176 FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER 2014
Le Jazz Hot – Julie Andrews
If “Les Uns Et Les Autres” (See Week 15 No. 100) was the movie the made me want to be a filmmaker in 1983; the year before that, “Victor/Victoria” was the film that taught me that you can tell any story you want to tell as long as you know how to do it.
A woman pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman, seemed like a very convoluted story to tell, but director Blake Edwards managed to pull it off brilliantly. Under the guidance of Toddy, Victoria Grant, an out-of-work opera singer in Paris, poses as a drag queen in order to find a job as an entertainer in a cabaret. On the night of her debut at Cassel’s, she captivates the audience with her rendition of Le Jazz Hot. Everybody is impressed, including King Marchand, a gangster from Chicago who doubts if Victor is really a man.
What I found surprising at the moment was how sophisticated and smart a comedy could be. I guess at the time I was used to watching movies that rely on cheap jokes and/or physical comedy. Victor/Victoria was a non-stop laugh fest that seemed very elegant and cerebral, probably the first movie I remember watching from an intellectual point of view. The film also seemed to be a little bit ahead of its time when it came to presenting homosexuality in a movie. It just didn’t make a big deal out of it, I don’t think I was able to appreciate that back then. I suppose in the end it was the story of a straight man falling in love with a woman. However, there’s a scene where King Marchand tells Victor that he doesn’t care if he’s a man and kisses him. When Victoria tells him she’s not a man, King replies that he still doesn’t care. That may have been a deal for some audiences in 1982, I reckon.
More than 10 years later, Victor/Victoria came to Broadway, but more on that if one of the show’s songs makes it to the list.
Song Title: Le Jazz Hot – 1982 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Julie Andrews Composer: Henry Mancini Lyricist: Leslie Bricusse Album: Victor/Victoria Soundtrack
Favourite Lyrics: Before they knew it / It was squeezing round the world / The world was ready / For a blue kind of music / And now they play it / From Steamboat Springs to La Paz
Runners Up: Main Title • You And Me • Gay Paree • The Shady Dame From Seville • Crazy World • Chicago, Illinois • Finale • On My Way • All to Pieces • Promise Me, Violet • Raise Me Up • Raise Me up (Reprise) • Promise Me, Violet (Reprise) • Bring Me to Light • Warehouse 13 Main Theme
177 SATURDAY 20 DECEMBER 2014
Wonderful – Joel Grey, Idina Menzel
I can say with confidence that this is the only song from “Wicked” that I’ll include on this list. I kind of don’t like the musical; it never grew on me. I’m including this one because on this day I wasn’t feeling particularly well. It was one of those days when Wellington’s weather was working against me. My sinuses and allergies were so bad that I had to go see a doctor. So, there I was in the waiting room, when this little ditty that I couldn’t remember ever hearing before that day, came on my playlist. I thought it was adorable; it lifted my spirits that day.
Song Title: Wonderful – 2003 Genre: Musical Artist: Joel Grey, Idina Menzel Composer: Stephen Schwartz Lyricist: Stephen Schwartz Album: Wicked (5th Anniversary Edition)
Favourite Lyrics: Wonderful / They called me “Wonderful” / So I said “Wonderful” – if you insist / I will be “Wonderful”
Runners Up: Lady in the Dark – Symphonic Nocturne: II. Girl of the Moment • Lady in the Dark – Symphonic Nocturne: VI. The Saga of Jenny Prologue • Something’s Coming • Dance at the Gym • Maria • Tonight • America • Cool • Tonight (Quintet) • Somewhere • Finale • What Kind of Fool Am I • Popular • Defying Gravity
178 SUNDAY 21 DECEMBER 2014
Gin/Wild – Mandy Patinkin, Toni Collette, Eartha Kitt
Between 1997 and 2003, I got into the routine of going to New York for the weekend to celebrate my birthday. In the year 2000, we went earlier in the month, we had a subscription at the Roundabout Theatre, and that was the weekend our tickets for “Uncle Vanya” had been allocated. I believe we also saw “The Laramie Project” that weekend.
While in New York, it had become a routine to visit the Virgin Mega Store in Times Square to buy books and CDs. While browsing through the musicals section, I found “The Wild Party”. I had seen the company perform on the Tonys telecast the week before and thought the show seemed interesting; so, I decided to buy the CD. On our way back to D.C., I connected my Discman to the car stereo system and started to listen to “The Wild Party’s” CD. Hadn’t we been already half way through the New Jersey Turnpike, I would have asked Ronald to turn the car around to go back into the city to catch the show’s matinee. I was rapidly falling in love with the score, its vaudeville-meets-jazz-1920s style was engaging, the structure and characters were very interesting, and Toni Collete’s voice, my God! Her voice was just glorious. I definitely had to go back to New York and watch it soon. Ronald would be away for the next few weeks, so I could easily return to Manhattan for one night to attend “The Wild Party”.
Based on a 1928 poem of the same name by Joseph Moncure March, “The Wild Party” tells the story of Queenie and Burns, a dysfunctional vaudevillian couple living together during the latter part of the decadent 1920s. One night they decide to throw a party and invite all of their equally dysfunctional friends. The party does not end up well, particularly for Queenie, Burns, and Blackie, one of their guests. The musical, written by Michael John LaChiusa, starred Mandy Patinkin, Eartha Kitt, and Toni Collette, doing her Broadway debut, and it opened in April 2000. Another musical version of the “The Wild Party” also played New York around the same time. Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party” played Off-Broadway for a limited time.
Back in D.C. the following morning, I went online to buy a ticket to go back to New York the next weekend to see the show. Unfortunately, the show had closed the day before, on the 11th of June. I should have followed my instinct and turned the car around to try to catch the Sunday matinee. I felt a little disappointed, I was so much looking forward to seeing the show, in particular, the Gin/Wild number which bulliness had dragged me in when I first heard it and had kept me inside the party since the day before.
I’m sure in previous entries I’ve talked about my propensity to check out from daily life and escape to worlds in my mind mostly made up of elements from musicals. Nothing unique about that, a lot of people do it. However, an alcohol and drugs infested party populated with depraved egotistical characters may not have been the best place I could have escaped to in the summer of 2000. Being by myself for a few weeks while Ronald was away working, combined with my tendency to be a loner put me in a very dark place. In a matter of weeks, I was finding parallels between Queenie and Burns’ relationship and my own relationship with Ronald. Who does that? Who uses a couple of amoral sociopaths as a role model to measure their own relationship? I’m afraid I have to say, me. I did that. One thing I realised, though, from listening to this CD was that baddies could also be victims in a relationship. As much as Burns makes Queenie’s life hell, bullying and tormenting her, she’s no saint. Queenie can be a calculating, heartless cunt who’s also out to make Burns’ life hell.
I should have left the party sooner; I didn’t leave until the end of the summer. The situation may have been exacerbated when I bought the CD of the other “Wild Party”, the one that played off-Broadway, which was equally as good and dark (I’m sure one or two songs from that show will make it to the list). The whole experience put me in a dangerous place, psychologically, and I believe it distorted the perception of my own relationship for a while. That was probably one of the last times I allowed myself to check out of reality like that, I don’t remember pulling one like that ever since.
Song Title: Gin/Wild – 2000 Genre: Musical Artist: Mandy Patinkin, Toni Collette, Eartha Kitt Composer: Michael John LaChiusa Lyricist: Michael John LaChiusa Album: The Wild Party (2000 Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Favourite Lyrics: Don’tcha mess with my party / You can’t take a way what’s mine / Don’tcha know it’s my party / Time for the devil to rise and shine
179 MONDAY 22 DECEMBER 2014
Our Favorite Son – Keith Carradine, Caddy Huffman – Top 10 Favourite
From the show I always knew it existed, but never knew it was so good, here it comes Our Favorite Son.
In late August of 1991, I went to Highland Park, New Jersey, for a few days to visit my Guatemalan friend Rodrigo, who was going to Rutgers University. During my stay at his place, we went a few times into Manhattan just to hang out. On one of those times, we were planning to go see a show on Broadway.
“It has to be a serious show,” Rodrigo said as we approached Times Square. “We’re not seeing any of that fluff American stuff.”
Yes, he was kind of full of shit, a pseudo-intellectual who looked down on popular culture, but he was a lovely man, nevertheless.
“Stuff like that,” he pointed to the big poster of “The Roy Rogers Follies” as we drove by the Palace Theatre on our way Uptown. “You know what I mean? I just couldn’t see stuff like that.”
“But it just won the Tony award, it must be good,” that’s as much as I knew about it. “And it’s not Roy Rogers. It’s The Will Rogers Follies.”
“If that’s the case, I’d rather go to Roy Rogers and have some chicken.” He laughed.
“It’s Hardees now,” I said resigned and not wanting to contradict my host.
I believe that was the last time I ever talked or thought about “The Will Rogers Follies”. Then, more than 20 years later, I was looking for something new to listen to and came across the show’s album in the iTunes store. I remembered that afternoon in New York 20 years ago and had a bit of a chuckle. I bought the album, thinking that perhaps I had waited long enough to see what this show was about. The score hooked me right away, which didn’t surprise me when I learned that the music was by Cy Coleman and the Lyrics by the great Betty Comden and Adolph Green. I found Our Favorite Son to be quite campy and fun and put it on repeat mode for a while.
For those unfamiliar with the show, “The Will Rogers Follies” tells the story of Will Rogers, an American icon who, for many years, was a fixture of the Ziegfeld Follies in New York. Every significant episode of his life is told in a Follies sketch style. When he decides to run for President of the United States, on the Anti-Bunk Party platform, the entire company declares him their favourite son with a number reminiscent of the good old days of the Ziegfeld Follies. When I saw the number’s clip on youtube, I thought it was one of the coolest productions I had seen in a musical. I cursed Rodrigo for being such a snob at the time.
Song Title: Our Favorite Son – 1991 Genre: Musical Artist: Keith Carradine, Caddy Huffman Composer: Cy Coleman Lyricist: Betty Comden, Adolph Green Album: The Will Rogers Follies (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Favourite Lyrics: The elephant trunk and democrat donkey will be down the drain and sunk, / The day the peoples victory is won. / With spirit and spunk he’s gunna debunk the jabber and junk that they’ve been feeding us, / Hooray for our favourite son!
Runners Up: When It EndsThis Is What It Is • Finale • Queenie Was A Blonde • Out Of The Blue • What A Party • Look At Me Now • An Old-Fashioned Love Story • A Wild, Wild Party • The Life Of The Party • I’ll Be Here • Let Me Drown • Jackie’s Last Dance • Make Me Happy • How Did We Come To This? • Let’s Go Flying • Will-A-Mania • Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like (Short Version) • It’s a Boy • We’re Heading for a Wedding • The Big Time • The Ziegfeld Follies (My Big Mistake) • Marry Me Now/I Got You/First Act Finale • Will-A-Mania (Reprise)/Without You • Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like • You Made Me Love You • I’ve Heard That Song BeforeThe Trot • Rhapsody In Blue • Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now • The Flight Of The Bumble Bee
180 TUESDAY 23 DECEMBER 2014
Magic – Olivia Newton-John
If only a year ago you had told me I was going to include Olivia Newton-John on this list, I would have rolled my eyes and look down at you. And yet, here’s Olivia doing her debut on my list with Magic. I didn’t even know I had it on my iPod, but when it came through my ear-buds it captivated me. I guess that being a week off from the New Year made me look into the future and try to gauge what would be in store for me in the following months. I stopped being a dreamer many years ago, but I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being hopeful, in a way I still believe in destiny. Although my dreams may never come true, I’m sure something will come out in the end as the result of the decisions I’ve made in my life.
Song Title: Magic – 1980 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Olivia Newton-John Composer: John Farrar Lyricist: John Farrar Album: Xanadu (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
Favourite Lyrics: And if all your hopes survive / Your destiny will arrive / I’ll bring all your dreams alive / For you
Runners Up: In The Mood • Beguin The Beguine • Opus One • American Patrol • Take The “A” Train • South American Way • A Little Girl from Little Rock • Almost Like Being In Love • Whenever You’re Away from Me • Dancin’ • Whenever You’re Away from Me • Xanadu • On a Wonderful Day Like Today • In The Mood • Frenesi • All The Things You Are • Ferryboat Serenade (La Piccinina)
181 WEDNESDAY 24 DECEMBER 2014
(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo – Glenn Miller Orchestra
(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo was the song that introduced me to Glenn Miller and the style of music that, as this list demonstrates, I like to listen to.
Back in the summer of 1983, I went on a road trip for the weekend with my parents, sister, a recently divorced cousin and her toddler. We were going to a cousin’s wedding in Caracas. I’m not sure why we drove when we could have flown. My father loves to drive, so I guess that was part of it.
1983 was a special time in Capital. That year Venezuela was celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of Simon Bolivar, who had been born in Caracas. Therefore, the city was full of activities and visitors for the whole year. Also, the Pan American Games were being held in Caracas at the same time. So, I guess that’s why we couldn’t find air tickets and had to drive and stay at a small downtown hotel.
On Saturday, before the wedding, we went sightseeing and ended up in “Sabana Grande” a large pedestrian mall in the city. I went into a record store where they were playing a Big Band record. Being the first time I heard that style of music, I went to the counter and asked what record was that. The clerk told me it was Glenn Miller, and he showed me the tape’s case. I can still see it on my hand, an orange and brown label with a picture of Glenn Miller. “I want to buy it.” The clerk stopped the cassette player, took the cassette out, put it back in the case, and rang the tally. That was my initiation in Jazz, Big Bands and eventually musicals. After that, I rarely bought or listened to any other type of music. Coincidentally, that was the same day I bought the Victor/Victoria soundtrack from which I have also included a song (Le Jazz Hot) this week.
Besides my musical acquisitions in Caracas, I have fond memories of that road trip. It was the last time I hit the road with my parents, after that I don’t believe my parents and I ever went on another road trip through Venezuela.
Song Title: (I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo – 1942 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Glenn Miller Orchestra Composers: Harry Warren Lyricists: Gordon Mack Album: Your Hit Parade – 1942
Favourite Lyrics: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H / I got a gal in Kalamazoo / Dont want to boast but I know she’s the toast of Kalamazoo / (Zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo)
Runners Up: I’ll Never Smile Again • When You Wish Upon A Star • Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree • Tangerine • PolkaBlues In The Night • A String of Pearls • For Me And My Gal • I’ve Heard That Song Before • Don’t Get Around Much Anymore • You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to
182 THURSDAY 25 DECEMBER 2014
Why Don’t You Do Right – Peggy Lee & The Benny Goodman Orchestra
Just like the previous song, and the first one next week, Why Don’t You Do Right comes from the same era, and there’s a reason for that. During these days, I was listening to Times’ Your Hit Parade 1940 to 1949 Collection – including its bonus, “The War Years”. It took me a few days to get through all of them.
Why Don’t You Do Right is a classic of the era, and this Peggy Lee & The Benny Goodman Orchestra recording is perhaps the best known of all its versions.
Song Title: Why Don’t You Do Right – 1936 Genre: Pop Artist: Peggy Lee & The Benny Goodman Orchestra Composers: Kansas Joe McCoy, Herb Monrad Lyricists: Kansas Joe McCoy, Herb Monrad Album: Your Hit Parade – 1943
Favourite Lyrics: You had plenty money, 1922 / You let other women make a fool of you / Why don’t you do right, like some other men do / Get out of here and get me some money too
Runners Up: Stormy Weather • You’ll Never Know • That Old Black Magic • Brazil • Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart • Pistol-Packin’ Mama • Taking a Chance on Love • The Trolley Song