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July 11, 2017:

THE BIRTH OF A NEW MUSICAL

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, last night I witnessed the birth of a new musical. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, last night I, BK, witnessed the birth of a new musical. Well, it’s actually an old new musical – written in the early 1980s by the Sherman Brothers and Larry Cohen. They never even had a reading of it back then – they’ve never actually heard it out loud. When the project came to me, we all lunched and I told them I felt there was a beautiful musical buried in the script and that I’d commit to a production if they agreed to make changes so we could find that beautiful musical. As I’ve mentioned, Larry graciously gave me his blessing to do whatever I felt necessary in revising it and finding its heartbeat. And Richard is one of the most collaborative people on Earth. So, I did a revision of the script back in May, completely readjusting the opening ten minutes of the show, and then cutting, moving things around, adding a few things, removing a few things, all in service of clarity and pace and storytelling. When I do revisions like this, it’s never about me or my voice, it’s about the voice of the authors, so I wrote in Larry’s style and I don’t think even he could distinguish between what I wrote and what he wrote – it’s all very seamless. At seven o’clock the cast of actors had assembled in my den, as had Richard and Elizabeth, and Larry and his wife, Cynthia.

I’m happy to say that this reading could not have gone better – we assembled a wonderful group of actors, and I croaked my way through the score as best I could (with occasional help from Richard S.). There were so many wonderful laughs (the majority of which are all Larry’s) and the adjusted structure worked really well – the show had a really nice flow to it, moved along at a steady clip, and even the actors were very moved by the act two plot stuff. And, as you’d imagine, everyone loved the songs. The character of Levi Strauss is so wonderful, but all the characters work.

I’m also happy to say that Richard and Larry were so happy with what they heard and both were so gracious in their thanks to me, the actors, and Richard Allen, our musical director. I’ve done a lot of readings of new musicals – they’re usually a trial to sit through – this was the best one I’ve ever been involved in, thanks to collaborators who truly understand the nature of collaboration.

Let me next give a shout-out to our wonderful actors who took part – Marc Ginsberg(who’ll be playing the title role in the production), Adrienne Stiefel, Robert Yacko, Kenny Ellis, Addie Chandler, Hayley Shukiar, Glenn Shiroma, Doug Haverty, Andrea Lee Davis, Lisa Dyson, Betsy Reisz, and Kendyl Yokoyama. What a great group.

So, now onward to rehearsals, which begin in late October. We open the week before Thanksgiving. Very excited to get this on its beautiful feet. What a night.

Prior to the wonderful night, I’d slept under six hours, got up, did stuff, and then went and had the kiddie mac-and-cheese at Jerry’s Deli, along with a bagel. Then I went and picked up packages, after which I came home. Then I had an hour work session with Richard Allen, doing a rough routining of the act two musical numbers. Then he went home and I did work on the computer, whilst beginning to discover the music of a chap named Anton Bruckner. I knew he was from the Mahler school of composer, so I knew it would at least be interesting. So far I’m on symphony four and I’m finding Bruckner’s music very nice indeed. Like Mahler, he seems to be trying to break through the nineteenth century shackles into a new era. His writing for orchestra is wonderful. I got the box that had the most interesting proper reviews – of course on Amazon every set (and there aren’t that many complete sets) has all five-star reviews – so everyone clearly loves “their” choice. I read the magazine reviews of the sets and chose Eugen Jochum’s first set (he recorded them all again a decade later). This set is from the 1960s, although the earliest recording in the set is 1958 – in absolutely amazing stereo. I can’t imagine I’ll find a better set than this. In fact, I have his second set and even a cursory listening shows that the second orchestra is not as good, and certainly the sound isn’t as much to my liking. Anyway, I’m really enjoying these symphonies.

After the reading, several of us went for food – I had a little pepperoni pizza – pretty small, but very good. But prior to that I was shown another Facebook post that caused my irritation level to go into the red. Same guy that posted the other two times, this one on someone else’s wall. This one in particular sent me over the edge – it has to do with the musical I recently directed. So, I had a conversation with the general manager of the show and he is as troubled and baffled by these posts as I am. I also heard from the producer, and she too is appalled by them – how this is going to be dealt with is anyone’s guess, but I can’t unsee what I saw and I’m not at all certain that I’d want to continue with the show, should it have another iteration. I gave everything I had to the show, did a great production (could not have been better), made the show palatable for the audience (as much as one could) and I and the other creative team worked very hard. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but this wacky stuff is all being directed at me at the moment, although one post also mentions the entire creative team in a general and not very nice way. Of course, I have many e-mails and Facebook posts that are so congratulatory and happy – well, something is screwy somewhere. For my part, I have been nothing but professional, respectful, sensitive, and positive at every step of the way.

So, that was annoying, but I was asked by the general manager to not do anything at the moment – my instinct was to e-mail the perpetrator of this stuff and let him have it – but I’ll honor the general manager and say nothing until the producer has had a chance to hash this out with him. But nothing could erase the positivity I felt in my den tonight – nothing.

Today, the helper, who’s been gone for ten days, will be here to pick up invoices and the signed Sharkansas booklets and she’ll get all of those shipped out. For me, I have a lot of stuff to do in the morning, and then Kay and John arrive at two to rehearse Kay’s act. After that I may actually get to relax a bit.

Tomorrow and the rest of week is all Kritzerland stuff and rehearsing Kay’s act. Additionally, some meetings and meals to be had. Wednesday I start my official diet – trying something radical – I’ll let all you dear readers know if it works. We have a pick-up rehearsal on Thursday, although one member of the cast can’t be there – but I’m just coming in to run the murder and will then exit. Performances resume on Friday evening.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, ship CDs, eat, have a rehearsal, hopefully pick up packages, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: What is the best mac-and-cheese you’ve ever had? When did you experience your first mac-and-cheese and what was it – real, from a box? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, so happy to have had such a wonderful reading of the Sherman Brothers/Larry Cohen musical. It makes the other wacky stuff bearable and truly puts it into the obnoxious perspective it deserves to be in.

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