Monday, November 29, 2004

The "Hooray" Cast on Doing "Old" Works

One last moment from the "Hooray For What!" Audience Talk-Back that I've been meaning to share:

Two cast members piped up that they were surprised at both the "mature" content and stinging, relevant satire in "Hooray For What!"

David Curley noted that given how unknown a piece like "Hooray" is to actors today, it felt no different than participating in the new works development he had done at AMTSJ and TheatreWorks.

And Brian Yates Sharber noted with amused surprise that people back in the 30s had sex, just like we do today!

Greg, of course, was able to turn these observations into an opportunity to educate us and pointed out that most of us have an impression of the 30s from the movies only. But, movies had a production code they had to meet and were highly censored. Meanwhile, the stage did not operate under such restrictions and could more accurately reflect the present day.

That never even occurred to me.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

"Another Closing, Another Show"

OK, I'm bastardizing Cole Porter's lyrics just a little bit.

Today we say farewell to "Hooray For What!", and in ten days we say hello to "Once Upon a Mattress."

Very different shows indeed.

"Hooray" may have featured a far more famous composer, but "Mattress" is clearly the more famous show.

"Hooray"s wild farce spoofed matters most serious. "Mattress" is just a little bit less au courant.

I did "Mattress" when I was a teenager, and remember the whole show very fondly. I still think the song "Normandy" is one of the most beautiful numbers ever. And it sounds just as beautiful in French. (Don't ask me why, but I translated the whole thing back when I did the show.)

Although it did have a fairly recent Broadway revival, with Sarah Jessica Parker, it really isn't done too often. I think the defunct Peninsula Music Theatre did it almost a decade ago, and I'm really not remembering other productions.

So a lot of you may not have gotten a chance to see it. This is the perfect opportunity. it's a great show for a holiday season, full of romance, physical comedy, and general good times.

For those of you who are waiting for discount info on "Mattress", it will be the same basic idea as "Hooray": $12 seats for some of the performances, and $20 seats for most of the rest of the performances.

Hopefully all discounts will be up and running starting tomorrow or the next day.

Don't you worry, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I Don't Get Reviewing you?

"Hooray For What!" closes tomorrow, and the number of reviews that came out before closing, when it actually could have impacted ticket sales, was pretty small.

I'm not sure I really get how and why critics choose what to see and how editors choose when to publish. I'm sure 42nd St. Moon publicist, Carla Befera, struggles with this with every client she has. [And probably someone's going to tell me not to complain, as that might not improve things, if you know what I mean.]

I've noticed it with other clients too, and it's far from just a San Francisco issue. I personally subscribe to the SJ Mercury, and I find their theatre coverage pretty marginal. And they seem way too interested in reviewing distant productions, rather than shows a little closer to home.

I just really wonder how they make decisions on how and when to review shows. And I've noticed they do a lot more "news" stories, and a lot fewer actual reviews that they used to as well. I personally prefer reviews, even when i take a reviewer's opinion with a grain of salt.

I wonder if it would help to write to their editors and say, "'re missing out on letting people know about this great theatre, XXX, or this stellar production, YYY."

Neither the Merc nor the Chronicle make it incredibly easy to figure out who to contact, I have to say.

Oh well, I hope "Once Upon a Mattress" gets some early and plentiful reviews, what with Lea DeLaria's presence in the cast.

Or maybe I'm just overblowing the whole problem. How many of you only go see shows for which you read reviews?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

LAST WEEKEND for "Hooray!"

Have you seen it yet?

Don't forget only one more weekend for hilarious and satirical "Hooray For What!"

Come support 42nd St. Moon's actors as they work through the Thanksgiving weekend to bring you laughter and gentle food for thought!

And don't forget the exclusive discount for blog readers, that you can read all about right here.

"Once Upon a Mattress", starring Lea Delaria, opens in a scant TWO WEEKS.

But "Hooray" is still on the boards, so check it out.

More Pictures from Backstage at "Hooray!"

Got some more good backstage shots, thanks to 42nd St. Moon admin, Annette, so the first one if of Annette herself, and "breezy" David Curley:

We've also got spies extraordinaire, Meg & Michael:

The Harburg Clan Visits "Hooray"

I mentioned earlier that the children of Yip Harburg came to see Opening Night of "Hooray For What!." Here's the proof:

Here's Ernie (Yip's son) with cast member, Michael:

Here's the entire Yarburg clan:

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Great "Hooray" Review on Talkin' Broadway

This can only be called a rave.

Check it out.

Monday, November 22, 2004

BTW: "Lost" doesn't only happen to "old" musicals

I went to see Ballet San Jose's production of "Pirates of Penzance" yesterday.

Before the show, Company Director Dennis Nahat came out and gave a little curtain speech. He told us that when the scores arrived for the orchestra, it was discovered that they had delivered the wrong music...not the version already synched up with this work of ballet.

So, the orchestra had to spend 3 days frantically reconstructing what the scores should be to match the ballet version.

Reminded me of 42nd St Moon!

How Musicals Get Lost

As I've mentioned before, "Hooray For What!" was a particularly challenging "lost" musical. All of the orchestral arrangements were gone, few vocal arrangements survived. There was a lot of restoration work to be done.

I learned some more interesting info during last week's 'Talk-Back' session about how so many golden era musicals ended up being "lost" to begin with:

1. Back in the day there were simply a lot MORE Broadway musicals. Rodgers & Hart might open 6 musicals in one season! So, musicals may not exactly have been disposable entertainment, they were not considered lasting works of art, suitable for long-term archiving.

2. Once shows closed on Broadway, they would go out on the road, often with original everything. They'd pack up all the scores and music and send it out on the road. And they didn't just hit big cities, they hit a lot of smaller hamlets in between the big cities. Now, when the tour shut down...that's where stuff was left. The last stop on a tour ended up being the repository for all sorts of material from a show, including the music scores. There have been treasure troves of music found in the basements of playhouses all around the country.

3. Even when material does get sent to storage, human error can still get in the way. Material might get shoved in a storage room without being reviewed or codified in any way...think of the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Or sometimes it is even codified incorrectly. One of the songs in "Hooray For What!" was found literally two days before rehearsals started. It had been archived at the Shubert organization under the wrong song title. So someone had to not only look through the box of music, but look in the incorrectly marked folder, and recognize that the music within didn't match the title under which it had been filed.

Anyway, it was interesting to learn a little more about why these great pieces might go missing to begin with. Gives you a little more insight, and a little more appreciation of the kind of effort involved to re-mount works such as "Hooray For What!"

Sunday, November 21, 2004

More from the Audience Talk-Back

I mentioned before that I happened to attend "Hooray For What!" on a day when they had a 'Talk-Back' session post-performance.

So what do you learn during one of these sessions?

1. Well, I learned that Kim Larsen, in the Ed Wynn role of Chuckles, blew the last line of the show in a way that the FCC might not approve of. The line is supposed to be about getting "gold on your chest for getting lead in your pants." And Kim slipped up and said "lead in your ass". The funny thing is that I didn't even notice. The show is a little naughty in parts, a little racy, and since at this point since you can say "ass" on TV with nary a raised eyebrow, it didn't even make me sit up and take notice.

2. I learned that Greg MacKellan actually got to meet Yip Harburg once years ago, and that he reminded him a bit of a leprechaun, like the leading character in Harburg's own "Finian's Rainbow."

3. I learned that Ed Wynn did an act with 6 dogs towards the end of the show, although we'll never know exactly how they explained what the dogs were doing in the bomb shelter setting where the act took place. And despite Greg's fond desire to replicate animal acts, I learned that all the dogs he knows are Equity, and he simply couldn't afford all the extra contracts!

4. I also learned that our some-time contributor to this blog, Michael, and "Can-Can"'s Claudine/"Hooray"'s choreographer, Alex, are an item. A little human interest story to go with our musical dramaturgy.

You just never know what info you'll pick up. 42nd St. Moon does these 'Talk-Backs' after every first Sunday matinee in a show's run. You can even request your subscription to be for all Discussion Sundays.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Upcoming Event with Mattress Star, Lea Delaria

Thought I'd get the word out now, as I'm sure it will be a hot ticket:

Date: 12/15/04 at 7:30PM
Location: The LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street, San Francisco
Presented by: The Queer Cultural Center

Lea Delaria, Broadway star, stand-up comic and cultural icon will be in conversation with local arts journalist, Chad Jones. Details here

Cost: $10: All proceeds will go to the QCC to support one of their emerging artists programs.
Reservations recommended: 415-865-5611



Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Bit Belatedly: A photo from Can-Can Backstage

Mostly testing out photo linking capability, so here's a photo taken backstage during the recent run of "Can-Can"

Great Chron Piece on Yip Harburg

This piece gives you a little more insight into the man who was really a primary driver behind "Hooray For What!"

On a side note, Harburg's children, Ernie and Marge both came to see "Hooray" on Opening Night and loved it. They're both old enough to remember the original 1937 production...and probably hadn't seen it since!

Someone in the audience the day I saw the show also saw the original as a child...remembered finding it very funny..and enjoying the contortionist.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

1930s-era Liberal Intellectual Elitism

Seeing this show so soon after the election gives it an interesting context. I'm a good liberal myself (me and 90% of San Francisco, so it seems.)

And there's been lots of talk since 11/3 about liberal intellectual elitism...that liberals are too prone to consider those who disagree with them as intellectually inferior. Of course, on the other side there's lots of talk about conservative moral superiority...that conservatives are too prone to consider those who disagree with them as morally inferior. [Link]

I was totally reminded of this current analysis in the opening scene of "Hooray For What!", when such intellectual elitism is on full the point of complaining about "hoosier halfwits."

I say this as a good liberal, mind you.

And maybe before this election (and its results) I wouldn't have given those lines a second thought, but they certainly struck me now.

Getting To Know You...

In the audience chat session after the show on Sunday Greg mentioned that one of the 'Specialty Acts' that was in the original "Hooray For What!" production was a contortionist. And the contortionist was used for a particular part of the show that I won't spoil by revealing here.

That made it all of a sudden very clear why we, as the audience, got to know Timothy Kuster as Mr. Harriman a little better than we expected to!

When you see the show, keep your eyes open for the first act moment I mean...believe can't miss it!

Monday, November 15, 2004

My Top 5 reasons to See "Hooray For What!"

You can find my Top 5 Reasons to see the show posted over at my Personal Blog, here.

Again, there are two reasons I provide only a link to the review, not the review itself, right here:

1. So, if you haven't seen the show yet and don't want to read any spoilers at all, you won't have to.

2. So the cast members who read this blog and don't like to read reviews during the run of a show won't accidentally be confronted with one.

If you've seen the show and would like to post your review, you can post it in the comments of this post...which people have to click through to read, so it won't spoil anything for anyone.

Here's the post where I give instructions about how to leave a Comment.

Hello? I can HEAR you!!

OK, I just have to tell this little anecdote before posting my "Hooray For What! review.

So I get to the theatre yesterday, find my seat and sit down. Immediately these two ladies behind me start talking about how now the whole stage is blocked, oh, they can only see the end of the piano etc. etc.

Bear in mind I am less than 5' 2"! They should be so glad my S.O. bailed and didn't come with me...he's 5' 11"!

Anyway, they go on for a far longer than normal amount of time on this (in my humble opinion.) I sat there wondering exactly when I was going to turn around and say, "you know, I'm sitting right here...I can hear you!"

Luckily for them, the lights went down. But if you're out there reading this blog...please remember...being in a different row is not like being in a different county.

As if I wasn't already a normal woman with normal body image I'm worried I have a big, fat head!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

More Press for "Hooray"

This time a blurb by Chad Jones in the Alameda it will probably turn up in the Oakland Tribune and other publications too.

It's the third story down.

Friday, November 12, 2004

"Hooray" Blurb in the SF Weekly

For those who can't pick up a copy, here is a link to the online version. Scroll down, it's about the third story down. Someof it covers stuff yo already knwo from this blog...don't you feel "inside" now? But there are a couple of tidbits I hadn't heard before.

SF Weekly "Hooray" Blurb

First "Review" of 'Hooray For What!'

Granted, this might be a an "inside" job, but here's the scoop from 42nd. St. Moon admin, Annette, who saw the first preview last night:

"I just saw tonight's preview of "Hooray For What!." Greg MacKellan has once again assembled an awesome cast (and a more ethnically diverse one, I might add, which is great!) He has made magic with this Yip Harburg/Harold Arlen musical. I
think you'll love it. I've only worked for 42nd Street Moon since February of this year and it still amazes me how quickly the show comes together in just three weeks of rehearsals.

The intrigue! The romance! The songs! - all great reasons to go see "Hooray". Sat next to some lovely visitors from Hawaii, who loved the show and even held hands during the reprise of "I've Gone Romantic on You," which I found especially touching.

Spread the word... :-)

Will do, Annette.

Of course, I think the real test will be when I take my S.O. to see the matinee this Sunday...let's just say he's not a matinee lover. Night owl all the way. So if he comes out of there smiling, not grumbling, it will be the true test!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

"Hooray For What!" Post on Blog

You might remember that one of our cast members actually has a day job working at

Today he got to post an article about "Hooray For What!" on their blog. No wonder Michael has enjoyed submitting stuff to me during both "Can-Can" and "Hooray!"...he's a writer!

Check out his article here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

"Hooray For What" Starts Previews Tonight

Well, you can't really call it a "long haul" when you only rehearse for 2-3 weeks, but when you're tying to cram that much learning into such a short period of feels long.

And I suppose for Greg and Dave who reconstructed the script and score, it has definitely been a longer haul. (And considering Greg said they had originally planned to put this on the boards in 2003...)

But the first audience will trundle in tonight and see something they are almost guaranteed not to have seen before. I mean I love a good "Chorus Line" or "Oklahoma" or "Fiddler on the Roof" (which I'm currently vocal directing in South City) as much as the next gal, but there is something unique and exciting about seeing new works...even if it's just new to you!

Unfortunately I can't get up to the see the show until Sunday (which is a bummer, because if you read my report on the preview of 'Can-Can' you know interesting and unexpected things can happen during Previews!)

Feel free to send me your early reviews...or leave a comment on the blog.

And don't forget to use your can you beat $12 tickets? Go here for more info:

Sondheim Wishes He Wrote...

"Buds Won't Bud" from "Hooray For What!"

Back in early 2000, on the occasion of Sondheim's 70th birthday the NY Times published a fantastic Frank Rich interview with him, where he listed the great songs he wished he had written.

I remember the article of course. And I think Bernadette Peters or Barbara Cook even created a concert around Sondheim and the songs he wished he had written...derived from this interview. (I'm having a memory lapse and can't remember which great Broadway diva did that.)

But thanks to Google, all these years later, I've discovered the article anew, and discovered that a song from "Hooray For What!" is on it!

Check it out.

Monday, November 08, 2004

How Lost Can Lost Get?

I also mentioned in an earlier post that Kay Thompson was the vocal coach for "Hooray For What!", and Greg gave me some more fascinating tidbits about the history of the show and how 42nd St. Moon is dealing with it today:

"Do you remember Kay Thompson from the movie "Funny Face"? She's the one who sings "Think Pink" and does the "beatnik" version of "Clap Your Hands" with Fred Astaire. She also wrote all the "Eloise" books.

She was originally hired as the leading lady of "Hooray For What!", playing the spy, Stephanie Stephanovich (the role Meg
Mackay is playing in our production). However, while the show was out of town, Ms. Thompson was fired from her role and replaced by Vivian Vance (it was Vance's first big role on Broadway) - but Thompson stayed with the show as the vocal arranger/choral director! I have no idea how she must have felt about that. Well actually, yes, I do have an idea!

Thompson actual vocal arrangements are lost, but the script had the LYRICS to two arrangements, "Down with Love" and "Moanin' in the Morning", so Dave Dobrusky, who's doing the music restoration, and Brandon Adams (our musical director) were able to fashion arrangements that at least partially follow Thompson's original plan.

Thanks to Dave and Brandon, the show is going to be one of the most interesting - and complex - vocally that we've had in a long time. There are several "big numbers" that involve group singing for which Dave and Brandon have fashioned 1930s-era swing arrangements with multi-part tight harmony.

Three of "Hooray For What!"'s songs had gone missing after the original production, and were discovered in the Shubert
Archive - literally just before we started rehearsals - so we are able to present the entire original score.

As a change from "Can-Can", which focused so heavily on dancing, we're focusing on the singing in "Hooray", and I think people will really be delighted when they hear how great it sounds.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Bye-bye "Hooray" Specialty Acts

So I mentioned in an earlier post that the 1937 program from "Hooray for What!" mentioned several intriguing "specialty acts."

Well, hope I didn't whet your appetite too much. Here's what Greg had to say about those acts:

"You also mentioned specialty acts - needless to say, we're cutting that material. The most famous/notorious was a dog act which came out and did a long, complicated routine with Ed Wynn - completely unnecessary and unrelated to the plot. As much as I would have loved to have given my two dogs, Max and Ginger, roles in the show, the dog act has been dumped. There was also, per the program, a "Hero Ballet" that Paul Haakon did, although there is nothing in the script to indicate where it came in the show, how it was cued, or what the ballet was about... So it's gone, too."

Bummer. I would love to see Greg out there with his dogs too! (And don't his dogs have great names? I figure Ginger has to be named for Ginger Rogers, but I'll have to ask him who Max is named for.)

Lite Blogging Was Due to Blogging Conference

Sorry I wasn't around the last couple of days. I was attending BloggerCon III, a gathering of bloggers, people who build tools for bloggers and people who watch the blogging phenomenon, held at Standford.

Just like at the other couple of Blog industry events I have attended, most bloggers are truly intrigued by the idea of what we've got going on here at 42nd St. Moon's blog. While many trumpet blogs as the perfect customer communication tool...and write blog entries saying every CEO should blog...they seem pretty bemused by the reality of it.

The history of blog is very personal and independent, so the concept of a "company" blogging seems pretty counter-intuitive to many. They wonder what you can write about that doesn't seem inauthentic.

But I think if they read this blog they would see that there is valuable content that can be communicated to customers by any company. Blogging gives you the advantage of having that content easily accessible (to people who are online, granted), easily kept current (rather than getting a brochure twice a year) and a little more informal and personal than the aforementioned brochures.

It's a win-win situation. You come here and get to learn fun, inside stuff about 42nd St. Moon, and in learning more, we , of course, hope you're motivated to come see what we're talking about in person.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Theatre As Relevant Social Commentary

Recently 42nd St. Moon sent out an email blast about this blog to their marketing database.

In it was the following sentence:

"Hooray For What! is truly one of Broadway's lost gems, with an anti-war theme that seems surprisingly relevant. 42nd St. Moon won an NEA grant to restore this Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg/Lindsay & Crouse piece, and the timing couldn't be more appropos."

42nd St. Moon received the following response email today:

"Perhaps you did not notice that John Kerry's anti-war past did not get him elected.  Left wing anti-war day dreaming usually does not square with reality, thus Hooray for What's relevance is questionable."

I could argue that since hundreds of thousands of people poured into our very streets for anti-war protests as recently as a year ago, and since 48% of the voting populace supported Kerry just two days ago, the anti-war theme is highly relevant. (And in San Francisco, where the voters went for Kerry at an almost unbelievably high rate, even more so.)

The truth is, though, that artistic relevance isn't about popularity. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was relevant in the 50s, even as the majority of the South was defending segregation. "The Crucible", though set in Salem, was relevant during the McCarthy era, even as most of the country was caught up in fear of the red menace. "Lysistrata" is performed almost any time we are at war...not because it's pro-war or against war, but because it examines war.

Artistic relevance is about examining themes that resonate, crossing eras, crossing geographical boundaries and crossing party lines. The circumstances in "Hooray For What!" are clearly different from today's circumstances. But, when war is in the news; when Halliburton is in the news, when the Patriot Act is in the news...then whether you agree with the news or not, and whether you agree with the artistic statement or not...examining war, jingoism and war profiteering is relevant.

It's actually gratifying to be doing a show that starts such a conversation. To 42nd St. Moon the decision to do "Hooray" wasn't much different than deciding to do "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" or "Paint Your Wagon." It's about the artistic and entertainment value. The decision to do the show this season was made almost 2 years ago. We can call it lucky chance that the show also happens to push some buttons.

As Greg said to me: "How rare that a company devoted to forgotten musicals finds itself doing something "controversial"!!!'

The Delights of EBAY

Greg saw my post on IBDB's listing for the original production of "Hooray For What!" and emailed me immediately to tell me:

"I saw that you mentioned the IBDB listing for HOORAY FOR WHAT! on the Blog. Interesting, I just acquired - via eBay, of course! - the original Playbill for HOORAY from 1937. A surprise was that when I opened it, the original ticket stub fell out - whoever it was saw the show two weeks after it opened in December, 1937, sat in the orchestra for a Saturday matinee...and paid $2.50 for their seat!"

Gotta love eBay. What's surprising to me is that the seller either didn't know the ticket stub was in there, or didn't realize it would increase the value of the Playbill significantly.

Greg's the lucky buyer on that one!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

IBDB's 'Hooray For What!' Listing

I'm sure you, the intrepid Broadway musical fan, are already aware of IBDB (the Internet Broadway Database)?

I got the idea to look up 'Hooray For What!' and found the listing for its 1937 run here.

Vincente Minnelli did staging and scenic design. Kay Thompson was the vocal coach for the ensemble. And it's kind of fun to imagine how they worked in the 'Specialty Acts' that are listed in the cast list.

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Newbie's Take on "Hooray For What!"

I recently introduced you to 42nd St. Moon newbie, David Curley.

Now David speaks for himself about being in "Hooray For What!":

"I have not historically been a big fan of older musicals. I think I generally thought they were dull and simple.

I am surprised...and thrilled…to realize how dark and edgy and hilarious this piece is.  It’s wild and silly and dumb and politically incorrect…all the things I adore…

I’m really proud to be part of a show that makes a point about world politics, while being funny about it instead of preachy.  Sermons always take root better when delivered with laughter!!

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