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July 22, 2018:

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, all I can say is it was a night to remember and one of the highlights of my life.  I’ve learned how to do these things pretty well, but in the end it’s whatever will be will be.  But being totally prepared is the trick – anticipating everything that could go wrong is the trick – but the biggest trick of all is to have a stage manager who knows his stuff, a cast of perfect and wonderful performers and choosing the perfect songs for them, explaining to everyone what the pace of the evening is, and making sure everyone is on the same page about everything.  I have been to so many of these evenings where it’s one number after another where every performer is trying to outscreech the previous performer, with endless grandstanding and pandering for screaming applause.  That doesn’t interest me in the least.  What interests me is giving the evening an emotional heartbeat, a clear structure, so it’s the show that builds, not grandstanding.  Structure is everything.  Choosing the right material is everything.  And to sit back and watch these fantastic people hit it out of the park, but honestly, and with reality, well, I was a proud daddy let me tell you. But first let me tell you about the day of show.

I was up at eight, shaved, showered, and on my way to the Wallis by nine.  I got there about nine-twenty, did stuff on my phone, and then headed over to the stage door.  Ten was our start time so I waited in the green room until they opened the theater.  The band set up.  We had to do just a minor bit of rearranging of the side of the large orchestra, but it ended up being very easy to do.  The band started making music about 10:40 and the sound people were so on top of it that it was all miked by eleven and they had the sound and the blends perfect almost immediately.  I couldn’t believe it, really.  Meanwhile, I sat with the lighting guy and started him off – we got several desired “looks” for the show, but he was so on top of it, I just let him do his job.

The band finished their rehearsal right on time, got through everything, and I knew that that part of it was in really strong shape.  Then we had an hour break.  I just sat in the green room for a bit, but had to attend to a few other things. But I spent a bit of time having a really fun chat with Melissa Manchester.  I got reports about the totally screwed up ticket situation, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I just listened and went about my business. I had no idea how bad it actually was, but more about that in a moment. 

At one-thirty we began our sound check, and I have to tell you, I have never had a smoother day of show sound check than this – in fact, we were ahead of schedule the entire time, finished about fifteen minutes early, and that was including dealing with the one bit of last-minute drama with one of our performers, who I suspected was not feeling secure enough to take part and who’s been worried the entire rehearsal period.  That person did their sound check and actually I thought was fine, but by that time they were so in their head about it I knew it wasn’t going to work, even though I did try to get them out of their head.  So, Gregg Sherman came to me and said he had a solution, which was to let the person not do the show (I was ready to just cut the song, frankly) but that Keala Settle could do it.  The positioning of the song was far away from her other number that I knew that could work and as it turns out Keala knows every Sherman Brothers song by heart and she rehearsed one time through and it was great and that was that.

Then the dancers took over and got an extra fifteen minutes in the bargain.  The marked out the number, ran each section a few times, went all the way through and then we had to surrender the stage to the orchestra.  I will not comment further about that at this time.  They had their hour and then we had our one-hour dinner break.  They kept telling me there was a sandwich for me but I couldn’t find it. Finally someone said it was in one of the star dressing rooms – as it turned out, our stage manager hadn’t even assigned anyone to those rooms, so Brent Barrett, Johnny Whitaker, Robert Yacko, and I took one and that was actually great and I ate my sandwich all up – turkey.  Then I got dressed, and at six-thirty we did Robert Yacko’s sound check, gave Keala a sound check on her new song, and had one for Richard’s granddaughter Mandy.  Then we brought the entire company onstage and I told them how the finale would work and who would be doing the streamer sticks.  Then my work was done.

Meanwhile I was getting texts from all these people who’d reserved a month ago, gotten confirmations, and whose tickets were not there.  Thankfully, I had four that I purposely didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t using, so those helped some folks, and Gregg was great about making sure anyone I knew got in – but they even gave two of the parents of minors’ tickets away. I have no idea who to blame but we’re going to have a post mortem to figure that out.  It was disgusting, and so many people were angry and frustrated, even though they got in and while I was mingling a bit I could really feel it.

Meanwhile, Richard and Elizabeth arrived and we got them right to their seats and I was sitting across the aisle from them.  Then I went backstage and awaited the top of the show, which began pretty much on time.

First the Mayor of Beverly Hills spoke for about two minutes, just a speech of welcome. Then he threw it to the conductor of the orchestra.  He’s used to doing his own symphony concerts but this wasn’t that, which he’s known from day one.  So he was announced and instead of just being at the podium, which would have gotten him a much larger applause, he made an entrance, and then bowed but by the time he bowed there was no more applause.  Then he and his orchestra played an Overture.  We had lots of photos going on during it.  After the Overture and his applause, I was announced and I came out.  I had my stuff typed out and with me just in case, because after nine hours my brain was pretty fried.  I had an opening line I hoped would get a chuckle, but before I got to it I just improvised a line because I knew it would work – I said, “I’m so excited to be here tonight, because, you know, they didn’t have a ticket for me.” Well, it got a HUGE laugh because it totally broke the tension and everyone relaxed. Thank goodness I occasionally think on my feet quickly.  Then I said my stuff, and introduced Jenna and Sami and we were off and running.

Their number went great – Ten Feet Off the Ground, full out with tap dancing.  Great reaction.  Then Darcie Roberts did beautiful job with Tell Him Anything from The Slipper and the Rose.  It was kind of a bold choice as a second number but it worked really well.  That was followed by Brent Barrett doing I Wanna Be Like You and you have never seen such energy and fun in that number.  He was great.  Then it was young Brennley Brown, who did an absolutely stunning rendition of Your Heart Will Lead You Home.  If you watched her on The Voice you know just how good and real she is.

After that it was Daniel Bellusci and James Singleton doing a quick three-song duet from Richard and his pal Milt Larsen’s Smash Flops, songs you should never hear from shows that should never have been written – I was surprised at how many laughs it got.  That’s one I staged and they did it great.  Then nine months pregnant Carly Bracco came out and sang a put-together of Stay Awake and Hushabye Mountain – very moving having the about-to-be mommy sing those two songs.  Then young Autumn Jessel and Maggie Balleweg came out as Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills and did Let’s Get Together exactly how it was done in the movie – they were great and it brought the house down.  Then Adrienne Stiefel did Richard and I proud with a beautiful So Many Empty Rooms from Levi.  Then it was the orchestra again, playing the Overture to Tom Sawyer.  And in my best bit of structuring as soon as it was over, out came Johnny Whitaker, who played Tom Sawyer, who sang his song If’n I Was God, and I suspect there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  It was one of the absolute highlights of the show.

Then Juliana Hansen did The Eyes of Love and the song that replaced it in Mary Poppins, A Spoonful of Sugar.  She did very well.  And then it was time for our act one finale, a recreation of Pat Birch’s original production number Charlie’s Place from Over Here.  It was great and ended the act on a total high, which is, of course, what you want to do.

I hung out with a few folks at intermission, went backstage and hung with our folks for a bit, and then it was time for act two.  Act Two was supposed to open with a Mary Poppins medley from the orchestra. But in an act of the most incredible chutzpah it has ever been my displeasure to witness, the conductor came on and went to the center mic and decided to talk – and talk – and tell us all about how he met Richard, his orchestra – I mean, how do you do that without at least running it by someone?  I think you may have probably figured out by now what I’ve been talking about this entire week.  None of us could believe it – thankfully it only lasted a couple of minutes and then they played the Mary Poppins medley and Sami came out and sang the Al Sherman (Richard and Robert’s dad) song, Comes A-Long A-Love – she came out, sang it, and made everyone forget what had just happened.  In fact, I have never seen her more self-assured, I have never seen her completely own a stage like that – it was the best performance she’s ever done, in my opinion – such confidence and such a great swinging version of the song.  She got a HUGE reaction and deserved every bit of it.

Then Robert Yacko did Richard’s wonderful song from L.A. Now and Then, The Whimzy Works – it was great and very moving.  Then Jenna Lea Rosen did Suddenly It Happens from The Slipper and the Rose and she, too, stopped the show. Then Brent Barrett and Darcie Roberts, two of the stars of Busker Alley, did their number, She/He Has a Way. Gorgeous. Then it was Keala Settle doing the song where she was replacing someone – The Age of Not Believing and it was great. 

Then my friend Linda Hart came out and did exactly what I knew she would do and which I’d told her she would do – she sang You’re Sixteen – a great little arrangement she’d whipped up and that Richard Allen had done a great chart for – and she stopped the show cold and got what ended up being the largest ovation of the evening.  She was incredible.  Then Shannon Warne did a beautiful job with A Kiss Goodnight, the song Richard wrote recently for the park.  Then Keala did her song, It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow – brilliant and a huge ovation. Then it was Kerry O’Malley doing the greatest rendition of Where Did the Good Times Go that you could ever hear – breathtaking.  Huge ovation.

And then in another bold structure move that really paid off, I’d put little Peyton Kirkner before Melissa Manchester’s penultimate song.  I don’t know that I would have done that with anyone but Peyton but I knew she’d deliver just what was needed.  At her sound check, I came up with a funny mic bit and she’s such a pro with such great timing, she just “got” it and when that bit happened it got a huge laugh.  Then she launched into the Shermanized Words medley that I created and she was absolutely perfect and HER reaction was unbelievable.  Then just before Melissa came onstage, I took Richard backstage. Melissa then proceeded to do the most beautiful Feed the Birds ever in that stunning voice of hers.  Finally, Mandy Wolf, Richard’s granddaughter, came on and did one time through It’s a Small World – she was great and the audience ate her up, then she threw it to the orchestra and as soon as they began playing the entire cast came onstage and the streamer stick people let forth with the first round and those always get a great reaction.  Then just before they finished, I brought Richard on and the audience went berserk and stood and it was great.  As soon as all that calmed down I had the audience sit and said we still had a couple of surprises, and I brought back the Mayor and some folks from the city council and they gave Richard a proclamation and key to the city. Then a cake came out, we all sang Happy Birthday, then we launched back into Small World, we let loose with the second wave of streamer sticks and that, dear readers, was our show.  I just don’t see how it could have gone better.

There was a little thing on the terrace, so we schmoozed out there and I got some wonderful comments about what a great night it was and that was wonderful to hear. Then about twenty of us went to a nearby Eyetlian jernt and I finally had some real food that really hit the spot. Richard and Elizabeth were already at a full table when I got there, so I went and sat with Linda Hart and Mandy Wolf at another table.  Within five minutes, Richard came to sit with us, because he knew it was going to be the most entertaining table and he never went back to the other table.  I finally left, went back and got my motor car and motored home and there you have it.

Today I shall sleep as late as I sleep, then I’ll relax, eat, do a teeny-tiny bit of Kritzerland planning, pick up some packages that came yesterday, but mostly I just need to rest and not do much of anything and frankly I deserve such a day.

This week is very busy – meetings and meals, rehearsals with Kay, there’s stuff happening on some evenings, and lots of Kritzerland stuff, and we’ll be shipping out CDs on Monday, too.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, sleep in, relax, eat, do a bit of Kritzerland show stuff, pick up some packages, and then not do much of anything.  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, happy that the Sherman Event was a night to remember.

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