Archive for July, 2004

Seussical at UDPAC

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

Here’s a photo of Kerry in the production of Seussical that opened at Upper Darby Summerstage last night. (There is a slide show with lots more images on the UDPAC website.

Certainly a lot of the praise that follows might be dismissed as proud-papa-ism, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that D’Arcy and I were both knocked out by what we saw last night. The skillful and energetic cast put the material across in a completely engaging way. Seussical is, in a way, the ideal Summerstage vehicle, in that it provides a horde of young actors a chance to strut their stuff in a colorful, imaginative and utterly confident way. Furthermore, there is a kind of connection between the show and its audience – its community – which I’ve experienced only rarely in the theater. The audience embraced the cast and returned their joyful energy in the form of an enthusiastic ovation. Afterwards, in the lobby, sweaty make-up-stained actors greeted their friends and families with a sense that they’d accomplished something quite remarkable. The whole experience was a great affirmation of the power of theater and music and youth, and I was (and still am) deeply moved to see my son play such a successful role in that event.

The Final Bow – With A Bang, Not A Whimper

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

A packed house stood and roared for a good five minutes as the cast of the Roundabout Theater’s production of Assassins took their final curtain call on Sunday night, July 18. It hardly seemed like a show whose closing notice had been posted in response to dwindling sales, though I suppose the impending closing motivated more than a few stragglers to get themselves in line for a ticket before there weren’t none to be had.
The performance was a little wired, as closing-night adrenaline seemed to etch each moment a little more deeply. The carefully modulated production that Joe Mantello had orchestrated still led the audience adroitly through the script’s wild mood swings. From our seats in the center of the house, the sound mix was divine, and the stereophonic effect of the orchestra placement added a spatial frisson to Michael Starobin’s multi-hued arrangements. It was a feast for the senses, to be sure. Katie, one of my students, saw the show the day before and said it left her breathless, and that was the effect on closing night, too.
After it was over, we shook the authors’ hands and made our way to the exit in a daze, hoping to pick up something at the merchandise kiosk, but the only thing left was magnets. Magnets! (We bought two.) John Weidman said it right when he told me beforehand, “there’s nothing as gone as a show that’s closed.” So, now – the aftermath. Does the imprimatur of Broadway and a bagful o’ Tonys means there’ll be a new spate of productions in the A-list regional theaters in the next few years? Bring ’em on!

Special Guest Appearance

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

Why is Linda Hart (Velma Von Tussle from Hairspray) making an appearance on the ChazzyBlog? Could it have something to do with Gemini casting?

More on F9/11 and SM2

Sunday, July 11th, 2004

The Big Ones is an essay by Ed Halter in the Village Voice that explores some other aspects of Frank Rich’s theme, and discusses the tangled web of social activism and self-promotion in Michael Moore’s work.

Spidey Crushes ‘Fahrenheit’ in 2004

Sunday, July 11th, 2004

I’ve grown increasingly fond of the op-ed pieces Frank Rich is writing for the Sunday New York Times. His latest one analyzes the zeitgeist based on two current hit movies. Such penetrating and intelligent exploration of the territory inhabited by politics and the arts is rare and welcome.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

I saw this film with my 13-year-old son on Thursday, and came away profoundly moved by it. Moore’s observations about the contradictions in our American culture and the shortcomings of our leaders have always been provocative, if sometimes shrill. He sees an enormous gap between our leaders and their (often questionable) values on the one hand and the values and interests of the average typical right-thinking American on the other hand, and it fills him with outrage – a point of view I happen to share. He sees America as a land run by stupid white guys whose thoughtless greed has victimized countless hapless others. In his current film, Moore has found a very specific target for his outrage, and it’s hard to imagine any sentient being coming away from this film not seething over the actions of our President and his cronies. But along with the anger, I came away with powerful feelings of grief and fear – grief for the people who have died (young Americans and Iraqi citizens of all ages) needlessly, and fear for our future and the future of our children. The last thing I want is to see my two bright sons and my bright young students drafted and put in harm’s way to fight a meaningless war. Moore’s film is provocative, eloquent and brave. Here’s hoping it can influence some hearts and minds to unseat the current regime this fall.
I have to say, with regard to an earlier post in which I linked to an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star about the link between Assassins and Fahrenheit 9/11, that the connection between them is pretty slight. The musical Assassins does not actually call into question the actions of our leaders – in fact, it reveals that the men and women who have tried to murder a President seldom have a LOGICAL reason for their actions. The musical shows that the assassins’ crimes were chiefly motivated by a psychotically inflamed sense of entitlement (“Everybody’s got the right to their dreams”) coupled with powerful feelings of powerlessness (“If you can’t do what you want to, then you do the things you can.”) Yes, their murders were heinous crimes, but the musical urges us to understand how the reasons behind their crimes reflects something unhealthy in the American personality.
Moore, on the other hand, rightly calls the actions of certain individuals into question, and sees their behavior as contradictory to basic American decency and fairness. The villians in Fahrenheit 9/11 look far more heinous to me than the villians in the musical Assassins – how’s that for irony?
If you’ve never been there, take a visit to Michael Moore’s website to read more about the response to his newest film and his ongoing efforts as an artist and concerned citizen to bring about positive social action.

Prince Music Theater – 2004-5 Mainstage Season

Thursday, July 8th, 2004

Scroll down this page announcing the Prince Music Theater’s Mainstage Season for next year, and you’ll see me in more than one place – not only as the composer and co-lyricist for Gemini The Musical in the fall, but as the director of Anyone Can Whistle in the spring! Less-faithful readers of this blog can search the archives for an essay which I wrote by way of production notes when this project was under consideration. It’ll be big fun on Chestnut Street this year!

Satirical musical a tough sell

Thursday, July 8th, 2004

Richard Ouzounian of the Toronto Star wrote this very interesting piece drawing parallels between Assassins and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. I sensed a common sensibility between Assassins and MM’s work after watching Bowling for Columbine on video a year ago, just as plans for the Broadway revival of the musical were taking shape. I think he’s right to observe that the ticket price is probably a big factor in the failure of Assassins to thrive on Broadway while Moore’s film fills movie theaters across America. Of course, Assassins is also a more complex and less specifically topical work of art, and Moore has the advantage of controversy and political timeliness on its side.

Assassins Takes Last Shot July 18

Thursday, July 8th, 2004

Playbill News has the details about the final performances of Assassins. After optimistically announcing extensions through September 12 in the wake of its big Tony win, the Roundabout has pulled in its horns as a result of disappointing sales. Big sigh now.

South (To A Warmer Place)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

That’s where I went two weeks ago, hence the lack of bloggage. Packed the family in a rented minivan and headed for Charleston SC, where Sister Sue (also known as Grandmere, which translates as “Big Momma”) and Pap-Pap have a lovely home at Seabrook Island. The big activity this week was the Fourth of July Parade on Seabrook Island, which was the occasion for a fierce float-building and house-decorating competition. Our float was largely the handiwork of Little D’Arcy (niece to my ownest) and Uncle Mick, and had an Olympic theme, with Mick dressed as Pelops (the founder of the Olympics, who looked in this case like a character out of the movie Animal House) and the three grand-nieces and -nephews as young olympians with gold medals. The whole thing was elaborate enough to win the prize for Most Original Float.

Meanwhile, the troops also decorated the house with bunting and balloons. My modest contribution to the event was the concept for our mailbox decoration – a life-sized blow-up mannequin (named Mr Stud, if you’re interested, and available at a Spencer Gifts shop near you) dressed as a pageant competitor with a sash reading “U. S. Male” who posed by the mailbox.

All day, cars stopped abruptly in front of the house to gape at this masculine bit of punnery, and the effect was sufficiently stunning for us to win a second award – the prize for Best Decorated House and Mailbox! Later that day, the local press showed up at the door to take photos of the prize-winning display, and you’ll be able to see me, Mick and Mr Stud in the August edition of the Seabrooker. And who says fame is fleeting?

While we were down South, I had a chance to visit my mother at her new home in Palm Coast, and spent a lovely couple days swimming in her pool and touring the nearby sights.

Chief among them was the lovely town of St. Augustine, rich in history and Spanish charm. The pool was the site of some fierce one-on-one aquatic basketball between me and Son Number One (his long red hair slicked back with pool water); youth and speed were, in this case, too much for me, despite my valiant persistince and endless supply of dirty tricks, and the boy beat me!

Sad news greeted us on our return – the closing notice has been posted at Assassins, where, despite winning more Tony Awards than any other show this year, the business has been disappointing. I’ve heard from many friends who’ve had a chance to see this stunning production, and I hope that those who were contemplating a visit won’t delay, since July 18 is the last day.

Much going on – Gemini casting, plans for the coming year, efforts to sell the house in Wilmington – but much of it is too inchoate to merit writing about yet. Stay tuned…