Another Loss: Cy Coleman

If folks remember, a while back I did a Cy Coleman marathon. Yesterday, I read that Cy Coleman had passed away. For those that have never heard his music: go listen in tribute. We’ve lost another great.

Here are some of the shows done by this great: Wildcat, Little Me, Sweet Charity, On The Twentieth Century, Seesaw, I Love My Wife, Barnum, Will Rogers Follies, City of Angels, Les Jazz. He made famous the songs “Witchcraft” and “The Best Is Yet To Come”.

A true loss for Broadway 🙁


The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Yup. Annie’s back.

This afternoon, we saw the Cabrillo Music Theatre production of Annie. CMT is a regional theatre, which does musicals at a very reasonable prices. As with every musical we’ve seen from them, the cast was excellent, the production was excellent… it was just a great show. Further, the house was reasonable packed with kids, meaning that a lot of kids getting introduced to theatre. This is a good thing.

I’m sure by now everyone is familiar with the musical. Ignore the movie with Carol Burnett (she was the only good thing in the movie, but they changed the story). If you must watch it on video, go for the one from Disney; at least they kept the story intact.

I saw Annie when it first came out in the early 1980s at the Shubert; I haven’t really seen it on stage since. Looking back, I can now see the book problems. There’s no need or justification for Hannigan in the second act (similar to the problem faced in The Rothschilds with Hal Linden’s character). The entire “search for the parents”, especially the business with the Mudges, seems tacked on. Of course, there’s the suspension of disbelief in the cabinet room with FDR (and I’m sorry, but I like Tom Hatten as FDR) when cabinet members stand up and sing (Republicans too, Oliver). Were settling partisan difficulties that easy. I can also see why the attempted sequels (Annie 2: The Revenge of Miss Hanagan, or later, Annie Warbucks) failed (although I would love to get the music from the latter, but I like failed musicals).

But, all in all, it was a good show. Their next show, in March, is Annie Get Your Gun.


Tomorrow is Mitzvah Day; I’m going to help my daughter stuff backpacks with school supplies for needed students. This should be fun. I’ll report on it tomorrow evening.


Side by Side… by Side

Last night, we went to the Pasadena Playhouse to see their current show, Side by Side by Sondheim. The production we saw had Richard Kind (of Spin City fame) as the narrator; and Davis Gaines (of Phantom of the Opera fame), Julie Dixon Jackson, and Tami Tappan Damiano as the singers. The show wasn’t well attended; I guess our showing was only 50% full.

For those unfamiliar with this show ( link), it is basically a revue of Sondheim material from before 1977; thus, you won’t see selections from better known pieces such as Sweeny Todd, Assassins, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and so on. The material is primarily from Company, Follies, Anyone Can Whistle, Gypsy, and West Side Story, with a few other shows thrown in. The selections vary based on the cast.

I enjoyed the show, but they seemed to choose (for the most part) the slower pieces that really don’t show some of the true lyrical talents of Sondheim. I felt that the collaborations got short shrift: only one or two songs from Gypsy or WSS, and the choices weren’t such gems as America or When Momma Gets Married (although almost anything from Gypsy is good). There was only one tune from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (and it was the title tune).

There were some hilarious moments, such as Davis Gaines playing the third stripper in You Gotta Have A Gimmick (Gypsy), or some of the interplay during The Boy From … (The Mad Show). There were also some surprise songs: I was totally unaware that Sondheim had written Broadway Baby; I really want to get the album from Follies now. I also recognized the song I’m Still Here (Follies), although I don’t know where I heard it before (perhaps a compilation album). I was already quite familiar with the songs from Company (which I like). The number from Pacific Overtures didn’t impress me much. I remember when P.O. came to the Ahmanson in 1976, although I didn’t see it then.

The singers were all good, although I wasn’t too impressed with Davis Gaines. His voice was marvelous, although he was overmic-ed. He also didn’t have the right look; I would have preferred someone like David Garrison. Still, it was a good production.

Update: One thing I forgot to mention. We had dinner at Tropical Caribbean Rest. across the street from Burger Continental, our usual pre-theatre joint. We probably won’t be back. They didn’t indicate on the menu when a dish had bell peppers (bad), and although some of what we had was excellent, the entree was only so so. I had a Lechon Cubano which had tasty onions, but on the whole I prefer the Cuban Roast Pork at Versailles. gf_guruilla had a chicken dish that was covered in peppers (which wasn’t indicated on the menu): she said it was tasty, but not what she was expecting. On the other hand, she had an appetizer that was some form of Caribbean tamale (I’m sure tuluum could give us the real name, perhaps) that was a mix of some meat and green plaintains served on a banana leaf. You can find a formal review of the restaurant here. Next time, we may try one of the other Caribbean restaurants in Pasadena (as long as they are not in Old Town, which is too crowded).


Musicals about the Movies

This morning, driving into work, I was listening to the 1964 musical Fade Out, Fade In, which was a Carol Burnett vehicle right after Once Upon a Mattress. The musical is based in the 1930s, and is about an aspiring starlet. This got me thinking into what musicals have been written about the movie industry. I could think of the following, in no particular order:

Bricusse/Newley: Chaplin (closed before Broadway)
Herman: Mack and Mabel
Herman and others: A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine
Styne/Comden-Green: Fade Out, Fade In
Webber: Sunset Boulevard
Coleman/Zipple: City of Angels

Are there others? I couldn’t think of any others, in particular, any by Bock/Harnick.


Broadway Loses Another Great

[Headache update: A little better. Dinner is helping.]

CNN is reporting that Fred Ebb, half of the team Kander and Ebb, has died at age 76 of a heart attack. Yet another great footlight of Broadway has gone dim. Consider the musicals we got from Mr. Kander and Mr. Ebb: 70 Girls 70*, The Act*, Cabaret*-OBC,*-1998,Movie, Chicago*-OBC,*-1996,Movie, My Coloring Book, Curtains, Flora the Red Menace*-OBC,*-1987, Funny Lady, The Happy Time*, Kiss of the Spider Woman*, Over and Over, New York, New York*, The Rink*, Steel Pier*, The Visit, Woman of the Year*, and Zorba. According to CNN, at the time of Ebb’s death, the team was working on several projects including revising “Over and Over,” a musical version of Thornton Wilder’s classic “The Skin of Our Teeth,” and a murder-mystery musical called “Curtains.” Hopefully, John Kander can bring them to Broadway to give us a last look at Fred’s talent.

*: CDs/Albums that I have.


Portrait of a Tortured Artist

Tonight, we went to go see Vincent in Braxton at the Pasadena Playhouse. We ended up switching at the last minute to the 5:00 PM show (we normally go at 9:00 PM show) because our planned babysitter cancelled at the last minute, and we couldn’t find another. That worked out OK (I love the Pasadena Playhouse and how they cater to subscribers); we ended up 7th row center!

Favorite Quote of the Show: “A woman is not old as long as she loves and is loved.” (which is an actual quote from a letter by Vincent Van Gogh)

This show was about a three-year period (1873-1876) in the life of Vincent Van Gogh (Graham Miller) when he lived in Braxton, England, in the house of Ursula Loyer (Stephanie Zimbalist), her daughter Eugine (Carolyn Palmer), and their lodger, Sam Plowman (Trevor Murphy). Also featured in the play was Anna Van Gogh (Tracie Lockwood), Vincent’s sister. The playwright (Nicholas Wright) hypothesises this as the time that VVG began to discover art. The claimed reason is a love affair with an older woman who encouraged him. The acting of the play was very good. Initially the story was odd, but then it got interesting. The last act, however, was a bit odd. For those into tortured artists, it would be good.

Their next play, however, should be great! They are bringing in Side by Side by Sondheim. We really do like the Playhouse. They treat subscribers well, and have consistently good productions, even if sometimes the subject is odd.

In other news, I had a great afternoon with my Cousin Jerry. We went over family history, music, and he may be helping to build some furniture for my daughter’s room. We really need to see him and his family more (he lives out in Ventura).

[As folks have noticed, I’ve developed some new icons (some folks haven’t seen yet), and remodeled others. I’d welcome comments on the icons. I’ve been having fun in Paint Shop Pro.]


Sondheim Makes You Think

AssassinsYesterday, I received a shipment of CDs that I ordered from Amazon*. This shipment included Unsung Musicals: The Ultimate Collection, You Never Know (Cole Porter), The Rink (Kander/Ebb)… and Assassins (2004) Sondheim. I’m listening to Assassins right now.

One thing you can say for Sondheim: He doesn’t tackle easy material anymore. Consider some of his other musicals: Sweeny Todd (about a mad-man who kills people and has them baked into meat pies), or Into The Woods (about what happens after “happily ever after”, a/k/a “Be Careful What You Wish For”). They work.

Assassins is… wierd. One posted summary describes it as follows:

As the musical opens, a crowd is gathering at a carnival shooting gallery which features a revolving wheel on which various Presidents are depicted. Attempting to entice customers towards his stand, the proprietor of this little shooting gallery shouts out loudly, “C’mere and kill a President!” From this nightmarish beginning, the play goes on to examine the lives of various men and women who have committed–or attempted to commit–the ultimate crime. Sondheim and Weidman show little regard for historical accuracy, freely mixing characters from different periods in a kaleidoscopic, hallucinatory revue. From Samuel Byck who hijacked a plane and tried to kill Nixon by crashing into the White House to Charles Manson groupie Squeaky Fromme to the infamous John Wilkes Booth–each presidential assassin is made to confront the fact that his or her act of meaningless violence failed to bring about the desired results. For these lost souls, Sondheim composes “Another National Anthem,” the nightmarish underside of the American dream.

Just listening to the musical (not seeing it) is wierd. It definately gives the impression of the assassins as disturbed individuals. However, to hear them sing “Everybody has the right to their dreams” is just odd. Are there some dreams that people don’t have the right to? I would think so: I think ethics and morality place limits on things.

The other odd aspect of this musical is its eerie pre-sence: One of the assassins is Sam Byck, a used tire salesman who, in 1974, attempted to hijack a plane from BWI in order to fly it into the White House and assassinate Nixon. This was 17 years before 9/11. So why didn’t we think someone would try to do this. It turns out that Sondheim was working on a revival of this musical for a production in Fall 2001 (it was originally produced in 1991). September 11th. The musical was postponed… but isn’t the timing wierd.

A disturbing musical. I’m not sure I’d want to see it in person.

*: I do have a lot of CDs on my wish list. If you ever want to know what to get me, you can look here.


Good Morning, Baltimore

First, from the “you can’t take me anywhere” department: As always, we always run into folks we know whereever we go. As we got on the Metro Red Line to go from North Hollywood to the Pantages theatre, who do we run into but Jeanne L., who was my co-chair of Social Action when I was at Kol Tikvah. I haven’t seen Jean in about 6-7 years; it was great talking to her. When we finally get to the Pantages, we run into Charlene, one of the best friends of my wife’s sister. We can’t go anywhere!

On to Hairspray. Wow! What a wonderful show. Marissa Janet Winokur (“Tracy”) and Bruce Vilanch (“Edna”) head a spectacular cast. You can tell they are having real fun with this show, and the audience shares in the fun. My favorite part was the adlibbing during Timeless to Me: At one point, Wilbur grabs Edna’s chest, and she turns to the audience and says “Governor Schwartznegger, I didn’t know it was you”… and a moment later “I know it’s not the governor of New Jersey”. You can also see that the other actors are having fun with this from the simple joy on their faces during the show. Pure and simple fun. Go see it, it is well worth the price! I don’t say that about many shows at the Pantages.

After the show, we went up to Game Gather 5 in La Canada/Flintridge. Played a few games: Crokinole, 10 Days in the USA, Chrononauts, and two rounds of Coloretto. S&F played a game of David & Goliath. Fun evening for two hours of gaming.

Back home now. Still chasing meal moths. I hate it when we get an infestation. I did find one infested package—its been tossed, but I now need to examine every dried grain product, which is a PITA.