Suzy Conn: July 2008 Archives
The Songs of Kander and Ebb - now that's HAD!
John Kander and Fred Ebb certainly have the market cornered on what I llike to call "Had". That's because all their songs are "happy/sad". Don't let that bouncy vamp fool you kids, there's real pain in there! Liza Minelli is the queen of happy/sad (sometimes mostly sad…) and nobody sings a Kander and Ebb song quite like her. Maybe it's like the chicken and egg question…which came first -- Kander & Ebb or Liza? But I digress…
I went to the library and checked out the cast recording of AND THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND THE SONGS OF KANDER & EBB. It's fun to spice up the CD collection in the car (I also checked out CHEETAH GIRLS 2, and BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL) since I'm driving so much these days (both my daughters are in rehearsals for summer shows…)
AND THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND THE SONGS OF KANDER AND EBB opened on March 18, 1991 at the Westside Theatre, New York City. It was conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson, and starred Bob Cuccioli, Karen Mason, Brenda Pressley, Jim Walton, and Karen Ziemba. It was directed Scott Ellis, and choreographed by Susan Stroman (does she get all the great gigs or what?)
I didn't recognize a very young Karen Ziemba or Bob Cuccioli or Jim Walton in the picture of the cast that was in the CD sleeve. It was only after listening to the CD that I figured out they were in the cast, duh.
It's a fabulous compilation of Kander & Ebb songs, from "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" to "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" to "New York, New York" (sung in many different languages!). Some of my favorite cuts are "I Don't Remember You/Sometimes a Day Goes By", "Colored Lights" , "Coloring Book", and "Arthur In the Afternoon" (I can just imagine how great Karen Ziemba was dancing in that number!). Just when you think all Kander & Ebb do are bouncy uptempos, they hit you with unbelievable ballads, like "Coloring Book" and "A Quiet Thing". What a writing team!
This celebration of Kander & Ebb's work was before the hugely successful revival of CHICAGO (now in its 150th year…), before the revival(s) of CABARET and new shows STEEL PIER, FOSSE, THE VISIT, and CURTAINS.
I think it's time for another revue!
A pig, a spider and a lamb walk into a barn…
I’m so excited to see the play CHARLOTTE'S WEB at Youth Theatre Northwest on Mercer Island, running August 1 to August 10.
Of course, I'm a wee bit biased, since my daughter Trinity is in the play! She's the Lamb, as well as a Spectator and a Fair-Goer. They're in pretty seriously intense rehearsals right now and they open next Friday.
For tickets to CHARLOTTE'S WEB call 206-232-4145, or visit their website.
Fun exceeds the legal limit at the Hollywood Theatre!We bought our tickets for Donny & Marie at the MGM Grand back in November 2007. We figured we'd get good seats and it would force us to get away for at least a weekend in July 2008. As it turns out, it was a brilliant idea. I don't think we would have gone away for our "Hot and Sweaty 08" vacation in the desert if we hadn't bought those tickets. Of course at the time we didn't know they were going to also do a six month gig at the Flamingo Hotel starting in September!
At the time we also bought tickets that included going to the sound check before the show. That was very cool. About 75 people got to go into the theatre around 6:30pm, and Donny and Marie came out and chatted with us. Donny gave occasional sound notes (Hey guys, I'd prefer a real acoustic guitar for "The Twelfth of Never") but mostly it was just hanging around, eating a quick snack before the next show. Marie came out first munching on some ice cream. She looked amazing. She's lost over 40 pounds and looks fab. I asked her if she was considering doing Broadway again (She did THE KING AND I and THE SOUND OF MUSIC). She said she's had three offers but is really looking for a day gig since she has 8 (count 'em, 8!) kids, including a five year old. I knew that as a youngin' I had a huge crush on Donny, but what I didn't know was that my husband had (or should I say "has") a huge crush on Marie! It never occurred to me that she was a teen heartthrob - duh! So needless to say he was dumbstruck during the sound check and didn't ask any questions. It was like his "Mark Hamill moment" when he saw Luke Skywalker in the lobby of the Marquis Theatre in New York and stood frozen! But I digress…
We came back for the show at 8:30pm and had a-mah-zing seats! The theatre seats about 1500, but we were at a table that had a railing in front of it so there wasn't anybody in front of us at our eye level. It was as if Donny & Marie were performing just for us (weren't they?). The couple sharing our table was from Utah and their daughter had actually dated Donny's son, Brandon. Too cool!
The audience might have been made up of 40+ women and their husbands, but we screamed like teenyboppers when Donny & Marie came out singing. They had singers and dancers and a great band. They did a few rockin' numbers together (eg. Dancing in the Streets) and then each did their own segment. First Marie went and started with (of course) "Paper Roses" and then went on to do a varied set of rock, country, Broadway and opera! I never realized what a versatile, powerful voice she has! Marie invited one lucky male audience member up on stage with her and challenged him to a water chug (he won the first time, they tied the second time). Apparently she prides herself on her water chug! Then of course she had to sing her Broadway medley with a belly 'o water! Did you know her "Dancing with The Stars" partner Jonathan choreographed her dances for her segment? Now you do!
Donny started his segment with "Soldier of Love" his 80s comeback hit (he was helped in that stage of his career by Peter Gabriel - who knew?) Of course we all sang along for the "na na na na na na na na I’m a soldier of Love' bit. Did you know Donny has two grandkids? Now you do. Then he did a medley of hits from his favorite singer, Stevie Wonder and really danced up a storm. Did you know Donny broke his neck body surfing and had to have his neck fused? Now you do! Then he gave us a medley of his hits (Go Away Little Girl, Puppy Love etc.) When he sang the lyric "someone help me, help me" my table mate and I stood up and screamed "I'll help you!" . Sort of like the time my Swedish friend and I chased Rene Simard to his limo. But I digress…
Donny finished his segment off with "Any Dream Will Do" from JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, which he toured for six years! I saw him twice in Toronto. It seems like such a long time ago!
Then Donny and Marie got back together for a dance off (Marie won) and "I'm a Little Bit Country/I'm a Little Bit Rock and Roll" and a medley of the hits they had together. They ended with their classic goodbye song from their tv show:
May tomorrow be a perfect day
May you find love and laughter along the way
May God keep you in His tender care
Til He brings us together again…Goodnight everybody!
<sigh> Back to reality…
Here I go again!I get it! I finally get it! I saw Mamma Mia yesterday and absolutely loved it. I can't wait to go back and see it again. Meryl Streep is my favorite superhero this summer! Take that Batman!
As background, I was a gigantic ABBA fan when I was a teenager (I also loved disco, there I said it). My best friend was Swedish and she introduced me to ABBA and she always got the latest album ahead of everyone else. I was hooked. ABBA was standard fare at sleepovers, and we'd dance around the pool table in her basement (I always wanted a pool table!) to Mamma Mia. Yeah, yeah, the cooler kids hated ABBA, but I've never considered myself cool. I liked all kinds of music, but there was something about those arrangements, those voices, those melodies, those cute Swedish inflections that just made me get up and dance, and sing along.
So of course I was excited about the stage musical production of Mamma Mia when it came out in the early 90s. However, when I actually saw the musical in Toronto, with Louise Pitre as Donna, I really didn't like it. Maybe it was because the decibel level was so high it made my ears bleed, or maybe because the arrangements sounded different. Or maybe it was the silly storyline. I don't know but I never bonded with the musical for some weird reason.
For some reason I'd been really excited about the release of the movie. Maybe because I heard that two of my cuties, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan, were cast in the movie. I love Meryl Streep but I was skeptical about her vocal prowess. But the trailers looked really exciting and fun, so the girls and I went today.
I totally loved it. I laughed, I cried, I boogied.
I finally felt the feeling of twirling joy I used to feel when listening to the ABBA records. The Greek island setting was perfect, the colors, the sun, everything. Meryl Streep is amazing as Donna Sheridan, and she has a great voice and totally inhabits the character. It's like she's dancing around inside an ABBA song. I don't mind the silly story line, and I love the way the movie is a musical, full stop. No apologies needed for breaking out into song and dance, whether you are a main character or part of the "greek chorus" of villagers. I mean, isn't that why you do musicals in the first place?
And let me just say that Colin Firth has a great voice. Very folky, but with a surprisingly high level of musicality to my ears. Pierce Brosnan isn't a singer per say, but Remington Steele slash James Bond can do no wrong in my ears. (Hmmmm, I think I know what age group this movie is targeted at…). I'm not as familiar with Stellen Skarsgard who played the third "dad", but he was good too!
The whole cast rocked (Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Julie Walters) but one of my favorites was Christine Baranski. She was hilarious.
And did I see cameo shots of Benny and Bjorn in the movie? Methinks I did!
Make sure you stay for the credits!
THE SHOW GIRL MUST GO ON!
As I write this post, I’m wearing my super cool "Bette Midler The Showgirl Must Go On" T-shirt! My husband and I finally got away on a much deserved "awaycation" (we already had a "staycation" with the kids earlier in the month. The final leg of our "Hot and Sweaty 08" tour was Las Vegas (following triple digit weather in Palm Springs)) to see Bette Midler in concert at The Coloseum at Caesar's Palace, as well as Donny & Marie (yes, I'm over 40, duh!) at the MGM Grand's Hollywood Theatre. But more on D&M in another post…
We don't smoke or gamble, so there is really only two other (legal) things to do in Vegas - see a show and hang out by the pool. Friday night we sent to see Bette Midler in The Coloseum, the ginormongus 4,000 seater theatre that was built for Celine Dion. It is currently being shared by Elton John and Cher. You can't get more seventies than that! We had bought our tickets a while back, so we had awesome seats, although there was a large screen for those seated in the nosebleed seats.
What an awesome show! Bette started with "Big Noise From Winnetka" and "The Show Girl Must Go On" and came out in a sparkly silver pantsuit, very Vegas. She had three amazing back up singers (The Staggering Harlettes) an amazing band, and a great line up of chorus girls (The Caesar Salad girls, with as little dressing as possible!). It's hard to believe she is 60 years old, running back and forth across that huge stage, and jumping up and down in a mermaid costume while singing and dancing! She is so funny, and so much fun to watch. Of course, no body sings with such emotion as Bette. She's the only singer I know who can make me cry just by singing. She did a crowd-pleasing set of her hits:
In The Mood, From A Distance (which she sang barefoot, in contrast to her usual six inch heels!), Do You Wanna Dance, The Rose (which included audiences waving their cell phones back and forth like lighters), Hello in There, and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
She also did wonderfully zany segments as the finned "Dolores Delago" and "Soph", the oldest living showgirl -- "they gave me a f%@#$%ing chihuahua?"
Bette closed the show with Wind Beneath My Wings. I could listen to her forever!
Shout out to my friend Seth Weinstein, who wrote the music for HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD AND FIND TRUE LOVE IN 90 MINUTES. I met Seth when he did a fabulous job musical directing my show PLANE CRAZY at NYMF in 2005. I loved HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD AND FIND TRUE LOVE when I saw it in New York. I saw Hollie Howard (who played Holly Banks in PLANE CRAZY) in the role of Violet Zipper and she was amazing. It's really a great show, so go get your copy today!
A cast recording of How to Save the World and Find True Love in 90 Minutes, which played Off-Broadway's New World Stages/Stage 5 Nov. 4-Dec. 31, 2006, is now available.
The recording features the original Off-Broadway company, including Michael McEachran as Miles Muldoon, Anika Larsen as Julie Lemmon and Nicole Ruth Snelson as Violet Zipper with Stephen Bienskie, Natalie Joy Johnson and Kevin Smith Kirkwood as The Greeks.
The CD, which was recorded January 2, 2007, at Avatar Studios in Manhattan, also features conductor Seth Weinstein on keyboards, Jonnah Speidel on piano, James Bettincourt on bass and Greg Germann on drums.
The complete track listing for How to Save the World follows:
Love or Fear
I'm Afraid of Everything
The Country Song
The Melon Ballet
Why Are All the Good Men Unconscious?
The Voices in My Head
I'm in Love With a Terrorist
Who I Am Matters Not (I)
Love Is Violet
Yoga Class/Fifteen Minutes
I Want to Know You/Read My Mind
He's a Pussy
When the Music Played
We Can Save the World and Find True Love
Save the People
Who I Am Matters Not (II)
Oh, God The Company
Read My Mind
With book and lyrics by Jonathan Karp and music by Seth Weinstein, How to Save the World. . ., according to press notes, is set at the United Nations and concerns "a cowardly bookshop clerk, a sexy diplomat and an idealistic slacker [who] confront their deepest fears when an office romance leads to international crisis."
Christopher Gattelli directed and choreographed the Off-Broadway run. The creative team comprised Beowulf Boritt (set design), David Murin (costume design), Jeff Croiter (lighting design) and Peter Hylenski (sound design).
The CD, priced $14.95, includes a 16-page color booklet with lyrics and photos. For more information visit www.howtosavetheworldandfindtruelove.com.
First Bartlett Sher, Artistic Director of the Intiman goes and wins a Tony for directing SOUTH PACIFIC at Lincoln Centre, and then I hear about my friend Jenny McMurray starring as Nellie in SOUTH PACIFIC at the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theatre!
I met Jenny back when we both lived in Toronto when she appeared in the very first reading of PLANE CRAZY at the Poor George Theatre. Now as fate would have it, we are both living in Seattle! Small world, isn't it? And the director of that first workshop, Sam Berger, will soon be moving to Vancouver! But I digress…
The Snoqualmie Falls Theatre is an outdoor theatre that sounds like an absolute blast, complete with BBQ dinner! I remember I went to see PETER PAN at the Forest Theatre in Carmel and had a really magical evening, so I imagine it will some enchanted evening when I see SOUTH PACIFIC outdoors!
Here's the 411 on the show (click on the smiley for the offish website - :D ):
What: "South Pacific"
Where: Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theatre
When: July 19 - August 31,
Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm, Sundays at 3pm
Today, July 11, musical theatre writer Suzy Conn (PLANE CRAZY, THE TALE OF PIGLING BLAND, BECKY AND THE BOOGER, THE MERCER GIRLS) and her husband Grad Conn are celebrating 21 years of marriage! Wow! Now that's something to write about!
Here are a few other notable historical theatrical events for July 11…
1915 A King is born today... in the form of Yul Brynner. Brynner will, of course, go on to star as one half of the title of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King And I, opposite Gertrude Lawrence. Brynner will go on to play the role in numerous incarnations of the production, as well as in the film version (for which he won the Academy Award), and a short-lived, non-musical 1970's sitcom called "Anna and the King."
1985 Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings, a comedy about a family's reunion for a traditional English Christmas, opens at the Joyce Theatre. The American Theatre Exchange production was helmed by Pat Brown. The play ran previously in London and then made its American premiere at Houston's Alley Theatre in Texas before making its way to Off Broadway.
1989 Sir Laurence Olivier dies today. The celebrated actor of stage and film was 82 years old. Olivier appeared on Broadway and in the West End in a large array of roles, ranging from Shakespearean tragic heros Hamlet and Caesar to lighter fare like No Time For Comedy. As a stage director, Olivier staged the London bow of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring his wife, Vivien Leigh. Film credits include his Academy Award-winning version of "Hamlet," which Olivier also directed, and "Clash of the Titans."
1998 After playing 12 previews and 240 regular performances in William Luce's Broadway bio of John Barrymore at the Music Box Theatre, actor Christopher Plummer will kick off an eight-city tour of Barrymore tonight. The Broadway production closed Nov. 2, 1997, but Plummer took some time off to rest from the role which won him the 1997 Best Actor Tony Award, as well as a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award.
2002 Comedian Robin Williams hones a new standup act in Robin Williams Live on Broadway, which plays a 3-performance limited run at the Broadway Theatre, starting today.
Here's the next 21 years of marriage!
I've been commissioned to write next spring's AMT (Adventure Musical Theatre) show for the 5th Avenue Theatre. I'm really excited about this project because I had a blast working on this year's show, NORTHWEST BOOKSHELF 2, which incorporated two of my pieces, LARRY GETS LOST IN SEATTLE, and DAISY THE FIRECOW. I also had the great pleasure of attending a number of performances at elementary schools around Seattle. It was so incredibly rewarding to sit and watch the kids watch the show. Everyone should visit a school during one of these performances, and then they'd realize how important musical theatre is to education. In case your school missed it, they are touring NORTHWEST BOOKSHELF 2 again, this fall. Check out the 5th Avenue's website for more information.
When the 5th Avenue Theatre approached me about writing a musical about "the Mercer Girls" I was immediately interested. After all, who didn't love Bobby Sherman in "Here Come The Brides", that cheesy tv series supposedly based on the story of the Mercer Girls. And Perry Como singing "Seattle" as the theme song was a total plus! Turns out, it wasn't totally historically accurate! Well knock me over with a feather!
Needless to say I spent a great deal of time researching the Mercer Girls, ordering out of print books from Amazon, and renewing books from the Library several times over. It really is an incredible story, especially when you realize a) how young these women were, and b) how different life on the two coasts really was. It wasn't the same as flying from New York to L.A.!
One particular woman, Elizabeth Ordway, was especially interesting to me. She was a true suffragette, and didn't let the fact that she was an unmarried woman get in her way of pretty much shaping education in the Northwest. Of course, she often used her initials, L. M. Ordway, so that people wouldn't know she was a woman!
And Asa Shinn Mercer was quite the character. We sometimes forget that the government hasn't always been involved in everything aspect of our lives. Back in the 1860s, sometimes you just had to go and "do it" if you wanted to get it done! And Mercer was definitely a "don't ask permission now, beg forgiveness later" type of guy.
We're doing a table read in August, and a workshop in September, and starting rehearsals January 2009! Hmmm, I wonder if Bobby Sherman is available…
I'll keep you posted!
A Brand New Musical... THE MERCER GIRLS
February 2-May 29, 2009
On May 16, 1864, the first eleven "Mercer Girls" reached Seattle. The women were recruited by University of Washington President Asa Shinn Mercer and sailed to the Puget Sound area from the East Coast to work as teachers and to increase the population of women in the Washington Territory. The cost of the trip was $250 and the people of Seattle were eager to welcome the women into their community while finding them new homes and jobs in various schools. The women were full of hope and aspiration, but life in the new city was often difficult. This original musical follows the journey of the Mercer Girls and their experiences in the fast growing town of Seattle.
Your students will travel on an unforgettable journey from Massachusetts to Washington during a time when the city of Seattle was new and hopes were high. Enjoy a lively, entertaining musical and learn about the women who became the teachers, as well as the wives, mothers and grandmothers of the founding families of the Puget Sound area.
50 minute performance, plus a 5-minute question-and-answer period.
Maximum attendance is 300 students per performance. For a larger number of students, schools must book a double performance.
Western Washington locations: Single Performance - $600 Double Performance - $800
Outside Western Washington locations: Single Performance - $875* Double Performance - $1,150*
Payment may be made in advance or at the time of the performance. * Share the news! Get another school in your area to book a show and receive a $100 discount! Book both Northwest Bookshelf 2 and Mercer Girls and receive a $150 discount.
To schedule a performance
The AMT Touring Company visits schools throughout Western Washington, and in select locations throughout Central and Eastern Washington. For more information and to book a performance, please call 206.625.1418 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Available dates fill fast, so we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
According to "International Musician"(Official Journal of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada),
"The legendary group of Los Angeles-based studio musicans known as The Wrecking Crew was inducted into Hollywood's RockWalk June 25, 2008. The RockWalk is the only sidewalk dedicated to honoring artists whose work has made a significant impact and lasting contribution to the fields of rock and roll, blues, and R&B music. Members of The Wrecking Crew had their handprints, faces, and signatures forever etched into the sidewalk among inductees that include Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, and Bonnie Raitt. The Wrecking Crew backed dozens of popular performers in Southern California during the 1960s and can be heard on television theme songs, film scores, popular hits, and even commercial jingles. Earlier this year, the group was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame, in Nashville, Tennessee."
From an interview with Denny Tedesco on the website:
"The Wrecking Crew were a group of Studio Musicans in Los Angeles in the 60s who played on hits for the "Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mamas and Papas, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers, and were Phil Spectors Wall of Sound."
It's amazing not only that one group of musicians (including one woman, Carol Kaye on bass) could produce and influence so much great music, but that the general public hasn't any idea how important they were to the sounds, feel, emotion and signature riffs of a song. Based on my experience in Nashville, I know that if you get a great set of studio musicians together, who regularly play together, and give them only a number chart of a song, they will create fabulous intros, riffs, and rhythms and help bring a song to life. In fact, it's pretty much business as usual, that if there is a great intro, or solo on a demo, the record label will reproduce that when the star artist records the song.
The Wrecking Crew Rocks!
I'm very excited about the opening of my kids show THE TALE OF PIGLING BLAND at Theatre Building Chicago on Wednesday July 9!
I (Suzy Conn, in case you didn't already know) wrote the book (adapted from the Beatrix Potter book) and lyrics, and Mitchell Kitz wrote the music. It's a really fun, coming of age pig story. THE TALE OF PIGLING BLAND first appeared at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Theatre Building Chicago is putting on our show as part of their "New Musicals for Kids" series.
Here are the details of the TBC production of THE TALE OF PIGLING BLAND:
Director: Jenny Stafford
Music Director: Brandon Magid
Choreographer: Anthony Apodaca
Stage Manager: Garrett Stibb
Set Design: Julie Eberhardt
Costume Design: Andrea Davies
Pigling Bland: Andrew Redlawsk
Pigwig: Casey Whitaker
Cat/Aunt Pettitoes/Policeman: Caitlainne Rose Gurreri
Dog/Alexander: Christian Vernon
Piperson: Anthony Apodaca
THE TALE OF PIGLING BLAND runs at Theatre Building Chicago until July 24.
For more information and to order tickets, check out the TBC website:
What a party!
I took my oldest daughter Myrna to see the Seattle Men's Chorus "Funniest Songs" concert with special guest star Leslie Jordan (better known as Beverley Leslie, the hilarious nemesis of Karen Walker on Will & Grace). His Seattle Men's Chorus appearance is one of the first stops on his book tour for "My Life on the Pink Carpet" (we bought a signed copy of course!).
Seattle Men's Chorus is a wonderfully large choir complete with upper first tenors, lower first tenors, upper second tenors, lower second tenors, upper baritones, lower baritones, upper basses and lower basses! Whew! Talk about trying to find your note!
Dennis Coleman is the artistic director, Eric Lane Barnes is the assistant artistic director and Evan Stults is the accompanist of the Seattle Men's Chorus. This concert was choreographed by Kathryn Van Meter, who directed Myrna in LAST EXIT at the Village Theatre. Before I go any further I have to mention Kevin Gallgaher, the ASL interpreter for the Seattle Men's Chorus. While all ASL theatre interpreters do a great job, Kevin is in a class by himself. Not only was he signing, but he did it in a very uniquely rhythmic, theatrical way. We found ourselves listening to the choir, but watching Kevin! He was aweseome.
The evening was fantastic. They started with "Comedy Tonight" and ended with an encore of "Dancing Queen" and Leslie Jordan dressed in gold, go-go dancing on a pedestal. How they got there resulted from a combination of wonderfully funny renditions of wonderfully funny songs like "He Vas My Boyfriend", "Deep Love", "Every Sperm is Sacred", "Be a Clown" and "Sordid Lives", and the hilarious, sometimes touching anecdotes of Leslie Jordan -- growing up in Tennessee with a penchant for bridal dolls and football captains ( along with a father in the military)! He even had a funny story about Debbie Reynolds.
And speaking of Debbie Reynolds, she will be the guest star at the Seattle Men's Chorus "Singing in the Rain" concert in March 2009.
I'm going to get my tickets for that now!