Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Four years ago today, a most remarkable Broadway musical opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre in New York. Of course, that amazing show is "Avenue Q"-- the musical with puppet characters. It is also the musical with the most original score I have heard in a long time. And what truth it portrays. "What Do You Do With B.A. in English?" or "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today" or the poignant and my favorite song "There's a Fine Fine Line"
(between a fairy tale and a lie) Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, the composers are simply brilliant. I love all the characters here. And of course, this is the musical that knocked off "Wicked" as best musical at the Tony Awards in 2004. This is also my nephew Kevin's 34th birthday. I called him this morning to wish him "Happy Birthday"-- he was on his way to the beach with his amazing family! I am very proud of my Godson-- he is working at Disneyland-- my very favorite place of all in the payroll department. I have the day off today on this the last day of July 2007. Where has the year gone?
Monday, July 30, 2007
And now the great Beauty has faded and the Mighty Beast has lost his voice: for yesterday afternoon came the final performance of "Beauty & The Beast, the first of the Disney Broadway musicals that opened on April 18th, 1994. Back in those days, I was still in the talent agency business-- and that seems like so long ago. I was privleged to see it just once and for me it was simply perfect-- a joy in both story and song and a plot that Walt Disney, himself would have adored. What an amazing tribute to the composers Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. Of course, my dreams are to write that great Broadway musical and I can only hope that God is willing to see me through that great dream. What will happen with "The Little Mermaid that opens next November in this same theatre will be hard to say now. I wish Mr. Menken and his new colaborator all the best. And great sadness because the great Tom Snyder has seccumbed to leukemia. He was seventy-one years old. I probably watched him more than any other reporter on television except perhaps for the late Jerry Dumphy.Tom started as a local radio reporter in Milwaukee, then moved to TV news, and eventually anchored local newscasts in Philadelphia and, later, Los Angeles. From 1973-82 he hosted The Tomorrow Show on NBC, following The Tonight Show on weekday mornings. It was one hour long, usually with just one guest, and Snyder asked interesting questions and offered irrelevant but amusing asides. He was always smoking on camera, so clouds of tobacco fumes floated around his head like a snazzy special effect. Once during an interview with great magician Doug Henning, the amazing Tom Snyder was chased into a restroom by a tiger that Henning had brought to the interview-- funny stuff. I was watching clips of interviews he did this morning-- that with Howard cossel, Muhamed Ali, Charles Manson and Elton John were simply amazing things to watch. Well another day of work-- onward and forward with God's grace and incredible help. I sure had a great sales day last Friday: a $5000 plus day.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Well today is a brief blog, but I wanted to say an officila goodbye to the sixth longest Broadway sow in history: the simply amazing "Beauty & The Beast". For othis day, Sunday July 29th, it plays its last performance. It has been on on Broadway since 1994 and has enthralled audiences (like me) in utter rapture since then. How proud Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman are or might be. The book of the music is written by Linda Wolverton who wrote the original screenplay for the movie back in 1989. What perfect songs! What an mazing story as adapted by Disney. Oh, trust me on this, Walt Disney would have adored this one-- it has all the magic of "Snow White and Seven Dwarfs" and then some. And that's what Walt always emphasized - "personality out of the characters" Pixar seems to have found that magic as well. So as the curtain closes for the last time on this great show at 2pm Eastern time, let us think of Walt and the late Howeard Ashman and raise our glass to a great and sijmply amazing Broadway show!
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Today marks the opening of the very first Rodgers & Hart musical show on Brodway in 1920. It was called (and I always chuckle here because of where I work) "Poor Little Ritz Girl" Richard Rodgers was eighteen at the time and Lorenz Hart was twenty-five. The musical featured several of heir songs including "You Can't Fool Your Dreams" and "It's Always Intense In Tents" amoung others. It was not exclusively their show but certainly featuring six or so songs including the ones mentioned.They worked together on about thirty musicals from 1919 until Hart's death in 1943. Their breakthrough came in 1925 with The Garrick Gaieties, which featured the hit song "Manhattan."Their many other hits include "Here In My Arms," "Mountain Greenery," "The Blue Room," "My Heart Stood Still," "You Took Advantage of Me," "Ten Cents a Dance," "Dancing On The Ceiling," "Spring Is Here," "Lover," "Mimi," "Isn't It Romantic?" "Blue Moon" "Easy To Remember" "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World," "My Romance," "Little Girl Blue," "There's A Small Hotel," "I Wish I Were in Love Again," "Where Or When," "My Funny Valentine," "Johnny One Note," "The Lady Is A Tramp," "This Can't Be Love," "Falling In Love With Love," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "I Could Write A Book," and "Wait Till You See Her."Their songs have long been favorites of cabaret singers and jazz artists. Hart's lyrics, facile, vernacular, dazzling, sometimes playful, sometimes melancholic, raised the standard for Broadway songwriting. Rodgers, as a creator of melodies, ranks with Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin. Their shows belong to the era when musicals were revue-like and librettos weren't much more than excuses for comic turns and music cues. Still, just as the duo's tunes were a cut above, so did the team try to raise the standard of the musical form in general. Thus A Connecticut Yankee (1927) was based on Mark Twain's novel, and The Boys From Syracuse (1938) on William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors. Pal Joey (1940), often thought their best show, has a book by The New Yorker writer John O'Hara--adapting his own short stories--and features a title character who's a heel. So unflinching was the portrait that critic Brooks Atkinson famously asked in his review "Although it is expertly done, how can you draw sweet water from a foul well?" When the show was revived in 1952, audiences had learned to accept and enjoy darker material on Broadway (thanks in large part to Rodgers' work with Oscar Hammerstein) and audiences found it easier to deal with. The new production ran considerably longer than the original. Atkinson, reviewing the revival, said his original judgment had been wrong. Comparisons between Rodgers and Hart and the successor team of Rodgers and Hammerstein are inevitable. Hammerstein's lyrics project warmth, sincere optimism, and occasional corniness. Hart's lyrics showed greater sophistication in subject matter, more use of overt verbal cleverness, and more of a "New York" or "Broadway" sensibility. The archetypal Rodgers and Hart song, "Manhattan," rhymes "The great big city's a wondrous toy/Just made for a girl and boy" in the first stanza, then reprises with "The city's glamor can never spoil/The dreams of a boy and goil" in the last. Many of the songs ("Falling in Love with Love", "Little Girl Blue", "My Funny Valentine") are wistful or sad, and emotional ambivalence seems to be perceptible in the background of even the sunnier songs. For example, "You Took Advantage of Me" appears to be an evocation of amorous joy, but the very title suggests some doubt as to whether the relationship is mutual or exploitative At any rate this is a notable day and a nice day here. Challenges at work continue, but with God's help, I will be okay. With God's help, anything is possible. It loks like our July days are not as hot as last year's. Thank goodness!
Friday, July 27, 2007
Four years ago today, the world lost the most amazing comedian, performer and showman of the world. Mr. Bob Hope. He lived one hundred amazing years. One of the funniest stories about him happened about three months before he died and Delores Hope, (knowing the end was very near)his dear wife asked him "Where would you like to be burried? To which the amazingly still funny Bob Hope replied "Surprise me!" His first film was an educational film believe it or not, but he was fired by the company when a member of the press asked him about it and young Hope quips "Yes, it's been released and when they catch John Dillinger, they're going to make him sit through it twice. Today is also the 53rd birthday of my very amazing friend and arranger, Mr. Tim Doran. I simply could never be the songwriter than I love being without his amzing talent and his grand good heart. And So on this day, I raise my glass in gratitude and appreciation to the man who makes so many things possible. I love him very much and I'm so indebted to him-- forever! Happy Birthday, Tim!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Well today is Alan Menken's 58th birthday and what a happy and very busy composer is he. Of course "The Little Mermaid" opens on Broadway on November 3rd and "Enchanted" the movie opens November 21st with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. He is also taking a stab at a Hans Christian Andersen story as a musical show for Tokyo Disneyland called "The Snow Queen"-- that was the very first Hans Christian Andersen story that i ever read. He comes from a large family who are mostly dentists-- his father was, his grandfather was, his uncles are-- becoming a real composer he called "pulling teeth out of the odds of life" He met Howard Ashman only by sheer chance and he has been just about the luckiest person on the planet so far. He does admit that turning down "The Lion King" was his single worst mistake because it made him a "persona non grateful" during the last of the troubled Michael Eisner years. He finally got back in with the disastrous animated movie"Home On The Range"-- pretty desperate stuff. They have released on CD the score for the troubled "Pirate Queen" and an old chestnut from Irving Berlin: a 1932 musical called "Face the Music". The score features "Face The Music and Dance" and Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee"--those you've heard of. But the lost Berlin treasures are "I Say It's Spinach" and the absolute lost classic "I Don't Want To Get Married-- I Just Wanna Be Friends" Now does that state what is happening today or what? And remember, this song was written in 1932!Well, I have the day off today on this beautiful Sunday. Happy Birthday Alan-- God love you! I'm sure dear Howard Ashman is watching and guiding you from heaven!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Some say that death is like a journey on a shoreless boat. No more worries abount boundries, limitations, failures or even the tide and the waves that come crashing into our lives. I lost a godmother and aunt which was hard for me to lose, but I know she is one happy soul in heaven today. As I approach my 60th birthday, my own anxieties are kicking in like crazy. I want so much to have that Broadway show and be successful, but there are so many difficulties and conflicts, I sometimes wonder. What is our purpose on this weary earth? Maybe just maybe we are the boat that provides the ride for other souls. Maybe without us someone else in the world would be lost in a rowboat without a paddle. Maybe another person who wouldn't be loved by anybody else is loved and cared about by us. And for that, God will reward us. Great artists like Vincent Van Gogh will never see their creations respected while they live-- maybe that is the way with many of us. Some of us after death will always be remembered alive. I miss my friends who have passed. I miss John Smithson and Iris Hollingsworth and dear Peter Corello and Carl Packard. They all gave me so much. So in perspective maybe we are that rowboat that transports others through the troubled waters of their lives. And we will be remembered. And we will be rewarded. A lot of things carry other things, but none like a boat from the sea. So let us try always to remain afloat for others. "Michael Row The Boat Ashore" is the song that comes to my mind here and now.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Today would have been the birthday of one of the greatest lyricist's on earth-- dear amazing Oscar Hammerstein II. He was born in 1895. Not only did this amazing man write a legendary filled career with the late great Richard Rodgers, but he also had a career with an amazing composer: Jerome Kern. And the young man that Oscar acted as a mentor for was none other than the amazing Stephen Sondheim. It was announced in playbill today that there will be a new production of South Pacific on Broadway: its first new Broadway production since the original staging in 1949. That is great! It's an incredible musical and one of my all time favorites! Well, one never knows where our life will lead us or will lead others. So Happy Birthday, dear Oscar, wherever you are! Today I will sing one of your great lyrics! By the way, Tim Doran is busy at work doing his part on "The Traveling Companion' re-write. I am now very excited about its new prospects! And we have discovered a new singer! his name is Richie Matthew: a young man with a great range. So we hope and keep all fingers crossed!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
On this day seventy years ago, we lost one of the greatest composers of all time to a brain tumor. George Gerswin was thirty eight years young when he died. Most people do not know that the song "Our Love Is Here To Stay" was a melody that George had completed for an MGM musical. There was no lyric. Four weeks after George's death, his still gieving brother Ira finally completed the lyric at the insistence of the MGM studios-- they were under a deadline and needed that song completed. So Ira completed that beautiful lyric not as a love song for a girl, but in testimony and tribute to his older brother whom he loved, wrote with and was so dedi9cated to. Amazing little tidbit. Of course, George Gershwin will continue to influence our lives musically for a long time to come. His "Rhapsody In Blue" and "An American In Paris" are simply mind blowing. And his opera Porgy and Bess is a pure classic. Yes, Gerorge had an ego that sometimes put people off, but he was also very kind and could be an amazing friend. The amazing Oscar Levant --who was a contemporary of George for years once askedc him "George, if you could come back and live again, would you come back and still be in love with yourself?" Funny-- considering Oscar was the most mazing character in his own right. I notice where "Footloose" is being remade as a full movie musical to star the new young heart throb from the upcoming "Hairspray" -- that should make my old friend Dean Patchford happy and Kenny Loggins too! Michael Gore will be pleased as well. Well, "The Traveling Companion" re-write is about 90% done (still a little editing and tweaking) We cut any song that was not advancing the plot and cut it from 127 pages down to 109. Good news! New songs include "I Was Thinking of My Heart" and "It Must Be Destiny"
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Well in all the hoopla for the 4th of July in my blog yesterday, I forget about mentioning that July 4th was also Neil Simon's 80th birthday. What an amazing career and ride his life has been beginning with his classic play "Barefoot In The Park" to "The Odd Couple" "Brighton Beach" and "Broadway Bound". I actually got to meet him on two ocassions while I was taking comedy writing lessons with his older brother Danny for four years. Doc (as he is always called) was the quieter of the two brothers. Bar none, I think that I have laughed at and loved more great Neil Simon humor than from any other (but Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman make a close second. I think the secret to Neil's success is the stuff that Danny used to teach us all the time. You must get into the head of your character and you must be honest in your comedy writing. If you try to be funny, you just never ever will. I cherish those wonderful days-- they were simply incredible. So happy belated Birthday, Doc. What an amazing life!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
HAPPY 4th OF JULY TO EVERYONE! GOD BLESS AMERICA
"REMY", THE NEWEST DISNEY MOUSE
Happy 4th of July everyone. For the first time in over a year and a half, I actually have a holiday off. At work, they draw straws as to who will work the holiday and I've always lost-- and by no exception, I had lost in the drawing once again, but this time, I had the courage to go to another employee and ask if she would work for me. Well, it worked. So thanks to my co-worked Lori, I do have the day off. I just don't know why Ritz Camera feels that anybody will walk into a camera store on July 4th-- but oh well. Today John and I are going to see the animated movie "Ratatouille" today (that's actually the name of a soup in French) and I'm really looking forward to it. We'll go see at the El Capitan theatre in Hollywood taking the train down there-- so no parking woes. Actually Remy (the mouse who dreams of becoming a French chef is actually the Seventh principal mouse character in Disney history. First of course is Mickey and then there's one I bet everybody forgets and that's Timothy Mouse from Dumbo-- another great Disney character. The next mouse is Roquefort in "The Aristocrats" (voiced by the late great Sterling Holloway and the fifth and sixth mouse are both in the same movie called "The Rescuers" starring Bianca and Bernard the Mouse (voiced by the late great Eva Gabor and the amazing Bob Newhart. The last mouse was Basil, the mouse in the animated film "The Great Mouse Detective" So it should be fun! Later, I'll make some steaks in a cook out. Good luck to Tim Doran on his diet regiment-- he's out to lose twenty pounds. But all that rice he has to eat-- I'm not so sure about that! Well again, have a Happy 4th of July and lets remember our boys in Iraq and realize what exactly we are celebrating!
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Hy Zaret, one of the last of the Tin Pan Alley lyricists, whose most indelible work was the oft-recorded 1955 hit “Unchained Melody” but whose oeuvre ranged from jingles to songs about science to ballads of love and war, died yesterday at his home in Westport, Conn. I met him once at an ASCAP membership meeting several years ago in 1999. He was 99. Hy liked to tell about the time the composer Alex North called him to say he had written a song for a movie and needed words. Hy replied that he was busy painting his house. But he found time to write the lyrics for “Unchained Melody.” The movie itself, “Unchained,” a low-budget prison film, turned out to be a lot less memorable than the song. The grand lyricist who was a habitual contrarian, refused a producer’s request to include the word “unchained” in his lyrics, though it was simply impossible to keep it out of the title. The words have again and again evoked a lover’s loneliness in recordings by more than 300 artists, including Lena Horne, Guy Lombardo, the Righteous Brothers, Elvis Presley and U2: “Oh, my love, my darling, I’ve hungered for your touch a long, lonely time. ...” Last month the Songwriters Hall of Fame honored “Unchained Melody” with its Towering Song award for having “influenced the culture in a unique way over the years.” The song’s triumphal march began when it was nominated in 1955 for an Academy Award for best original song. In 1992, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers gave it an award for being the year’s most-performed song. In 1999, Ascap said it was one of the 25 most-performed songs and musical works of the 20th century. In a list released in 2003, Ascap called it the most-performed love song of the 1950s.None of Mr. Zaret’s other songs came close to this success, but many did very well. “One Meat Ball,” a novelty song with music by Lou Singer about a poor man with only 15 cents to spend for a meatball, was a hit for the Andrews Sisters in 1945. Jimmy Dorsey took “My Sister and I,” a tale of sisters in an occupied country, written with Alex Kramer and Joan Whitney, to No. 1 in 1941. Vaughn Monroe had a No. 1 song with “There I Go,” which Hy wrote with Irving Weiser, in the early 1940s. “Dedicated to You,” written with Sammy Cahn and Sau Chaplin, is a perennial jazz favorite. Hy also wrote the English lyrics for Anna Marly’s French Resistance song “The Partisan,” which Leonard Cohen recorded.“He had some big, big hits,” said Jim Steinblatt, assistant vice president for special projects at Ascap. Indeed, “So Long, for a While,” for which he wrote the lyrics, was the closing theme song for “Your Hit Parade,” a show that for many years played the week’s top songs, on radio and later on television.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Today, July 2nd, we lost a lot of important people. Seventy years ago this date we lost Amelia Earhart who was forced down at sea making her historic flight and was never heard from again. A very sad event. Today, Ernest Hemingway decided that ending his life was justified and so the great author of "The Sun Also Rises" "For Whom The Bells Toll" and "The Old Man and the Sea" shot himself in 1961. We also lost the amazing Jimmy Stewart ten years ago this day. The perennial and incredible screen legend and star of such films as "Harvey", "Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation", "It's A Wonderful Life" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" died on this date in 1997. His last film role was as a voice in the animated movie "A Mouse's Tale". I have some time off this week and will enjoy the first holiday off from work in a long time. I had to trade with another employee in order to do it. Work progresses on the re-write for "The Traveling Companion" with Tim-- boy is this going to be a much different story than the first version. Oh well, you must adapt a story in a musical and not adopt it! John and I celebrated our eighth anniversary together as a couple yesterday. I bought him some roses. He is so supportive of me and I love him so very much! It doesn't seem possible that we even found each other. What were the odds? after all, he was living in Phoenix, Arizona when I found him while searching the Internet for a life partner. Amazing! God indeed is good. And as my song title says "he draws straight with crooked lines! Well another day of work and off tomorrow and the 4th of July!