Tuesday, May 31, 2011


by David Yazbek
from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown  (2010)

You think that Cupid’s got a bow?
Well no, Cupid’s got a needle.
It’ll find a vein -
Careful, ‘cause you’ll bleed a little.
But pretty soon romance will marinate your brain.
Then watch the temp’rature go up ...

You hardly sleep, because
Your sheets are wet -
Toss and turn for hours
And your sweat is sweet -
Smells like dying flowers.
You’ve got
Pain in your stomach like a long-neglected tooth,
Dilated pupils that refuse to see the truth
And that’s -

You’re sick, you’re sick.
You might not get through it.
Your aching heart is racing
And your brain can’t catch up to it.
That’s how you diagnose
An overdose of love.

You feel the itching on your skin
Then in — right down to your skeleton.
You seize, you freeze,
Knees turn into gelatin.
Then you’re on them, praying that
You’ll keep some self-respect,
But out of nowhere comes another side-effect.

Like when you see his face
You feel it in your eyes.
They start to water
Like the place between your thighs.
Whenever he gets close—
That’s an overdose of love.

You’re sick of what you’re saying.
You’re sick of what you’re thinking.
You’d have another drink
Except you’re sick of what you’re drinking.
While sitting there alone,
Longing for his touch
A little is elixir,
But too much is much too much.
You’re burning up.

The spark that started it
Became a raging fire.
The cobwebs in your head
Turned into razor wire.
It’s like a puzzle that you’ll never get the trick of —
The trick is you admitting
You’re sick of what you’re sick of.

You feel it on your tongue.
You feel it in your lips.
You feel it from your fingers
To the thing between your hips.
You collapse on the floor,
You shudder, you tingle.
The paramedic comes —
You wonder if he’s single.

You are sick sick sick.
You’re falling to pieces.
And the curse is the cure
Is worse than the disease is.
You’re dead, you’re toast,
You’ve overdosed on love.

Baby, you're sick.

I'm a great fan of the work of David Yazbek, composer and lyricist for The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - two WONDERFUL musicals.  This past fall he opened his newest musical, the black comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, based on Pedro Almodovar's 1988 film.  He has completely captured the sensuality and passion of Madrid in Almodovar's film, and he's underscored the events with a distinctive and infectious Latin beat.  This was another one of my new cast albums and I've listened to it over and over and over ... it STILL has me laughing out loud at the darkly comic songs like this one and sighing at some beautfully tender ballads.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tell My Father

"Tell My Father"
by Jack Murphy
from The Civil War  (1999)

Tell my father that his son
Didn't run, or surrender.
That I bore his name with pride
As I tried to remember,
You are judged by what you do
While passing through ...

As I rest 'neath fields of green,
Let him lean on your shoulder.
Tell him how I spent my youth
So the truth could grow older.
Tell my father when you can ...
I was a man.

Tell him we will meet again
Where the angels learn to fly.
Tell him we will meet as men
For with honor did I die.

Tell him how I wore the Blue,
Proud and true through the fire.
Tell my father so he'll know ...
I love him so.

Tell him how we wore the Blue,
Proud and true, like he taught us.
Tell my father not to cry ...
Then say goodbye.

Another dual-purpose post for today.  First, on this Memorial Day, it is my tribute to those who have fallen in battle.  Second, I want to give due credit to lyricist Jack Murphy (and composer Frank Wildhorn) after the skewering I gave them yesterday for the travesty that was Wonderland.  Much of The Civil War is quite lovely, and I think that "Tell My Father" is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.  I hope you'll agree with me.

In the show, it is sung by a young Northern infantryman who is dying on the battlefield and is asking his best friend to deliver a message to his father back home.  I have performed this song myself as both an audition and workshop piece - it fits my singing voice and, because of the "father connection," I identify with it. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

"Through the Looking Glass"
by Jack Murphy
from Wonderland (2011)

Strange but true,
Something's changing deep inside me
Breaking through,
Waking what's asleep inside me ...

OK OK ... so I know the title of my blog is "A Writer's 'Wish-I-Had-Written-That' Journal," but I just can't let this one slide.  I need to read no more than these lines (I'm not sure I really want to call them lyrics) penned by Jack Murphy for the musical Wonderland (yet ANOTHER adaptation of Alice in Wonderland which recently closed on Broadway), and simply ask ... "REALLY?"  Oh, and if you need more evidence, watch the "trailer" above for more lyric gems.

One of my favorite things to do every few months or so is to order three or four new musical cast albums to add to my collection.  There's something tremendously exciting about listening to a musical theatre score you've never heard before for the very first time ... until you're assaulted with something as utterly and unforgivably dreadful as Wonderland.  It was sheer torture listening to these songs - the banal, pedestrian lyrics punctuated by Frank Wildhorn's no-better-than-Disney-"High School Musical"-style-pop music.

So, let's turn this into a positive, shall we?  It's musicals like this that convince me that I CERTAINLY can write something better than a show that's been on a Broadway stage.  I'm not sure, though, whether that's a comment on my ability level or the quality of some of the material on Broadway.

And, giving Jack Murphy his due ... some of his lyrics for an earlier Frank Wildhorn opus, The Civil War, are quite lovely.  To be fair, I'll post THOSE tomorrow.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


How Do You Know? (2010)
by James L. Brooks

So ... I have kept this for a long time as proof that
we're all just one small adjustment away from
making our lives work.

Tonight, I was devastated by a can of Play-Doh.

Perhaps I should explain a little more ...

I will quietly and cautiously admit that I am easily suckered in by manipulative romantic comedies (you'll keep this between us, won't you?).  They don't even have to be particularly good ... this evening's offering was How Do You Know? by the wonderful screenwriter James L. Brooks.  Standard rom-com storyline ... Pretty Girl is dating famous but insensitive and neglectful Schmuck, while ignoring the shy, sensitive, bumbling Everyman who is carrying a serious torch.  But don't worry, everything works out all right at the end, as it always does, and those that deserve to live "happily ever after" do (even if there's no particular chemistry between the two ;-)

At the end of this particular movie, Paul Rudd (the aforementioned Everyman) visits the shared apartment of Reese Witherspoon (the aforementioned Pretty Girl) and Owen Wilson (the aforementioned Schmuck).  Just before his arrival, Schmuck gives Pretty Girl a diamond-studded watch as a sign that they are "engaged to be engaged."  Everyman arrives with new-found determination to let Pretty Girl know his true feelings and pulls her out on the balcony so that they can "talk."  There he gives her his birthday present.  She unwraps it, and it's a ...

Can of Play-Doh.  "Huh?" says the look on Pretty Girl's face.

But wait ... Everyman takes the container in his hand and tells the story of how the inventor created the original goo to clean soot from wallpaper.  When it looked like the inventor would lose his shirt after the advent of electric and gas heat, a schoolteacher friend suggested he add color to the compound a make a new kind of modeling material that didn't dry like clay.  So ... Everyman hands Pretty Girl the plastic can and says ... well, you can read the line above.

I'm not sure how to explain this, and frankly I'm not even sure I want to get this personal, but ... I broke down in tears.  And I'm not talking about the smiling, tears-rolling-down-the-face-happy-ending tears.  These were painful, sobbing tears.  Sure, I get misty in almost all romantic comedies, but I don't remember ever having this kind of a reaction.  There was something deeply personal for me in this simple but beautifully-written line. 

As some of my friends know, particularly those with whom I've recently shared lunches and dinners, I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately about where I am in my life.  What things do I value?  What things are not giving me the satisfaction they once did?  What might I be willing to do to change things?  What are those things that I could easily do without?  Why do I not find value in those things from which I find the most success?  What are the things that I still feel are missing?  What, when it comes right down to it, is the "small adjustment" that I can't seem to find to make my life "work"?  What am I afraid of?  As you might imagine, this simple movie line was profound for me and it frankly took a bit of time for me to even recover.

This wasn't my original plan for today's blog post, but I felt it was important enough to write about since it had such an effect on me.  I hope someday that my writing can elicit the kind of emotion that this simple scene and line did for me ... thanks, Mr. Brooks ...

Friday, May 27, 2011

On My Own

"On My Own"
by Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer
from Les Miserables (1985)

And now I'm all alone again
Nowhere to turn, no one to go to.
Without a home without a friend,
Without a face to say hello to.
And now the night is near -
Now I can make believe he's here ...

Sometimes I walk alone at night
When everybody else is sleeping.
I think of him and then I'm happy
With the company I'm keeping.
The city goes to bed
And I can live inside my head.

On my own
Pretending he's beside me.
All alone,
I walk with him till morning.
Without him,
I feel his arms around me,
And when I lose my way,
I close my eyes
And he has found me.

In the rain
The pavement shines like silver.
All the lights
Are misty in the river.
In the darkness,
The trees are full of starlight.
And all I see is him and me
Forever and forever.

And I know it's only in my mind
That I'm talking to myself and not to him.
And although I know that he is blind -
Still I say, there's a way for us.

I love him -
But when the night is over,
He is gone ...
The river's just a river.
Without him,
The world around me changes.
The trees are bare and everywhere
The streets are full of strangers.

I love him,
But every day I'm learning.
All my life
I've only been pretending.
Without me,
His world will go on turning -
A world that's full of happiness
That I have never known.

I love him ...
I love him ...
I love him ...
But only ...
On my own.

I'm fairly certain this will be the only Les Miserables post in this blog.  Those who know me and my musical theatre tastes know my opinion of this bloated, over-long, self-important three-and-a-half-hour plus MARATHON.  I've seen the production twice ... once with the touring company, and once in its Broadway home.  Both times I've found myself rolling my eyes, squirming in my seat, and not really caring very much for the fate of any character on stage.

Frankly, just like Wicked, I don't get why people fall all over themselves for this show.  Just. Don't. Get. It.  And, like Wicked, I thoroughly enjoyed the score when I first listened to it, but after finding the show shallow and uninvolving, my distaste has trickled down to the score as well.

HOWEVER, there is one song in the show that I still enjoy very much.  "On My Own" is a rapturously beautiful torch song and "power ballad."  And to have it sung by one of my favorite performers, Lea Salonga, in the video clip above, makes it even better.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Oprah Winfrey Show (2011)
by Oprah Winfrey

There is a common thread that runs through all our pain and all of our suffering, and that is unworthiness - not feeling worthy enough to own the life you were created for ... There’s a difference between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing that you are worthy of happiness ... We often block our own blessings because we don’t feel inherently good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough - or worthy enough. You’re worthy because you were born and because you are here. Your being here, your being alive, makes worthiness your birthright. You alone are enough.

I caught Oprah's last show yesterday and was struck on many occasions by what she had to say.  I may have grown a little tired of Oprah over the years, but this seems right on the money.  And it's a lesson that I still have yet to learn ... even at 50 ...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hump the Hostess

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962)
by Edward Albee

You're all flops.  I am the Earth Mother, and you're all flops.  I disgust me.  I pass my life in crummy, totally pointless infidelities ... would-be infidelities.  Hump the Hostess?  That's a laugh.  A bunch of boozed-up ... impotent lunk-heads.  Martha makes goo-goo eyes, and the lunk-heads grin, and roll their beautiful, beautiful eyes back, and grin some more, and Martha licks her chops, and the lunk-heads slap over to the bar to pick up a little courage, and they pick up a little courage, and they bounce back over to old Martha, who does a little dance for them, which heats them all up ... mentally ... and so they slap over to the bar again, and pick up a little more courage, and their wives and sweethearts stick their noses up in the air ... right through the ceiling, sometimes ... which sends the lunk-heads back to the soda fountain again where they fuel up some more, while Martha-poo sits there with her dress up over her head ... suffocating - you don't know how stuffy if is with your dress up over your head - suffocating!  Waiting for the lunk-heads; so finally they get their courage up ... but that's all, baby!  Oh my, there is sometimes some very nice potential, but, oh my!  My, my, my.  But that's how it is in civilized society.  All the gorgeous lunk-heads.  Poor babies.  There is only one man in my life who has ever ... made me happy.  Do you know that?  One!

Uncompromising, brutal, violent, passionate, unforgiving, relentless ... brilliant.  If Our Town is my favorite "classic" play of all time, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is certainly my favorite "contemporary classic."  This astonishing play, written by the amazing Edward Albee, is a total, full-out frontal assault on an audience ... and for that alone, I love it.  Albee redefined "absurdism," framing it in a frightening realism where nothing is ever quite what it seems. 

George and Martha, an aging ineffectual college professor and his boozy wife, invite young faculty newcomer Nick and his wife, Honey, for a blistering night of "fun and games."  Throughout the evening, the two couples verbally and emotionally abuse and attack one another in "games" such as "Get the Guests," "Hump the Hostess," and the final act of exorcism, "Bringing Up Baby."  It's impossible to fully describe the events. The extraordinarily faithful film version starring the smoldering Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and was the only film to be nominated in every major category.

This play falls into the category of "Roles-I'd-Love-to-Play-But-I'm-Not-Quite-Old-Enough-Yet!"  I would love to try my hand at George at some point, though I'm not completely sure my acting skills are up to the role ...

On a side note ... the college at which George and Nick teach is believed to be based on my alma mater, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.  Albee attended Trinity in the 40's, but was expelled for skipping classes and refusing to attend compulsory chapel.  He apparently wrote Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as a response to his expulsion.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Only Love

"It's Only Love/Bring on the Night"
by Dusty Hughes
from Metropolis (1989)

Who does she belong to?
Is she on her own?
Someone who's that wonderful
Must belong to someone.
Should I take a chance?
Can she be the one I've waited for so long?
Is this really happening to me?
The feelings are so strong ...

If it's only love,
Shouldn't be enough to break my heart.
If it's only love, it's only love.

Feelings from the heart
Do not come easy for me.
I have not had many lovers in my life,
Mostly that was my own choice.
Out of nowhere now she comes into my life
And I know so fast she has to be part
Of my life.

If it's only love,
Shouldn't be enough to break my heart.
If it's only love, it's only love.
It's only love ...

Bring on the night -
I can take the darkness.
I'm not empty inside.
I don't lie awake long.
And I know that in this life
The strong are the winners,
So if I'm alone
I'm not on my own ...
I have the night.

Everyone hurts.
Everyone is lonely.
So I'm like all the rest,
Everybody has pain.
And if once in a while
I catch myself crying,
If I'm a little sad
Perhaps it's not so bad ...
It's part of the game.

In the cold and lonely night,
I can still be strong.
I can make it on my own.
No one really needs to love -
Not everyone needs love.
If you've love inside
You don't have to share it to survive
And I will survive...

Even though it's hurting
Though I'm asking too much
And aiming too high.
If tonight I find
I need someone badly,
I will hide the pain.
Here it comes again ...
Bring on the night.

A small Entertainment news item appeared yesterday ... composer Joseph Brooks took his own life in his Manhattan home on Sunday.  Joe Brooks wrote the pop hit and most popular single of the 1970's "You Light Up My Life," made famous by Debby Boone.  His music was also the material for a critically-ravaged Broadway musical bomb called In My Life.  Unfortunately, his life in general was not award-winning - at the time of his death, he was facing multiple charges of rape and sexual assault and his son was recently charged with the death of an ex-girlfriend.

His most notable work, for me, is the 1989 West End musical, Metropolis.  Based on the famous 1927 silent film directed by Fritz Lang, it tells the not-so-far-in-the-future dystopian story of the mega-city of Metropolis built over huge machines that power it.  The elite classes live a life of ease in the sun on the surface, dwelling in luxurious skyscrapers, while the lower classes toil endlessly on the machines providing the city its power.  A worker, Maria, escapes to the surfae with a group of children in an effort to educate them and, while there, runs into Steven, the son of the city's designer and builder.  This song is from the middle of the first act, just after the two meet.  It is a beautiful duet, particularly when the two songs merge.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Believe In You

"I Believe In You"
by Frank Loesser
from How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (1961)

Now there you are -
Yes, there's that face.
That face that somehow, I trust.
It may embarrass you to hear me say it,
But say it I must ...
Say it I must.

You have the cool clear eyes
Of a seeker of wisdom and truth,
Yet there's that upturned chin
And the grin of impetuous youth.
I believe in you ... I believe in you.

I hear the sound of
Good solid judgment whenever you talk,
Yet there's the bold, brave, spring
Of the tiger that quickens your walk.
I believe in you ... I believe in you.

And when my faith in my fellow man
All but falls apart,
I've but to feel your hand grasping mine
And I take heart ... I take heart.

To see the cool clear eyes
Of a seeker of wisdom and truth,
Yet with the slam, bang, tang,
Reminiscent of gin and Vermouth.
I believe in you ... I believe in you.

In one of the lowest times of my life, I escaped to the world of theatre by involving myself in a local production of Frank Loesser's How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.  Although I didn't play the lead role of J. Pierrpont Finch, each night the words to this classic musical theatre song gave me the strength, love, and self-confidence that I sorely lacked and felt had been stolen from me.  It taught me how to "believe in me" again ...

PS ... You may have noticed that I've added a video above instead of a photo.  I'm going to try to find a video of every song I post so that you can hear it as well as read it.  As much as possible, I'll try to stick with the original performer of the song, unless I find another that's particularly outstanding.  If you've got some free time, I've added videos to the bottom of most of my previous song (and some TV and movie) blog posts as well!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Little Lamb

"Little Lamb"
by Stephen Sondheim
from Gypsy (1959)

Little lamb, little lamb -
My birthday is here at last.
Little lamb, little lamb -
A birthday goes by so fast.

Little bear, little bear -
You sit on my right right there.

Little hen, little hen -
What game should we play and when?

Little cat, little cat -
Oh, why do you look so blue?
Did somebody paint you like that,
Or is your birthday too?

Little fish, little fish -
Do you think I'll get my wish?
Little lamb, little lamb -
I wonder how old I am ...
I wonder how old I am ...
Little lamb ...

Absolutely one of my top ten favorite musicals ... literally a force of nature with hurricane Rose in the center.  Halfway through the first act, however, is this lovely, quiet little eye of the storm.  Louise, a young adolescent girl all but forgotten by her mother (and everyone else) on her birthday, sits alone in her bedroom and sings this simple plaintive tune.  When she asks her stuffed sad-faced cat if it's his birthday too, my heart never fails to break.  Notice the childlike innocence of the lyrics - mostly monosyllabic - that belie Louise's real age ... genius ...  And what a gentle treatment for a young girl who will eventually grow up to be a burlesque star, the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. 

I directed this show in the summer of 1995 with a cast of about 50 children ages 10 to 20 ... sounds dreadful, but it was a total joy. And, in my humble opinion, it was a DAMN good show!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Greatest Thing

Nature Boy (1947)
by Eden Ahbez

The greatest thing you'll ever learn
is just to love and be loved in return.

I'll admit it ... I LOVE LOVE LOVE Baz Luhrmann's film Moulin Rouge!  It opens with the song Nature Boy and this beautiful little couplet that kind of just ... says it all ...

And that's all I have to say about that.  Now I think it's time to go watch the film again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blow Out Your Candles

The Glass Menagerie (1944)
by Tennessee Williams

I didn't go to the moon, I went much further - for time is the longest distance between two places.  Not long after that I was fired for writing a poem on the lid of a shoe-box.  I left Saint Louis.  I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father's footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space.  I traveled around a great deal.  The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.  I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something.  It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise.  Perhaps it was a familiar piece of music.  Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass.  Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions.  I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold.  The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow.  Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes.  Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!  I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger - anything that can blow your candles out!  For nowadays the world is lit by lightning!  Blow out your candles, Laura - and so goodbye ...

This post could be categorized in "Roles I Wish I Could Play, But I'm Too Old for Them Now."  Sigh ... I would've LOVED to have performed the role of Tom in The Glass Menagerie.  A beautiful "memory play" - Tom's recollection of his mother and sister - and my personal favorite of the brilliant Tennessee Williams' works.  I'm sure you're familiar with the piece.  If not, I urge you to see it on stage or watch one of the numerous screen versions - it's an astounding play.  It begins and ends with soliloquies delivered by Tom ... the speech above concludes the play, which opens with Tom's famous lines -

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Take Me to the World

"Take Me to the World"
by Stephen Sondheim
from Evening Primrose (1966)

Let me see the world with clouds -
Take me to the world.
Out where I can push through crowds -
Take me to the world.
A world that smiles,
With streets instead of aisles,
Where I can walk for miles with you.

Take me to the world that’s real -
Show me how it’s done.
Teach me how to laugh, to feel -
Move me to the sun.
Just hold my hand
Whenever we arrive.
Take me to a world where I can be alive.

Let me see the world that smiles -
Take me to the world.
Somewhere I can walk for miles -
Take me to the world.
With all around
Things growing in the ground
Where birds that make a sound are birds.

Let me see the world that’s real -
Show me how it’s done.
Teach me how to laugh, to feel -
Move me to the sun.
Just hold my hand whenever we arrive.
Let it be a world with you,
Any other world with you,
Take me to a world where I can be alive.

We shall see the world come true -
We shall have the world.
I won’t be afraid with you -
We shall have the world.
You’ll hold my hand
And know you’re not alone.
You shall have the world to keep,
Such a lovely world you’ll weep,
We shall have the world
Forever ... for our own.

Evening Primrose Part Two today!  See yesterday's post for an explanation.  Here is the other "famous" song from the musical ... Ella urging Charles to escape to the "real world."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Remember

"I Remember"
by Stephen Sondheim
from Evening Primrose (1966)

I remember sky ...
It was blue as ink.
Or at least I think
I remember sky.

I remember snow ...
Soft as feathers,
Sharp as thumbtacks,
Coming down like lint.
And it made you squint
When the wind would blow.

And ice, like vinyl,
On the streets ...
Cold as silver,
White as sheets.
Rain like strings and
Changing things
Like leaves.

I remember leaves ...
Green as spearmint,
Crisp as paper.
I remember trees,
Bare as coat racks,

Spread like broken umbrellas.

And parks and bridges,
Ponds and zoos.
Ruddy faces,
Muddy shoes.
Light and noise and

Bees and boys and days.

I remember days,
Or at least I try.
But as years go by,
They're a sort of haze.

And the bluest ink
Isn't really sky.
And at times I think
I would gladly die ...
For a day of sky.

In the fall of 1966, ABC's weekly arts program Studio 67 aired an original hour-long musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Goldman called Evening Primrose.  The major songs have been recorded a number of times, including a studio cast starring Neil Patrick Harris, Mandy Patinkin's album Dress Casual (where he performs the songs with Bernadette Peters), and the original TV soundtrack (featuring Anthony Perkins and Charmian Carr - Liesl from The Sound of Music - seen in the picture above), though most musical theatre listeners have heard numerous "covers" of the two most famous songs - "I Remember" and "Take Me to the World."

The production entered the "vault" of special musical theatre treasures that few have actually seen ... until recently.  The DVD of the broadcast has finally been released and, as a Stephen Sondheim fanatic, I've been DYING to see it.  Fortunately, my friend Joel tipped me off that it was available as a Netflix instant stream offering ... so I RAN to my television and PS3 last night to watch it.  What an experience to FINALLY see the original work ...

It's an odd and VERY dark piece.  Charles, a poet, hides out in a department store until it closes, hoping to find a sanctuary from the world outside.  He discovers a secret group of older people living in the store who only "come out" at night.  Charles is allowed to stay with the group once he convinces their matronly leader that he is indeed a poet.  He is warned that anyone who threatens to run away or reveal the secret of their group is reported to the "Dark Men."  Those who are caught by the Dark Men are whisked away and returned as one of the lifeless mannequins in the store. 

Happy show, right?  Well, as is the case in most musicals, Charles falls in love with young Ella, an unhappy "maid" to the matron who wants desperately to leave since she was "abducted" as a young child who fell asleep in the store after being separated from her mother.  Charles and Ella plan their escape, but are caught by the "Dark Men," and two new mannequins of a bride and groom appear in the department store's window.

I ADORE the lyrics to "I Remember"... a song Ella sings as she recalls the world outside that she hasn't seen in thirteen years.  It's another deceptively simple lyric in which Ella compares her faint memories of the natural world outside with the merchandise in the department store.  The imagery is astounding ... the sky, snow, ice, leaves, and trees are all matched in perfect similes to ink, lint, vinyl, paper, and broken umbrellas.  What beautiful words - and the haunting melody Sondheim puts to the words only underlines Ella's melancholy and longing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Someone Else's Story

"Someone Else's Story"
by Tim Rice
from Chess (1988)

Long ago
In someone else's lifetime,
Someone with my name
Who looked a lot like me
Came to know
A man and made a promise -
He only had to say
And that's where she would be.
Although the feelings run just as deep
The promise she made
Has grown impossible to keep,
And yet ... I wish it wasn't so.
Will he miss me if I go?

In a way,
It's someone else's story -
I don't see myself
As taking part at all.
A girl that I was fond of
Finally could see
The writing on the wall.
She realized she'd left him behind
And sadder than that she knew
He wouldn't even mind.
And though there's nothing left to say,
Would he listen if I stay?

It's all very well to say
"You fool - it's now or never."
I could be choosing
No choices whatsoever.

I could be
In someone else's story,
In someone else's life
And he could be in mine.
I don't see
A reason to be lonely.
I could take my chances
Further down the line.

And if
That girl I knew should ask my advice,
Oh I wouldn't hesitate
She needn't ask me twice -
Go now!
I'd tell her that for free.
Trouble is, the girl is me.
The story is ... the girl is me.

Love ABBA,  hate Mamma Mia!, but ADORE the score to Chess.  The music for Chess was written by ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, with lyrics by Ulvaeus and former Lloyd Webber-partner Tim Rice.  It's a veritable treasure trove of FANTASTIC songs.  Most of us became familiar with the show through the hit song "One Night in Bangkok" that screamed at us from our radios and the wonderful black-and-white checkered "concept album" in the mid-80's.

Unfortunately, like Merrily We Rolll Along, its troubled book about a love triangle at a US-USSR world chess championship match in the midst of Cold War propaganda and conflict has never really worked.  The song above was in the reimagined US version which opened on Broadway a couple of years after the West End production and four years after the concept album.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Don't Believe in Heroes Anymore

"I Don't Believe in Heroes Anymore"
by Michael Rupert
from 3 Guys Naked from the Waist Down (1985)

When I was a little kid,
Robin Hood patrolled the wood
With feats too brave and daring
To believe.

And in the dark of summer nights,
Sir Galahad was all I had
To show what strength and purity
Should be.

The heroes I read about -
What a man should be.
The heroes I dreamed about -
Were all replaced by me.
I thought the villain saved the maids
And turned the tide of war ...
But now, I'm all grown up -
I don't believe in heroes anymore.

When I was a boy of ten,
JFK had shown the way
To push the Russians back
From firing range.

And, in my teens, a man called Che
Spread word of Marx and Mao to say
The world must change through
Harsh and violent means.

I sat before my TV set
And watched my heroes die.
I read the rags and papers
Showing proof my heroes lied.
WIth early death their only wreath
To pass through Heaven's door ...
I see their contradictions - 
I don't believe in heroes anymore.

Oh, it'd just be nice to live in a dream
To have someone to believe.
Oh, why can't life be clean?
To just win one for the team?
It's not as simple as it seems.

When I left the college scene,
We made our peace out in the East
And scratched the countless dead
On polished walls.

And now I hear the country cry
For good old days when flags were raised
On God was on our side
Against them all!

I wonder why the heroes we clamored for
The men from past romance,
The heroes who we gathered for
Perform a puppet's dance.

We're fools if we can't see the fools
Who fooled us all before.
Except when I read books and dream -
I don't believe in heroes ... anymore. 

And while we're on the subject of obscure musicals, here's another one of my favorites.  Forget the TERRIFIC title - 3 Guys Naked from the Waist Down (no one actually gets naked in the show. It's figurative, folks ...) - what a delightful score in a musical about three stand-up comedians who find fame and fortune as a comedy team.  In the midst of the hilarity, there are some extremely poignant and heartbreaking moments, and this amazing political anthem.