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July 3, 2019:

WRITING A MUSICAL IS HARD

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, it is late and I must be up by ten so I’d better just jump on these here notes quickly and with élan and spirit, not necessarily in that order.  Before we go any further, however, here’s the flyer for the August Kritzerland show.

Yesterday was a day but that wasn’t the problem.  The problem was tummy trouble all night, resulting in only four hours of sleep.  I guess all that bread pudding did me in or maybe something I ate was tainted, but I was nauseous and felt quite ill.  The nausea never went too far, thankfully, but it kept me up and I needed to sleep in. In the end I got up at noon, but there wasn’t much sleep prior to that.  Once up, I answered e-mails, had some telephonic calls, was still nauseous for most of the day, so therefore didn’t eat anything.  I picked up one package, did some banking, and then came home. I listened to music, relaxed, came up with a first pass show order that actually looks pretty good to me, sent out the eBlast for the August show, and then finally got ready to go see a reading of a new musical.

I’m just going to say this: I commend anybody who begins something and finishes it.  That is to be commended, always.  That said, writing a musical is not easy – it is hard and very few really do it well. And yet, ever year people write hundreds of new musicals, most of which are not good and most of which never see the light of a stage, save for, perhaps, endless readings and occasionally workshops and/or labs.  I mean, HUNDREDS.  And then the authors invite all their friends to come see the reading, and the friends woo-hoo, clap loudly, and react all out of proportion to what they’re actually seeing.  The one thing they NEVER do is tell the truth.  And that’s been the problem with readings, workshops, and labs ever since that process became out of control.  The original workshop for A Chorus Line wasn’t like that – it was real and then there was a production that came right out of that.  But soon, the workshop abuse began.  And it resulted in workshops that had incredible “don’t change a thing” buzz – like Seussical and Sweet Smell of Success, two that had exactly that kind of buzz.  And then they opened and guess what?  They should have changed stuff, but no one told the authors the truth.  They believed the outsized reaction from their chums.  They shouldn’t have.  I always point to my little story of Wicked – after seeing the first reading of the show, which, at that point, had a lot of problems, I went up to Stephen Schwartz and said, “really good work, and Popular is one of the best songs you’ve ever written.”  And his response was: “I don’t want to hear about what you liked; I want to hear about what you didn’t like.  Send me some notes.”  I did and he and his book writer listened and in fact addressed most of them because I have no doubt that most of the notes they got were pretty similar.

So, last night we had a small audience of what I call enablers. I’m not going to talk about the show, other than to say they need to really think about a lot of things that simply are not working, woo-hooing aside.

After the staged reading, Doug Haverty and I went to the Coral Café.  He was the stage direction reader for the evening.  I’ve directed a lot of staged readings and I am here to tell you that never once have I had stage directions read – they are death – they screw up the pace, you forget what’s going on, and they’re really kind of unimportant in a staged reading.  I simply have one of the actors tell us where we are in terms of the setting of the scene. It works perfectly and takes no time.

For my first and only food of the day I had a chicken salad sandwich with cole slaw and potato salad on the side.  The sandwich was good and took care of the hunger pangs.  I left some of the bread and didn’t eat all of the cole slaw.  I think, or at least I hope, I’ll be okay.  Then I came right home.

Today, the garage people are coming at some point in the morning, hopefully not before ten.  We’ll get the rest of the stuff cleaned out of there, the middle shelving unit will go, and they’ll help me put boxes on shelves.  They’ll take most of the art, too.  It will be safer at the warehouse, where it won’t gather dust as it does in the garage.  After that, I’ll shave and shower, and then I’ll visit Sami and her mom at the wake for her grandmother, who passed away a couple of days ago.  I won’t stay too long, as I don’t do well at those sorts of things, and then I’ll come home and start writing the commentary for the August Kritzerland show.  I’ll check to see if there are any packages, and then I’ll relax.

Tomorrow is, of course, the fourth of July and I hope it won’t be too crazy with the fireworks around these here parts.  I don’t think it was last year, but I really don’t remember it that well.  Then I get to have Friday until Monday off, to clear my head and whatnot.  Next week will be fun – Diana Canova comes in on the twelfth and then we record the audio book for GEE the following Monday and Tuesday.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do the final garage day, attend a wake for a short time, hopefully pick up packages, eat, begin writing commentary, and then relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Ask BK Day, the day in which you get to ask me or any dear reader any old question you like and we get to give any old answer we like.  So, let’s have loads of lovely questions and loads of lovely answers and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, secure in my knowledge that writing a musical is hard.

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