I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
December 10, 2016 - 12:34 p.m.
My Regards to Broadway
I have not left the house in two days. That must end today and it will. Despite my being sedentary and watching lots of TV I have something to write today.
We did have some excitement in the house. Bernie and Jane left this morning for a trip out of the country. Yesterday Jane couldn't find her passport. I joined the search. I was not the one that found it but I came up with the method by which it was found. It's what LORi always tells me. Look in the place you thought it was, again, but this time remove everything that's in it. That is how it was found. The rest of the search was not in vain, we found the Sangreal, Amelia Earhart, and the Ark of the Covenant.
I finished off my challah by making French toast with bacon for breakfast. That was great. I should buy more or perhaps pancake mix. That needs to become part of my diet again.
Dinner was simple. There were buffalo wings in the house, I just had to pop them in the microwave. I made fried plantains to go with it. The plantain was very ripe, almost all black. That's when they taste the best. Try cooking them till they are just starting to char.
I started working on my backlog of photos. I haven't edited any in ages. It is nice looking at photos I didn't just take, even though they are all from the last few weeks it helps me relive the moments.
I listened to classic Broadway albums via Amazon Prime music while I edited photos and that's what I'm going to write about. I posted on Facebook, I'm listening to classic Broadway musicals today. What are your three favorite musicals? How about your three favorite musical scores? Not the same thing. I loved reading people's answers but found that I could not answer for myself. It's just too difficult to narrow it down to three. So instead I'm going to blog about it in two sessions. The first is musicals I saw in the theater that I found transformative, the world was not the same after seeing them as it was before. There are more than three of these which is why I couldn't choose.
Fiddler on the Roof – My parents saw it when it first opened and fell in love with it. They bought the Cast Album and I fell in love with it. It must have been for my 11th birthday in 1968 that they took me to see it. By then then Zero Mostel and the original cast was gone but Bette Midler and joined the cast as Tzeitel. It was my first Broadway show and when it's one as great as Fiddler how can that not change the life of an 11-year-old? I will never lot love Fiddler and I will never go a month without singing something from it. oO If I were a rich man … Oo
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – I saw a small article in the New York Times on how production had started on a new play by Sondheim based on the penny dreadful tales of the homicidal barber and the woman that baked his victims into pies. It was a tiny blurb but it caught my fancy and I knew I had to see it. I couldn't afford the full price but as soon as it hit TKTS the half-price ticket booth at Duffy Square Bad Carey and I went to see it. It was the most expensive show on Broadway, $22 a ticket! With the service charge, it cost us $12 apiece. It was at the Uris now Gershwin theater. We sat about halfway back in the enormous theater. Bella Abzug was a few rows ahead of us. She took off her hat. I took off my hat to Sondheim, Len Cariou, Angela Lansbury, the rest of the cast, the director, the set designer, and anyone else that made the show possible. I might not be able to choose a top three but this is my favorite show. I eventually saw four different productions, all great, but none could hold a candle to the original. Lansbury and Cariou had such chemistry. The look they give each other at the end said more than most entire shows. It is the closest I've ever seen Broadway come to Grand Opera.
Little Shop of Horrors – Like Sweeney this started with me reading a blurb in the Times. I loved the Roger Corman film and there was no way I was missing this. It was not on Broadway, not even off-Broadway, it was off-off-Broadway, the WPA theater. Lauren and I bought tickets when they went on sale and chose the perfect performance; Midnight on Halloween, the second weekend of the run. It was only Friday - Sunday. This was a walk up a flight of stairs kind of theater. We sat in the front row as was our wont. We did that for Amadeus too. We then experienced something unlike anything I had ever seen. It was funny, campy, kitschy, yet it still had a sincere core. The faux early sixties music by Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman was infectious. Do I need to say that I still sing the lyrics? I fell in love with Ellen Green who played Audrey. All the performances were dead on. It even had top notch production values. Audrey II was a Muppet level creation and operated by the same guy that operated Snuffleupagus. During intermission, we walked around and found a room with a spare Audrey II! You don't get to do that on Broadway. When Audrey II flowers at the end and walks towards the audience Lauren and I were but a few feet away and we both reflexively shrunk back. When the vines fell from the ceiling we jumped. At this point those were my three favorite musicals and two of them involved people being eaten. No, I'm not strange. I saw the show again at the same theater with Bad Carey. Then both Carey and Lauren saw it with me when it moved to Off-Broadway. I saw a production of it at Queens College. When a new production came to Broadway I saw it with Good Carey.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Vin Scelsa raved about the show. He saw it at least once a month. He had the cast and band come to the studio after a performance and run through the entire show. And yet I was unmoved. I loved the title song but something in my resisted. Bad Carey saw it and raved over it. But I still resisted; It just seemed too strange. Then Aden came to visit me from Buffalo, her first time ever in New York. I knew she was a huge Rocky Horror fan and figured she'd like it. We splurged and bought full price tickets, it wasn't that much money. It was at an off-Broadway theater in the far West Village. The lights went down, Yitzhak said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Hedwig!" Hedwig walked in, the spotlight fell on her, she spread her wings, and I was hooked. Then followed a show that taught me a new way that a show can succeed. There were but two characters and a rock band onstage. There was no real plot. It was a primarily a show within a show. Hedwig telling her story to an audience. It was Marx Brothers funny. It was heartbreaking. The music in context was incredible. This wasn't even John Cameron Mitchell who wrote the show and originated the role. Aden who played it when we saw it? Was it Michael Cerveris? I did see him perform one song from it at a revue at the Knitting Factory and got to talk to him afterward. Three days later Aden and I had to decide what to do and I suggested seeing Hedwig again. This time we got half-priced tickets and saw it with Bad Carey and Barbara. I saw that original run two more times, once with JCM. That as the best. He ad-libs throughout. I eventually saw it nine times but not the Broadway production with Neil Patrick Harris; that kills me. When I'm feeling down the original Hedwig soundtrack is my go to music. I saw the movie. I made sure everyone I knew saw it. I took Good Carey to see a midnight showing at a regional theater on Long Island because a universe where she hadn't seen it was unthinkable.
Hadestown – I have known about Hadestown almost as long as Anaïs Mitchell worked on the project. Perhaps from the very beginning. If my memory is correct, never a good bet, Why Do We Build the Wall was the first song written. Then for years I'd see her and she'd be adding a new song or two each time. I have videos of some of them. Then the album hit. It wasn't just Anaïs, she played Eurydice but it was a full cast. I called it the Oratorio version of the show. Ani DiFranco played Persephone, Greg Brown Hades, and Justin Vernon Orpheus. There were many live performances of the Oratorio with different casts. I saw each one in New York. I knew many of the cast members. Sometymes Why, Aoife O'Donovan, Ruthy Merenda, and Kristin Andreassen frequently played the Fates. Each performance was special. I picked the album as the best of 2011 and said it might be the best of the millennium and was one of the greatest albums of all-time. I was a huge fan, an early adopter, a friend of Anaïs, and none of that prepared me for the full production this year at the New York Theater Workshop. There were many new songs. Some of the old songs were re-interpreted. There was acting, there were sets, there was the full plot. It was one of the great theater experiences of my life. Well duh, that's what this list consists of. I went with Kevin. That was perfect as we both gushed over it after the performance. It's great to see something with someone who appreciates it as much as you do. That's true of all these shows. What's true of only Hadestown is that I know the creative genius behind it. It's sweet, fun, often silly, Anaïs. When I asked about people's favorite musicals on Facebook Marty included Hadestown. That made me very happy. I hope it has a run on Broadway and sweeps the Tonys.
I was going to list my favorite musical cast albums growing up but I've written so much already. I'll save that for another time. My choices here are personal but not idiosyncratic. Each of them was acclaimed and won either a Tony or Obie award for best musical. Hadestown hasn't but they haven't announced this year's winners yet. My track record is good, put your money on it winning.
I am not going to go back and check but I think I wrote progressively more about each show. I know I could write more about Fiddler but I won't I am going to eat. I have tons of rolls in the house and I'm the only one here to eat it so I'm going to be making a lot of breakfast sandwiches on rolls and the 15 English Muffins I have in the house.