Friday, April 17, 2015

Random Thoughts About a Few Broadway Musicals.

Lots of Broadway musicals opening -- April is to the Tonys what December is to the Oscars. I have random thoughts, which are not to be read as opinions on these shows, which I have not seen.

Both Gigi and Finding Neverland are getting terrible reviews. I know as well as anyone that critics often just don't get it, so I'm very reluctant to take the fact that reviewers have found these shows boring and/or incoherent at face value. But it's interesting to me that both shows' producers set out to excise what they felt was an uncomfortable whiff of sex with children in the source material.

I find it really sad (and not a little homophobic) that just the idea of friendship between an adult man and a group of boys makes people immediately think about pedophilia. One of the things I liked most about the film Finding Neverland was the strange tenderness of that longing to be a part of the boys' lives. It's more complicated and infinitely more interesting than sex.

Gigi is a whole other beast. The movie is basically about a girl being groomed for prostitution, so the sex is more than just prurient audience projection. But the novella on which it's based was written by Collette, who is kind of known for having interesting things to say about men and women and love and sex. Why, when you have such rich, juicy source material, would you decide it's a good idea to make it "innocent"? Sometimes I just don't understand people.

I guess what I've done here is implied that these shows are bad because they took the sex out, and I don't know if that's true or not. Like I said, I haven't seen the shows. These are just thoughts that come into my head.

The show that's not getting bad reviews is The King and I at Lincoln Center. Oh my god, I want to see this show! Rogers and Hammerstein musicals bring me the greatest pleasure and I don't feel the least bit guilty about it. The songs! The songs!

One of my two favorite R&H songs (Something Wonderful) is in The King and I. (The other is Something Good from The Sound of Music. Nobody does ambivalence about love like R&H.)

Here's Terry Saunders from the movie soundtrack:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What's Happening Now.

My sister and nephew were here for a week's visit, left Saturday. My nephew is 15 and is dead certain he wants to be a composer of percussion music, specifically marimba. He's not much interested in discussing any other trajectory.

He (my sister and I went with him, of course) visited Mannes School of Music, Juilliard, and the Manhattan School while he was here. Everyone around him is saying some version of "Well, that's great, but you need to think about how you might make a living." When the idea of teaching comes up, he says, "I can see myself doing that when I'm older and I've accomplished all I set out to do."

Though I could certainly share a thought or two with him about the relationship between what you set out to do and how you actually end up living a life, I'm really reluctant to join the chorus of pleading for practicality. Dreams are dreams, and it might not matter that they don't usually drive you where you planned. They drive you somewhere. When I was 15, I didn't want to listen to anyone telling me No. (I still don't.) My nephew has energy, focus, talent, and loves to practice. Fifteen is not the age for practicality.

What else?

My old friend Linda Smith asked me to record a cover of one of her songs for an album of covers her label is putting out. Linda and I were in the The Woods together in the 80s and have kept in touch, more or less, since. Linda made a name for herself in the 80s and 90s putting out several home-recorded albums on cassette, when that was a thing. Her albums are full of great songs and I have many favorites. It's been a long time since I've made a recording that wasn't just a work demo for someone else to learn the song from, and I can't wait to dive in. I was not a songwriter when I joined The Woods, and I learned so much from Linda, mostly about how songwriting is 95% intuition. I still jog myself back to that attitude when I find myself bogged down in the knowledge of "rules" I've acquired since.

What else?

Okay, so Hillary Clinton is in it now. It's gonna be a long year-and-a-half and I'm going to try to not complain too much. I'm not a fan, as we know, but -- with the current composition of Congress and the Supreme Court -- I have a hard time taking any other stance than that it's important she win this one. I live in a safe state, but I don't want to contribute to any sort of Democrats-sit-this-one-out-because-they-don't-care-for-Hillary phenomenon. I feel like, with Obama, I got as close as I might ever get to a president who represents my values. And it turns out that wasn't super close. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose.

And I should add that the antidote to that feeling that presidential elections are a depressing exercise in cynicism is to vote in other elections, the ones closer to home, where it is possible to vote for candidates with integrity. One of the many reasons I'm excited about moving back to the LES is that, because I lived there for so many years in the 80s and 90s, I have a better sense of the politics.