website, blog and vanity nexus of writer R F Brown

Posts tagged ‘musicals’

Danny And Dinah – UP IN ARMS

Danny Kaye is reliably irritating in UP IN ARMS, a musical worth one great number. In this case, “Tess’s Torch Song” with Dinah Shore

25 Greatest Film Musicals Of All Time

This guy’s list is unbelievably bad, but it’s list

25 Greatest Film Musicals Of All Time.

NIGHT AND DAY clips

A couple of worthwhile scenes from the 1946 Cole Porter biopic NIGHT AND DAY with Cary Grant.

First, an amazing tap number featuring a specialty named Estelle Sloan. If anybody knows, I’d like to find out if the spinning move is called something other than spinning-around-real-fast:

Then there’s Mary Martin doing her signature song “My Heart Belongs To Daddy.” I think this was what was called “risqué:

Once you’ve seen these, you can probably skip NIGHT AND DAY.

Trivia: Mary Martin was the mother of recently passed actor Larry Hagman, I Dream of Genie and J.R. Ewing

Image

Les Mojis

Les Mojis

Vera & Fred in “Where Did You Get That Girl?” – Three Little Words

Cant believe the synchronicity is this number. Fred Astaire w/Vera Ellen in Three Little Words. 1950 movie with vaudeville era dancing

 

 

Vera & Fred in “Where Did You Get That Girl?” – YouTube.

Time, The Place And The Girl, The (1946) — (Movie Clip) I Happened To Walk Down First Street

Warner Bros musicals didnt have the celebrity names like MGM, but this is a great number from “The Time The Place And The Girl”, 1946. Very catchy

timeplacegirl

Time, The Place And The Girl, The (1946) — (Movie Clip) I Happened To Walk Down First Street.

Gene Nelson: Am I In Love – TCM CLASSIC FILM UNION Video

I think Gene Nelson was WBs version of MGMs Gene Kelly: dance, voice, looks, atheleticism, not to mentions Genes. This isnt the best production number, but it’s one of a kind

Gene Nelson - "She's Working Her Way Through College"

Gene Nelson – “She’s Working Her Way Through College”

Gene Nelson: Am I In Love – TCM CLASSIC FILM UNION Video.

The Undercover Soundtrack – Laura Pauling

I also write with a soundtrack. My novel, Merrily He Rolls Along, theatrical musical comedy with fiction. In my iTunes I’ve even created a special playlist for each chapter. Sometimes I imagine the voice I want to convey through whatever lyrics. But mostly, as this blogger writes, it about how the music makes me feel as I write.

My Memories of a Future Life

It’s all about capturing the emotion’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to tap into a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by YA author Laura Pauling @laurapauling

Soundtrack by Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Colbie Caillat, Natasha Bedingfield, Christina Perri, Adele

To quote Randy Jackson from American Idol: ‘The transference of emotion is what the audience wants.’

Readers more than anything want to feel what we’re feeling when we put our hearts into a story. Whether it’s heartbreak, humour, revenge, sorrow…etc. And sometimes listening to the right kind of music, a certain song that pushes my heart to its limit, can transfer over to my writing.

Stories at your fingertips

So when I was writing A Spy Like Me, I…

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Media Log: 02.19.2012 – PARADISE LOST 3, THE GREY

West Memphis 3, Paradise Lost 3

(cinema) Paradise Lost 3, Purgatory (d. Joel Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 2011) It’s been 16 years and two sequels since I saw the first Paradise Lost documentary at the Film Forum in New York City. I’m glad the wrongfully accused are set free but I still feel the truth rots a in dark, incarcerated place. I remember that the first documentary, a compelling story of wrong compounded by wrong, was also a frustratingly unthorough piece of journalism. The synopsis is that in 1993 three eight year old boys were murdered and thrown in a ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas. Three teenage boys, to be nicknamed the West Memphis 3, were convicted of the murders under highly questionable investigatory and judicial procedures. The first film fell well short for me in providing a sufficient account of the prosecution’s so called case. A year after seeing the first PL the friend I went to see it with called me up and said, “I heard those documentary guys made it all up to make the teenagers look good. When you hear the whole story they are totally guilty.” Really? What’s your source? None, really. Is there a whole story?  I have always been convinced that the teenagers were railroaded. But after years of sequels, cult-like public outrage, websites, Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp I still have no idea what happened back in 1993. If the WM3 were not murdering cub scouts that night in 1993, where were they? None of these films have ever discussed an alibi. If a documentary is presenting itself as the balanced account of its subject matter and one side of the argument is being left out, there must be a reason. I can’t speculate the reason because facts in this case have always been overshadowed by emotions, self-righteousness on behalf of the WM3 supporters, stubborn obfuscation by law enforcement, and repeated attempts by the filmmakers to offer alternative accusations that frankly are as shoddy and irresponsible as the lousy case against the teenagers. There is another feature documentary ,West Of Memphis, in circulation as well as many tv magazine pieces which may provide more information. I’d like to know if there is more to know about what happened the night those young boys were murdered, and I’d like to know more about what the police actually had on the WM3. In Purgatory the defense has gone to all the trouble of pulling together world renown criminal profilers and DNA experts. Yet the new documentary doesn’t reveal one thing we didn’t already know. These films succeeded in calling attention to injustice perpetrated on the accused and the fact that the real killer will never be brought to justice. The Arkansas court system created an outcome in which the case will never be reopened. The whole story is fascinating and sad, but these movies aren’t very good either. ๏ ๏ outof ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏… The Grey(d. Joe Carnahan, 2012) An airplane transporting ruffian oil workers

The Grey. Your enemy or your conscience?

crashes in barren Alaska. The men must try to survive arctic conditions, interpersonal conflicts, and attacks by an aggressive pack of wolves. The wolves are of course metaphor for the organizational behavior of a pack of men on the brink as well as the haunting pasts that brought each man to this frozen Purgatory. The challenge includes lots of tense survival action and man-chewing wolves, but what keeps the film interesting are the metaphysical elements, both in the blurry camerawork and the cryptic storytelling. Is this situation real or are we in the self-exiled imagination of the central character? Not brilliant but  an experience, however harrowing. ๏ ๏ ๏ out of ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏… (theatre) West Side Story (RISE theater company at Stadium Performing Arts Center, Woonsocket, RI) I go to a lot of community theater and you might think I am fortunate to live in a place where there are many local companies. One has to approach community theatre with prejudice of lowered expectations. Some of the worst crap in the world gets to Broadway with multi-million dollar underwriting. Under what circumstances can one expect no-budget theatre to be any better? Surprisingly often the risk does pay off in community. I see performers all the time who have dedicated their lives to craft and not to making it big. But “big” took on new meaning for me in seeing this production of WSS when the curtain went up on a cast of teenagers who were mostly all overweight. I’m not kidding. I don’t know anything about casting a play in suburban area where your company may also be completing with a lot of other companies, but surely someone had to realize the absurdity. WSS is as much a dancing show as it is musical as no one wants to see roly-poly people rolling around on the stage floor. I will say that the lead vocals were excellent. But the show itself seemed out of the director’s grasp. The pacing was awkward, the actors were bad, and the choreography was an embarrassment waiting for wincing audience. Whoever you are RISE, you need to set your ambitions lower for now and find material that is appropriate for your acting pool.

Media Log: FEBRUARY THEATRE SPECIAL

I had the opportunity to see a lot of theatre in the last week, both on Broadway and near home in Rhode Island. A reminder, I usually give theatre a simple SEE IT  or SKIP IT recommendation based on content not performance. In cases where good material is performed badly, I’ll add an additional note.

Take Me Out

TAKE ME OUT, writer Richard Greenberg. In 1993 the novelist Richard Lefcourt published a popular book “The Dreyfus Affair” not about the famous French Dreyfus Affair but about a gay, inter-racial  romantic affair between two major league baseball players. Although amusing enough, Lefcourt, whose primary occupation is television scriptwriter, clearly wrote a novel looking for movie rights. His actual knowledge of baseball seemed slight and as far as I can tell he is also a straight guy who failed to capture gay sensibility with any substance either. Lefcourt’s readers were sort of told: Dudes, just move those yummy, round tits down under a schlong and it’s the same thing. It aint. Also not the same thing is the 2003 play TAKE ME OUT by Richard Greenberg (and I confused these two for years) but it’s about a professional baseball player coming out of the closet. Fortunately instead of trying to tackle everything about baseball and gayness the play draws its dramatic energy from issues about all kinds of  intolerance. There actually isn’t any sex in it, which is ironic because many of the scenes call for full male nudity. The dialogue comes off too polished and overly theatrical for my taste, however the characters and the social commentary are complex. TAKE ME OUT won a Tony Award for best play. The cast at the production I just saw at 2nd Story Theater in Warren, RI was as talented as any you’ll see on Broadway.  SEE IT.

COMPANY, music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim, book George Furth. COMPANY is sometimes referred to as Broadway’s first successful “concept” musical. That’s historically arguable, but COMPANY was very influential in moving musical theatre away from the grand and formal Rodgers and Hammerstein book form. Instead COMPANY is a plotless musical about married couples done sort of in vignettes or review style. The common thread is the bachelor character Bobby who is a friend to each of the couples and a prism for their modern upper-middle class angst. COMPANY is my favorite musical on any stage, largely for Sondheim’s brilliant music. SEE IT for the music alone but be warned that the current production at Black Box in Mansfield, MA has a weak cast.

If you are reading this in the New England area both of these shows have their last performances this weekend through Feb. 19th, 2012.

Merrily We Roll Along

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim, book George Furth. Another great Sondheim work, and underrated for decades, is MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG currently in revival at Encores in New York City. The concept here is to tell the story of three bickering friends in showbusiness starting at the end of the story and moving backwards twenty years to when they first met as idealistic young people. So we begin at the bitter end, and end at the hopeful beginning. The first Broadway production of MWRA in 1981 was an historic flop for Sondheim. It closed after two weeks. The music was brilliant but the concept was confusing to audiences. Over 30 years Sondheim and his collaborators have tinkered with the show. One of the big things that changed is the nexus of the story-  it’s gone from being a critique about artistic integrity to being more a reflection of how adult friendships change over time. I’m still  interested in that story but I think dramatic efficacy gets lost in backward plotting. I love MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG because it’s unique but I don’t know if the concept will ever really work. SEE IT.

Nick Jonas, How to

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, music and lyrics Frank Loesser. If Merrily We Roll Along is an intellectual musical H2$ is the opposite. H2$ is what everybody’s talking about when the say that musicals are dumb stories surrounded by sometimes good music. I love Frank Loesser’s score and I think there are sometimes brilliant subtleties to this broad comedy about a window washer who climbs the ladder of business. I did not have the opportunity to see this revival’s first cast with Daniel Radcliffe and John Laroquette. What they have now on Broadway with Nick Jonas and Beau Bridges is pretty bad, particularly Jonas. To me the character of Finch is supposed to be an opportunist but not necessarily conniving. The comedy is in that everybody at the company keeps promoting Finch because he stands in the right place at the right time. Jonas seems to think that the way to play Finch is to play Nick Jonas playing Finch and he just comes off as smug. Jonas’ vocal performance also isn’t ready for Broadway.  SEE IT somewhere but skip the current production on Broadway.

Media Log: 01.08.2012, incl CHRONICLE and SMASH

CHRONICLE: CAN ANDREW CRUSH HIS PROBLEMS?

(cinema) Chronicle, d. Josh Trank, 2012. There’s a quote attributed to Will Rogers, a very practical guy: When you find yourself stuck in a hole, stop digging. I offer this aphorism for consideration to the lead character Andrew in Chronicle and to the filmmakers behind Chronicle as well. Andrew, a shy teenager, finds himself part of a trio of boys who discover a strange crystal artifact in an underground cavern. The crystal, for some reason, gives the boys telekinetic powers. They can move objects with their minds and even figure out how to fly above the clouds. The external benefits of Andrew’s new physical power include making new friends, becoming popular at school and even attracting the interest of girls. But ultimately Andrew’s damaged ego and personal problems at home are more powerful than his abilities his father is an abusive drunk and his mother has a terminal illness. As Andrew’s telekinetic powers strengthen, his emotional self-control weakens. Instead of being a hero, he becomes a menace of violence and destruction. The “chronicle” part of this is that the whole movie is shot in so called “found footage” style. I call it faux-verite. Andrew carries a video camera and his recording of everything that happens is our viewpoint into his rise and fall. There are a lot of movies using faux-verite but experimenting with the form, Chronicle ventures into original territory. I like the special effects work of the suspended objects and flying teenagers. I also like the story in the first two thirds a lot. Is all this really happening to Andrew or are we a voyeur into his fantasy life? Is this an origin story of Andrew as a comic book style hero, or super villain?  There are probably a hundred interesting places Chronicle could have taken us but it doesn’t go to any of them. Instead the story runs out of gas creatively and begins to get boring, even at under 85 minutes. In the desperate feeling last act, Andrew goes on an I-can-destroy-you-all-if-I-chose power binge. The filmmakers have no idea what to do with their own character. So they drag Andrew into a hole of explosions, nihilism, and waste. Unfortunately, Andrew lacks the ability to think of any better solution than to just keep making things worse. In the same manner Chronicle goes from good, to boring, to bad, to worse. I should mention that I saw a strong homoerotic subtext here as Andrew’s fantasy-come-to life seems to be finding a phallic object in a cave and using its secret power to convince attractive, popular boys to runaway with him- just something I was thinking about as I watched this movie go to pieces.  ๏ ๏ outof ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏… The Harvey Girls, d. George Sidney, 1946. Not everybody knows who Johnny Mercer was but everybody knows a Johnny Mercer song: “MOON RIVER”, “JEEPERS CREEPERS”, or “YOU MUST HAVE BEEN A BEAUTIFUL BABY.” Mercer wrote lyrics for and recorded hundreds of songs in the Great American Songbook including “ON THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND THE SANTA FE”  for the movie musical The Harvey Girls (music: Harry Warren). That song is used in a grand Hollywood production number at the beginning. What happens after that are some less fantastic numbers and a thin story. Judy Garland plays a 19th Century mail order bride from Ohio whose train stops in an old Western American town. Garland takes a job as a Harvey Girl. That’s an ebullient, hard working server in a friendly whistle stop restaurant called Harvey’s. It’s a respectable opportunity for a young, unmarried woman, especially compared to the girls who “entertain” men more provocatively across the street at the local casino and dance hall. A cultural conflict is set up here between the two kinds of girls in town, a conflict repeated in the battle of affections over the same man by both Garland and the leader of the showgirls. There is a longer discussion to be had about how these microcosmic conflicts attempt to play out familiar value themes in musicals: work versus leisure and chastity versus sexual promiscuity. But the case is well summarized at the end when all of the town drunks and gamblers come over to Harvey’s to learn how to waltz. As the town parson says, “For the first time the men in this town chose having a good time over having a wild time.” This movie is a good but not wild time and there are some great, less recognizable Mercer/Warren tunes as well as an amazing tap dance specialty number by Ray Bolger.๏ ๏ ๏outof ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ … (television) Smash. This show premiered on television after a great deal of marketing and other ballyhoo. It’s premise is to follow the evolution of a fictional Broadway musical and the lives of its creators and performers. So far I don’t quite give it a “smash.” The pilot was more of a “ring” or a “bang” to me. The characters started out kind of flat but they promise to be much more interesting than the nitwit cartoon characters on Glee (Hate it!). I’m impressed with the quality of Smash’s original music by Marc Shaiman, composer/lyricist for musicals like Hairspray and Catch Me If You Can. I wonder if they’re going to be able to maintain the quality of that music over the course of a television series. One of the principle character conflicts is going to be the two young singers fighting for the lead role. I thought Megan Hilti, the blonde, was amazing and that Katherine McPhee, the brunette, was just really good. However my unbinding straw poll revealed that there are people who feel completely opposite, that McPhee clobbered Hilti. What did you think? I think Smash could turn out to be a lot of fun to watch. WATCH IT… In my continuing power screening of old Golden Girls episodes I just finished the 3rd season. LARCENY AND OLD LACE (S3, Ep.21) Sophia is dating a retired gangster and finds a wad of money she thinks he robbed from a bank just to impress her. One of the big problems I have with GG is that they enlist a lot of great Hollywood and Broadway actors as guest stars and then never give them anything funny to do, perhaps to contain them in upstaging the regulars. However, this episode features Mickey Rooney as the old crook and he’s in great form. WATCH IT. BTW, Mickey Rooney was older than any of the GG actresses. They’re all dead except for Betty White and Rooney’s still alive. ROSE’S BIG ADVENTURE (S3, Ep.22) Rose has to convince her newly retired boyfriend to do something with his life. Also, the girls hire an old Sicilian architect to remodel their garage. This isn’t a bad episode but neither story line is particularly believable or funny. SKIP IT. MIXED BLESSINGS (S3, Ep. 23) Dorothy forbids her son to marry a woman twice his age. Meanwhile the bride’s family is forbidding the marriage because they are black. It’s a weird pattern to me that the adult children are always flying into Miami to spring shocking news to their Golden Girl mother at the front door. Ever hear of a telephone? And what’s with all the parental forbidding? It’s okay though, the white people come out looking really tolerant in this one. SKIP IT.  MR. TERRIFIC (S3, Ep. 24) Now Rose is dating a television kiddie show super hero named Mr. Terrific. What happened to the good for nothing she was seeing two episodes ago? Through sitcomy circumstance Dorothy gets Mr. Terrific fired from his gig and has to fill in for him on the air. I wanted that situation of comedy to be funnier. Also, I’ve always disliked the character actor Bob Dishy who plays Mr. Terrific. He never fails to irritate. SKIP IT.  MOTHER’S DAY (S3, EP.25) Each GG recalls a memorable Mother’s Day story. Again, the show goes to the lengths of getting the great comedian Alice Ghostley as a guest star and she’s barely in it. But the writing in this episode is pretty touching. WATCH IT.

book reports – VIOLENCIA! A MUSICAL NOVEL by Bruce Jay Friedman

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to know the author Bruce Jay Friedman. I came across his novel Violencia! (2001) while doing research for my own novel in progress. Friedman, now in his 80s, over decades has written a bunch of novels I never read, some off-broadway plays I never heard of, and the screenplays for movies made in the 1980s I couldn’t care less about, e.g. Stir Crazy, Doctor Detroit, Splash. If Friedman is a famous author I gather it’s because he’s supposed to be a master wit in hysterical fiction. Hysterical is a pretty good word for describing the mania of Violencia! A retired police precinct clerk is recruited to write the libretto for Violencia!, a Broadway musical based on gritty experiences observed in the crime fighting world. Despite knowing nothing about writing a musical and being a rather ordinary man, the clerk unwittingly becomes a swiveling node for the novel’s cast of neurotic producers, composers and theatre actors. They all see the dull clerk as an embassy for their vanities, character flaws, and harebrained ideas about art and audience. Violencia! follows the attempt to put on a big musical from it’s distasteful concept, to dishonest financing scheme, to pointless and vulgar production numbers, and then to calamitous road tryouts. The novel is intended as a satire on the affectations of backstage Broadway. Situations and characters in this book are clever I have to admit, but satirical comedy like this too often proceeds plausibility: the fatigued composer returns energized after vacationing in less than a day’s travel from New York to PuertaVallarta, no-nothing producers with hundreds-thousands of dollars at stake insist that Violencia!’s success is held in suspense by the script’s call for use of the word “doody.” This style of writing allows for comical leaps in logic and abandoned story detail. Friedman’s novel is creative but I also find the storytelling a little lazy considering it’s something he’s been doing for decades. This may be a good light read for someone in the mood for lampoonery; I take my comedy much more serious.

book reports – THE THEATER WILL ROCK, Elizabeth L. Wollman

THE THEATER WILL ROCK: A HISTORY OF THE ROCK MUSICAL FROM HAIR TO HEDWIG (2006)

There does seem to be a common understanding that before the musical Hair there was nothing like Hair and that most of what followed Hair were flop imitations – Dude, Via Galactica, Rainbow. Though Hair became a classic, theatrical producers stopped throwing their money away on rock scores by about 1975. What Elizabeth Wollman’s through history brings forward is that Hair’s influence in musical theatre can be seen in decades of cultural tug-of-war between keeping rock music’s aesthetics authentic and produce musicals that have mass audience appeal. Hair’s long beautiful hair grew into Grease, and Les Mis, and Mama Mia but through the use of softer forms of rock music. We don’t really recognize how things of changed since Rogers and Hammerstein. Unlike any work I’ve read on the topic of musical theatre, or even in rock journalism for that matter, Wollman finally provides language for describing the variety of very different kinds of musical theatre that are too often lazily categorized as “rock musicals.” For once Hair is rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar is rock opera and Dreamgirls and Smokey Joe’s Cafe are other things too, well categorized here. I have a couple of quibbles. First, I think Wollman doesn’t emphasize that much of the failure in those fabulous post-Hair rock flops lies in being rushed to Broadway with big money backers and no existing source material. Most of the truly great shows in musical theatre are drawn from novels, plays or history. At least Hair had the huge benefit of a long and sometimes painful gestation period before finally coming uptown. The big rock flops of the early 1970’s were being made-up on the spot. Ironically two of the successful rock musicals from the same period, Your Own Thing and Two Gentleman of Verona were adapted from that rebellious beatnik Shakespeare. Next, Wollman makes frequent reference to off-off Broadway shows like House of Leather and The Legend of Johnny Pot which barely ever opened, meanwhile her research overlooks shows like Promenade (259 performances) and Salvation (239 performances). Finally, between her socio-historical chapters the author includes some short academic meditations on audience attitudes, marketing experiments, and musical aesthetics. These interlude essay are well written they do seem like step children, sections from a different book. If you are seeking musical aesthetics and composition for musical theater, you won’t find much here on the specific shows or songs. However this is excellent work on cultural commodification and the economics of Broadway over the last forty years.

Irving Berlin Re-Signs Agreement with Rodgers n Hammerstein 23 Years After The Last One Died

link: Irving Berlin Music Company Re-Signs with Imagem Music Group, Rodgers & Hammerstein :: Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization :: News.

Irving Berlin Music Company Re-Signs with Imagem Music Group, Rodgers & Hammerstein

Relationship Dating From 1990 Continues With Global Representation of Irving Berlin Brand and Grand Rights, and On-Going Music Publishing Representation in North America

The Irving Berlin Music Company (IBMC) has just re-signed its ongoing representation agreement with the Imagem Music Group/Rodgers & Hammerstein for international brand management and grand rights exploitation, and music publishing in North America. “Our partnership with the IBMC and the Irving Berlin family began in 1990,” says Ted Chapin, President of Rodgers & Hammerstein, a division of the Imagem Music Group. “We have enjoyed working with Mr. Berlin’s three visionary daughters over the years, with unprecedented success in the arenas of publishing, recordings, TV specials, books and events, major revivals of his musicals on Broadway, in London, and on the concert stage, and the creation of new stage properties such as WHITE CHRISTMAS and TOP HAT. We look forward to a continued, and fruitful, collaboration with the IBMC and the Berlin family.”

About Irving Berlin

Born Israel Beilin in a Russian Jewish shtetl in 1888, he died as Irving Berlin in his adopted hometown of New York City in 1989. Songwriter, performer, theatre owner, music publisher and soldier, he wrote scores to more than a dozen Broadway musicals (including ANNIE GET YOUR GUN), and dozens of Hollywood movie musicals, including two which have recently become successful stage properties: WHITE CHRISTMAS and TOP HAT. His more than 1,200 songs include “White Christmas,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Easter Parade,” “Always,” “Blue Skies,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and “God Bless America.” Irving Berlin’s love for, and generosity to, the USA is legendary, and through several ongoing foundations, including the God Bless America Fund, he donated tens of millions of dollars in royalties to Army emergency relief and the Boy and Girl Scouts. Numerous awards and accolades include an Academy Award for “White Christmas,” a Congressional Gold Medal, a special Tony Award and commemoration on a U.S. postage stamp. Learn more about Irving Berlin at www.irvingberlin.com and www.rnh.com. Like Irving Berlin on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/irvingberlin.

About the Imagem Music Group

Imagem Music Group (André de Raaff, CEO and Co-founder) is the number one independent music publishing company in the world, unique for its leadership role in classical music, Broadway, and pop/rock. Boosey & Hawkes represents the world’s leading classical composers from Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky to such contemporary artists as John Adams and Steve Reich. Rodgers & Hammerstein controls the rights to the world’s most popular stage and film musicals, including THE SOUND OF MUSIC,OKLAHOMA! and THE KING AND I, as well as representing works by Irving BerlinAndrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Schwartz and more. Imagem Music’s ever expanding pop catalogue includes such writers as Elvis Presley, Ludacris, Phil Collins, Genesis, Anna Nalick, Temper Trap, Steve Robson, M.I.A., Bombay Bicycle Club and Daft Punk. Imagem is also active in production library music; London-based Imagem Production Music represents over 100,000 tracks, while California-based 5 Alarm Music represents more than 40 different music libraries. The Imagem Music Group has offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and Amsterdam, and exclusive agents throughout the world. Imagem: making the difference!  www.imagem.com.

book reports – ONE MORE KISS, Ethan Mordden

One More Kiss: The Broadway Musical in the 1970s is the 6th of Ethan Mordden’s 7 volumes reviewing the history of Broadway musicals. Mordden has had an eclectic career as writer and composer from novels, to other non-fiction books, and whole off-broadway musicals. Mordden’s familiarity with theatre makes him more than qualified to write about the subject matter but I’m surprised that a publisher would be so committed, volume after volume, to one person’s idiosyncratic style, or that an editor would let the infusion of the author’s personality overwhelm the history. These historical essays account for just about everything that ever lasted a day or more on Broadway, but they are also outlets for the author’s unsolicited opinions. Unfortunately along with opinion comes the author’s voice and an irritating sense of humor. I want to read something that is comprehensive about the shows of 70s. Why is this guy here? There are actually occasions when Mordden tells the reader what their favorite show is. I find it invasive. The volume is a treasure chest of information but it’s wrapped around an authorial style that I can’t abide.

MEDIA LOG 01.09.2012

(cinema) Deep In My Heart, d. Stanley Donen, 1954. This is a tall tale biography of 20th century composer Sigmund Romburg. MGM did this same type of movie for Jerome Kern (Till The Clouds Roll By) and Rodgers & Hart (Words and Music) where the biography  is manipulated into the connective tissue for a review of musical set pieces highlighting the artist’s career. The idea is to also employ a parade of big stars doing cameos. Deep In My Heart includes fabulous stage productions with Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Rosemary Clooney, and my favorite hot-as-lava dancer Miss Ann Miller. But the Oscar goes to Jose Ferrer playing the role of Romburg. Ferrer was not famous for being a singer, but if you watch five minutes of this picture go right to the Jazza Doo number. Ferrer is brilliant and hysterical. He actually only got a one Oscar for something else. But he puts a tremendous performance into the otherwise dull bio sections. 3 movie spotlights… (television) Star Trek DS9, “Vortex.” Odo transports back to the Gamma Quadrant a prisoner who claims to have knowledge of a colony populated by other shapeshifting Odos. I think this is the first Odo-centered episode and it’s excellent. The evolving relationship between Odo and the prisoner characters from enemies to allies is well written and the space chase through the vortex is genuinely suspenseful. 3 1/2 spotlights.  “Battle Lines.” Commander Sisco is giving the Pi Opaka (she’s sort of like the Bajoran Pope) a tour through the wormhole when they crash land on an abandoned penal colony. The colony’s prisoners are condemned to fight a bloody war in which nobody ever dies. It’s a cool sci-fi concept but kind of a mouthful for 45 minutes. More backstory would have been more interesting to me than the opportunity to see Kira (Nana Visitor) overact. 2 1/2 spotlights.

the dirty needle – THE LAST SWEET DAYS OF ISSAC

The Last Sweet Days of Issac is about a guy trying to make it with a girl in an elevator and then, in the second act, the same guy, in jail, trying to make it with a different girl through a television screen. I don’t think we’re in Oklahoma anymore. The play appears to be Brecht inspired and the music is the definite offspring of Hair. Issac was a decent off-Broadway hit in 1970. The show’s creators were the female-female team of Nancy Ford (composer) and Gretchen Cryer (lyrics and mother of actor John Cryer). Ford and Cryer got what ever they needed to bring another show to Broadway called Shelter. Shelter flopped, but after that they had their biggest hit I’m Getting My Act Together And Taking It Out on the Road. The songs in Issac are so much like Hair you could transfuse “I Want to Walk to San Francisco” and “Herein Lies the Seeds of Revolution” into the Hair lineup and not know they’re from different shows. That’s a compliment. I love Hair, and I love a lot of the rock ensemble pieces in Issac. This show has its pretentious clunkers, but it also seems to have its own point of view about living life to the fullest. I would love to see this show revived somewhere. 3 gramophones.

The vinyl copy I found has some distortion, especially during the louder tracks on side two. I think it’s an issue with the pressing rather than the recording. I’ve seen this soundtrack in the record swap bins a couple of times so it’s not hard to find and it should be cheap.

Media Log 1.3.2012

(cinema) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, d. David Fincher, 2011. A character in this movie says that society in Sweden hides behind the shiny veneer of Ikea furniture. Behind the European setting and slick filmmaking lies a silly, and totally predictable story. When you take away the heavy down parkas the mystery is as thin as its undernourished heroine. I liked GWTDT but probably in total only about 60%. 2 and 1/2 spotlights… (television) Star Trek DS9, “Captive Pursuit.” The crew rescues the representative of a new species who turns out to be the hunted prey of his bloodsport pursuers from the Gamma Quadrant. Sisco must balance his moral conviction with his responsibilities to uphold the prime directive. Like the best episodes of past Star Trek series, often the right thing to do is not what is best decision. This is a very sophisticated script for the being only the 6th episode. 3 and 1/2 spotlights… The Golden Girls, “Three On A Couch.” Are relations really so frayed around the GG house that they all need to a group therapy hour with a psychiatrist? Not, really. The session is just a flashback device to some recent, disconnected comic incidents, none of which seem important enough to take in for service. A watchable but unmemorable episode. 2 spotlights… (theater) Blood Brothers, screening of 1989 London cast w/Kiki Dee. Music, lyrics and book by Willy Russell. Twin brothers are secretly separated as infants into rich and poor upbringings. Circumstances raises them as best friends but both of them are doomed to a young, violent death. The story is inspired by The Corsican Brothers and the music obviously by A.L. Webber’s popular rock theatricals of the 1980s. I found the play to kind of sputter until finally getting interesting in the last half of the second half. The music to me sounded like the same two songs over and over, alternating between the gloomy one and the peppy one. There are some good elements but overall: skip it.

A Little Opera

It seems weird to think of opera singers as Hollywood celebrities.  Although operatic musical conventions are frequently still borrowed on Broadway – Rent, Spring Awakening, American Idiot – and at the movies – Evita, Moulin Rouge, Repo! A Genetic Opera.  Staged opera in popular perception is thought to be entertainment for the affluent, the culturally elite, public television viewers, and the age 60+.  Some artists crossover – Sarah Brightman, Il Divo, Andrea Bocelli, even Josh Groban – but even they are not, well, rock stars.   In mid-20th century Hollywood film there was a call for talented operatic singers who happened also to be young and sexy.  The golden age of Broadway musicals occurred roughly between 1940 and 1970.  There was a market in Hollywood not just for musicals turned into movies, but to provide an additional product, adapted in form and content from traditional opera, the movie operetta.  An operetta is a light opera. It has more acting than an opera and more singing than a musical.  The stars of this era were usually better singers and worse actors.

The Desert Song (1953)

In Desert Song, Gordon McCrea’s acting performance is characteristically frigid and Kathryn Grayson’s singing is,  I think, tremulous.  But she is gorgeous.  In the story McCrea lives a double life as a docile anthropologist and as the secret leader of a rebellious Arab tribe.  Kathryn Grayson is a French general’s overindulged daughter who finds herself an unwitting pawn in the local Arab war.  Intended to capture vast Saharan mystery and danger, the scope of the musical looks and feels small compared to similarly set epics of the period.  Yet, I have to admit that there is an almost inexplicable charm.  Part of it is the sophisticated musical score (with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein).  The other part is that the cast seems to take their participation in a ridiculous story quite seriously.  I want to believe.

That Midnight Kiss (1949)

Less ambitious is That Midnight Kiss.  An aspiring opera singer seeks theatrical greatness for herself and her talented, truck-driving boyfriend.  What’s lacking in scope is made up for in singing.  The singing does seem like the central entertainment purpose.  This was the first film role for the great tenor Mario Lanza.  His voice is magnificent and his acting is convincing, if a bit too enthusiastic.  Kathryn Grayson stars in this one to, and she’s less affected.

These aren’t great films overall, but I enjoy the format.  Outside of revisiting movies from this era, it’s a type of movie experience that is gone forever.

Pajama Lame

Pajama Game (1957)

An excellent book I read on the history of American musicals –  Our Musicals, Ourselves: A Social History of the American Musical Theatre – divides mid-20th century shows into roughly two groups:  the social message shows, such as Show Boat or West Side Story, and the “diversionaries”  like Annie Get Your Gun or Pajama Game; pure entertainments.  And Pajama Game, despite looking at a glance about labor union strikers in the garment industry is, in fact, about absolutely nothing.  There is a flimsy love story, and perhaps an accidental excursus on sexual harassment in the workplace.  But the production numbers are so diversionary and separate from what storyline there is, that it’s more similar to the Busby Berkeley musical revue movies of the 30s than it is to Rogers and Hammerstein.  That said, the score and the production numbers are very good.  Below is a scene depicting “the entertainment” that takes place at the so called labor rally (Note the signature Bob Fosse choreography.  He was the best!):

I’d like to see a real Broadway production of P.G.  The film, by the way, is very G.  They take out all the damns and hells and randy sexual innuendo that were in the original stage show (And in my sister’s high-school production back in the 70s.  There they set “Hernando’s Hideaway” as a disco!).   I wouldn’t rank it a necessity among films or stage shows.  I don’t make requirements for these diversionaries as a whole, but there are much better ones, e.g. Gypsy.  Everything from Pajama Game worth your time is on YouTube.

Met A Show Boat

Show Boat (1951)

Show business is the only business that reminds us there is no business like it. And it never tires of that message. If there were as many books about books as there are musicals about musicals, there wouldn’t be room on the shelf for books about anything else.

–          from Roger Ebert’s movie review of A Chorus Line, December 20, 1985

Show Boat is a movie set around a turn of the century riverboat that travels the Mississippi, not for paying passengers, but a freight of singers and dancers who act out light, musical comedies of the Victorian era.  One is tempted to observe something quaint here, a bygone era.  But Show Boat is meta.  “Meta” is pseudo-Marxist slang and a De-constructionist prefix college students go around putting in front of anything that’s about itself:  meta-physics, meta-analysis, meta-ethics, Meta-llica.  Show Boat, like many musicals, is a musical about musicals.  Moreover, it’s a movie (the 3rd movie remake) adapted from a Broadway stage musical, itself adapted from a book about the musical cast of a traveling show boat.  That’s about as Meta-textual as one of those edgy college films where a college student films a film about a guy with a film camera.

In the reality of stage musicals, Show Boat is considered an innovation in it’s time.  It was the first true musical play; the first complete integration of score, singing, dance production, and drama into one complete piece.  Oscar Hammerstein went on to write shows with Richard Rodgers that were bigger and with better music.  But Show Boat is a thoughtful take on the disillusionments, heartbreaks, and mistakes that happen in the backstage lives of its actor-characters.  In some ways it surprisingly peers into real modern life.

Step In, It’s Fine

Step-Up 3 (2010)

To enjoy musicals you have step up willingly into a compromised role as viewer.  You must be willing to believe for a couple of hours that it’s normal to break into inconspicuously-orchestrated song as a means of expression, be it exuberant or despairing.  Step-Up 3 is in every way a musical without singing.  The story is preposterous, the acting is histrionic, and life effecting conflicts are resolved mutually by organized dance-offs.  In between the silliness, is some really amazing dance talent.  The “whys” of the film are endless:  why are all the lead characters white and Jewish kids while the secondary cast is mostly made up of better dancing minorities?  Why isn’t it considered a suspicious cult or maybe Communist that a bunch of teenagers live together in nightclub without any blemish of alcohol, drugs, arguments or sex?  Why would an engineering student enroll at NYU while an aspiring film student needs to leave New York?  Again, here I’m patschkieing around.  Step-Up 3 is 3D, it’s fun, and the dancing is fantastic.  That’s about all there is to say, but it’s also probably all there is to know.