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March 19, 2017:

FIXING WHAT WAS NEVER BROKEN

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, why couldn’t they leave Company alone? Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, why couldn’t the writers of Company leave their brilliant, game-changing show alone. Let me explain – it wasn’t broken and it didn’t need fixing, not any of it, as long as it’s kept in its original time period, which it needs to be because that’s how the show makes sense. When I saw this at the Roundabout in the mid-90s I was appalled by the revisions, right from the opening scene. Putting Marry Me a Little at the end of act one absolutely ruined the end of the act, which was perfect in the original version, completing that act’s flow as it needed to be. Shoehorning in this song that never belonged there extends the act, robs the end of the Amy scene’s beauty and tension, which should then segue us directly back into the birthday party. The “gay” scene, I felt, was completely unnecessary, too, and even harmful. Subtext is one thing, taking a sledgehammer so we “get” it is something wholly other. And this is the version that’s licensed, although if I were to do the show I would ONLY do the original version, period. They leave Marry Me a Little as an option, as well as Tick Tock.

I first heard Company the week the LP came out and I was bowled over by its brilliant score. I immediately heard the Promises, Promises influence in the orchestrations, but it worked and the music was incredible as were, naturally, the lyrics. I played it over and over again. Then the first national tour came to the Ahmanson here in LA and of course I was there, at a matinee the first time. It was the majority of the original cast, but with George Chakiris as Bobby. While his voice was occasionally pitchy, I thought he played the role beautifully – you could really see why everyone liked Bobby and wanted him around and cared about him, and why there was some sexual tension here and there with his married friends. I thought the sets, lights, and costumes were stunning, I thought the choreography was genius, and Hal Prince’s direction could not have been better. And that cast – amazing what those actors got out of the George Furth script and lines – we laughed, we were shocked by The Ladies Who Lunch (especially at the matinee, where the matinee ladies obviously knew exactly who Elaine Stritch was singing about), and Donna McKechnie’s Tick Tock, a literal dance of sex was supremely hot.

I saw it a few more times at the Ahmanson. Then I’m sure I saw a production or two over the next two decades, just as I’m sure I didn’t like them. But in those days, the productions were basically still aping Prince and Bennett’s work. Then came the Roundabout production, helmed by a director I don’t really care for and I absolutely loathed it, even though I had friends in it. A year ago I saw an absolutely bone-headed terrible production in Thousand Oaks, with a terrible Bobby, a mostly bad cast (a couple of folks were fine), and, for me, very bad direction, with Bobby snorting cocaine during the second act – I mean, stop already. Do you understand the damn show you’re doing or not? It’s not about YOU, Mr. Director, it’s about the text. But, as stated, the text is no longer the real Company text. And last night I saw another production, this time at the Morgan-Wixon Theater, a community theater (I did two of my shows there back-to-back in 1974). They do okay work there for community theater but community theater it is. Rob Stevens was there so I’ll let him review it, but I just hate the revisions so I think it will be impossible for me to ever like the show again unless they un-fix what never needed to be fixed. I will only say that I don’t really need to hear the score of Company played by what sounds like a cheesy synthesizer doing all the orchestral parts and have a cast sing to those tracks.

Prior to that, I got nine hours of sleep, I think. I got up, printed out a few orders, answered e-mails, picked up a couple of packages, drove to another Rite-Aid where they, too, were out of the pre-packaged cherry chip ice cream, probably thanks to the fact that I’ve written about it so much. Prior to my writing about it so much every Rite Aid had cartons and cartons of it, and now they have none. But the ice cream counter was open so I got a quart to take home with me. I came home and had some time to kill so I sat on my couch like so much fish.

Yesterday I finally caught up with the documentary Best Worst Thing that Ever Could Have Happened, about the original Merrily We Roll Along production. I enjoyed it very much – I’m not a fan of its director, and at times it’s a little too self-serving for my taste, and I had a few other issues with it, but it’s occasionally very touching and the archival footage is great and it just makes you want to see ALL of it – hopefully if there’s ever a Blu-ray or DVD release they’ll include every frame of it as a bonus. They focus really on only about six or seven people, so a lot of people are only glimpsed and never mentioned, including Liz Callaway, whose first show it was. I was not thrilled they didn’t interview her.

After that, I got ready and then moseyed on over to the Monica of Santa, where I met up with Rob and we went to a nearby Mexican jernt for dinner. I’d read some mostly favorable Yelp comments, but there were the other comments speaking of mediocre food and terrible service. I found the service okay and the food was indeed mediocre and not a patch on the butt cheeks of Casa Vega. Then we saw the show, after which I came directly home.

Today, I’ll be up by nine-thirty and I have to go do this paperback book show, wherein I sit at a table and sign for an hour. It has been my experience that no one gives a flying Wallenda that I’m there – maybe I’ll sell one book, tops, but they like me to be there and occasionally some nice folks stop by the table and I’ve met some very nice authors there. I’ll bring a couple of copies of the two memoirs and some Patrick Bronstein Presents with me – if I had Thrill Ride I would, of course bring it – I may bring the one extra hardback I have, just to display it. I’ll probably look around the jernt, then I’ll come home, eat, and relax.

Tomorrow I have a lunch meeting, then we’re having a really informal read-through of the musical I’m directing – basically for the set and costume people to hear out loud. I don’t really need to hear it, but if it’s helpful to them then why not? Tuesday I have an evening meeting, and the rest of the week is meetings and meals, preparing a new Kritzerland release, a work session with John Boswell and lots o’ other stuff. Oh, and I had a nice long telephonic conversation with our very own Mr. Nick Redman who is home and recuperating nicely from his surgery last week. I’ll be going over this week to visit him.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do the paperback book show, I must eat, and I must relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s free-for-all day, the day in which you dear readers get to make with the topics and we all get to post about them. So, let’s have loads of lovely topics and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, where I can only hope I shall never attempt to fix what was never broken.

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