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September 17, 2008:

MELLOW YELLOW II

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am quite mellow right now. I know not why, but as I began typing I thought to myself, “Myself, I am quite mellow right now.” In fact, they call me mellow yellow. Remember that song? I hated that song. Who sang that song? Was it Donovan? What does that mean? Mellow yellow. I understand mellow and I understand yellow but when you put them together what the HELL is going on, other than a cheap rhyme? And if someone is going for a cheap rhyme, then why not they call me mellow fellow or mellow cello or mellow bellow, mello Jell-O? Now I can’t get this fershluganah song out of my head and now I’m no longer mellow, I’m agitated. I was a mellow fellow and now because of Mellow Yellow I want to strangle a gnu. What the HELL am I talking about? Remember the Meltz and Ernest song, What’s Gnu? I want to be mellow again, and by gum and by golly and buy bonds I shall be. Let me take a deep breath. There, now I am quite mellow again. Speaking of mellow again, yesterday was quite an interesting day. For example, I got up. That was interesting. I then did the long jog. After that, I had several e-mails waiting for responses, so I responded to each and every one of them. I then sent a few more. I then shaved and showered and got ready to go to a work session. The work session was fun. I always enjoy working with new musical directors and this one is very talented and will, in fact, be musical directing the Kevin and Sean show when we do it on October 27th. First, I had the singer tell me what the show was about. She wasn’t all that clear about it, so I knew there would be work aplenty ahead. I then had her sing through the show order she’d come up with. Certain things became apparent right away. The “story” was too much one thing and needed more variety, and some of the song choices and arrangements were too similar. After she was finished, I told her what I thought the show had to be about, and both she and the musical director felt I was right. I then said we’d take the next few days and think about the order, while she writes the between song patter. It’s going to require some refocusing in terms of song intentions, but once you know where you’re going, getting there is much easier than if you don’t know where you’re going. I felt the first three songs could stay as they are, but with patter to make their points clear. I also felt that songs one and two started out exactly the same, so I made a suggestion as to how to fix song two’s opening. And I asked for a much bigger finish to song one. So, we’ll reconvene next week and see where we are. After rehearsal, I came back to the Valley, did some errands, picked up an interesting package but no mail (expecting invoices to be paid – STILL). I then came home, did some work on the computer, and then finished reading But He Doesn’t Know The Territory, a fairly short book about the long gestation and then triumph of The Music Man. I was longing for more detail, but what was there was really interesting and it was written in a very folksy way, which was fun to read. Reading about Willson’s endless attempts to keep an unworkable subplot in the show, despite everyone telling him it would have to go, is fascinating – and once he makes the decision to lose the subplot, the way he found the subplot that replaced it is wonderful (the Winthrop character). Best of all, to read of a time when producers were real producers and once a show had a commitment how fast it all happened, and without the endless workshops and without a month of previews on Broadway (they opened after two performances, and were adding an ending to Marian The Librarian that was rehearsed right up until the opening night curtain). They just did their work, didn’t read message boards (there is a very amusing description of the typical naysayer who followed the show from the gypsy run-through to Philadelphia back to New York, all the while pontificating why it would never last. And therein lies the difference between then and now – the pontificator could only pontificate to his circle of friends, and therefore the show had a fair chance without getting all that either negative buzz or over-enthusiastic buzz from thirteen-year-olds who are now the target audience for every show. These people didn’t need Internet posters to tell them how to fix things – they only needed the creativity and the ability to see what was working and what wasn’t. Ah, for those days. It’s rather pathetic now. As I read the book, it just brought home how perfect The Music Man is, how wonderful its scenes and dialogue and characters are, and how absolutely brilliant the score is. It’s hard to remember now, but the train sequence and Trouble were really unique and daring – there had never been anything like them before. In Philadelphia, the train sequence was underscored and wasn’t landing at all. The sequence began with the train in full motion and the audience couldn’t hear a lot of the words. Willson pulled the orchestra out and just had the piano do it. Then he realized that what was unique about it was the actors making the train motion with the words, so he pulled the piano and drums out – and voila, much better. Then someone else suggested he go back to the way had the opening in an earlier version, starting the number with the train leaving the station rather than be in full motion. He instantly wrote the music that tags the overture, which leads in to “Next stop, River City” and then Tec Da Costa added the business of the actors moving as if the train had just started to move, and then the bouncing in rhythm. All that was done during the day – one day – and put in at the evening performance, and the rest is theater history. It’s the kind of thing that never really happens anymore, and it’s a shame, really. It’s also a shame that this book isn’t in print – it’s very hard to find, never had a paperback, and it’s now so pricey that few can afford it (I lucked out, amazingly so). I have always loved The Music Man and this book just made me love it more.

I then toddled off to dinner at La La’s with cousins Dee Dee and Alan. We had a delightfully delightful time, they got their Murder At The Grove books (they bought one for a friend) and their t-shirt. The food, at least my food, was the best it’s ever been and I was quite happy, especially after that wretched meal the day before.

Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below whilst I am still feeling quite mellow and I don’t mean yellow.

Last night, I watched a homegrown DVD of Seven Wonders Of The World. Yes, Virginia, you heard that right, a DVD of the never released to home-video Seven Wonders Of The World, a real three-panel Cinerama film. It was pretty hilarious, actually. Apparently, someone in Australia has a Cinerama set up in their back yard – three projectors, a huge curved screen, and seven-channel surround sound. And somehow they showed prints of Seven Wonders, Cinerama Holiday, and Windjammer. And whoever makes these DVDs was there, and shot the screen with a video camera. So, it’s pretty bad and blurry, but the sound is pretty good, actually – and it was really great fun to see even a bad-looking copy of the film, which I hadn’t seen since I was a youngster (see Benjamin Kritzer for a full description of seeing this film in Hollywood in Cinerama). It was exactly what I remembered. And the music was fantastic – by Jerome Moross, Emil Newman, and David Raksin. On a second disc were a bunch of interesting shorts about Cinerama, and those were fun. I’ll be checking out Windjammer tonight.

Today, I shall do the long jog, then attend to some writing and other work, then do some work on the LACCTAA newsletter, which we sort of have to put to bed in the next five days in order to have them printed in time, then find something fun to eat, then do some errands and whatnot – should be a fairly busy day.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do the long jog, write, do other work, do errands, and sup. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Ask BK Day, the day in which you get to ask me or any dear reader any old question you like and we get to give any old answer we like. So, let’s have loads of lovely questions and loads of lovely answers and loads of lovely postings, shall we, and really, let’s all be mellow but not yellow.

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