Saturday, 17 August 2019

Love Interest

As I was (not) saying re that love interest in an imagined musical version of The Alchemist . . .
Once we get past the Prologue--containing the business about the writer and his book--we get into the story proper: about a young shepherd boy, tending his flock of sheep. According to his father, the boy's career choices were shepherd or priest, and the boy wanted to travel. So here he is, herding his sheep over the countryside.
They learn his rhythms, more a case of him learning theirs. He tells them about the weather, what's on his mind today, what he's seen. Lately, he's been telling them about the girl, the wool-shearer's daughter, whom he's about to meet again . . .

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

A Page of Reading

I got to the end of the first page of The Alchemist (by Paulo Coelho, trans. Alan Clarke) and saw a musical. The speaker in the novel expresses the theme: I never "wavered in my vision" and "in the end, I realized . . .". Imagine the musical of which that is the synopsis.
"Well, every musical every made," you might reply, dear Reader. Yes, so it's not the them, it's the details that have to sell the show.
In the case of The Alchemist--to be confirmed once I finish reading it--the details include a writer whose first book, published twenty-five years ago, "no one noticed." Other characters would be a bookseller, a publisher, and the single customer, who buys the book twice.
Somehow the book itself would be the focus of the opening song, a montage involving all who carry it. 
As for love interest . . .

Wednesday, 7 August 2019


The more famous the show tune, the less we remember its context in the show. "Cabaret," for instance. Here it is, the wonderful Kander/Ebb song, aced by Liza Minelli in the '72 movie.

In the play, Sally Bowles--the Kit Kat showgirl, I think meant to be far less polished than Minelli--ignores the rise of the Nazis in pre-war Berlin. Let others resist or, like her American (in the play) British (in the movie) boyfriend, flee. She'll stay working at the club. In fact, she's due at a rehearsal right now.

Politics don't matter, she believes, even when the nightmare looms. They're throwing bricks through windows of Jewish sympathizers, lovers are torn apart, Sally's had an abortion . . .

So in the play she comes on stage and does the song and says her piece. More than a call to seize the pleasures of the moment, the song expresses her fear, defiance, hope, cowardice, fate, force, innocence, blindness, strength.

One measure of how big this song became outside of the show is that later productions moved it to the top. In its original spot, near the Act Two climax of the piece, the song takes us to the heart of the character at the moment of greatest crisis.

Saturday, 29 June 2019


As millions know, Oklahoma! begins in light: a bright new morning, one never before seen. A woman described as "buxom" and "about 50" pauses over her butter churn to gaze out over the meadow, a "contented look" on her face. We in the audience are the meadow. Thus, I imagine, we're contented too. Expectant. Something good will come, soon.
It's a voice, a young man, from offstage. "There's a bright, golden haze on the meadow," he sings. He repeats the line, then, "The corn is as high as en elephant's eye, / An' it looks like it's climbin' clear up to the sky." 
Now the young man, Curly, saunters on. You know what comes next: 
     Oh, what a beautiful mornin', 
     Oh, what a beautiful day. 
     I got a beautiful feelin'
     Everythin's going my way.
(Here we might observe that one "beautiful" is enough, two are too many, but with the third we're back to enough. Furthermore, re rhyme, note that only the perfect rhyme works here. Try "Everythin's going to be fine.")
Maybe it will go Curly's way, maybe it won't. The play throws complications our way. But an opening like this one beguiles us, picks us up perfectly for the ride.
Here's Hugh Jackman as Curly in a 1998 London revival.

Monday, 17 June 2019


Reading across from Carousel to Oak Floors!--surely words never before written in that order--I feel two reactions. In the case of the Rodgers & Hammerstein's play or, the other day, The Band's Visit, I marvel at the depth and subtlety of the book (by which I mean the story and all text except song lyrics).
In the case of Oak Floors!, I play easy-to-get with the holes in the book, saying, "well, so be it."
Speaking of subtlety, check "Do You Love Me," here from the movie version of Fiddler on the Roof.I
And look! My piece in its current form as "a heritage cabaret" has no Act One break, hence no exquisite conclusion like the last scene in Act One of Carousel, when Billy has become at once more genuine and more doomedWe go to Intermission with the stakes high: we care for his wife, even for him, and we know there's trouble ahead.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Watching the Tonys

This I've done for the first time, though I'd viewed many a YouTube clip. The musicals drew me to the telecast last night.
Hadestown, a show I saw at Citadel in Edmonton two years ago, won for Best Musical, Oklahoma! (and there you see the exclamation mark borrowed by my Oak Floors!) for Best Revival. (Santino Fontana in Tootsie and Ali Stroker in Okla won the individual awards.) It was a fun show, mostly. Way more fun than any Oscar show I've seen lately. Of course, diversity was everywhere, to the point that Bryan Cranston quipped, upon winning in the male non-musical individual category, that "at last, an old, straight, white guy catches a break." That way myself, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or weep.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Oak Floors, a Heritage Cabaret

It might go like this: Flaneur comes on, gets us to Patty in the vestibule, she gets in, Flaneur takes us down that hallway leading to the past, "Citizens of Oak Floors," some of whom lived here for decades, but it didn't go so well for the 4 GM workers once Black Tuesday hit. Who lived in the suite Patty lives now, when she's not padding along the hallways, as she is right now, drawn to that percussion from the boiler room, "Boiler Song for Xylophone" and so on.
The task is to keep it past, keep it present. Believe in, but don't be afraid to tease, the story.