22 FRIDAY 18 JULY 2014
Act II: The Game – Richard Kind, Howard McGillin, Michele Pawk, Herndon Lackey
First Sondheim appearance on the list and you may wonder why I’ve chosen a song from this 2003 unsuccessful musical. Let me remind you that I’ve arranged the records by alphabetical order, so that was the first Sondheim record in my iTunes Library. But rest assure there’ll be many Sondheim songs on the list.
Originally titled “Wise Men,” the musical tells the story of Addison and Wilson Mizner, a couple of brothers whose accomplishments include the urban development of Boca Raton in Florida. It was eventually revised and retitled Road Show, but more on that when we get to the letter “R.”
I’ve chosen the opening of Act II, The Game specifically for its middle section. Two lovers realise that the time has come to end their relationship, and it saddens them. Whenever a relationship comes to an end, I believe, there is always a small and intimate moment between the two partners. It is a moment of realisation that, although nothing bonds them anymore, they’ll always value and cherish the things that got them together in the first place. Albeit they must part ways, they’ll always be connected at a level. Some of the events they’ve shared will always be regarded as some of the best things that happened to each other. Yes, I know that is not always the case; some people just throw away their lovers along with their good memories.
Song Title: Act II: The Game – 2003 Artist: Richard Kind, Howard McGillin, Michele Pawk and Herndon Lackey Genre: Musical Composer: Stephen Sondheim Lyricist: Stephen Sondheim Album: Bounce
Favourite Lyrics: We missed the boat, my friend. / It sailed, forget it. / We let it / Pass right in front of our eyes. / What a surprise.
Runners Up: Hasa Diga Eebowai • Joseph Smith American Moses • Act I: Bounce • Act I: Addison’s Trip • Act I: Bounce (Pt. 2) • Act II: Boca Raton • Everything Old is New Again
23 SATURDAY 19 JULY 2014
Putting It Together – Barbra Streisand
I had only turned 18 in 1983 when I realised that not Psychology but probably filmmaking was my real call. I kept it to myself for some time, I never told anybody.
A few years later, on the night of March 24th, 1986 I knew for sure I wanted to go into filmmaking. That was the night of the 58th Academy Awards. When it was time to hand the Oscar for best director, they showed a montage of famous directors and stars on location. The flashy montage cut to Barbra Streisand’s Putting it Together enthralled me. It was almost an out-of-body experience; I kid you not. I’m not sure if it was the exuberant syncopation of this Sondheim song or the snippets of a film crew at work, but I had fallen under a sort of spell.
I used to watch that segment over and over again. I’d discover little details after each watch, and I’d think to myself that I had to find a way to get me there, to where all those people worked. As much as I had finally fallen in love with Psychology, I knew I had to find a more creative and if you will, artistic profession. By the end of 1986, I started cementing the idea of going into filmmaking or television.
Song Title: Putting It Together – 1984 Genre: Musical Artist: Barbra Streisand Composer: Stephen Sondheim Lyricist: Stephen Sondheim Album: The Broadway Album
Favourite Lyrics: Every moment makes a contribution / Every little detail plays a part / Having just a vision’s no solution / Everything depends on execution / Putting it together, that’s what counts.
Runners Up: Temporarily Lost • Something’s Coming • Not While I’m Around • Being Alive • Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man • I Loves You Porgy/Porgy, I’s Your Woman Now • Somewhere • Let’s Take An Old-Fashioned Walk • Love Is The Reason
24 SUNDAY 20 JULY 2014
Just In Time – Sydney Chaplin, Judy Holiday – Top 10 Contender
Summer 1991 was my first summer in Washington, and god was it hot and humid! Not even the 25 years I had spent under the Maracaibo inclement sun could have prepared me for the muggy months of summer in DC. During those months a few friends, mostly the ones I’d made at SUNY, would come to visit for the weekend. On those occasions, we’d take walks around the National Mall at night, and hit the usual places like the Lincoln Jefferson Memorials.
I couldn’t take the summer off completely; I had to take at least six credits in order to keep my scholarship for the summer. So, I decided to do an independent study. The idea was to write a series of scripts for a TV show for Central America refugee children to ease them into the American culture. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a high influx of Central American refugees into the United States, and the Washington DC area became ground zero for many El Salvadoran refugees.
With the help of the DC Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs, I came up with some of the issues I had to tackle into the scripts. They also help me structure the family for the program. There were the father and mother, their son. In addition, an aunt and her 18-year-old daughter, a 10-year-old niece, and a recently arrived nephew from El Salvador also lived in the house. Finally, there was a foster child from El Salvador as well, all living in a one bedroom apartment in the Mount Pleasant area in north-west DC.
My scriptwriting professor at American University, John Douglass, helped with the treatment for the series, its basic premise and the places it could go. Each episode was to deal with specific issues such as immigration, language barriers, and work. Supporting characters would help move the story along. There were three elderly tenants, an Italian immigrant, her husband, and an African American woman, who befriend the kids and in a way become a sort of cultural sponsor to their American experience.
Did I make room for singing and dancing? You ask. You bet your Busby Berkeley ass there was.
One episode in particular, “Let’s Jazz and Learn English” ends with a little musical number. The kids and the elderly characters sing the about how easy it’ll be for the youngest kid to learn English. More on that storyline if the song that inspired the number makes it to the list.
So, hot summer of 1991 and a story about a bunch of El Salvadoran immigrants trying to adapt to America, how do they both fit in with Just in Time? It’ll be clear soon.
One of the story plots involved Lorena, an 18-year-old who works as a nanny in the same house where her aunt works as a maid. Lorena develops a crush on Ricky, the 18-year-old brother of the kid she sits. The young immigrant has bought into the American stereotype, “Imagine if the same as Pretty Woman happened to me, but without the street-walking thing, of course,” she tells her aunt one day.
In a fantasy sequence, Lorena imagines the young man serenading her in a big romantic musical number. Now you see where I’m going with this, right? It was during one of my many walks around the Jefferson Memorial that I found the inspiration to have Ricky sing to Lorena while taking a stroll on a balmy evening around the Tidal Basin.
I can’t remember why I chose Just in Time; I guess it’s because I had recently bought a compilation CD where it was included.
I love the sublime melody and humble lyrics. Here’s a man, who’s been probably defeated and broken in the past, but now is very grateful to this particular woman. This is a woman who has changed his life and lifted his spirit at such a particular and appropriate time. Everything is timing; a moment before or a moment after would not have worked.
I never got to write that particular episode, my advisor decided that three episodes were enough for this particular independent study; perhaps I could keep working on it for my final non-thesis project. More on that later.
In case you were wondering, I got an A in my project.
Song Title: Just In Time – 1956 Genre: Musical Artist: Sydney Chaplin, Judy Holiday Composer: Jule Styne Lyrics: Betty Comden, Adolph Green Album: Broadway Magic 1950s
Favourite Lyrics: For love came just in time / You found me just in time / And changed my / Lonely life that lovely day.
Runners Up: I Could Have Danced All Night • Standing On The CornerTonight • I Enjoy Being A Girl • Everything’s Coming Up Roses • Put On A Happy Face • Give My Regards To Broadway • Overture • I Want To Be Happy • Fifty Per Cent • Folies Bergeres
25 MONDAY 21 JULY 2014
Treat Me Rough – Mickey Rooney
Why isn’t this piece the official BDSM song? For those who have never heard this song, I invite you to listen to the link above, or below, so you can see what I mean.
Need I say more? … “I’m no innocent child; baby …treat me rough, pinch my cheek.” Can you picture a float in a gay pride parade with a bunch of leather guys singing this song? Or, a chorus line of dominatrices lashing out their whips with the same dexterity of rhythmic gymnasts? I sure have.
Song Title: Treat Me Rough – 1930 Genre: Musical Artist: Mickey Rooney Composer: George Gershwin Lyricist: Ira Gershwin Album: Broadway Musicals – Girl Crazy
Favourite Lyrics: Life was just a bore till it dawned on me / That if I ever wanted to be a man among men / I’d have to be manhandled now and then.
Runners Up: I Got Rhythm – Instrumental • I Got Rhythm – Ethel Merman • A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody (Ziegfeld Follies Of 1919) • New York, New York (On The Town) • Once In Love With Amy (Where’s Charley?) • Luck Be A Lady (Guys And Dolls) • Getting To Know You (The King And I) • Who Cares? (Of Thee I Sing) • Ballad Of Mack The Knife (The Threepenny Opera)
26 TUESDAY 22 JULY 2014
What Kind Of Fool Am I? – Anthony Newley
I like What Kind of Fool Am I? a lot, for no particular reason. Maybe because it is a good belting song for a man, it has a big crescendo, kind of a torch song, if you will.
What was that? Have I done it on karaoke night? You ask? Maybe once or twice.
It is only now while doing research to include this song on the list that I’ve played close attention to the lyrics and noticed the Catch-22 nature of the song. You’re a fool for not falling in love; then again you’re a fool for falling. Damn if you do, damn if you don’t.
Song Title: What Kind Of Fool Am I? – 1962 Genre: Musical Artist: Anthony Newley Composers: Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley Lyricists Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley Album: Broadway: The American Musical
Favourite Lyrics: Why can’t I fall in love / Till I don’t give a damn / And maybe then I’ll know what kind of fool I am.
Runners Up: Try To Remember • The Sweetest Sounds • If I Were A Rich Man • I’ll Never Fall in Love Again • I’m Still Here • We Go Together • Lullaby of Broadway • I’m Telling You I’m Not Going
27 WEDNESDAY 23 JULY 2014
Dames – Brent Barrett, Judy Blazer, Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, Ann Morrison, Guy Stroman
Dames makes it to the list not because of the song itself, but for the way it was staged by Busby Berkeley on the 1934 movie of the same title.
Before 1933, when Berkeley staged the musical numbers for “42nd Street,” directors used to shoot such numbers from an audience point of view, just like in a theatre. Busby Berkeley changed all that. He went through the fourth wall and took the audience into a different world. They were no just sitting in the theatre house watching another musical number. He would then take the viewers along on a journey through a world exclusively created for that particular musical number.
Just take a look at “Dames.” At first, we are in a theatre; the curtain opens, and the actors on stage start the action. Berkeley grounds the number on a tangible space and builds up to a point where he has no other option but to take the action to a different level. By then the audience is hooked and follows Berkeley into the unique world where all these beautiful dames live; this is the proverbial suspension of disbelief.
For almost ten minutes, Berkeley combines close-ups of the most gorgeous girls he could find in Hollywood. There are extreme wide shots populated with hundreds of girls forming Berkeley’s signature kaleidoscopes. Not to mention the most seamless and organic transitions between shots you’ll find in any musical film from that era. At the end of the number, Berkeley brings us back to the real world, the audience claps, and the curtain closes. By doing that, I believe, he helped develop the logic that would allow the musical film industry to flourish in the following decades.
You’ll hear me say this a lot, but I believe that musicals work not because they have cute songs or great dancing. They succeed because of the director’s ability to create logic in a world where there’s no other option, but to tell the story through song and dance.
Many people are of the opinion; myself included, that hadn’t it been for Busby Berkeley the movie musical genre may not have even existed as we know it. Many Hollywood executives were about to give up on movie musicals. Without him, I believe the music video industry would not have developed as we know it now. I consider him to be the grandfather of the music video.
Apparently, the man was a total dick. He directed many of the Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney let’s-put-a-show-together movies. Many reported he was responsible for one of Judy’s first breakdowns.
Although there is an original recording from 1934, which naturally I have too, this is from a 1990s special studio recording released in 1994. Which I guess it was released to commemorate Berkeley’s 100th birthday.
Song Title: Dames – 1934 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Brent Barrett, Judy Blazer, Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, Ann Morrison, Guy Stroman Composer: Harry Warren Lyricist: Al Dubin Album: The Busby Berkeley Album
Favourite Lyrics: Oh! Dames are temporary flames to you. / Dames, you don’t recall their names, / Do you?
Runners Up: The American Dream • Good Morning Baltimore • Toot, Toot, Tootsie! (Good-Bye) • Crazy Rhythm • Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do • Runnin’ Wild • Show Me How You Burlesque • The Gold Digger’s Song • Forty Second Street • I’m Going Shopping with You
28 THURSDAY 24 JULY 2014
Lullaby of Broadway – Brent Barrett, Judy Blazer, Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, Ann Morrison, Guy Stroman
Again, a song from one of Busby Berkeley’s movies. This time, it is Lullaby of Broadway from “Gold Diggers of 1935.” Everything I wrote about Dames applies to this song as well.
If you ever watch the clip, you can see how the camera slowly creeps in towards the singer’s face and then transitions into the action. I love the way we get to know the story of this Broadway baby who goes to bed at 7:45 AM after partying all night. She wakes up 12 hours later to continue the party, quite a cautionary tale, though. If you watch it to the end, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If that woman existed today, I’m sure she would have her own reality show TV on Bravo. No, not Bravo, maybe on E!
I love everything about the sequence. Just like in Dames, the art direction, costumes, editing, interesting camera angles, and the gorgeous dancers are pure Berkeley.
Song Title: Lullaby of Broadway – 1935 Genre: Soundtrack Artists: Brent Barrett, Judy Blazer, Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, Ann Morrison, Guy Stroman Composer: Harry Warren Lyricist: Al Dubin Album: The Busby Berkeley Album
Favourite Lyrics: When a Broadway baby says “Good night,” / It’s early in the morning. / Manhattan babies don’t sleep tight until the dawn.
Runners Up: Kids • Meeskite