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May 11, 2018:

HEAVY LIDS

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, it is very late and therefore I must write these here notes in a hurry because my lids are heavy and when one’s lids are heavy it usually results in heavy lidded notes.  So, let me not start at the beginning, which is usually a very good place to start, let me start at the end and go backwards.  I have just returned home from seeing a preview (not noted as such, which the Ahmanson should absolutely do – the show does not open until next Wednesday) of a new musical sort of entitled Soft Power, with a book and lyrics by David Henry Hwang and music and some lyrics by Jeanine Tesori.  First of all, I commend anyone who actually produces an original musical not based on anything.  This is kind of a weird hybrid – it began as just a play but at some point the author decided it should be a musical, albeit that part of the show is a fantasy in the head of the author character (called David Henry Hwang in the show) is struggling to survive a knife attack.  So the first thirty minutes or so is simply a set-up to that and as a set-up it goes on a bit too long – but one can say that about the entire evening, which could lose a good ten to fifteen minutes without suffering any harm whatsoever. How you react to the show will probably depend, at least for some folks, on what side of the political fence you’re on. The major female character in the musical (which takes up most of the evening) is called Hillary Clinton.  Once the musical begins, it’s really just a political satire of sorts – occasionally funny, sometimes trying to hard to be funny and not quite getting there, and then hammering home (and I mean HAMMERING) its message, and at times very repetitiously so.  We get it, really we do.  I’m also unsure what kind of shelf like this would have due to its somewhat topical nature, but that’s a whole other story.  LA audiences are peculiar – they want to seem like they’re “with it” and “get” everything and so they sometimes overcompensate when they’re laughing or applauding – it’s easy to tell when that’s happening, at least for me – it just seems very forced.

That’s not to say that the audience didn’t enjoy it – many clearly did.  I would say fully half of the attendees were of Asian descent, maybe even more.  In any case, Mr. Hwang knows how to write and Ms. Tesori, while certainly not a favorite of mine, can write a tune and craft a song.  Some are Sondheim-lite, most are pastiche and I found myself playing that game of which genre of music would be done next.  There are some attractive tunes here and there, but nothing all that memorable. I actually preferred act one to act two. The show ran two hours and thirty minutes with the intermission.  Creators of musicals these days are not as ruthless as the old guard was – they would make huge changes while their shows were trying out.  These days, creators change almost nothing once the show has opened, thereby denying themselves the entire purpose for trying out a show. Then they do the work after the fact, but after the fact means they don’t have the benefit of seeing their fixes with an audience.  If something wasn’t working in a tryout, out it went, rewrites were done immediately and the cast learned them or a new song during the day and played it in the evening. That’s were some fairly legendary number were birthed, during that torturous tryout period.  But that’s not today’s world.  I’ll be curious to see the reviews on this.  For me, while it was interesting, it didn’t quite work. But critics in LA are strange beasts and one simply can’t predict – well, one can with a few but others not so much.

After the show, I went to Kendall’s and had some mac-and-cheese with Alby Potts, who’s the associate conductor and keyboard player for this.  In fact, the band has many folks who I’ve regularly worked with and I really must give a shout out to the band – twenty-two pieces and they sounded great – thanks to a very subtle sound design that is never, like most dopey shows today, in your face and headache-inducing.

Prior to the show, a friend and I met at the Music Center and went to a little hole in the wall fast-food Japanese place called Bak’s Café.  I had teriyaki chicken and two tempura shrimp – it was really quite good and even better quite inexpensive.

Prior to that, I’d gotten about seven and a half hours of sleep.  Once up, I answered e-mails, booked our second Kritzerland performer, and then spent most of the day working on this three-song sequence in our show.  I actually managed to finish all three songs – two are fairly short and one is a fun production number.  I was quite pooped after all that work at the piano and computer.  Then I shaved, showered, and moseyed on over to the Music Center.  The traffic was swift until Western, which is really only about seven minutes, if that, from the Music Center off-ramp on a non-traffic day. That seven minutes took thirty minutes. Unbelievable and mostly because people drive like morons.

Today, I’ll try to cast the other three performers and see if we can get someone fun to guest star.  Then I’ll begin working on the middle sequence of our show – right now I can’t imagine it will involve more than one song, but we’ll have to see. After that, I believe the only thing left may be the finale, which I’ve already sketched out.  Then when all the songs have been precisely placed, Doug will then begin cutting whatever is repetitious between dialogue and song, he’ll adjust set-ups, and rewrite some stuff, then we’ll print out that new version and I’ll read through it and see if there are any song ideas we’re missing. I’ll also hopefully pick up some packages, I’ll eat, and then relax.

The weekend and next week is more of the same and also same of the more.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, cast, choose songs, write, hopefully pick up packages, eat, and 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, many, many items.  Blu-ray, many, many items.  Your turn. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, as I haul my heavy lids to the bedroom environment.

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