134 FRIDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2014
Loving You – Judy Kuhn & Ryan Silverman
So, last week I left you with a cliff-hanger. I’m afraid Fosca is not dead yet.
She has already manipulated Giorgio into writing a letter where he claims he wishes he could forget her. Now she tells him what her love for him is all about.
Loving You is the song that unmasks Fosca as a conniving, manipulative, self-centred old twat who only cares about herself and uses her frail condition as a weapon to get what she wants. She may not have the strength of a wife-beater, but she certainly uses the same excuses an abuser would use to justify his actions. “Loving you is why I do the things I do. Loving you is not in my control.” In her little world, putting the blame on others is a valid reason to inflict pain and anguish on the people around her.
The truth is that Fosca doesn’t even know what love is and she never will. Having imagined for so long what love should be, Fosca has lost any real perspective of what love is actually all about. She has had such a miserable life that she feels entitled to obtain, one way or the other, the love she feels is owed to her.
Poor Fosca. I used to feel sorry for her, but just for a little while. I think it is sad when people get to old age without shaking off those feelings of self-entitlement they have acquired in their younger years.
Why have two songs from “Passion” made it to the list, then? Because I think that at one point, or another, we all could have become ‘Foscas’. I know I could have become one. For a little while in the 1990s, when my love life wasn’t at its best, I used to think I deserved better. Of course, we all deserve good things but because we have earned them, not because we have lost them or have never had them. Does it make sense? For a while, I thought that I had to get a partner because my heart had been broken a few times. I had failed to see that love is just a spontaneous feeling that grows in unison between two people. “Passion” presented itself almost as a cautionary tale, I had to do something, or I would end up like Fosca. I snapped out of it not long after that.
I believe Sondheim, who has said he didn’t fall in love until he was 60, understood Fosca. In the end, before she dies, he kindly allows her to briefly see what love really is.
I must mention that Passion is considered one of Sondheim’s best works. It was nominated for 10 Tonys in 1994 and won 4; Best Musical, Best Book, Best Actress, Donna Murphy, and Best Score for Sondheim.
Song Title: Loving You – 1994 Artist: Judy Kuhn & Ryan Silverman Genre: Musical Composer: Stephen Sondheim Lyricist: Stephen Sondheim Album: Passion (2013 New York Cast Recording)
Favourite Lyrics: Loving you is not a choice / And not much reason to rejoice, / But it gives me purpose / Gives me voice to say to the world: / This is why I live / You are why I live.
Runners Up: Tema de Nene y Ángel • Edmundo Xacto • The Calling / The Neighborhood (Main Title)
135 SATURDAY 8 NOVEMBER 2014
Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band? – Brad Oscar
Only Mel Brooks’ mind could come up with such a silly ditty. He wrote the first two lines of the song in 1968 for his film “The Producers”. When it was time to do the Broadway adaptation, he expanded the song and gave it to the Franz character, the playwright of worst show ever written, “Springtime for Hitler”.
There’s not a time I hear Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band? that I don’t flashback to the summer of 2001, perhaps one of the happiest summers of my life. More on that later.
Song Title: Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band? – 1968 Artist: Brad Oscar Genre: Musical Composer: Mel Brooks Lyricist: Mel Brooks Album: The Producers
Favourite Lyrics: Polish polkas, they’re stupid und they’re rotten / It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that / Schweigen-reigen-schone-schutzen-schmutzen sauerbraten!
Runners Up: I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter • For All We Know • We Can Do It • I Wanna Be A Producer • Keep It Gay • Along Came Bialy • Springtime For Hitler • Prisoners Of Love (Leo & Max)
136 SUNDAY 9 NOVEMBER 2014
I Wanna Be a Producer – Matthew Broderick, Ensemble
Another song from “The Producers”, but this time I picked one from the 2005 film adaptation.
I have to admit I was a little bit let down by the movie. I had the chance to see the play in 2001 with its original cast, and I thought it was close to musical perfection. The film adaptation, not so much. However, the I Wanna Be A Producer segment was splendid, I thought. It was old Hollywood, the kind of number you would have seen in a 1930s musical. The fact that Matthew Broderick was part of it is the cherry on top of the sundae.
Many have considered “The Producers” to be a love letter to Broadway. If that’s the case, then this song is a love letter to anyone who in a random illuminating moment has decided to follow their dreams. Leo Bloom is an unhappy accountant with dreams of being a Broadway Producer, after playing in his mind what his life as a producer could be; he quits his job in order to pursue his dream. The future he has fantasised about may not be as accurate as the one waiting for him, but at least he has managed to break free from the situation that’s holding him down.
In a way, that’s how I make plans. It is only after I spend time picturing and living situations through a perfect future in my mind, that I come back to the present. I then pack up my things and start on my trek towards that new future I have created. It isn’t always as picturesque, charming and rewarding as the way it played in my head, but I usually go with it, what else could I do?
Song Title: I Wanna Be a Producer – 2001 Artist: Matthew Broderick, Ensemble Genre: Musical Composer: Mel Brooks Lyricist: Mel Brooks Album: The Producers OST
Favourite Lyrics: I wanna be a producer / And sleep until half-past two / I wanna be a producer / And say, “You, you, you, not you”
137 MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2014
Our Love Is Here To Stay – Michael Feinstein
Couples in love can be so selves centred, wouldn’t you agree? Whenever they hear a song with the word ‘love’ in the title, they assume the song is about them because they’re so special. Well, wrong you jerks! Not all love songs are about you and your temporary elation state. Case in point, this gem from the Gershwin brothers.
Let’s talk a little bit about the Gershwins, George and Ira – yes, Ira is a boy’s name. They both started their careers on their own. At 18, George started working in Tin Pan Alley (a group of music publishers and composers in New York), while Ira started at 25, penning songs for a show. It wasn’t until 1924 that they joined forces and started making music for the stage and eventually for films. For over 10 years, they wrote a handful of the most recognisable songs of the era. Their partnership ended with George sudden death in 1937.
Our Love Is Here to Stay, is the last composition they worked on, Ira poignantly penned the lyrics after George’s death, making it perhaps the ultimate song about fraternal love. The song is not about lovers, no boy getting a girl, or losing her. This song is for every single little moment we have shared with our siblings, it is a celebration of the special bond that will always exist between brothers and sisters. Not even the Rockie Mountains or Gibraltar Rock are stronger than the love you have for a sibling.
This one is for my sister and brother.
Song Title: Our Love Is Here To Stay – 1938 Artist: Michael Feinstein Genre: Soundtrack Composer: George Gershwin Lyricist: Ira Gershwin Album: Pure Gershwin
Favourite Lyrics: In time the Rockies may crumble / Gibraltar may tumble / They’re only made of clay / But our love is here to stay.
Runners Up: There’s Nothing Like a Show On Broadway • We Were Right • ‘S Wonderful • They All Laughed • Spunk • Dive In The Pool • Proud
138 TUESDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2014
Journey On – Peter Friedman, Mark Jacoby, Marin Mazzie
Sometime around 1997, I discovered “Ragtime”, the 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow, and it became a favourite of mine. Taking place at the turn of the 20th century, the novel intertwines the stories of a rich white family, a black couple and their baby, and a Jewish immigrant and his young daughter. The beauty of Doctorow’s work is the way his fictional characters interact with real characters of the era, such as Houdini, Henry Ford, and my favourite, Emma Goldman.
By the time I saw the musical adaptation in 1998, I was familiar with all the characters and their stories. The show had some problems, the big spectacle (fireworks and a large cast) may have gotten in the way of the story structure, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless.
Journey On happens right after the show’s opening. As Father sets off on an expedition to the North Pole with Robert Peary (a real historical figure), their ship crosses path with a rag ship carrying immigrants from Europe. “Most of them become very patriotic Americans,” Admiral Peary explains. Father is touched by the sight of people arriving in the new country and salutes their courage, “You’re a brave man whoever you are; coming so far, expecting so much”. In the incoming ship, Tate and his daughter prepare to disembark in the new country and wonder where the other ship may be going. Tate concludes that anyone leaving America must be “a fool, on a fool’s journey.” Mother is also ready to journey on by herself while her husband is away on the expedition to the North Pole. In a way, the song becomes an ode, not only to migration but also to the journeys we all embark on in search of our own selves.
It was never my intention to stay in the United States after my master’s program, lest to become an American, but after a few years, I decided to apply for residency. My original plan, studying Television in order to do Educational Television back home, didn’t entice me anymore. As I approached 30, I felt aimless and thought applying for a Green Card would open up more opportunities for me in the US. I hired the same immigration lawyer that had helped my friend José Luis get his Green Card; she said my case was straightforward and that she couldn’t see “a reason why I couldn’t get it.” Famous last words.
I didn’t get a Green Card. She was the first one shocked; after all, she had helped a flamenco dancer, and a golf course designer get their Green Cards. Not getting a resident status in the US didn’t have an immediate impact. I had a working visa and a steady job; I was still able to remain in the country. However, it will eventually play a part in the reasons why I left the United States in 2003.
I was never an immigrant in the United States; not even after staying and working for all those years. Perhaps, the only thing I had in common with the immigrant experience was using New York as a port of entry (JFK, not Ellis Island, of course). I arrived in June of 1990 with a plan in place, I knew what I’d be doing for the next two years, and I also knew that eventually, I’d have to return to Venezuela. Sure, I could relate to some of the struggles immigrants went through, but not even an ounce of my soul could match the courageous spirit of those who had packed their lives and moved North looking for opportunities. They had learned the language, had studied, found jobs, got married and had children. They had opened successful businesses, made money and sent half of their earnings back home for those they had left behind. They had brought with them their colourful traditions and had thrown them into the vibrant melting pot that is America.
Eventually, the time came for me to move to New Zealand, and although I was sure and excited about my plan, one part of Journey On kept resonating. The words of Tate, the immigrant, who couldn’t understand why someone would leave America, “He’s a fool, on a fool’s journey” kept playing in the back of my mind. There were traces of fear and anxiety for the unknown, but I was on this journey with my partner, so I didn’t worry much. Eventually, I stopped thinking I was a fool on a fool’s journey and, even though, our relationship crumbled under the pressures of immigration, I knew this was the journey I was supposed to be on.
I’m not sure if I can still call myself an immigrant after 12 years in New Zealand. I guess I could also be considered an ex-pat but I think it sounds pretentious, and I believe it’s a term only used by white people. I’ll settle for Kiwi Latino that seems like a nice thing to be called.
Song Title: Journey On – 1996 Artist: Peter Friedman, Mark Jacoby, Marin Mazzie Genre: Musical Composer: Stephen Flaherty Lyricist: Lynn Ahrens Album: Ragtime- Original Broadway Cast
Favourite Lyrics: A salute to the man / On the deck of that ship! / A salute to the immigrant stranger. / Heaven knows why you’s make / Such a terrible trip.
139 WEDNESDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2014
What A Game – Mark Jacoby, Alex Strange
Let’s not go far from the United States for What A Game, also from “Ragtime”.
America has always been a big presence in my life, I can’t remember a day when I didn’t know of its existence and influence on the world and on my country. I also grew up knowing there were many things in common between the USA and Venezuela.
Not only, the two countries are in the same hemisphere, but Venezuela is also in the same time zone as New York City and Washington, DC. You can have breakfast in Maracaibo and lunch in South Beach; Miami is only a 2 ½-hour plane ride away. For most of the 20th Century, the American cultural influence was prominent in Venezuela, particularly in my home state. Many oil companies set up business and brought with them many American traditions, among them, baseball. When it comes to sports, nothing is more American or more Venezuelan than baseball or ‘béisbol’.
I’m not a big sportsman (no surprises there, I’m sure). However, when I first heard What A Game I had a flashback to the days when I used to watch baseball games on TV or in a Stadium, the song captures the festive atmosphere of a baseball game perfectly. The heckling, the name-calling, the off-colour commentary; everything is just as the song presents it. Baseball, it is truly a people’s game, all you need is a stick and a ball, another person to pitch and you can go on playing for hours. At one point or another everybody in Venezuela has played baseball, I even remember my mother and her sisters playing it on the beach.
Venezuela is known as a country of beautiful women who constantly win international beauty pageants, but we also have a rich tradition exporting baseball players. Since 1939, 321 Venezuelans have played in the Major League Baseball, in the United States, which is quite an accomplishment.
I think it is kind of cool that both countries have this sport in common. During baseball games, we all speak the same language.
Song Title: What A Game – 1996 Artist: Mark Jacoby, Alex Strange Genre: Musical Composer: Stephen Flaherty Lyricist: Lynn Ahrens Album: Ragtime- Original Broadway Cast
Favourite Lyrics: It’s like The Constitution / The institution / Of dear Ol’ Baseball / Where every man is treated the same.
Runners Up: The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square • Till We Reach That Day • The Ragtime Symphonic Suite • I’m the Greatest Star • Thoroughly Modern Millie • In The Still Of The Night • You Do Something To Me • Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye • So In Love • Too Darn Hot
140 THURSDAY 13 NOVEMBER 2014
The Coffee Song – Frank Sinatra
They’ve got a zillion tons of coffee in Brazil!
How could I not pick this song? I mean, have you ever heard such a silly cool song? I love it.
Song Title: The Coffee Song – 1946 Artist: Frank Sinatra Genre: Pop Composer: Dick Miles Lyricist: Bob Hilliard Album: The Reprise Collection
Favourite Lyrics: The politician’s daughter / Was accused of drinkin’ water / And was fined a great big fifty dollar bill / They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil.
Runners Up: After You WhoPuttin’ On The Ritz-Slumming OSeasons of LoveLet’s Fall In LoveZing! Went The Strings Of My HeartWhat’ll I DoI Get A Kick Out Of YouPennies From Heaven