Saturday, June 28, 2008

Closing Curtains

Endings, I don't like. When the tv shows MOONLIGHTING and FRASIER went off the air I couldn't watch the final episode. That would mean it was really over. My favourite author is Sidney Sheldon - has been since I was eleven. Knowing that one day he would die, I set aside four of his books and didn't read them; now he is gone and I still have Sidney Sheldon novels unread. It's like he is still here and I'm just waiting for the new Sidney Sheldon novel.
Eventually, I watched MOONLIGHTING. I still haven't seen FRASIER.
I love musicals; have since I was a kid. I grew up on the great songwriting teams like Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Comden and Green. I loved Jerry Herman and Cole Porter and really respected (respect) the people who do the music AND the lyrics. I breathe Sondheim. I know nothing about music or how to read music; but I get Sondheim. It's like air.
I love something about (almost) every composer, lyrist (or team thereof) who is responsible for creating musical theater. The list of my favourite musicals includes two by Maury Yeston (Nine & Grand Hotel; my personal favourite songwriter is Carol Hall (as a fellow Texan, I think her songs reach a place inside of me that is really personal, very deep). The musical that speaks to me the most is Sunday In The Park With George. I love the sophistication and wit of Cole Porter and I am just queer for Rodgers and Hart. I just love musicals. I hate the term - but I am a show queen.
My favourites, though, seem to have always been Kander and Ebb. There is just something about a Kander and Ebb musical. There is something to their format, their pathos, their wit, their honesty, that just lands each of their musicals in my heart, in my soul. I seem to have some personal attachment to each of their musicals. The Happy Time is about a photographer (gasp-have you listened to the song Walking Among My Yesterdays?); Flora The Red Menace jump started Liza's career (my heroine! my diva!) and gave us Quiet Thing and All I Need Is One Good Break. When I was 11 my mother introduced me to Liza With A Z and Liza at the Winter Garden and I, promptly, adopted her record albums; she never saw them again. When I was 12 my father took me to see the movie Cabaret and it set the tone for the entire rest of my life. When I was 13 the parents of a school friend loaned me the cast album for Chicago and it freakin changed my life. It was my introduction to Chita and Gwen and if that ain't life altering, I don't know what is. When I was 14 I bought the cast album of The Act and I still sing My Own Space every day. When I was 16 I saw the original cast of Woman of the Year on Broadway and it set the standard for what I expect at a Broadway musical. When I was 17 I saw the replacement cast of Woman of the Year (Raquel Welch!) and it still haunts me. That year I moved back to the states from Europe and was able to watch the Tony Awards on tv and to buy every cast album the moment it came out. My vinyl copy of The Rink is threadbare. I saw Anthony Quinn and the inimitable Lila Kedrova in the tour of Zorba (possibly my favourite K&E score). The first play I saw when I moved to New York was Kiss of the Spiderwoman. The first playbill that carried a photo I shot was the revival of Chicago (I did Annie Reinking's headshot). I saw the gypsy run through of Steel Pier and GOT IT - I was sure it would be a huge hit (and years later I dared myself to record a cd and sang the song Somebody Older; and I love the results - and I am my biggest critic). My husband played Cliff Bradshaw in two different productions of Cabaret - the last production, I saw some five or six times; when we saw the revival with Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson I was hyperventilating as the play ended. And in recent years I met a really close friend because of the Encores! production of 70 Girls 70 and I have been singing Boom Ditty Boom ever since. It's just a simply fact of my life: Kander and Ebb have left (to quote another of my favourite musical theater creators) their thumbprints on my heart.
I used to exchange Christmas cards with Fred Ebb; but I never met him. We spoke on the phone a few times - but never met. I wish I could have shook his hand before he was recalled. Alas, it wasn't to be.

When Curtains opened on Broadway I was thrilled. One last Kander and Ebb score. And it was classic K&E. From the first note of the overture to the last note of the music that plays out the audience, every moment of the show was musical theater heaven (which, I believe, is what a reviewer wrote - and which I agreed was true.)

Curtains got a much deserved Tony for best actor for David Hyde Pierce, who gave a fully realized performance. The play was that great thing: musical comedy. I know that art has to evolve and that includes musicals. I know that the artform is different now; but I miss these fun old fashioned musical comedies and when they come along I pray that they will run forever.
But Curtains couldn't run forever. It will close tomorrow after running over a year. It has delighted many audience members and left a lasting last legacy for Kander and Ebb.
So I had to see it one last time.
Last night Pat and I sat in the orchestra and laughed and cheered and clapped and screamed. And, natch, I cried. I cried because there won't be any more stories from Kander and Ebb. I cried because it is a rite of passage -- it's the last new Kander and Ebb musical. I cried because I LOVE the actors in this play!! They aren't movie stars who have come to Broadway - they are real New York stage actors (I know - David HP had ten years of fame as Niles Crane; but he started on the New York stage) that the tourists are flocking to see. I LOVE these people. I LOVE being a part of this community - even if it is as a one-time show biz photographer who only works from time to time but who still sees their shows and prays for their successes. I LOVE getting to see Debra Monk make audiences cry from laughing (she is a treasure, I tell you!). I LOVE that when Karen Ziemba is onstage I can't, I don't want to, look at anyone else. I LOVE that Jason Daniely is so gorgeous and then he opens his mouth to sing and you forget how gorgeous he is because you're blinded by awe. I LOVE that Edward Hibbert works and works and works and is committed to being a delicious ham and that the audiences beg him for more. I LOVE that Rob Ashford is here to give dancers like the ones in this show such beautiful choreography; and I LOVE that Scott Ellis gets Kander And Ebb and made this show happen.

Getting to that theater last night was like pushing a piano through a transom. Pat and I had the MOST hectic week. It was just work, work, work; work out, work out, work out; get ready for out of town friends, Pride, my upcoming trip to Texas. Try to get the time to see other shows that were closing (which, sadly, we were unable to do). There came a moment on Wednesday when it looked like we would not make it to see Curtains again on its closing weekend. And I was dejected. I wanted to cry. I think I did cry.

It is important to prioritize.
At three thirty yesterday, I MADE the time to get money out of the bank and go get tickets to the show. I rearranged some things and I called Pat and said "no working late tonight". We worked out with Ray at lightning pace and we got from 19th and 5th to 45th and 8th in eight minutes flat, lowering into our seats at 7:59. A few moments later, the lights went down on the house and up on those

Time To Say Goodbye

I opened the paper to read what was closing on Broadway. I always do this after the Tony Awards. Shows that didn't win anything close left and right. It's called the June Bloodbath; and it is a repugnant time in the theatrical community of New York City. It is a bad day when so many are put out of work.

The very week after the Tonys, shows were closing. Some I'd seen, some I hadn't seen; and some that shocked me.
When I read that the revival of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE was closing I began to cry. I thought I would have more time. I thought I would be able to see it again and again. When I learned of the rapidly approaching end of the run of this show that had touched me, so, there was no time to make arrangements to see it again. Every evening, every afternoon, every time that the actors were to walk on that stage was scheduled, something in my life was scheduled, as well.

I would have to live with the memory.

I'm luckier than most. I saw the play twice. Through the good graces of friends, I landed in choice seats at Studio 54. I saw the play, once, from the second row of the mezzanine, where I could enjoy the special effects and the grand scheme of the play. The second time I was there, I sat downstairs, in the second row, where I could see each nuance, every expression, hear every breath and sigh, see each tear that rolled down Jenna Russell's face, the glint in Daniel Evans' eyes. Both times, I had the same reaction, though the experiences were different: I spent most of the play weeping. Both times, the person sitting to my right couldn't help but notice the weeping. Sitting in the second row, trying to contain myself so as to not be distracting to the cast, the elderly gentleman beside me handed me a tissue. I had to stay in my seat after each act, regaining my composure. The themes the writers provided, the philosophies, the understanding of the struggle of the artist, as an entity; and the way those actors presented the philosophies - well it was an embarrasment of riches. When you add to that the extraordinary harmonies in that score (particularly the number Sunday, from the end of the act), well, of course I was weeping.

Then there was that final moment when the muse watches the artist, turns to leave and he looks at all that white and gasps. Twice I got to see that and it has left me breathless, for life.

I'll miss having that play, that cast, only five blocks away; but at least I had it for those few hours.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Star Lands In The Heavens

I will never forget the first time I saw Cyd Charisse. It was this scene from Singin' In The Rain. I was transfixed, magnetized, hypnotized and every other kind of fixed and ized you can be. I'd never seen anyone move like that - not even Gene or Fred, whose movies I had already seen. I mentioned to my dad about the woman in green in Singin' In The Rain and he told me:

"Cyd Charisse -- best legs in show business."

I always trusted my father's opinions and took them as fact.

He was right. Cyd Charisse had the best legs in show business; but it wasn't just how they looked that made them the best.

It was what she did with them (and every other muscle in her body, too) that made them the best.

The Broadway Melody number remains my favourite number in all those great old musicals. I never walk out of the room when it is on tv and I go see that movie whenever it is revived on the big screen.
I am still fixed and ized by Cyd Charisse.
It was the Dancing In the Dark number in The Bandwagon that made me want to be a dancer.
It was The Girl Hunt number in The Bandwagon that made me REALLY want to be a dancer (in fact, I copied that number, did my own sad but earnest attempt at recreating it for a High School Talent Show).
I saw Cyd Charisse live, once. They were doing GRAND HOTEL at Casa Manana - it has always been one of my favs.
Just like Cyd.
I got to say hello, backstage, afterward.
I kissed her hand.
I will always remember that night.
And I will always remember Cyd Charisse.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I played hookey last week.

One night I said to Pat "I'm playing hookey tomorrow. I will not be around from 11 to 2". Generally, I don't think it is fair for me to play hookey when he is going to work and slaving at the ad agency; but I had (genuinely) no choice.

As a child, my first love was Speed Racer. I'd been made aware of the new, live action, film version months ago and had been gearing up to see it and it had been out for a few weeks and I hadn't gone. It didn't seem to be doing too well because other movies had by passed it and I was checking MovieFone and found that it was leaving town. I was not ABOUT to miss seeing it. So I made that choice. I was going to betray the true love of my adult life and go spend three hours of the true love of my childhood. I put all my own work aside and went to the first showing of SPEED RACER at the Loews Lincoln Square. It was on the IMAX! I even cheated on my guru, my trainer, and I had movie popcorn. It's bad enough that popcorn is so full of bad carbs but MOVIE popcorn is over run with salt. Uh Oh. But it was a sunny summer day at the movies and I was seeing Speed Racer on the IMAX. Popcorn was essential.

After the movie (which I will not review here), I went to the men's room. It was a long movie and I could not leave the theater, even once, to go the the can.

I opened the door and walked in and, immediately, I noticed something odd. There, in the cold and sterile black, white and silver of the men's room, a burst of colour jumped out at me.

I stepped closer.

What is that? I asked myself.

I peered into the darkness.

What on Earth?

What is that doing in the bathroom of the Loews Lincoln Square?

I don't get it.

But I've learned...

In New York..

Anything is possible.