Tuesday, January 30, 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HAL PRINCE AND MITCH LEIGH AND AN ASCAP MUSICAL WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE!





Today is the 79Th birthday of Broadway legend Hal Prince. Amazing Hal! It's been ages-- but he certainly left a great mark. A distinguished director and producer -- the supreme Broadway showman -- whose career has lasted for many decades. "Hal" served his theatrical apprenticeship in the late '40s and early '50s with the esteemed author, director, and producer George Abbott. In 1954, he presented his first musical, "The Pajama Game," in collaboration with Robert E. Griffith and Frederick Brisson . His association with Griffith continued until the latter's death in 1961, mostly with hits such as "Damn Yankees," "New Girl in Town," "West Side Story" and "Fiorello!" (1959). "Hal's first assignment as a director, was a horrible failure! From then on, he has been the producer or co-producer and/or director for a whole range of (mostly) successful (but nothing mind blowing like "WICKED") musicals such as "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1962), "She Loves Me" (1963), "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964), "Baker Street" (1965), "Flora, the Red Menace" (1965), "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman" (1966). He almost gave up musical theatre entirely after the Superman musical actually had people walking out of the theatre. The critics were not kind and the songs simply weren't that memorable. The book by the late great Peter Stone is what saved the show! And then came the miracle! The miracle's name was "Cabaret" Almost two thousand shows and three revivals put Hal back in the game. That was followed by Kander and Ebb's "Zorba" (1968), Stephen Sondheim's "Company " (1970), "Follies" (1971), "A Little Night Music" (1973) and "Pacific Overtures" (1976. Three mega hits were next and these included "On the Twentieth Century" (1978), "Evita" (1978), and back to Sondheim with "Sweeney Todd" (1979). The pot breaker was "Merrily We Roll Along" (1981)-- and it was a long time before another Sondheim-Prince collaboration was attempted. Three gigantic failures were next. First was the ultimate musical disaster: "A Doll's Life" (1982), (which opened and closed in two weeks) "Grind" (1985), (which was notorious for trying to work on Broadway without the Dramatists Guild. This was followed "The Phantom of the Opera" (1986), "Roza" (1987), and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1992). Hal has received more Tony Awards than anyone else.The list does not include restaging and directing the original productions in several different countries, nor his work with American opera companies such as the New York Opera, the Houston Opera, and the Chicago Lyric Opera. He dipped into the past with his superb staging of the Broadway revival of "Show Boat" (1995). This was followed by a disappointingly brief run for Prince's revival of the 1974 version of "Candide" (1997) and "Parade" (1998).


Well last night was the first of the ASCAP Musical workshops at the Disney Studios. It was nice to see David and Chris Holmes again after two years and Kevin Kaufman: old friends from the past. The musicals presented were very odd. The first was called "ROMANCING THE THRONE"" or to put it mildly "Camelot"meets "The Producers". Lot of shtick, gimmicks and clever lyrics, (and the performers were VERY GOOD) but after twenty-five minutes we don't have a clue whose story this is. No one in New York City is going to pay an average of $125.00 a seat to watch a musical that we are not sure whose story it is. Schtick works when we are on firm ground about who the story is about, what do they want, what are their dreams and how we (the writers) are going to get them there. The second "THE EMERALD MAN" was simply to bizarre for me and for Tim Doran who was there with me. I hadn't seen Tim in four months and he looked wonderful. "THE EMERALD MAN" tells the tale of a disturbed young teenager whose mother has married soon after his father's death and is a total comic book and super hero nut. In his mental ramblings, he is offered the chance to escape the world of realty by becoming a super hero. Again, the plot is confusing, the songs are not memorable and their is a confusion of journey-- this time we know who's story this is: we simply don't have a real clue as to how he got there. The ring his father had worn the youth wears around his neck and is the dramatic device as to how he becomes the super hero "EMERALD MAN". Now every super hero has a super power and a purpose. I swear I don't know what this young super hero's power or purpose is-- except his determination to rid the world of unhappiness-- boy, is that a tall order! Maybe in the longer version this show will flesh out. Stephen Schwartz was there of course and so was Dean Pitchford (the co-author of "Footloose, the Broadway musical) along Harold Stone, the producer. A BIG CROWD showed up-- and a really nice refreshment spread. Not the usual cookies and coffee only routine for a change! But I did get a new inspiration for changing "THE TRAVELING COMPANION" show opening to something far more exciting. The merchants showing off their wares they we have now just doesn't make it. We need to start the show off with a bang! Add some danger and intrigue. Well sometimes you have to change Hans Christian Andersen. His stories are wonderful , but they don't tend to be dramatic enough! Well going back to ASCAP tonight-- we will see what they present tonight! One more thing-- its also the 79Th birthday of MITCH LEIGH and the 90TH birthday of Joe Darion-- and they dear friends are the composers of "THE MAN OF LA MANCHA "-- they never had a second success-- at least never like this one. Which just goes to prove that it only takes ONE great musical to be a grand success on the Great White Way! By the way, Mitch Leigh is the guy in the jolly Santa like white beard in the picture with jazz man Willie Ritz.

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