cannon fodder of our youth, that type of stuff) and sings the refrain "It's clear, it's clear you're a communist, sign here!"

Now I know I'm not the first person to tout musical theater as a tool for teaching kids. But this is a perfect example. Musical theater can take on a complex subject and deliver it in a funny, entertaining way, giving kids the emotional and informational highlights that otherwise might be dry reading for them. It was my daughter who came to me after listening to the CD about twenty times (as kids do) and said "Mommy, what's communism?" We had a great discussion about communism, history, and the Depression that I'm sure would not have occurred without Flora as a catalyst.

This also reinforces the fact that kids don't need to be spoon fed music in their education. They are more than receptive to all kinds of music at an early age. They may not "get" everything right away but hey, isn't that part of a parent's job?

The only downside is that Trinity walks through the halls of her most definitely capitalist-oriented private school singing at the top of her voice "You're a Communist, Sign Here!" Kids will be kids...

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Plane Crazy Web site Officially Launched

In the words of Burton Cummings, "Planes Are Goin' Up....Planes Are Goin' Down"...with lots of traffic to the new Plane Crazy Web site!

Now Plane Crazy has a Web site, and it looks FANTASTIC. We have developed the Web site to support an upcoming Actor's Equity Showcase production this summer.

The site includes samples from the whole score, and some killer Flash graphics. It was designed by Michael Karst with Flash by Nathan Fenwick. It was built and is maintained by Rich Williams.

It's colorful, fun, and tuneful -- with lots of interesting info about the show. And a great B&W photo of me too!

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Theatre Blog talks about Broadway the Golden Age

I've stumbled across a blog called Theatre Blog (via Technorati tag: ) that is a bookmarking-style site on breaking theater stories.

There's one particularly interesting post on Broadway: The Golden Age, By The Legends Who Were There, a fantastic movie by Rick McKay. Theatre Blog doesn't use permalinks, and the article is behind an ass-y registration barrier at The Age, but I've got a copy of this movie and it's AMAZING...

The film is the winner of 15 Film Festival Awards, and it is regarded as the most important, ambitious, and comprehensive film ever made about America's most celebrated indigenous art form. Rick McKay filmed over 100 of the greatest stars ever to work on Broadway or in Hollywood. Rick learned that great films can be restored, fine literature can be kept in print -- but historic Broadway performances of the past are the most endangered. They leave only memories that, while some are vivid, are more difficult to preserve. In their own words, and not a moment too soon -- Broadway: The Golden Age tells the stories of our theatrical legends. How they came to New York, and how they created this legendary century in American theater. This is the largest cast of legends ever in one film, and they include:

Edie Adams
Bea Arthur
Elizabeth Ashley
Alec Baldwin
Kaye Ballard
Betsy Blair
Tom Bosley
Marlon Brando
Carol Burnett
Kitty Carlisle Hart
Carol Channing
Betty Comden
Barbara Cook
Carole Cook
Hume Cronyn
Arlene Dahl
Charles Durning
Fred Ebb
Nanette Fabray
Cy Feuer
Betty Garrett
Ben Gazzara
Robert Goulet
Farley Granger
Adolph Green
Tammy Grimes
Uta Hagen
Julie Harris
Rosemary Harris
June Havoc
Jerry Herman
Mimi Hines
Al Hirschfeld
Celeste Holm
Sally Ann Howes
Kim Hunter
Jeremy Irons
Anne Jackson
Derek Jacobi
Lainie Kazan
John Kenley
Joan Kobin
Miles Kreuger
Martin Landau
Frank Langella
Angela Lansbury
Arthur Laurents
Carol Lawrence
Michele Lee
Hal Linden
Shirley MacLaine
Karl Malden
Rick McKay
Donna McKechnie
Ann Miller
Liliane Montevecchi
Patricia Morison
Robert Morse
James Naughton
Patricia Neal
Phyllis Newman
Nicholas Brothers (Harold and Fayard)
Jerry Orbach
Janis Paige
Don Pippin
Jane Powell
Hal Prince
John Raitt
Rex Reed
Elliott Reid
Charles Nelson Reilly
Diana Rigg
Chita Rivera
Tony Roberts
Mary Rodgers
Gena Rowlands
Eva Marie Saint
Marian Seldes
Vincent Sherman
Stephen Sondheim
Maureen Stapleton
Kim Stanley
Elaine Stritch
Laurette Taylor
Tommy Tune
Leslie Uggams
Betsy von Furstenberg
Eli Wallach
Fay Wray
Gretchen Wyler

From the article quoted by Theatre Blog:

There's been countless films made about Broadway in the '30s, '40s and '50s -- the thrill of the spotlights, the greasepaint, the roar of the crowds, all of that. But as obvious an idea for a film as it may seem, a documentary has never been made about Broadway. Until now.

US Broadway lover and filmmaker Rick McKay has spent six years interviewing more than 140 Broadway stars, ranging from Carol Channing to Shirley Maclaine, Farley Granger and Uta Hagen. Some of them have since died, making the final product, Broadway: The Golden Age, By The Legends Who Were There, all the more important.

It started as a modestly short program for television, but McKay found it hard to sell the idea. “When I brought it to PBS, they said, 'No one's interested in old people; you've got to put young people in the cast'," he explains.

"About two days later, Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse's wife, died, and her last interview was in my film. And I thought, 'It's becoming a responsibility for me to do these interviews, because these people who are older will never get a chance to tell their story again'. I was in the right place right time."

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Please don't tell my mother I am in advertising...I prefer her to think I play the piano in a whorehouse!

Back in my impressionable youth I watched a lot of TV. A lot. I used to fake illness and spend the day at home watching TV. That's where I developed my passion for old movies, and movie musicals (Fred and Ginger to be specific). I did all my homework in front of the television (math was particularly easy to do with the boob tube on). I would memorize the TV Guide listings so my sisters only had to ask what was on and I would give them the complete line up for the evening. In addition to my love of old movies I developed of love of advertising. And back in the good old days of the late sixties and seventies they had lots of great jingles that I still carry around in my brain. Who can sing the jingle from Mystery Date board game -- "Open the door to your mystery date!" Love the internal rhyme, man!

Yeah, yeah, I've read the Ogilvy bible and I did hard time in Procter & Gamble's marketing division for advertisng deliquents. Even ran an advertising agency (ConnAd of course!) with my hubbie. Of course, it's no coincidence that my husband loves advertising and has devoted his career to it in some form or another. But it was watching every episode of Bewitched that really helped develop my truly deep understanding of the craft of advertising, and the hard, hard work involved.

About that the old joke -- for some reason advertising is generally viewed as morally despicable and dare I say, evil. Don't get me wrong: It drives me nuts with its pandering, inane, irrevelant and irritating messages. But on the othe hand I love advertising when it is great. And I love watching advertising executives and creatives portrayed on the screen and stage, as the industry is ususally given a sexy (and lovably silly) sheen in those movies and TV shows. (World Wide Widget anyone?)

So the Golden Age of Advertising (all those wonderfully goofy sexist campaigns!) was something I just had to include in Plane Crazy, especially since advertising has a spotty history in its portrayal of women. And it was an "ad woman", Mary Wells, who was the brains behind the Braniff Airlines sexy and Pucci-esque repositioning. But when I poke fun at the industry and the advertising execs it is done with love, comes from my experience, and hopefully rings true.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Clinton: The Musical

Maybe one day someone will write an original musical or a revue about Clinton's presidency. Or perhaps they will just take existing songs and work his story around them.

Well I just found the perfect song (title).

I've been reading a new book called The Rise And Fall Of The Broadway Musical (by Mark N. Grant), given to me by my fabulous husband. I've just started it and the author is still discussing the First Age of Musicals, and in particular the composer Victor Herbert, who wrote "March of the Toys" (from Babes In Toyland), "Gypsy Love Song", and "Kiss Me Again". Well apparently he had another well-remembered song entitled "A Woman Is Only A Woman, But A Good Cigar Is A Smoke".

I kid you not!

These pre-1920 compositions include many hair-raisingly politically incorrect titles that make me cringe.

However, I only feel qualified to report on the ones that are degrading to women, being a woman myself. I'll leave you to read the book to discover the others...

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The Drowsy Chaperone in a pre-Broadway engagement

According to this article in Playbill, The Drowsy Chaperone is headed for LA!

I remember when I saw The Drowsy Chaperone at Theatre Passe Muraille in 1999 as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. I've only seen it once, but I still remember how much I loved the book and the clever story-telling device. Specifically, the narrator puts on an old record and then the action unfolds, representing what's on the record. This created many comical situations where he put on the wrong record and a whole new bunch of characters came onto the stage before he realized his mistake.

I don't remember being especially impressed by the songs, but I only saw it once and that was a while ago so I'd be willing to listen again. After all, they must have made some changes before the full production at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre. I also heard it had a successful showcase last fall at NAMT's producer festival, and I'm guessing that's probably how it got picked up for L.A.

Break a leg Drowsy!

From Playbill:

The Drowsy Chaperone (Nov. 8-Dec. 24): The American debut of this musical with music by Greg Morrison, lyrics by Lisa Lambert and a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar is being billed as a "pre-Broadway engagement." The musical-within-a-musical finds the biggest fan of musical theatre presenting his favorite 1928 Gable and Stein show featuring a plotline that finds a Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to marry. Her scheming producer enlists a chaperone, a dizzy chorine, the Latin lover and a couple of gangsters to keep her from the debonair groom.

The work played to sold out crowds at the 1999 Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival then transferred to a full production at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Ms-tery of Plane Crazy

I grew up in a feminist household. Although my father was Hungarian and born in 1926, he always regarded my two twin sisters and I as fully capable of doing anything and being anything we wanted (as long as it made lots of money!). He was happy when I got married, but secretly I think he wanted me to be a driven, single, business tycoon who would one day grace the cover of Fortune magazine.

At university I joined the women's groups on campus, started reading Ms. Magazine, stopped wearing a bra (actually, I really didn't need one all that much...) and generally swore off men forever.

However, I found the groups a tad boring, switched back to Mad Magazine, joined Queen's Musical Theatre, and met my future husband who was also in the Queen's Commerce program. So I got my MRS degree after all...

But I still firmly believe that a woman should have a choice to do whatever she wants -- whether that is to have a career outside the home, or to have kids and stay home, or to do some combination of the two. Yes I know we've come a long way baby, but we still have a long way to go (just check out the beer ads on TV!), especially around the globe. That is one of the reasons I wrote Plane Crazy -- to remind us, in a fun and entertaining way -- about the issues that women have faced and continue to face today. Well...also to win a Tony and meet Hugh Jackman, but that's a different story.

So endeth the lesson, at least for today.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

More Nudie Musical Goodness...

Continuing on my past posts on Oh! Calcutta!, Playboy, the Musical, and my The Ultimate Entertainment Niche and The Ultimate Entertainment Niche Part II, here's another classic that I almost forgot: Let My People Come.

This musical was (of course) produced in 1976, and it was classified as a 'sexual musical' and it featured two or three songs that were specifically gay or lesbian lyrically, which was reasonably innovative at the time.

It ran from June 14, 1976 to October 2, 1976 (ah, the Bicentennial...those were fun days...) for 128 performances, totally in preview. It never officially opened, but they did manage to cancel three announced opening dates.

The graphics are awesome. I especially love this ad for the LP. Unfortunately, the Original Cast Album no longer seems to be available, but check out some of the song titles. What were our parents thinking, and why did they seem to be having so much fun?

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Plane Crazy: In the Beginning...

As we are a couple of days from launching the official Plane Crazy Web site, I have taken a few moments to sit back and say "you've come a long way baby".

So much work and energy has gone into this musical thus far (and so much more is ahead, I know, I know) I have to stop and think -- where did it all begin? Can I pinpoint the genesis of Plane Crazy, the actual moment of conception?

When did that seed first drop into the fertile ground of my young, impressionable brain, to grow and grow over the years, nurtured by my experiences, dreams, and fantasies? Let us cast our minds back to the 1960s.

My Grandmother (on my Dad's side) was Hungarian, so we would travel to Europe for vacations and drop in on my Grandmother who lived in Budapest. We always flew into Frankfurt or Zurich and we almost always took Luftansa. As a child of five I was enthralled with the whole airplane experience and especially the compartmentalized food on those long flights, those lovely little trollies that would bring wonderful snacks and exotic soft drinks. I remember it was all so grand.

But most of all I remember the napkins.

With our drinks (hard or soft) we would get napkins that had little cartoons on them. Except these were naughty little drawings of balloon-breasted women in short tight dresses (inevitably bending over to pick up something ), with some lewd joke or pun captioned underneath. I don't think I really understood the jokes, but I was fascinated by these napkins (remember, I was five). I hung on to a few of them for a while but over time I have lost them. But at that moment, at 30,000 feet, as I sat drinking my Orangina and contemplating those funny drawings, an idea was born: Stews...sexy...sexist...funny...airplanes...that was to grow one day into Plane Crazy!

To be continued tomorrow...

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Why Don't They Sing Anymore?

Just got back from seeing Robots, the DreamWorks animated movie about an all-robot world.

Nice movie, lots of funny bits, and Robin Williams was his usual manic self as Fender. But it was missing something. It was a typical movie with background music, but no singing.

I really miss the animated musicals!

I know I'm dating myself with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and The Lion King, but I loved those films.

Robots had a ton of great moments that would have "sung" nicely. Maybe I'm just a musical nut, but I think musicalizing animated features helps you feel real emotion for these animated characters that don't look (or sound) real. Yes, I know that there are lots of examples where animation succeeds with just great background music without being a musical (case in point: Toy Story and Toy Story 2, but Randy Newman really nailed the emotional moments...) Even then, a teensy weensy part of me wishes that Woody would break out into song.

To tell you the truth, I find most of the recent animated films a bit forgettable without the songs. Shrek and Shrek 2 gave us a bit of it at the end (the donkey singing I'm a Believer or Puss In Boots sing La Vie Da Loca), but I want more! The last movie I saw was SpongeBob SquarePants (I know, I have to get out more) and Patrick and SpongeBob did sing a couple of times as part of the story, and those are the scenes the kids still talk about. Well, that, and "...who is David Hasselhoff?"

Is it too much to ask for a singing Crayfish telling me what he wants in life?

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707 Lighting Fixture Complete...

From BoingBoing:

Todd Lappin has finished installing his 707 jet panel in his house. It looks incredible! Here's a link to his great Flickr site.

My 707 has come a long way since I first found it at an aircraft scrapyard in Tucson. Here's a daylight view, shortly after I stripped off the paint. The illumination comes from rope lights mounted on the structurally-cool back side. (Next time you rest your head against a window-seat wall to snooze, this is basically what lies underneath.)

I did an earlier post on this fixture in the middle of March. I love it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's a great example of modernist architecture...both the plane and the resultant fixture. But mostly, it feeds into my plane fetish and obsession with the Jet Age, amply demonstrated by my musical Plane Crazy, and my Pucci stewardess uniform collection.

Boy, Things Really Escalated Fast, Didn't They?

Well, when there is an official Web site to promote the boycott of your show, you know you've pissed someone off.

Actors' Equity is spearheading a boycott launch of the Blue Man Group production, set to open in Toronto this spring.

ACTRA is also encouraging its members to join Canadian Actors' Equity Association, The Toronto Musicians' Association and IATSE at the launch of their boycott campaign of the non-union production Blue Man Group.

Show your support of the boycott. Come to the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts on Tues. April 5 at 1:00 p.m. 27 Front St. East.

And if you go into the Web site you can read letters of support from other union groups. I mean even the ETT (Elementary Teachers of Toronto) are getting into the act and everyone knows that bunch is one tough bunch of hombres!

Stay tuned, this isn't over yet...

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Hollywood to Broadway, Part IV

Here's another one that I omitted...Billy Elliot, the incredible movie, has opened on the West End. It's directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Lee Hall and Elton John.

Sir Elton, who has written the songs for the musical, said he was proud and excited to be working on the show and added: "I was profoundly moved when I first saw the film. I cried my eyes out when Billy achieved his dreams with the full support of his family and friends."

For my part, I'll never forget the scene of incredible poverty where, after their mother had died, the family is forced to chop up the mother's piano for firewood. I still shudder when I think of it.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

I've Gotta Crowe!

Gosh, I enjoyed that April Fool's post, and I can't wait for next year. Hopefully it will be true...

When I read this article on Playbill, I thought it was an April Fool's joke as well.

Apparently, Russell Crowe is considering the lead role in the movie version of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.

Squeeze me? Baking powder? Hey, I mean he sings in a rock band, so why can't he do a lead in a Sondheim role? And the actress they are considering for Mrs. Lovett is Emma Thompson whose musical theater resume reads, and I quote, "...reportedly acted in some musicals while at Cambridge University". Was Patti Lupone too obvious a choice?

Hello! Earth to Hollywood!

I have the DVD of the magnificent production of Sweeney Todd starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn that was filmed in Los Angeles.

George Hearn is spectacular. But the original Sweeney was a Canadian, Len Cariou.

And another Canadian, Robert Goulet, is replacing Daniel Davis in La Cage Aux Folles. Apparently, Daniel Davis was fired for obnoxious offset behavior. I can't even begin to imagine what that was...Yikes. And guess what? La Cage originally starred George Hearn when it opened on Broadway. It's the circle of live theater!

Uh oh, have I become a hopeless theater snob?

From Playbill:

Russell Crowe is in the running to star in the planned movie version of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

The report says that Crowe is "mulling over" whether or not to accept the role. The movie is being made by Sam Mendes' Scamp Films, although Mendes has not confirmed that he will direct it. As for the other main casting, there are reportedly several names in consideration for the role of Mrs. Lovett. Emma Thompson, Imelda Staunton and Toni Collette are all cited by The Mail as being "in the mix".

Staunton has built a reputation for musical theatre, having appeared in the Donmar Warehouse's Divas cabaret series and Richard Eyre's hugely successful production of Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre. Collette starred in the Broadway musical The Wild Party and also offered a musical turn in the film Connie and Carla. Thompson acted in musicals while at Cambridge University, and later starred in Me and My Girl in the West End.

John Logan is on board to write the screenplay. His screen resume includes The Aviator for Martin Scorsese and Gladiator for Ridley Scott.

The original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd featured Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury as Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett. A live performance of the Harold Prince production was filmed in Los Angeles, with Lansbury but with George Hearn rather than Cariou -- and that performance is now available on DVD. Sweeney Todd will only be the third of Sondheim's musicals for which he wrote both music and lyrics to be given the full-movie treatment. The others are the 1966 film of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, which starred Zero Mostel, and 1977's A Little Night Music, which starred Cariou, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg.
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Plane Crazy Receives Record Number of Tony Nominations!

It was announced today that Plane Crazy, The Classic '60s Musical Comedy, has received a record 15 Tony nominations!

Plane Crazy was nominated for Best New Musical, Best Score, Best Book, Best Web Site Design, Best Costumes, Best Sets, and in a special category: Best Functioning Jet Plane on a Stage, among many other nominations.

When author Suzy Conn was contacted for comment she was quoted as saying "I'm so thrilled just to be nominated, but when do I get to meet Hugh Jackman?"

This extraordinary announcement comes on the eve of the launch of the official Plane Crazy Web site and merchandise store. Exciting things are store for Suzy Conn! What's next, The Ellen DeGeneres Show?

Oh, and Happy April Fools Day!

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