Probably one of the nicest men in the world and certainly one of the sweetest, calmest and most helpful, including self-effacing, not a prominent characteristic in the business of Show is Tom Meehan, who co-wrote The Producers with Mel Brooks, making it cohesive, and seems to be able to do that with life on the Great White Way, which is no longer that Great or White but is mostly expensive. Everyone seems to relax when Tom comes on board, because of his pervasive sanity, as I myself would have liked to do with Sylvia WHO? , my musical comedy that I have been hoping to bring to life for most of mine-- my life, that is. The talent I hoped I had most of and longed to bring to light was songwriting: The great lyrist Yip Harburg(The Wizard of Oz, Finian's Rainbow) was my mentor, and Frank Loesser, when I was 20, said "Kid, you're the biggest talent since me; write me a musical!" I did, and as in traditional showbiz stories he proceeded to undo me. But that is another story, one probably without songs.
So as the door I could push most easily open was novel-writing, that was the path I pursued. But the part of my heart that continued to beat most melodically was songwriting, and twelve or fourteen novels later, song came back and I started to write my musical. "You're a BOOKWRITER!" Jimmy Nederlander growled. "What are you doing writing a MUSICAL!" It's been that kind of struggle ever since, with little patches of compassion and support from people like Rosemary Clooney, who liked the songs so much she recorded some of them in exchange for sandwiches for the musicians and Tom Meehan, who can't help being kind to everybody.
So it is with some pain that I report having been to see ROCKY, which Tom co-wrote with Sylvester Stallone, some of the well-known themes from the movie, a couple of songwriters who should have written at least one really good love song, and clearly all the electricians in Germany, where the musical grew like Topsy, whatever her name is in Deutsch. Patrons are warned in the beginning that if they react to light they should be forewarned: I wasn't aware of the warnings. But I attended the show with my friend the Angel Carleen, one of the gentle creatures on the planet, and she was in an absolute fury, she felt so manipulated.
The audience itself, is actually moved-- I had met, by accident, not design, the young, handsome, and gifted director(Peter and the Starcatcher) during intermission, said I was hoping to be moved, and he said "Wait till the Second Act." But I had NO idea. Before the finale the first ten rows, or maybe it was twelve, are physically escorted onstage so they can be actually ringside for the fight, bloodied and band-aided. I wondered what would happen if the inept, elderly, and/or infirm had been lucky(?) enough to secure those tickets.
At any rate, the angel Carleen, being a dancer by training, is highly sensitive to light, so left the theater in a rage. The finale comes with strobes and flashes of every design, most of them doubtless German. I had been in Beverly Hills some months ago and ran into Sylvester Stallone at a local coffee shop. He'd just come back from seeing ROCKY in Germany, and said he didn't understand a word, but he was crying.
From joy at the unraveling legend, I would have to opine. I actually saw the movie again some months ago and will have to admit the thing really works. But not to death.
It will probably make a fortune. And I could not wish more or better to Tom. But where are the songs of yesterday? Where are the songs at all? How can we leave a theatre humming the lighting?