Saturday, September 30, 2006

Four Busy, Exciting Days

Oh, man. I've been so busy over the past few days, I've only now had the chance to slow down and see if I can do a recap. As I mentioned earlier, we were in New York City for three days for both business meetings and for trying to catch up with old friends. The business meetings were very productive. As soon as any news (about any of our works) is official, you will read about it first here.

After a long Monday, we went to the Birdland to catch Jim Caruso's Cast Party, which is always a great place to hear a combination of up and coming talent, as well as established artists. He runs the best open mic in NY.

We were staying down in Chelsea on a couch supplied by Linda and Rob. It was actually quite comfy cuz Jim and I got to snuggle a lot. Early morning, Linda and I went running along the river, along some new jogging paths being built on the westside. It was beautiful -- and, of course, I forgot to grab my camera since I was focused on getting my required exercise. (Doctor's orders). It gave Linda and me a chance to talk and gossip. I loved it!

After we got back, we all cleaned up. Then, Jimmy and I made our way up to midtown where we had lunch with our favorite movie star / Broadway star / dancer, Marge Champion. (People who love older movies will remember the dance team of Marge and Gower Champion). She's still robust and lively and witty and doesn't at all look or move at like a woman in her 80s. And talk about gossip! She knows ALL the stories and LOVES to regale us with the inside scoop on old Hollywood. She and Donald Saddler dance two or three times a week together, making up new choreography, in a dance studio two or three times a week.

One of the things she talked about was the Disney movie "Snow White." It was Marge who they filmed doing the dancing that was copied and/or rotoscoped into the animation of the character of "Snow White." Marge was and is a terrifically graceful dancer.

I took these photos from her apartment up on the 47th floor.

Jim Brochu with Marge Champion
It was a clear day, and this part of the upper West Side has not been taken over by skyscrapers, but still looks like it did 50 years ago. I love it.

New York City. Upper West Side.
New York City. Upper West Side.
New York City. Marge Champion and Jim Brochu.

After our lunch together, while Jim met with some more theatre people at Sardi's, I ran down to the Village and had a brief hour or two with Mark Janas, the musical director and brilliant pianist we met a couple of years ago in Chicago. I wanted to play him a few of my new songs to see if he might be interested in adding them to his repertoire for singers he both trains and musical directs. We spent much of our time just catching up and talking, but he did like the new songs! I got this quick shot of him as we were both racing out the door. He looks good!

Mark Janas
Later that night, Murphy and Paul invited us once again to catch Jay Johnson's show at the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway. We brought our friends, Bart and Barbara Landau who drove in from Philly with friends of theirs.

Jay Johnson with Bart and Barbara Landau
Here's Jay with Linda and Rob Leahy, Jimmy's oldest and closest friends. This is the Linda I went jogging with.

Jay Johnson with Linda and Rob Leahy
And since both Jim and Jay had been nominated for Ovation Awards, here they are recreatin a two-headed Ovation Award. (Jay was nominated for Best Solo Performance).

Jim Brochu and Jay Johnson
(Jay opened on Thursday night and got some very glowing reviews, so we if you're in New York, do not miss it. It's a wonderful show. Not only is it fall-down hilarious, but it's very touching. Jay is a great performer.)

In the show, he mentions TV director legend, Jay Sandrich, who directed the TV show "Soap" that Jay appeared on. It just happened that Jay was across the street at "The History Boys," a play that won multiple Tony Awards this year (and is also a new film). So, I caught this reunion, too.

Jay Sandrich with Jay Johnson
Jay tells the story, in "The Two and Only" about his days on "Soap," how he told Jay Sandrich to just treat his puppet, Bob, as a member of the cast. So, one day, Sandrich walked over to the puppet, which was across the room from Jay, leaned over into Bob's ear, whispered something at length, and then, as he was walking away shouted, "Now let's see THAT at the next run-through!"

After we got back on Wednesday, we performed "Big Voice" again here in Norwich. Then I met my netpal, Brian Hagar-McKee, in person for the first time. Brian and I have much in common, including our religious backgrounds, so he loved "Big Voice." We then drove, that night, to his home in Framingham, Massachusetts where he teaches music to elementary school students. The next morning, we were up early because he had enlisted me to talk to his 5th graders about songwriting. Here is Brian outside his school.

Brian Hagar-McKee
And here's the school:

Elementary school
And the schoolroom:

The kids were a bit young to really grasp much of what I said about songwriting craft, but they were very attentive, if a bit squirmy. And they also sang for me. They sounded like angels. Brian is just terrific with them. But man, I don't think I would have the same kind of patience he has.

Still, they asked great questions. Like, for most of them, songwriting or making music is a hobby, so: "If songwriting is what you do for a living, what do you do for a hobby?" I thought to myself, "Hobby?? Who's got time for a hobby??"

I would love to have taken a picture so you could see how adorable they all were, but privacy concerns prevented that, something I totally understood.

Brian, George and I drove back to Norwich and we did our show again on Thursday night. Friday morning, I was a guest at Norwich Free School to speak to their Gay Straight Alliance. But I will have to save that story for the next entry since I, once again, forgot my camera. But, luckily, the faculty sponsor had his.

To be continued!

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