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December 8, 2017:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY VERY OWN SELF

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I do believe it is my very own self’s birthday right this very minute. Birthdays are always fun and amusing on some level, as long as it’s the second number that’s changing. And frankly I haven’t minded when the first number changed, not even a decade ago. And I probably don’t mind this one, but it’s just a big ol’ number this time. I do realize that these days the number isn’t really considered THAT old because we’re living longer these days and the average age of a human is much different than when I was a sprig of a twig of a tad of a lad of a youth. The other way to look at it, of course, is that, in the words of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, I’m still here. So, yes, today I turn an age called seventy. 70. I’m proud to have gotten here, proud to have survived some very dark and difficult times, proud that I can do what I love to do, and proud most of all that occasionally I do something that causes people happiness and positivity. Do I wish things were easier at times – of course, who doesn’t? But I’m grateful to turn this age and it is my fervent hope and prayer that seventy to eighty will be a decade filled with health, wealth, happiness, creativity, and all things bright and beautiful. Funnily, I think the work I’ve done this year is amongst the best I’ve ever done – all the shows I’ve directed, the Kritzerland shows, the CDs we’ve issued, Thrill Ride, and whatever else I’ve written – I don’t feel my creative powers have diminished one single iota and I hope that continues to be the case. It’s like Richard Sherman in a way – the man is eighty-nine, but when you hear the music he wrote for the song we added to Levi you would never know it. So, here’s to seventy years of living, here’s to however many more years are coming my way and here’s to all of you for keeping this jernt alive and well because I feel that soon we will be the most popular site on all the Internet.

My last day as a sixty-nine year-old was pleasantly pleasant. I got up at eight-thirty after about six hours of sleep, but just stayed in bed and after about an hour I fell asleep again and didn’t wake up until just before noon, so that was an excellent beauty sleep. Once up, I answered e-mails, had some telephonic conversations and made the decision not to cancel tomorrow’s book signing. So anyone in the Valencia area or environs, do come on down to Barnes and Noble at three. It will be FUN! Then I moseyed on over to the mail place where I picked up no mail and no packages, I stopped at Gelson’s and got an onion, then came home and made two tuna sandwiches for my meal o’ the day. They were most yummilicious. Then I did some work on the computer, mostly making some notes on the new book. I’m beginning to question the structure I was originally thinking of, because as I wrote the first page-and-a-half it began to feel like another structure might work better – not really structure, but who’s story it really is (originally I was going to split the narrative between two people, but that’s not feeling right to me now that I’ve been making notes and thinking about the book’s trajectory.

Grant and his ever-lovin’ Lydia came by – first time for Lydia to see the house with all my furniture and she loved it. The funny thing is that she didn’t remember any of this furniture from the other house – that’s how different it looks here. While he was here, Grant hung two other pictures. But everything will be up by the time of the Christmas Eve Do. After they left, some kind soul sent me a link to watch the new London production of Follies on line. This has gotten adulatory raves from critics and audiences, with everyone saying it’s the equal of the original production, even though most of those saying it haven’t seen the original production. But here’s the thing about the rabid Sondheads – they think every revival is brilliant and the one – until the next one comes along, then they kind of forget they liked the previous one. They see the show they want to see no matter the show they’re actually seeing. When I saw the last Broadway revival, which I absolutely loathed, the Sondheads were there in force, weeping through the show, and trying to force a mid-show standing ovation for Who’s That Woman. The original Michael Bennett staging of that number was as good as musical theater gets – think it ever got a mid-show standing ovation? Never. Think the title song of Hello, Dolly ever got a mid-show standing ovation during its original run? Never. Mid-show standing ovations are all about the people who lead them and do them – nothing to do with the show. There should never be a mid-show standing ovation. Where was I? Oh, yes, this new production of Follies that has many people going bananas over it.

To cut to the chase – I did not go bananas over it. From a technical standpoint, the band overpowered the singers at every point. And where were the body mics – I saw not a one, so maybe they did it sans mics? Weird. But the bottom line for any production of Follies is simple: Does the director and do the actors and creatives understand the show? And in every revival I’ve seen I’d say the answer is a resounding no, and that includes this production. It’s not that it’s not the original production – what could be? It’s that the creators of this production seem to have so little idea of what this show is about or how to stage it. That was the genius of Harold Prince and Michael Bennett – every move, every gesture, every performance knew exactly what the show was about. No one had to beat the audience to death with a jackhammer – it was subtle, not bombastic. There was no schmacting, no one played the subtext as text, which is what everyone’s been guilty of in every revival I’ve seen. The set is merely okay and not a patch on the butt cheeks of Mr. Boris Aronson’s original. If I never see anything with a turntable again it will be too soon, and it’s use here is both lazy and unnecessary.

Imelda Staunton may be a great actress, but a Sally Durant Plummer she isn’t. You cannot play the end of the show from the beginning or you have nowhere to go and that’s what the brilliant Dorothy Collins avoided. You had no idea she was losing her mind until the middle of the show, when you began to see her façade cracking. Just watch the YouTube clips of the original and you can see how wondrous she is. John McMartin as Ben was so incredible because he was so blasé and bored with everything and it was very funny and then very touching when HIS façade cracks. And when he did the breakdown in Live, Laugh, Love the entire audience thought he’d really gone up on the song – it was one of the most frighteningly real things I’ve ever seen on a stage. For this revival, they not only hammer it to death, they’ve re-written it to make it so bloody obvious. It’s just horrible and fake, and the Ben is simply not very good. But the entire Loveland sequence is terrible, starting with the awful set, which is just some drapes. That transformation in the original was breathtaking. Here it’s nothing. And who’s idiotic idea was it to put Young Phyllis in Lucy and Jessie? Why? It’s so wrongheaded as to defy any logic. And Losing My Mind? They should have retitled it I Lost My Mind Before the Show Began. The set for it is a joke, and what exactly is hard to understand about this number? Just let the actress sing the damn song – the song does the work. That’s why they had Dorothy Collins in a beautiful Follies gown standing there in a simple setting, not moving left, not moving right, not schmacting – I believe that number had two simple turns in it in the instrumental section – no extra sauce needed. Why? Because it’s a representation of her life as a Follies number – it is not real, it is not a breakdown. And then there’s the choreography. I’m sorry, why is Lucy and Jessie being done like a Rob Marshall number from Cabaret and everything else he’s ever done? There was no Follies number EVER like that in that period. Do one of these creatives understand what PERIOD they’re in. Bennett knew exactly what to do with that number, as well as the other numbers. His choreography always came from story and character. Here we get steps and not very good steps at that. I’m happy for those who enjoyed it, but for me a complete waste of time, other than hearing the lovely orchestrations, albeit in an occasionally weird and funky mix.

After that I had a wonderful telephonic conversation with Muse Margaret, the first conversation from the new house. She knew I was calling about the book – she knows me too well. I told her what I was thinking of and she immediately responded to it positively – and then when I explained where the story would go she said she got goosebumps, which is always a good sign. And she didn’t love either of my two original titles, which she felt were too literal and gave things away – what she did love was the first of my two alternate titles – one word and no one will understand what it means until they read the book. So, onward I go starting January 1. In fact, I have already done the title page and cut and pasted in the just under two pages I’ve written.

Today, I’ll hopefully arise after a good night’s beauty sleep. I’ll be lazy, hopefully pick up some packages, then at around two-thirty I’ll head over the hill via Beverly Glen perhaps. I’ll do a few things, then mosey on over to the Monica of Santa for my early-bird birthday dinner with Nick Redman and his ever-lovin’ Julie. I know that will be a very nice way to celebrate said birthday. Then after the traffic has cleared, I’ll be on my way home.

Tomorrow, I’ll relax until it’s time to go to Valencia for the Barnes and Noble book signing at three. Not sure how long it will go, but I’d imagine ninety minutes or so. Hoping we have at least a few people in attendance. Then I’ll eat something, then come home. Sunday may be a dinner – we’ll see what happens. And I have a birthday lunch next Thursday with dear reader Jeanne.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be lazy, hopefully pick up some packages, have a birthday dinner, and be on my way home, where I shall relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Friday – what is currently in your CD player, and your DVD/Blu and Ray player? I’ll start – CD, upcoming Kritzerland stuff. Blu-ray, the new batch of Twilight Time titles. Your turn. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, as I begin my seventieth year on this planet. I am, of course, wearing my pointy party hat and my colored tights and pantaloons, and there are the requisite cheese slices and ham chunks, and I’m dancing both the Hora and the old-fashioned waltz.

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