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Letters Page

Got a comment about something in the site? Want to make your views on musicals known? Write me a letter! I've been remiss about posting letters, but no longer. I don't respond to flames, but I love thoughtful dissenting views and corrections.

New! From Rachel (Angel91002@aol.com) 1/2/04:

Hi! I like your web page "Bursting with Song: Great Performances: Male", and I'm esp happy to see Robert Preston on the list! To me, he was, is, and always will be Prof Harold Hill- THE Music Man! :-) Another Broadway actor you can add to the list is Michael Crawford as the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. In my opinion, Tony winner Michael Crawford IS the Phantom, the same way Robert Preston IS Harold Hill and Rex Harrison IS Henry Higgins! Likewise, Yul Brynner is another Broadway actor worthy to be on your list, as he was, is, and always will be the definitive King of Siam in The King and I.

Just a couple of suggestions, anyway. :-)

From Parado00x@aol.com 9/4/03:

Re: On the Twentieth Century: I was pleased to read your review of this show. I am very fond of OTC; it is a perfect show! I did see it with both Kahn then Kaye. Kaye was better! I like Kahn a great deal, but for this vehicle Kaye was great.

Of course, Cullum is splendid. Oscar is almost maniacal at this point, so how can he overact? I have been asking Papermill Playhouse in NJ to revive this show for a couple of years.

Regarding Ann Reinking: I am a fan of her Roxie portrayal in Chicago. I thought her "overacting" suited the role well. It is deliciously over-the-top, as well it should be.

From Tommy Peter (tommypet3@yahoo.com) 8/25/03:

I've really enjoyed reading your comments on Broadway musicals. Just wanted to write in with a few minor corrections and additions:

You describe Michele Lee as a "one-shot musical star" when talking about her performance in Seesaw as one of the great female performances. According to the Internet Broadway Database, Ms. Lee actually was in a few other Broadway shows in the 1960s. She replaced Bonnie Scott as Rosemary about a year into the run of How to Succeed in Buisiness Without Really Trying and got to play the role in the film version (Unfortunately, most of her songs were cut from the movie, including "Paris Original"--grr!--but she does get "Been a Long Day," and her solo of "I Believe in You" is moved to a more prominent place than it has in the show. She is utterly charming throughout and sings wonderfully when she gets the chance). She also appeared in a few flops--a revue called Vintage '60 that lasted only a few days (Guess which year? :)) and Bravo Giovanni, another flop that hung around for a few months. That "something she is appearing in or appeared in" was probably the play Tale of the Allergist's Wife, which she did on Broadway in the 2001 season and toured with for a little while.

And a few corrections to your "Tony Nominations" for Camelot and Hello, Dolly!: For Camelot, you only list the wins for Richard Burton and Franz Allers, but the Tony Award website says the show also won Oliver Smith an award for his set design and Adrian and Tony Duquette a joint award for their costumes. Julie Andrews was nominated for Best Actress for her Guenevere. The site does not list wins or even nominations for David Burns and Alice Playten for their performances in Dolly, even though you do. However, it does list other wins that you neglected to mention or didn't know about--choreography, conductor, costumes, and producer.

Hmmm...those minor corrections were much longer in writing than I thought they'd be! Thanks again for the great site and allowing us to write to you! Keep up the good work!

From Michael (misterpix1@aol.com) 2/1/03:

I saw The Magic Show twice in 1975. I was 12 years old, and it was my first and second Broadway show. It was an inexpensive, poorly written show with a very small pit orchestra. Come to think of it, there were no sets. The show was created as a vehicle for Doug Henning's magic, which was good, and at the time was considered top drawer. He couldn't act, and he really wasn't supposed to. That was left to the other performers in the play. I didn't know that he was nominated for a Tony, but he shouldn't have been. It must have been a courtesy of some kind because the show was a hit. I couldn't have cared less about the magic tricks. What I fell in love with was Anita Morris and Dale Soules, the songs, and the Broadway experience. It was a very "kid friendly" show and was advertised as such at the time. Not exactly like seeing Gypsy or Mame as your first Broadway show, but I didn't know what I was missing, so I was mesmerized and thrilled. I actually became obsessed with this show at 12. More obsessed really with Anita Morris--she became the first obsession of my life! I got the Original Cast Album and played the hell out of it. Any article or picture I could find of Anita Morris at the time, I grabbed up. I was so obsessed with the show I dragged my older brother and his two friends to see it with me several months after the first time expressly to see Anita Morris again. Being a Broadway novice, it never occurred to me to check the cast list outside the Cort Theatre to see if there had been any changes. Well, there had been. The opening number to the show, "Up to His Old Tricks" is really very energetic and colorful. Each of the players comes up and then down a small flight of stairs in the middle of the stage. Well, I saw a woman come up and down those stairs who had red hair and was wearing pink costume similar to that of my ideal. That was where the similarities ended. It wasn't Anita, and I made a scene. To this day my brother makes fun of my reaction to another actress playing Charmin in The Magic Show. Anita Morris had left the show and had been replaced by Loni Ackerman (who several years later replaced Patti LuPone in Evita and got very good reviews). I actually threw a mini hissy fit right there in the balcony: "That is not Charmin! That is not Anita Morris! Where is Anita Morris? She stinks! Look how she walks! This is terrible! I can't stay here!" I was "Shhhhushhhed" from all over the balcony. We did stay for the whole show, but needless to say, I was miserable. I would never see Charmin again.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my Magic Show story. I kind of got carried away. I also saw Nine twice on Broadway. One of the most beautiful shows I have ever seen (and heard). Your review of the CD was very good.

Second letter 2/16/03:

I live in Freeport, NY (on Long Island, 25 miles east of Manhattan), and I am a speech therapist. I work with kids in two different schools in Queens. I am a long-time Broadway fan and see shows as often as there is something that interests me.

I just saw Liza Minnelli at Westbury Music Fair on Friday the 14th. The Music Fair is a wonderful venue that has been around for years on Long Island--it's an intimate in-the-round space that attracts notable acts. She was terrific. Joel Grey was on the bill with her. Her voice is not what it used to be, of course. She has had vocal problems for years. But I saw her show Minnelli on Minnelli on Broadway Dec. 1999, and she is in much better shape physically and vocally now than she was then. She razzle-dazzles and you gotta love that face. It was exciting because she truly is a living show-biz legend, and she is so lovable. That was the third time I saw Liza live, actually--I also saw her in the mid 1980s at the Jones Beach Theatre.

I am going to see Nine also--March 23d matinee with twofriends. One of the friends I am seeing it with saw it with me 21 years ago the first time around. The 1982 original production was so gorgeous and glamorous and beautiful, you couldn't believe it. Tommy Tune is brilliant. The monochromatic set and costumes the same. I would say that the original production of Nine is among my favorite Broadway musicals of all time along with the revival of Chicago in 1997, Gypsy with Linda Lavin about 10
years ago, and of course A Chorus Line (which I saw five times).

Your review of the music of Nine was right on the money. It is beautiful and underrated. And some of the music is so pretty that it makes me cry too. Just beautiful haunting melodies--and sweeping!

The new cast worries me. I am afraid I will be disappointed. Can Antonio Banderas carry this musical? I mean, I have nothing against the guy, but come on. There's some challenging stuff to sing here. And eight performances a week? Jane Krakowski is a Broadway veteran so I'm not worried about her (of course, she's not Anita Morris). Chita Rivera will be fine, although Liliane Montevecchi will be a hard act to follow. Mary Stuart Masterson? I hope she can sing..... And she doesn't seem Italian enough. I don't know--maybe they all know what they are doing.

From Ellen Ryan (eryan@washingtonian.com) 11/5/02:

Hi there! Thanks for your excellent commentary on one of my favorite musicals, 1776. My parents had the book (the play in paperback form) and the cast album in the early/mid 1970s, and my sister and I memorized both and recited practically the whole play all the way from New York to Boston for a family vacation to walk the Freedom Trail in 1976. (In retrospect, though our folks seemed pleased at our interest in history, it must have been strange at best to have two girls singing all the parts to a Broadway musical from the back seat of a Dodge for hours.)

Anyway. As you might know, 1776 was shown on commercial TV this weekend; I finally saw the movie for the first time. What fun to see all the sets, costumes, and choreography, especially on the double staircase in "But, Mr Adams"! And "Cool, Considerate Men" was indeed in it--all the gentlemen dancing in the chamber, then spilling into the streets of Philly in carriages. So I was confused to see your several comments that this song was not in the movie.

(What wasn't in the movie I saw was "He Plays the Violin." I don't know if it was cut for time or whether it just didn't make the film.)

Ellen, a government major who went on to work in beautiful Washington, DC

From Erik Haagensen:

Dear Aviva,

I'm the guy who wrote the liner notes for the CD rerelease of The Golden Apple. I found your review by doing a web search. I'm very glad you liked it.

I thought you might be interested in more John Latouche as a result. I created a musical revue called Taking a Chance on Love: The Lyrics and Life of John Latouche, which ran Off-Broadway at the York Theatre in Feb/March of 2000, got very nice notices, and was recorded by Original Cast Records (you can order it through Amazon.com).

The show used excerpts from Latouche's private journals, letters etc., plus comments by his contemporaries about him, all woven together with his songs to make a sort of "musical portrait" of his life (that was Rex Reed's term in his favorable review for the show). The four-person cast consisted of Terry Burrell, Jerry Dixon, Donna English, and Eddie Korbich (who won an Obie for his performance). Composers featured on the disc include Leonard Bernstein (including a previously unheard cut duet from Candide), Duke Ellington, Vernon Duke, and, of course, Jerome Moross, including liberal excerpts from the Moross/Latouche Ballet Ballads, a show that was a precursor to The Golden Apple.

The show has just been licensed by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatre Library and will shortly be available for regional productions (it took a while to get the far-flung copyright releases together for all of the songs in the show). So with any luck, you may have an opportunity to see it in Denver at some point in the future.

In the meantime, having liked The Golden Apple, I bet you'll like Taking a Chance on Love. If you do decide to get it, let me know what you think after you've listened.

Greatly enjoyed wandering around the stuff on your Bursting with Song website.

From John Patrick (musicman495@yahoo.com):


Just had some additional thoughts regarding Leslie Bricusse and the lyrics of the songs "Paris Makes Me Horny" and "Chicago, Illinois" from the musical Victor/Victoria. [This refers to my comments in "Really Crappy Lyrics"--Aviva]

Shawn Potts is basically correct, I think, that the dopey lyrics of those two songs are intentional and VERY funny in the context of the show - meant to fit the ridiculous "over the top" character of Norma. ("Went to Stockholm, and brought a lotta schlock home. Saw Toronto, and left there molto pronto. But Paris makes me horny.")

Further evidence for me that these goofy lyrics are intentional, is the fact that Mr. Bricusse is capable of some of the most sublime lyrics in the musical theater. For those not familiar with his work, he has won two Oscars for Victor/Victoria, and Doctor Doolittle ("Talk to the Animals"), was nominated for a third Oscar for Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ("The Candy Man"), and his brilliant collaborations for the stage with Anthony Newley resulted in such songs "Who Can I Turn To?" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?"


From Pete Kendall (pkendallh@aol.com):

Just read your review of Goldman's The Season. I agree with everything you said. I bought my first copy of the book in the '70s (I now own three first-editions) and I've probably read it 100 times. I find something different (and instructive) with each reading. Goldman reminds me a good bit of A.J. Liebling... authoritative, colorful, tacky, and literate as hell. I learned a lot about the theatre from that book. I also learned a lot about writing and logical, orderly thought.

From Jack Marshall (jacko@cs.net):

Good site!

As a lyricist, director and performer (who specializes in patter songs), I do take issue with your definition of "patter song." A song that is spoken is not necessarily a patter song at all.... "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" comes to mind. Indeed, whether a song is sung or spoken is usually a style choice by the performer. I have heard most of the Higgins solos in "My Fair Lady" sung through... that doesn't change the nature of the songs. A song is either a patter song or it isn't. Patter implies speed, and a song that is not meant to be sung quickly cannot be properly called a patter song. Patter songs also are characterized by difficult syllables strung together in long lines often for their sound rather than meaning... hence the common use of lists in such songs. "Tchaikowsky" is a patter song. "Trouble in River City" is. Fast, long lines, tricky syllable combinations. Either can be sung or spoken. "Why Can't the English" is not; neither is "Why Can't a Woman...." Not fast, short lines.

Jack Marshall

From Mark Falconer (falconer@ismi.net):

Hi. I recently saw Camelot, and I really disagree with you on many issues. Camelot is, it's true, a flawed musical. However, many of the "defects" are really only ahead of their time. (I take all of my opinions from the book Deconstructing Harold Hill. I had formed these opinions before, but the author of that book states it far more eloquently than I ever could.) All three of the leads (Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot) are extremely difficult roles to play, for theirs is a love triangle in which none of them can be excluded. They all need each other. Arthur needs Guenevere's love and friendship. Arthur is much too passive a king for Guenevere, though. Her character really is very violent. Listen to "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood" again, and you'll see it's not just "background music." This is an integrated musical, for one cannot throw out any of these songs (with the exception of "Follow Me"). Lancelot loves Arthur and is jealous of Guenevere, not for being Arthur's wife, but for being his best friend and confidant. It was extremely avant garde for the 1960s and one of the first musicals to demand audience participation. If you like Sondheim, you'd like this musical, because it forces you to pay attention, especially to the subtext of the actors' performances.

Thank you for your time,

Mark Falconer

From Jacqui Chapman (happychaps@lineone.net):

I really enjoyed your web page and found your comments quite interesting, although I don't agree with all your views. However, my reason for contacting you is to ask whether you know if a video of the Preston/Peters show [Mack & Mabel] is available at all? I saw the show in London years ago and thought it absolutely wonderful and Bernadette Peters was sensational - such a 'ballsy' voice (if you'd pardon me!). I would so love to see it again, and swear, if I won the lottery, I would assemble the cast again, purely for my own pleasure, cheesy or not. I get goosebumps every time I play the CD!

Thank you for your time, and I would be grateful for any suggestions regarding a videotape.

Kind regards
Jacqui Chapman

From Michael Bitterman (mbitterman@ulster.net)

Hi, enjoyed your Broadway stories. I saw 20TH CENTURY on Broadway and it was a glorious musical--the sets were fabulous as was the orchestrations, and Kevin Kline was hilarious, which doesn't come across on record (cd). He was very acrobatic--tripping and lunging here and there all over the place. I should tell you there was a big revival a few years ago at either PAPER MILL or GOODSPEED in CT. I didn't see it but can't imagine it without Cullum or those impressive sets.

We also share the same feelings toward musicals 'we hate' Almost all of the European schmaltz musicals, with the exception of EVITA, I can't stand. I also agree rock music (tribal rock) has no real place in musical theater.

You may want to take a look at some early memories of musicals I had: http://WWW.MIDMOD.COM/club.html


From Rosanna Bencoach (rosieb@sprynet.com):

While I enjoyed your review [of Camelot], please allow me to add some details.

In "Fie on Goodness!" John Cullum sings the lyrics:

"Lechery and vice have been arrested -
Not a maiden is ever more in threat.
Virgins may wander unmolested!"

Mr. Cullum did not "replace" Burton as King Arthur. He was initially hired specifically to understudy Richard Burton. (An assistant to Mr. Lerner spotted Mr. Cullum in one of his Shakespearean roles and thought he would be a good understudy to Burton.) He also understudied Roddy McDowell's Mordred, and originated the role of Sir Dinadan. He went on four times for Burton as King Arthur, opposite Julie Andrews, and later succeeded Roddy McDowell as Mordred. He'd play Arthur a couple years later at the Paper Mill Playhouse (with Stuart Damon as Lancelot). He most recently played Arthur with the San Bernadino Civic Light Opera during a summer break from filming "Northern Exposure."

The only *known* commercial recording of Mr. Cullum performing the role of King Arthur is a very limited edition LP "Lerner and Loewe: A Very Special Evening" recorded during a late 1970s benefit concert and released (to contributors?) by the Friends of the Museum of the City of New York. He opened the all-star concert by singing "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight" and "How to Handle a Woman." (One of the delights of hearing him perform those numbers is that he SINGS lines in the songs that other performers traditionally only speak!)

With several other volunteers, I am researching and writing what will be the most comprehensive and accurate website (or other source for that matter) on Mr. Cullum's long and distinguished career. This "unofficial" site will be at: http://www.aboutjohncullum.com. While only the introductory pages are posted at this time, there will be much more material added in the coming months. I invite you and your readers to take a look, and revisit the site in the future to see the additions.

best wishes,
Rosanna Bencoach

From Shawn Potts (forge69@hotmail.com):

My unsolicited opinion regarding the stupidity of select lyrics from Victor/Victoria:

I feel that the lyrics were "poorly written" in the songs (Paris makes me horny, Chicago Illinois) to contrast the style and sophistication of the Paris setting and culture against the largely rural Midwest. In other words, the "bleach-blonde road scholar" Norma Cassidy is an idiot. In fact, most of her humor is based on the appearance of intelligence with the substantive lack thereof. This quality was captured by Leslie Bricusse in the form of trite, common lyrics as well as poorly executed rhyming schemes. As for the airport reference, it seems to underscore the rural nature of the midwest by declaring that the common priorities are infrastructure and utilities as opposed to culture and art in Paris.

Just wanted to add a counterpoint. Thanks.

From Miriam Burstein (MEBurstein@aol.com):

Hello there--I was just reading your review of the 1776 CD, which was excellent. Just a few things:

  1. Daniels was nominated for a Tony Award--in the featured actor category, along with Holgate. At this period, actors who were billed underneath the title could only be nominated as "featured" rather than "leading." Understandably irritated, Daniels rejected the nomination.
  2. You're not the only one who was surprised that Holgate won. Everyone was surprised, including Holgate himself; Variety called it the biggest upset of the '69 awards. (Once Daniels dropped out of the running, everyone thought that an actor from Promises, Promises had it in the bag.)
  3. Speaking of Holgate, he told Drama-Logue/Backstage West that he had originally been called up to audition for Rutledge; in another interview a couple of years ago, he said that the producers had, in effect, tried to sabotage "Lees" out from under him because it was going over too well! And, oh yes, I just double-checked: Holgate was more vague about who tried to kill "Lees" than "the producers"--he just said "they." He was quite specific, however, about Onna White being responsible for saving the song. Whew! (I don't want to accidentally slander Stuart Ostrow here ;) )
  4. Everhart's history with the show is interesting: he was originally hired as Da Silva's replacement during tryouts, when Da Silva objected to cuts in his role. Da Silva then changed his mind, but the producers kept Everhart on as the standby. He eventually got the role to himself in the 1st nat'l tour (and did it again in Peter Hunt's Williamstown revival of the show).

From Trevor Kimball (trevor@mydesignstudio.net):


I enjoyed your page devoted to the "Hey, Mr. Producer" cds and video. I agree that it may be one of the best compilation/events in musical history.

In your article you discussed the differences between the cds and the video. I noticed them as well and did some research. It seems that the event was staged on two subsequent nights. The Queen was present for one and not the other. One was used for the audio and one was used for the video. I'm not sure why they didn't just use the same one for both, but I'm glad they didn't. I'm a part-time actor/singer and find it very fascinating to study the differences and similarities between two subsequent performances. It's amazing to see what seems to be "off the cuff" but is really well-planned and what really is "off the cuff."

I hope this is helpful to you.

All letters are the property of the writers and are used with permission.

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