Thursday, February 26, 2009

Barack, the Musical

Not since the overture for the revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center, when the lid of the pit drew slowly back like the top of a piano, and the lush sound of that wonderful music played by a full orchestra invaded my ears, have I been so moved. To have a president who can speak! Explain! Inspire courage and at the same time love his wife, was overwhelming. I wept at his words, the resonance of his voice, the truth that we have survived the moron and his Vice, as Maureen Dowd called him all the time, accurately, and have a chance at restoration was beyond uplifting. Maybe we had to fall so low so we could rise.
The President’s speech was preceded by my foray into my next career which should have been my first one: the musical theater. There was a ‘MeetnGreet’ for all those submitting projects to NYMF, the New York Musical Festival, and I went enthusiastically, which my son once explained to me meant ‘infused with the love of God.’ Well, I have that, too, on occasion, but mainly what I am and have always been is infused with the love of musicals, a passion that has been increasingly hard to sustain for the past several years as I saw/heard what was out there, including a revival of what is arguably the best of all time, Gypsy, as I am that rare dissenting voice that cannot bear Patti Lupone, and had to leave at intermission because she was so ferocious singing ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ I was afraid of what she might do with ‘Roses’Turn.’ I had the joyful privilege of a friendship with Julie Styne, the composer, and am happy for him that the show lives forever, but think he would have been frightened of her, too. Of the new, ‘In the Heights’ which won the Tony was likewise awful, in my opinion, and I hear the new ‘Guys and Dolls’ by my old special friend Frank Loesser is really the worst, so I will skip that and any personal stories about Frank although I have some good ones. Those theater folk with whom I late-dinnered the other evening after ‘Love and Loss and What I Wore’ a reading of a light but touching piece by five clever actresses, were all annoyed at Jo Sullivan, Frank’s very rich widow, for permitting it to be so miscast(Oliver Platt as Sky,) heavy-laden(the set obscures much of it from the audience) and dopily re-set in the ‘30s, which makes no sense at all, unless they were also reviving the Depression. So the only honorable thing I could do was put my work where my opinion was, and try to bring back what it was about the musical comedy I loved, and just DO it. Thus it was that I found myself deep into 44th Street, at a bar above a bar, with the others who had made submissions. I expected them all to be twenty, as I was when I Gung-Hoed into the world after Bryn Mawr, but rather than uniformly young, what they were, at least those I met, were beyond eclectic. One was a parole officer who’s written ‘Charles and Diana, the Musical,’ another a man who sells tickets on Broadway at TCKTS where you get them cheap—he’s written a Hip-hop--, a man who has “The Gay Bride of Frankenstein” and another sweet but vaguely depressed guy who’s written a musical about Jonestown. My my. Best of last season’s presentations one attender opined was a musical about pedophilia, while another expressed pleasure over a musical based on Meet John Doe, the classic starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, about a good guy who becomes the hood ornament for needy American men who pledges to jump from a tall building to rectify the lack of attention being paid to needy good guys, and who, on realizing it is a swindle, is really going to jump, dissuaded only by the love and pleadings (and could she plead!) of Barbara, only in the musical they changed the locale to the Brooklyn Bridge and in it he jumped. That must have been a spirit lifter.
But in the midst of that mélange, where we all wore name tags, a man said to me ‘You didn’t write The Pretenders?’ and I all but shouted ‘YES, I did!’ SO it turned out that my evening was MADE, MADE, MADE. And I went happily home to watch my president, whom I can proudly claim at last is genuinely MY president, and listen to him be eloquent and make wonderful sense. When he said he would end the war in Iraq the camera flashed on a less than elated John McCain as, at the Academy Awards, it had focused on Angelina when Jennifer Aniston was speaking, but this time with a wee bit more portent. A tad more weighty, though without the 115 carats of emerald dangling from each ear. I thought they were green glass, and admired her for putting all her money into needy babies, those she didn’t actually adopt. The high angled cube of glass on her artfully held finger, then, must also have been an emerald, but that in no way is meant to diminish John McCain, who wore only a patriot’s insignia in his lapel, and looked a little less unhappy at the news that we do not torture.
So were we in our original times, the country that is, not the adaptation of musicals, a town crier could ring his bell and announce the hour and say “All’s Right with the World.” Well, maybe not exactly, but it’s righter than it was, and I have almost as much conviction as Obama that we will make it right, now that we have a real leader. You’ll find out what happens with our history. And I will let you know what happens with my musical. At least I will if Life is Fair, which it seldom is but happens sometime. God Bless us Almost Every One.