Thursday, April 30, 2009
"A Little Bit of Broadway" continues to be plagued with problems. And we open next Friday night-- May 8th at 8pm. First my dear partner John got struck down with two abscess teeth that has pretty much knocked him out for a few days, Bronchitis has struck my lead actor, two more actors on existing on Top Ramen noodles and one actress misses rehearsals because her job is in a smoke filled bar that renders her hoarse and sick. Another is so broke, he barely gets to the theatre and work. Then our stage manager has had a boss threaten him with termination-- so he has not been there as he should. Will this show go on? Who knows? On a positive note, today is the 85th birthday of lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Sheldon of course is most closely associated with Jerry Bock on such classic musicals as "Fiddler On The Roof", "She Loves Me" and one that he wrote with the late Joe Raposso ("Sing-- Sing A Song) based on the "It's A Wonderful Life" movie. And today dear Eve Arden would have been one hundred and one. I did think of something witty about those who face upside down mortgages: "I may be under water, but I'm still above ground." Well, pray for us. We are going to need all the prayers we can get.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
This is the day back in 1990 that that amazing marathon musical "A Chorus Line" closed after 6,137 performances. What an incredible story and original score. It was eventually surpassed by "Cats" and of course "Phantom Of The Opera" but it still ranks as one of the greatest musicals ever produced. The recent revival was a big success as well but of course nothing matches the majesty of the original. Today for all actors is yet another milestone birthday-- the 120th birthday of Lionel Barrymore. A great actor and a great acting family. I read where there will be a new Broadway musical of "Giant" written by Edna Ferber ("Showboat") I am old enough to remember the huge 1960 Warner Brothers movie that starred Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. I remember sitting through it at the movies back when I was thirteen years old. How it will fare as a musical will yet to be seen. The lights of of the marquees on Broadway will be dimmed for one minute tonight in honor of the passing of another Broadway legend- Bea Arthur. Wherever you are at 8pm EDT -- TONIGHT please pause and think a great thought in that one minute to the lady who gave the world so much entertainment and laughter. She was once asked if she thought she was being typecast by doing "The Golden Girls" on TV after she had played the caustic "Maude"-- she said "There's isn't enough time in life to worry about being type-cast, worry more about being typed in living your life-- as if one day simply repeated another!" Our musical "Little Bit Of Broadway progresses nicely though the flu has certainly played havoc on things. But we will succeed with God's help. We've got some wonderful performers at last-- but it really shook my tree at first! I read also that California is having a special election on May 19th on many issues including improving the lottery-- making it easier to win and benefiting schools more evenly. I am in favor of that one! Oh to win that lottery! My!My!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Dear sweet Bea Arthur-- you, dear heart brought more laughter into my life than a lot of other comedians. I adored "The Golden Girls" and "Maude". The writing was exactly what Danny Simon had taught as truly honest. It was direct, it was on the nose and it was never contrived. But it was also that unique voice of yours--that voice that brought us Vera in "Mame" and those wonderful songs "Bosom Buddies" and "The Man In The Moon". God rest you. Go and make Him laugh-- Lord knows He needs it! The musical is really beginning to take shape, despite a few illnesses in the cast. There is a lot of work to do in the less than two weeks before we go on, but despite the road blocks, it has been a wonderful experience. And working with John has been a pure joy. Not like some collaborators passed whom I had to beg and cajole to get them to finish the score. Oh well, John is a true professional in every aspect of the word. So stay tuned here for more developments. We have a rehearsal today at 6:30 to 10pm at the theatre and work with actor Joey Vitale at noon.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Only on this blog will you find out some of the most interesting information. The picture is REAL portrait of the last of the Tudor Kings, dear old Henry the VIII of England. He was crowned King of All England on this very special day FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO . Now this is the way dear old Henry really looked not as television portrayed him recently. Now here is something I did not know. HENRY VIII was a SONGWRITER. The composition that you see on this page is a copy of the manuscript that he composed all those many years ago. My writing partner, John Nugent reminds me that there were chords or modern Harmonic progression. And yet this little tune called "Past Times With Good Company" was a very popular song back in 1509. It is said it was written for Catherine of Aragon. Speaking of notable events, today is also the birthday of William Shakespeare. And yes, just in acse you are curious the musical goes on. WE have finally filled the cast and we are working for our grand premiere on May 8th at 8pm. All fingers are crossed here. Boy, who would have ever guessed this could have been so hard, but with God's help, all will go well. I trust in Him completely!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Very funny cartoon today about the economy, but I think that even with the abuses, we will somehow get out of this mess that we have dug ourselves into. Today in history was the beginning of Paul Revere's ride in 1975. He was an amazingly handsome gentlemen and I still say my friend Tony Westbrook resembles him. Today also would have been the birthday of the great Leopold Stokowski of "Fantasia" fame. He died way back in 1977. What an amazing presence this amazing man commanded in the professional classical musical world. Also today Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer way back in 1956. I actually rode a tour bus on that infamously notorious road that she was killed on way back in 1977. What a bumpy ride that miserable road was-- especially at night. And today is the twentieth anniversary of the students riot for democracy in China. I can still see that student standing in proud defiance in front of that approaching Chinese tank. And today is also the anniversary of the first baseball game played in Yankee Stadium in 1923. The Yankees won against the Boston Red Sox in an almost shut out game of 4-1. And hurray, "Little Bit of Broadway replaced its missing cast member and we had a great rehearsal yesterday. It was really nice to see that happen. Oh yes, today also would have been the birthday of Lucrezia Borgia (she lived only to the age of thirty-nine) Dear old Lucrezia you know murdered a lot of men as the legend goes. John and I became interested in writing a musical about her when we discovered in research that she was actually the illegitimate daughter of a reigning pope! Good Lord! John and I have this idea that maybe dear old Lucrezia murdered all the men she did out of revenge for being the illegitimate daughter of this same pope-- maybe a female "Sweeney Todd". And today was significant in yet another way-- the great San Fransisco earthquake struck early this day in 1906, killing three thousand innocent people and took the city down by fire. Another fact few people know. Enrico Caruso performed in San Francisco the night before and was actually stuck at the city's dock in a bold escape from his burning hotel. Caruso blamed himself for the quake-- because, now get this-- he actually thought that the quake was God's punishment for what he sang ("La Boheme") the night before. So distressed was the great artist, that he vowed never to perform in San Fransisco again-- and he never did. Wow, talk about a guilt trip! John and I would like to write a musical about his night on the docks. What might he have imagined in this disturbed and panicked state of mind? We shall see what happens with this subject.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The dreams of Susan Boyle are indeed coming true-- and wait until you hear this: The performance by the 47-year-old on the show "Britain's Got Talent" which aired April 11 was watched by an average of 10.3 million viewers, and now has been viewed over four million times on YouTube already. The song has now entered the mid-week single Billboard charts at number 60. The original cast recording of the song, featuring Tony and Olivier winner Patti LuPone, is now number one in the I tunes vocal download chart. Cameron Mackintosh has echoed the comments of judges Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden, saying, "Just like the judges and audience I was gob-smacked by the emotional powerhouse performance of Susan Boyle's show stopping rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream.' Vocally it is one of the best versions of the song I've ever heard. Touching, thrilling and uplifting. I do hope she gets to sing it for the Queen." God love you, Susan Boyle-- God indeed makes dreams come true. How much does he love us? I think He really enjoys surprising and delighting us each and every day. And now, John and I go to try and have the first day of rehearsal without soap opera drama. I sure wish Tony Westbrook was here-- I simply would have built in sanity in the chaos. I'm hoping this show is a pure smash-- then john and I can work on making this theatre wonderful. I read a story today about a man who was thrown out of Yankee Stadium last August 26th because he went to the bathroom during the singing of "God Bless America" . The Yankees have an official policy that everyone has to be in their seats or standing in front of them while the song is paid. Now the guy is suing the city of New York and the Yankees for nineteen million dollars for being "mortally embarrassed". I wonder just how you get to being "mortally embarrassed?" And I also wonder how anyone can require anyone to stand and be reverent towards a commercial song. Now, don't get me wrong, I love "God Bless America" and I love Irving Berlin. And this song's royalty income was willed by Berlin to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America (it makes up 34% of their budget together) but I would think that no one can impose rules about the behavior of an individual while a song is playing. And after all, even if belief in God has nothing to do with this (because that's what America is about), what if the guy really had to go to the bathroom? I would think it would have to be printed on the ticket as a condition of admission-- then if you didn't observe the rule, there would be cause for that ejection. Oh well, another lawsuit and more back log for the courts-- what can I say? Wish us luck today!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
This entire "Little Bit Of Broadway" experience has been "Quite A Road" Filled with more drama than most soap operas. While we finally got everything cast, we almost lost another actor! The time for rehearsal had come today and our lead didn't show up at the proper time. Something told me to delay rehearsal even though it was now 12:11 pm and we were at that point eleven minutes late. I called the actor's phone number. Poor Kyle Caldwell was graduating from The Actor's Academy in Hollywood this weekend. He was set to stay at a friend's house for the summer until he found a job and his proud parents were coming out to see him graduate. He was not going to call because he was so overwhelmed with grief because one day after his audition with me, Kyle's good friend and fellow graduate (age twenty-three) went through a complete nervous breakdown and now his housing was gone, because now a nurse was going to move into the house that KYLE was going to move in. Now right after graduation, he was going to fly back with his parents, stay home and save money for a couple of years and then come out and try his dream again. Oh No! So I took the bull by the horns and announced to the cast Kyle's dilemma. Within five minutes, he had four offers of a place to stay for at least thru the opening of the play. Hollywood is indeed a "strange Little town" It's very ego driven sometimes, but sometimes it really does surprise you. So it looks like Kyle is still in and we still have a whole cast and we open May 8th at 8pm. Oh yes, the actor who was going to be Kyle never showed--AGAIN. Poor Josh, better go home and tell mom you aren't going to become an actor after all. Spaghetti Dinner tonight was a highlight and kinda soothed the rough edges of today's four hour rehearsals. We did manage a new read-through of the play with the virtually brand new cast. Wow-- there's a play in this!
More News later!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Well now it's only a matter of time. We auditioned two men today at the final audition for "A Little Bit Of Broadway. One young man named Kyle and was wonderful in audition! He had called in to make an audition appointment at the last moment and came to read. He was wonderful! Oh he's low on money and has to make payments for the pro-production fee, but that's okay! and one gentleman named Walter tried out for the role of John Kotter and was absolutely wonderful! He sang "Marian, the Librarian" from "Music Man" and blew me away! He wrote a check for the pro production fee directly. And one who read the part of Bruce last week is actually scheduled to pay his fee today! So that's three down and one to go. We have one young man who wants the role of Peter (the last we must fill) but is not so committed as the others (playing a gay character on stage is really tough on him) The surprise is a gentleman by the name of Danny Epstein who had first turned us down flat. I decided to write him a letter of persuasion. Well we went from "NO, absolutely" to Okay, I can come up with $50.00. That won't cut it. I wrote him another letter and I used a very persuasive statement. "Wouldn't you just die, if this show skyrocketed and went to Broadway and you were in line two years later, Equity card in hand- Eighty-two guys are ahead of you in line. You happen to mention to the guy in front of you that you could have had this part two years ago with a very simple audition, but you turned it down for a little fee. Imagine how fast that little fact would spread to the top of the line and what the reaction to that little revelation would be? Especially if you had a copy of the email that i had sent to you? That persuaded him. Make payments--okay-- but we at "absolutely no" before. We will see what tomorrow brings when the first rehearsal since "the rebellion" of Good Friday last week. Stay tuned! More drama to come!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
This little stage if God permits will be the premiere stage of our new musical "A Little Bit Of Broadway" but the difficulties and the heartbreaks of getting this little show off the ground has been astronomical. My two leads quit after three rehearsals (including a simple read-through) because they didn't like John and mine's directing style --which is very loose and collaborative with actor's choices. They said that they needed strict "chess piece" directing with an actor required to move to a certain spot on a certain word or line. Casting actors because they can move to a certain spot or display a certain emotion on a certain key word or line to me is very boring. It's stilted and mechanical at best. One casts actors because they can actually bring something to a role and can bring out the other performances in a fellow actor. They called our style of directing "very scary for an actor". Well, they should have prepared their character. If an actor had really delved into his character than free association with it would not be scary at all. These guys are far too community theatre minded. And to quit without saying a word at the rehearsal --except to display moody behavior is dishonest in my opinion. Now I know why this theatre has a pro production fee. It not only pays expenses, but it keeps actors honest and makes them think twice before they quit. Of course, when you're used to community (Glendale Centre Theatre) standards and you are rich, you may complain like hell that you paid the fee, it may make you feel that paying that fee gives you special rights and privileges and you may expect that the dressing rooms should be Broadway star quality and that there needs to be a lot of room backstage for actors "to breathe" (which Kenneth and James did) you don't even care that you've just lost $285.00. They also complained that they had to provide their own personal props and costumes. Gee, isn't that what great theatre is? But we also lost an old friend in the cast because she decided to put $1100 into an old car and bow out of our show. We had another who declared the indignity of paying a fee. Well who pays the bills without contributions? Do you think selling out fifty-three seats each night for six performances pays $5900.00 a month rent? Or mandatory liability insurance? Or Programs, tickets, stage managers and publicity? The Theatre fairy is not anywhere around, I'm afraid. John and I actually found a theatre in Sherman Oaks on Ventura that rents out for $250.00 a night without a stage manager or programs and tickets provided and without liability insurance. It has less seats than ours (46) Ours is 53. It has a smaller stage than what you see in the picture and guess who's starring on it's "very small stage" right at this moment? It's LaVar Burton, the one time star of "Roots" and Star Trek TNG. Well it has smaller dressing areas and a much smaller lobby and the parking is horrendous to non-existent-- surrounded by streets in which permits are required to park there. We've lost another cast member because he refuses to pay to act. Well, hell what does he save by NOT having to have on hand two hundred and fifty copies of his picture and resume' once required when i was an agent, but thanks to the Internet, no longer. Actors have had family tragedies and the like and we are needing four actors just to open this opus. John and I are not giving up, however. We are calling in actors from every list we can find. We've had an offer to video tape digitally for FREE thanks to a friends of a cast member. We have offered the actors the chance to go into a recording studio at our expense and record their songs. The fee pays the rent and the liability insurance. Things you would need to pay for if you simply rented a theatre on Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood. This theatre is in the center of Hollywood, itself, two and a half blocks from where they hand out the Oscars. In real estate, they call that "location, location, and location!" I wish actors would realize that one hundred percent of nothing is always absolutely everlasting nothing. Do you pay to prepare for an audition-- YES. Do you pay to research a role before you go to an audition? YES AGAIN. If you got a ticket because you parked wrong at an audition would you yell the same argument? Of course not! I love my country, but I would rather pay $285.00 (which by the way You get back with free comp tickets for your agents and managers and other industry professionals) than pay it in taxes to the Federal government. I've personally seen the hammer that the federal government paid ten grand for and the toilet seat that our dear federal government paid twenty thousand dollars for! I think actors need to realize that sometimes you "gotta pay your dues".
Hell, what does it cost you to drive these days? Do you complain about that too? The actor has to realize that without sacrifice there is no gain. If something comes too easily, it goes away even faster. Like the three pigs story-- build your career out of free sticks and free straw and your "acting house" gets blown down by the very first "big bad wolf of show business." We will go on! We will succeed. And God may draw straight with crooked lines, but that's okay, because with faith in Him, we are going to have one hell of a great show.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
It's been a long time since I actually put on a musical of mine, but I never dreamed how difficult all of this would be. We have had more roadblocks than any other production. It is taking the purest form of tenacity on my part to stay in this whole thing. Actors count lines and quit if they feel the part isn't large enough. Actors balk at putting on ageing makeup because current casting directors who attend their performances won't "see them" as they really are and won't cast them in current commercials because they don't. There are actors who commit to a part, are truly excited about a part and then they never show up for a rehearsal. And they don't respond to cell phone calls or e mails. I call it "the great silence of the Internet generation" No actor today wants to give their address or city on an information form (how would I send them a check if I were a paying producer or if I wanted to reward them later on down the road because I had done well with a later production and wanted to share the wealth with the original cast?) The Hollywood Fight Club has much potential here, but it lacks a very important word. And that word, dear friends is communication. And now the Artistic Director that John and I were hired under was fired by the owner. All because she didn't communicate and couldn't handle the stress. How can a Harvard graduate and a former captain in in the Air Force not able to handle stress? But our show goes on--for now. We need to cast a few more actors and with God's help we will, but wow! The ego of actors today is mind blowing! And the excuses they give are absolutely amazing. I've heard it said that an actor can justify "anything" in his head". I know that now to be so true. But this is going to be an amazing show. The cast loves the script and they love the songs and every time I think of wanting to quit I say a little prayer and I remember the sheer tenacity of my friend Tony Westbrook in New York City. God I wish he were here! Tony has had some of these same problems directing shows out here.And so the first blocking rehearsal is today at noon until four pm. Think good thoughts for us. And maybe just maybe, we can really pull this off. Now trust me, many years ago "Skylark" had a lot of the same problems of ego, but it was a totally different kind. And we were also dealing with a school of the arts who were pretty clueless when it came to theatre business. Back in those days, "Equity Wavier" didn't cost a producer anything except for a promise that if the show went on to Broadway, the original cast had to be offered the Broadway role or two weeks Equity scale pay. Today the producer of the show must pay Actor's Equity a fee of $500.00 and guarantee each actor a stipend of $25 or more each per performance based ion the number of seats you have in your theatre. When we were having great difficulties with some members of that particular cast, the director of the School of the Arts putting on the show (who held a PHD in theatre no less) thought the answer to his problems would be solved by dumping the "Equity Wavier" status, firing the equity cast who were working for free and going "Non-Equity"-- no difference in those days except for the "Broadway commitment' if the show went on to bigger and better. I'm still laughing over that one! Twenty-five years later! So I'll keep you posted here on our progress.