Well, dear readers, it is late and I must write these here notes in a hurry so the world can be in balance once they are posted. So, let us start with our look back to the year 2017. It was, in many ways, one of the busiest years I’ve had in the past two decades, non-stop stuff, really. Of course, as it’s been for many years now, I began the New Year by beginning a new novel, which I called Thrill Ride. I absolutely loved writing this book and it wrote pretty quickly. We had no January Kritzerland show, so I was able to really write whenever I wished.
In late January I was hired to direct a new musical called Hit Song. So, I dove into that in late February – we had a private reading and then I began corresponding with the authors to tell them what I felt could be improved in terms of storytelling. I inherited the creative team but I could not have asked for better in every single department. I adored the lady who produced it, Anne Cavanaugh. We had a week of casting and assembled a top-notch group of actors (this was a full Equity cast and production). And then we had our three weeks of rehearsals. I had a wonderful time with the cast – it was really a love-fest, and we made lots of changes as we went along – I apprised the authors of them as we went, save for little dialogue things – since the songwriter co-bookwriter would be with us for six days before we opened, I knew he’d hear all that. Once he arrived most of his notes were about the music, so I mostly stayed out of those discussions, but it was, at times, contentious and unnecessarily so, since in the end the music sounded absolutely amazing. I felt that all the changes improved the show, but there were still problems, of course, as there are with every new show. Our three performances went beautifully – the sets, costumes, lighting, band, actors, choreography – all great. And I was very proud of my production.
Literally in the middle of Hit Song, I began rehearsals for Dial ‘M’ for Murder at the Group Rep. Casting it was not the easiest thing in the world, but in the end we had a great company, with only one actor being problematic in terms of personality and weirdness. The performance by said actor was okay and so it was fine. But the other cast members were superb. There was some truly unnecessary drama along the way, but that stuff is unavoidable really. When I first discussed directing something there and I suggested Dial ‘M’ I was fought very hard – they really didn’t think it was for them, but I held strong, they trusted me, and I have to say it was an audience favorite, did well at the box-office, and had amazing reviews. It showed me once again that my instincts of what will play now that others might consider to be old-fashioned and dated are really good – it played perfectly and its being old-fashioned was a plus, not a minus. And I was very proud of our very own Doug Haverty for trusting me and going the extra mile with Inspector Hubbard – I know it wasn’t easy for him but in the end he gave a terrific performance.
All during those months, of course, we had our Kritzerland shows. And at the same time I was revising Levi, trying to fix structure problems, a bad opening sequence, and various other problems. Once I’d done that, we had a little reading at my house, with Richard Sherman and Larry Cohen finally, after more than three decades, hearing their baby out loud. They loved the revision and Larry said to me that he didn’t know what was his and what was mine, which means I’d done my job well. Richard Allen and I had done a lot of work on the score – rearranging things, figuring out the routines of the songs, but all during the reading I knew there was still a lot to be done with that because certain little things weren’t playing for me and in act two there was a big hole where I knew we absolutely had to have a song. All that said, it was just about the best informal reading of a new musical that I’ve ever heard – it was very clear to all of us that the show played really well.
So, I began a revision of the revision, cleaned up a few things, and really revised the running bit of Levi writing letters to his friend in the old country. In the original, they were very sporadic and each was slightly different. The first one in the show was in a minor key, which I felt was completely the wrong way to open the show and be the first thing we hear – so I took the tune for one of the later letters and used it at the top of the show, while slightly revising the lyrics to make it work with the new tune. Then I conformed every letter to use that tune – I’d already added to each of the letters and then had to rewrite those lyrics to fit the new tune. And finally I wrote a lyric for the scene that needed a song – I knew what it had to say and I wrote it quickly and gave it to Richard Sherman, who called me two hours later and played the beautiful tune he’d written for it – we had our song.
And that’s as far as we’ll go today – but also during all of the above we were regularly releasing CDs.
Yesterday was one of those days. I slept ten hours, missed the entire morning, and then began to get irritating e-mails and messages – nothing terrible, just all irritating, and I dealt with all of those swiftly. I picked up no mail, did some banking, and came home, at which point there were more irritating things. I dealt with those quickly, too, and then it was time for an early dinner with a friend.
We went to the Hamburger Hamlet and had fun – we caught up, laughed, told tales, and ate. I had a patty melt – I remember really liking them there, but as soon as it arrived I remembered I needed to tell them the onions should be raw – these were grilled and they kind of made it yuckilicious rather than yummilicious. I had a little dinner salad with ranch dressing, too, and of course I had my beloved Egg Custard Lulu for dessert. I hadn’t eaten anything all day.
Once back home, I finished watching Wormwood, the way overlong and bloated but fascinating documentary by Errol Morris. It could have been much more compelling at two hours instead of four, but I recommend it anyway. I’m not that big a fan of these recreation things, but he has a very good cast of actors so that helps. But if you’re going to recreate, then it’s important that verisimilitude is consistent throughout, so, note to Errol Morris: Me and Juliet on Broadway did not have a solo piano accompaniment to the song No Other Love. After that, I had a couple of tiny snacks and relaxed.
Today, I was going to try and have a belated birthday lunch, but I have to get some stuff done today that I can’t put off, so I’m thinking we’ll do the lunch right after the Kritzerland show in January. That will be something nice to look forward to, actually. I’ll eat at some point (want to try something new, or I’ll just go to Ralph’s and get stuff from their hot food counter – we shall see. I’ll make new book notes, hopefully pick up some packages, and then I have to conform the Levi script to reflect all the changes I made during rehearsals and the run, and there were plenty. But the stage manager gave me her script and it’s all in there, and eventually I’ll have the video to make sure it’s all correct. At some point I’m sure I’ll relax.
Tomorrow will be a garage unboxing day, and eating something at some point. I have no plans for Saturday and Sunday is, of course, our Annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Bash right here at haineshisway.com, the safe and sane best place to be for New Year’s Eve. And then we begin a brand New Year with a Brand New Book and some large prayers.
Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, eat, hopefully pick up packages, conform the Levi script, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: What were the highlights of your year? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, after which we’ll continue with the look back at 2017.