Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hey Look Me Over!

And by that I mean....look at me I'm doing what I said I would!
I just went through all the chapters involving female lyricists (mostly, only a couple of composers) in Stanley Green's The World of Musical Comedy. I really like the format of the book because it takes a blow by blow of composing teams and individuals in a somewhat chronological fashion. But the most important thing to note here is that this is the fourth edition and it was published in 1980...so the most current writer he covers is Carol Hall....not exactly a up to date source but sort of super in other ways.

I got some basic background on Dorothy Fields, Betty Comden, and Carolyn Leigh as sort of the big three women contributing in the golden era. I'm most intrigued by Betty Comden mostly because she had such an expansive career and she spent it all with Adolf Green, they are the great Broadway lyric writing team as far as scope and time. Partly because they had so many composing collaboartors with such great success and partly because they were just around for all of it, they seem to exude "Broadway" and she did it all with him in a professional relationship.

The cool thing about dated books is you get a slice of what the up and coming thing was...then...which is often not really what up and came. (On a side note I was also really happy that 2 pages got devoted to Sherman Edwards because the only thing he wrote for the theatre was 1776 but I just think the anomoli of it is such a great thing....back to women). Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford get a couple of pages, notably as the first female lyricsist/composer team. Their great contribution to the art was a little semi-autobiographical piece called I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road (1978) in which Cryer orginated the lead role onstage. I saw a reading of the show once, you can tell it was written by women...remind me to come back to that someday....

Carole Bayer Sager gets a nod in the Marvin Hamlish section. Did you know he and Neil Simon were actually working on adapting one of Simon's plays but because Hamlish kept going on about his woman troubles with Sager they dumped the other project and wrote They're Playing Our Song? I didn't know that. I'm glad I do now. They're Playing Our Song has a very dear place in my heart because when I was a freshman in high school and other people were listening to ...umm whatever it was that people were listening to in 1999...I definitley had They're Playing Our Song on repeat in my CD player...which means I probably still know all the lyrics...which means I know more about Carole Bayer Sager than I should.

So the big discovery of the evening for me was Elizabeth Swados, who Green admits in 1980 hadn't had a box office smash yet, but appeared to be an up and coming force. If you could see the picture I'm looking at of her though you'll understand why I'm not entirley surprised she wasn't the next Sondheim. She's got the long hair hippy look...sitting cross legged playing the guitar with striped socks and clogs and a knit sweater. At first I was like...who is this chick writing adaptations of Greek stories...but then she was off with Peter Brook and I was like oh maybe she's got some deep thing going on...then I turn the page. She wrote Runaways! Not a show I'm terribly familiar with but at least I've heard of it...and she did it at the Public so she interviewed lots of kids and had street kids in the show and all that jazz. Go Elizabeth Swados! The show of hers that needs a comeback now would appear to be Dispatches, a piece on the vets from the Vietnam War...sounds like the aftermath of Hair...I would be really interested in finding this piece if anybody knows anything about it. Doesn't look like there's a recording. Sad Panda.

Then we get a little piece on Carol Hall who has been my hero ever since I looked at the title page of Whorehouse and saw that she wrote music and lyrics...and I mean this is some good music and lyrics. That show is just as warm and wholesome as a show about whores can be and that takes care and talent. I admire that show incredibly...and the songs rock. I can't help but think about Dolly Parton in connection to Hall right now. I just heard Parton on NPR talking about how much fun she had working on 9 to 5 and how she's ready to write more musicals but they aren't gonna be adaptations...she's gonna come up with her own ideas.....ummmmmmmm..... that could be the greatest thing that happens to musical theatre in the next few years...we'll see.

Ok that's all for now...I think I might read a chapter from Mordden's cheerful book on the conclusion of musical theatre, The Happiest Corpse I've Ever Seen. There's a whole chapter on new composers and I was glancing through it going...oh yeah after the 80's there are some pretty cool women that come on the scene. Yay!


Let's get down to bussiness...

to defeat....the Huns!
Just kidding. Anyone else still wondering why Donny Osmond sang that song while B.D. Wong was voicing the character....?
Anyway it is time for business. Now that I am a graduate student and actually attempting to put together something that might someday serve as a thesis I have decided it is time to start developing a "voice." After how many years of voice lessons and now I'm starting over getting an entirely new kind of voice...crazy. This blog is just sitting here and I do a very poor job of updating it...and I always say I'm going to and then I don't. The worst is one I come home from a really great piece of theater and I'm like "oh I should write about this in my blog" and then I don't. Well that's about to change and I mean it this time!
Here's the new plan for under utilized brilliantly named blog: I have decided, for the time being that musical theater is my greatest joy in life (besides those people in my life that I love). Therefore my thesis shall be about musical theatre. So far my deduction skills seem reasonable. The next tentative step of my thesis was to narror down that topic slightly. Only slightly mind you I still have a huge topic in mind. At present I wish to examine the role of female composers, lyricists and book writers and how their gender has affected their art and the characters they create. See I told you it was still broad. Ok here comes the plan with the blog part. I am starting to accumulate a pile of books creating a sort of library nesting ground around my desk. As I go through each book looking for clues for my thesis I will come back in here to write about them and disscuss. Doesn't that sound like fun?! It doesn't have to sound like fun to you but you're looking at the girl who is giddy about graduate research...I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but it sure is mine...in fact it's like a pumpkin spiced lattee with no points...mmmmmmm wouldn't that be wonderful?
Ok so that's the plan. Here I go. Wish me luck.