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Posts Tagged ‘Broadway

“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot”*…

 

Lerner and Lowe

Composer Frederick Loewe (left) and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner in a 1956 photo

 

In the preparation for the Broadway debut of Camelot— on the heels of their shared successes with Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, and Gigi— the relationship between the creative team Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe began to fray…

By the end of the week Fritz and I were seeing less and less of each other. Irritations and differences between us that had been long forgotten and were of little consequence at the time had now become the subject of questions by interviewers. Our replies traveled from mouth to mouth and by the time they reached us they were unrecognizable distortions. If we had stayed steadfastly and constantly together as we always had in the past we would have laughed, rowed, or shrugged, but in the end gone on about our business. We did not. I do not know why we did not. I may have thought I knew then but whatever I thought, I am certain I was wrong. I have a feeling the reason was far more insidious, something of which neither of us was aware and which affected each of us in different ways. I have a feeling it may have been too much success.

Success, as I mentioned earlier, can be a creative stimulant. It encourages reaching in and reaching out. But it can also take the concessions of collaboration and call them compromise. It can embitter as often as it elates and inflates and it can weaken as much as it toughens. It can magnify faults and unearth a few new ones and its only virtue is when it is forgotten. Perhaps I was too disdainful of the words of others and Fritz too vulnerable. Perhaps I misinterpreted our differences as lack of support and he misinterpreted mine as heroics. Perhaps. Perhaps not. I will never know. Too much was never said. In the end we were a little like the couple being discussed in one of Noel Coward’s early plays. “Do they fight?” said one. “Oh, no,” said the other. “They’re much too unhappy to fight.”

From the memoir of Alan Jay Lerner, The Street Where I Live, via the ever-illuminating DelanceyPlace.com.

* Alan Jay Lerner, Camelot

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As we contemplate collaboration, we might send dramatic birthday greetings to James Maxwell Anderson; he was born on this date in 1888.  A playwright, screenwriter, author, poet, journalist, and lyricist, Anderson had a string of theatrical successes (e.g., What Price Glory, Key Largo, Bad Seed, Anne of a Thousand Days), adapted his plays and the works of others and created original works for the screen (e.g., All Quiet on the Western Front, Joan of Arc, Ben-Hur), and wrote the book for two of Kurt Weill’s productions (including Knickerbocker Holiday, the standout number in which, “September Song”, became a popular standard).

Maxwell_Anderson source

 

“I suffer from everyday life”*…

 

Philosopher, essayist, and poet Fred Moten

“I think mayonnaise has a complex kind of relation to the sublime,” [Moten] said. “And I think emulsion does generally. It’s something about that intermediary—I don’t know—place, between being solid and being a liquid, that has a weird relation to the sublime, in the sense that the sublimity of it is in the indefinable nature of it.”

“It’s liminal also,” I offered.

“It’s liminal, and it connects to the body in a certain way.”

“You have to shake it up,” I said. “You have to put the energy into it to get it into that state.”

“Anyway,” Moten said, “mostly I just don’t fucking like it.”…

The New Yorker‘s David Wallace on “Fred Moten’s radical critique of the present.”

* Italo Calvino

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As we contemplate the quotidian, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that the Marx Brother’s took Broadway by storm.  Already vaudeville stars, they’d wrangled a spot on the Great White Way, a last-minute opening for which they threw together a review based nominally on an unsuccessful musical comedy by Will and Tom Johnstone, originally written for British actress Kitty Gordon as Love For Sale.  The Marx Brothers substituted in some of their most trustworthy material and called it I’ll Say She Is.

In one of show business’ great strokes of luck, the opening night of a major dramatic play, slated for this same date, was canceled, leading all of New York’s leading critics instead to the premiere of the relatively-unknown Marx Brothers’ show.  Their extraordinary banter and slapstick astounded the critics, and put the Brothers on the road to Broadway, then Hollywood fame.

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Written by LW

May 19, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Race is an idea, not a fact”*…

 

White people- “Viewing the Performance of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ in the Globe Theatre,” by David Scott. Photo courtesy the V&A Museum

The Jacobean playwright Thomas Middleton invented the concept of ‘white people’ on 29 October 1613, the date that his play The Triumphs of Truth was first performed. The phrase was first uttered by the character of an African king who looks out upon an English audience and declares: ‘I see amazement set upon the faces/Of these white people, wond’rings and strange gazes.’ As far as I, and others, have been able to tell, Middleton’s play is the earliest printed example of a European author referring to fellow Europeans as ‘white people’.

A year later, the English commoner John Rolfe of Jamestown in Virginia took as his bride an Algonquin princess named Matoaka, whom we call Pocahontas. The literary critic Christopher Hodgkins reports that King James I was ‘at first perturbed when he learned of the marriage’. But this was not out of fear of miscegenation: James’s reluctance, Hodgkins explained, was because ‘Rolfe, a commoner, had without his sovereign’s permission wed the daughter of a foreign prince.’ King James was not worried about the pollution of Rolfe’s line; he was worried about the pollution of Matoaka’s…

By examining how and when racial concepts became hardened, we can see how historically conditional these concepts are. There’s nothing essential about them. As the literature scholar Roxann Wheeler reminds us in The Complexion of Race (2000), there was ‘an earlier moment in which biological racism… [was] not inevitable’. Since Europeans didn’t always think of themselves as ‘white’, there is good reason to think that race is socially constructed, indeed arbitrary. If the idea of ‘white people’ (and thus every other ‘race’ as well) has a history – and a short one at that – then the concept itself is based less on any kind of biological reality than it is in the variable contingencies of social construction…

Black or White?  “How ‘white people’ were invented by a playwright in 1613.”

* Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People

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As we aspire to (self-)consciousness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that  A Hand Is On The Gate, billed as “an evening of poetry and music by American Negroes,” opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. The directorial debut of actor Roscoe Lee Browne, it featured a cast of eight, including Leon Bibb, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, and Josephine Premice (who was nominated for a Tony).

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Written by LW

September 21, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The radio was shouting at you, pleading with you, and seducing you”*…

 

For your holiday listening pleasure, from Studio Puckey, live radio streams (and more) from around the world: radio.garden.

* David Byrne, How Music Works

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As we touch that dial, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that New York’s “Great White Way” was born when Charles F. Brush successfully demonstrated his arc lamps along Broadway– two years before Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station began lighting New York.

Brush’s New York central power plant dynamos, which powered arc lamps from December, 1880 along a 2 mile long circuit, including Broadway

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(Coincidentally, on this date 20 years later, Nature reported the invention, by William Du Bois Duddell, an English physicist, of the Musical Arcs– the first fully electric musical instrument.)

 

Written by LW

December 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

That Viking Spirit!…

From Reddit user depo_ (via Flowing Data), this map showing metal bands per capita around the world.  Crank it up- all the way up to the 60th parallel!

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As we turn our amps to 11, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that Tommy premiered on Broadway.  The Peter Townsend-Des McAnuff collaboration got mixed reviews; indeed, the Times’ theater critic Frank Rich liked it, while music critic John Pareles suggested that “their (Townshend’s and McAnuff’s) changes turn a blast of spiritual yearning, confusion and rebellion into a pat on the head for nesters and couch potatoes.”  Still, the production ran for 899 performances.

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Ex post facto salvation…

Candy Barr (July 6, 1935 – December 30, 2005) was an American stripper, burlesque exotic dancer, actress in one pornographic movie, and model in men’s magazines of the mid-20th century.

Born Juanita Dale Slusher in Edna, Texas, the youngest of five children, at age 16, she appeared in one of the first [full length] pornographic movies, Smart Alec (1951). Later, Barr established herself in burlesque and striptease with her trademark costume—cowboy hat, pasties, scant panties, a pair of pearl handled cap six-shooters in a holster strapped low on her shapely hips, and cowboy boots. Married three times, and widowed once when she shot her second husband, she was also involved with Jack Ruby and Mickey Cohen. Later in her life, she was honored by Texas Monthly as one history’s “perfect Texans,” and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Exotic World Burlesque Museum.

Ms. Barr shares another distinction with the likes of Groucho Marx, Truman Capote, Frank Zappa, and rapper Eazy-E: they were all posthumously baptized into the Mormon Church.

Some time in 1842, the prophet Joseph Smith introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a temple ceremony called Baptism for the Dead, followed shortly by a full complement of salvific ordinances-by-proxy for dead ancestors, which he justified again in 1844:

A man may act as proxy for his own relatives; the ordinances of the Gospel which were laid out before the foundations of the world have thus been fulfilled by them, and we may be baptized for those whom we have much friendship for.
Joseph Smith on May 12, 1844
History of the Church, 6:365–66

But the original spirit of the ordinances seems to have given way to a general enthusiasm for conversion, and members of the Church began trying to ‘redeem’ everyone they could identify.  Some members took a shortcut and performed proxy baptisms and other ordinances for any name they could find– which meant that a lot of famous people got baptized. Indeed, it appears that some time in the early 1990’s there was a fad, or at least a hobby, of finding famous people to baptize.

Famous Dead Mormons is both a tribute to the practice and a catalogue of celebrity souls– like Candy’s– saved after the fact.

As we wonder if this amounts to an E Ticket to the Rapture, we might wish a patriotic birthday to George M. Cohan; he was born on this date in 1878.  A playwright, songwriter, dancer, actor, theater owner, and producer, Cohan is best remembered as the composer and lyricist of songs including “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” (which may explain why some sources strain to locate his birthday tomorrow– on July 4).  Cohan is not believed to be a baptized Mormon.

source: Library of Congress

How to prepare for a *real* emergency…

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That readers are perusing this missive suggests that The Rapture did not in fact happen as advertised.  But that humankind (well, the sinners among us anyway) dodged a bullet today doesn’t mean that the threat of Apocalypse isn’t real.  Indeed, no less an authority than the CDC has weighed in with a Twitter Alert:

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Of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences being what it is, this Tweet seems to have created one kind of disaster even as it attempted to ameliorate another:  the response to the message– clicks through to the featured URL– immediately crashed the CDC’s servers.

Some semblance of normalcy has been recovered; readers can once more reach “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.”

As we reconcile ourselves to the fact that the Zombie craze may well last  at least until after the release of Brad Pitt’s upcoming World War Z— and that’s not yet even in production, we might recall that on this date in 1972 Heathen! (an original musical with music and lyrics by Eaton Magoon, and book by Magoon and Sir Robert Helpmann) both opened and closed on Broadway.

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