Thursday, September 30, 2010

Photos from York's "Greasepaint."

Finally, photos of the great cast of York Theatre's "Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd." First performance, Friday night!

Jim Brochu, Elly Noble, Kay Trinidad, Veronica Kuehn, Josh GrisettiZonya LoveRuthie Ann Miles and Eliza Hayes Maher

Photo credits are Ben Strothmann.

Read more:

Free Concert, Columbus Ohio Oct. 11

I'm singing a concert at a hospital in Columbus Ohio on October 11.  It will be free to all.

The program is to be held at the Susan H. Edwards auditorium at Riverside Hospital in Columbus Ohio, 7-9 pm
FREE and open to the public. SW CEU's will be provided at no charge

It Really Does Get Better.

In the news last night was the story of the boy who jumped to his death after his roommate hid a camera and broadcast, over the Internet, the kid having sex (with another boy).

One prank. One camera. One dead kid.

How afraid was this boy?

So afraid that he felt it was better to be dead than for anyone to know.

And how did it come to be like this? What made him so afraid?

It's the question I don't hear get asked that often. But I can tell you that I grew up absolutely terrified of being discovered. Terrified. I was so terrified that when I finally did come out to myself, I shut off my family, ran to the nearest big city -- Dallas, in this case -- and never spoke about it to them.

This hurt my younger brother, especially, because, to him, it looked like I had abandoned our family -- which, I suppose, is exactly what I did, though it didn't feel that way to me, at the time. (And I was unaware of the pain I was inflicting on him and everyone else.)

I've been addressing the issue of teen suicide for years here on the Bonus Round site and in my work, beginning with almost the first day I went online. I believe the first song I wrote after The Last Session was "Gabi's Song (Will It Always Be Like This?)" about Gabi and her son, Bill, followed shortly thereafter by "William's Song" about William Wagner who was beaten a lot, but survived.

For me, growing up gay meant keeping a part of me closed off and hidden, though I don't blame my family or even my church members who were always  nothing but loving toward me. (But, then, none of them "knew" my secret. Or, if they did, it either didn't matter to them or they were too afraid to talk about it since these things weren't discussed when I was young. It was a different world back then.)

Dan Savage has started a new Internet meme called "It Gets Better." Videos of adults who survived those years telling young people that it really does get better, and that it's worth trying to survive.

Here is the one from San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus. All my friends! It's really terrific.

I have only barely discussed this topic with my family members. It brings up so much pain.

I think they worry that I am blaming them, or saying that I had a terrible childhood. Some have said to me, "Everyone always loved you and treated you well."

And they did. But we have never actually talked about it. Not really. And even typing these words makes me cringe in horror. Seriously.

How do I tell my parents, the most loving people on the planet -- and I mean that, sincerely -- that I was living in a parallel universe to them? One racked with pain and stomach churning agony, many nights? All it does is make them feel it's their fault, or that I'm holding them, somehow, responsible?

Or, worse, that I hold the specific fundamentalist Christianity that I grew up with, responsible

They didn't hear the subtle clues. The Bible Camp where the preacher brought up this issue.

Christ. I haven't thought about this for years. It was one of the first times I ever heard the subject raised. This guy was a piece of work. He was from Dallas. That I remember, which is significant because it was different and had more money than the little backwoods country church in Buna.

He had me bawling my eyes out. I was crying to God. He said I was "like this" because my daddy paid too much attention to the church and not enough attention to his family. Oh, how could my daddy have done this to me? Waa. Waa. Waa.

And, somewhere, in the middle of all this psychological manipulation, that's when I knew I was being played for a sucker.

It was like something turned in me.

Really, preacher man? You're gonna badmouth my daddy?

So, yeah, it gets better.

I don't see them often, but we email a lot. And next Monday, I turn 57.

And where do I find myself the day before? In church, singing a special. I've been wracking my brain all week, trying to think of the right song. Any ideas?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Josh, Marcia, Jim, and Thoughts on "Greasepaint."

Josh Grisetti, Marcia Milgrim Dodge, Jim Brochu
meet to discuss the upcoming York Theatre Musicals in Mufti production
of "Roar of the Greasepaint."
I didn't know anything about "The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd" when Jim and Josh (Brochu and Grisetti), together with Jim Morgan, artistic director, at the York, decided to schedule it. All I heard (by rumor from most everyone who had seen it) was that it had a "fabulous score" and that the book made no sense, whatsoever. Or something.

But, for the "Musicals in Mufti" series, it was a perfect fit, because they "revive" classic or lost musicals -- five performances spread out over three days -- in "mufti," meaning "in street clothes."

So, it doesn't matter if the particular show is "good" or "bad." It's history. You want to see it because it exists and to know if it can stand the test of time.

A couple of weeks ago, they did "Coco," which was a Katharine Hepburn vehicle -- her first musical. (These performances really show you the bare bones of the script and score. Deprived of sets, costumes and involved choreography, it's up to the performers to make it come alive, which is exactly what happened with the York's "Coco." The cast, led by Andrea Marcovicci, was sensational. The musical itself, not so much.)

Since Jim grew up backstage -- or, rather, front of house, selling orange drink for the Goleb brothers, who had the concession -- on Broadway during this period, he knew "Greasepaint" very well, having seen many of the performances.

In fact, I think it was actually Jim and Josh who hatched the idea for doing "Greasepaint" while they were sitting together backstage at last year's York Theater Oscar Hammerstein Awards, where Jim sang "Rich Man" in his Zero get-up. It was our first time to see and meet Josh, after hearing about his triumphant performance in "Enter Laughing."

"Greasepaint" consists, essentially, of two British characters, of two different classes, engaging in verbal banter over a game they're supposedly playing, and who occasionally break out into song. Jim was excited that Josh even knew the show since it closed in the late 60s and has never had a Broadway revival.

I kept asking Jim why it didn't hit, especially given the fact that it has a ton of hit songs in the score. He just kept saying, "Well, it's the book. It's really strange. To tell you the truth, I didn't really understand it."

American audiences, apparently didn't, either. The format was experimental. It didn't tell a traditional story. It was also very British. Two men on a stage playing a game.  It didn't last very long when it came to Broadway, even with the great Cyril Richard as Sir, paired with its composer, Anthony Newley, who is largely forgotten by pop culture, today. I knew him only from TV variety shows in the 60s, singing his own Broadway songs with this bizarre accent, where his "a's" were held with an awwwayyyawww that looped in and out of intelligibility.

And, to make matters ever worse, it has a character listed in the script, "The Negro" who pops out of nowhere, sings this fabulous song -- essentially, stealing the show -- and then disappears again.

Really? The Negro?

I couldn't wait to read this thing. What has Jim gotten into?

Finally, the script arrives. Jim has long forgotten what it was about except in the most broad terms. So, he asks me to read it. I go in, expecting the worst.

But, actually, I found it quite involving. It's a mind-twister. Does it "make sense?" Well, kinda. But it doesn't announce itself or what it's trying to do. It just throws you in the middle and lets you sink or swim.

As the play starts, "Cocky," is on one side of the stage. Cold, hungry, almost naked. "Sir" is on the other side in a lush light. He has food and drink and minions that serve his every desire.

We realize that they are there to play "the game." And in the game, Sir makes up all the rules and Cocky dutifully tries to follow Sir's pretzel logic, designed so that Sir always wins. Sir praises Cocky's fortitude through his starvation and changes the rules over and over again -- which is why the song "Who Can I Turn To?," which I always thought was a love song -- is so co-dependently perverse in the world of this play.

When The Negro makes his appearance, Cocky starts trying to teach him how to play the game, but, in doing so, he starts to sound and act like Sir. The previously pathetic and sympathetic creature realizes, in crushing this new lower class character, that all of Sir's power is in his bluster. So, he begins taking control of Sir.

You are happy that he's found his own power, but at what expense? Who's expense? And what will he turn into? Sir?

I loved it. The script by Leslie Bricusse is snappy and witty, and biting and mean. There's even a suggestion of a rape of a girl character among the minions, I think. It's hard to say.

But their banter almost began sounding to me like the kind of warring that takes place in chatrooms or discussion boards. There's so much posturing and deception, and power is this thing that passes quickly through the hands of one party, or one banker, or one billionaire, or one TV personality, or one musician, and then the next, over and over again. An illusion, yet still a reality.

I think "Greasepaint," for all its 60s-ness, is a jolting little piece of uncomfortable history that both disturbs and entertains, all at the same time.

I cannot wait to see it in person.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jim Brochu to Appear at Christopher Reeve Benefit.

Born for Broadway was created by a girl, Sarah  Galli, still in college in support of her brother who is a high level quadriplegic. It always makes me happy when I see young people create something.

The idea is simple. Mix stars with new, upcoming talent, and present them cabaret-style. Sell tickets. Give the money to the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation.

This year, Kathy Lee Gifford is the host. And, btw, she's a very nice person. We met her once at Sardi's. She saw us trying to take a group photo, and, out of nowhere, offered to take the camera and do it for us. She didn't know us from Adam, but, before it was all over, she was sitting on Jimmy's lap.

But the cast list is fantastic. Directed by Marsha Milgrim Dodge, who is also directing Jim and the fabulous Josh Grisetti in "Roar of the Greasepaint" this next weekend at the York. I think Charlotte Rae said she's coming that Sunday and bringing friends. 

Here is the Theatremania link to the story about the benefit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drama Desk Trophy Ceremony

Winners of Drama Desk Awards for the 2009/2010 New York theater season received their engraved trophies at a cocktail reception in their honor last week at Il Punto Ristorante. BroadwayWorld was on hand to bring coverage of the trophy ceremonyPhoto Credit: Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Review of Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.

Terrific, detailed review of the DVD of the superb documentary "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," made by Aviva Kempner. We have this DVD and it's really a MUST HAVE for anyone who loves television, history, and movies. Seriously. GO GET.

Included in the extra disk are interviews and stories that you cannot stop watching. This is a seriously great DVD.

It also includes information about Philip Loeb, who Jim talks about in "Zero Hour." From the review:

An excellent documentary about the talented comedienne, Gertrude Berg, who wrote, produced and starred in her own comedy series, first on radio and then very early on television, essentially inventing the family situation comedy for TV in the process, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, has been released by Docuramafilms and New Video.  Directed by Aviva Kempner, the movie has the advantage of being about an entertainer, so that it can always cut to the entertainment to keep its energy up, but Berg’s life was rich and fascinating—as a little girl, she helped out the family Catskill hotel business by ‘entertaining’ the guests—and parallels with equal fascination the epic transition in America from radio to TV.  It was her show, The Goldbergs, begun in 1949, that worked out the initial production strategies for live television while, week after week, she turned out basic but often brilliant scripts exploring the emotions of family life.  In doing so, she also aided greatly in the assimilation of Jewish culture into the American consciousness.  After the horrors of World War II, her weekly demonstrations that urban Jewish Americans, outside of the funny accents and a few exotic traditions, had the same problems, the same feelings and the same dreams that all Americans had, cannot be underestimated as a critical factor in the long term healing process, especially with those who had been influenced by reactionary American firebrands during the Depression and lived too far from urban centers to have any direct contact with Jews themselves.  In any case, Berg was a pioneer, an innovator, and an artist sensitive to the most delicate nuances of the human heart, and the 2009 feature certifies her deserved placement in the pantheon of American heroes (at the very least, as Kempner points out, they should issue a stamp already…).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fran's Big Night Out.

Our friend, Fran, is, one of our favorite people in the world. She has overcome a lot in her life, including recent surgeries that left her immobile for a long time, so when she said she would be in town, and really wanted a New York night out, we said that another friend of ours had wanted us to go to Feinstein's for Mickey Rooney's 90th birthday party. He and his wife, Jan, would be doing their night club act.

Now, normally, though it might not seem like it, Jim and I aren't really much for going out and sitting in clubs. We much prefer to be home with our feet up, watching TV, working on our laptops and generally being quiet. But, for Fran, it seemed like the perfect plan. We brought along our actress friend, Barbara Spiegel, because she classes up our act, and we thought she and Fran might really like each other. And we invited Jeramiah Peay, who was our stage manager for The Big Voice and Zero Hour. (Jeremy's been working for hot theater producer, Ken Davenport).

Fran does her Norma Desmond
imitation. Barbara Spiegel smiles.
We didn't realize what a star-studded night we would be walking into.

When we arrived early (for dinner) at the Regency, where Feinstein's is located, it was like trying to get into the airport. Security was everywhere because, this week, the U.N. is having some big doo-da, including Iranian charm merchant, Ahmadinejad. So, the police figured every wacko in the world would be in town along with them.

Our friend put us at one of the best tables in the house, which is center, along the back wall of the small room. Naturally, we bragged to everyone in our party -- Fran brought her friend, Joe -- that we ALWAYS get the best table.

We weren't halfway through appetizers when we noticed the people coming to the next table to our right. Regis and Joy Philbin. Jim leaned over to Reeg and told him that he had just mailed him a letter, inviting him to Zero Hour. Regis was polite enough, but not really receptive to some stranger talking to him. So, he kind of brushed us off, which was disappointing, considering we watch him and Kelly every morning on TV, and, naturally, assume that he'd be delighted to be included in our party.

Someone said, "Well, what if he and Joy had a fight or something? Maybe they're in a bad mood."

Didn't matter. 

We didn't know who would be there. We were having our own fun. Then, suddenly,  in walks Donald Trump with his wife, Milania. And he sits right down at Regis' table next to us. (He was very friendly, BTW. He and Jim talked about the schools they went to, near each other.)

Then, in walks Michael Feinstein with Arlene Dahl, Elaine Stritch and some other guests, taking the table nearest to our left. I was gawking like a teenager. Talk about class. Then, Tony Bennett sits down. Tony Bennett!!

Little did we know. At first, we had been more or less alone. I had the chicken Ceasar salad because I am now on a new health kick, having overdosed these past months on pizza and pasta -- as all newcomers do when they get to New York. (Every meal I eat, now, at home, is accompanied by a huge -- HUGE -- bowl of salad, made of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then, I eat a little of whatever else is there, including the aforementioned pasta and pizza.)

Jeramiah Peay, Michael Feinstein & Jim Brochu.

Michael Feinstein, Steve Schalchlin, Barbara Spiegel.
We weren't allowed to take pictures during the show, but I snapped this at the end, when they were giving Mickey some tributes. There was a time, when MGM had all the big stars, that he accounted for 55% of their yearly earnings, the biggest box office draw in the world. In the 60s, he was reduced to making $300 personal appearances at parties just to pay the bills.

Jim talks to Victor Garber.

Matthew Broderick & Nathan Lane

The side of Donald Trump's head.

Actor Dan Lauria with Barbara Spiegel. They were in a play together, once.
 I have to confess that I fell asleep during the show. I hope no one saw. No offense to Mickey and Jan.

And it was fun seeing the stars, but it was more fun watching Fran enjoying all the celebs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marian Seldes Visits Zero Hour.

Actress Anna Berger ("The Goldbergs"), Tony Lifetime Achievement honoree Marian Seldes,
Jim Brochu ("Zero Hour") and myself at Sunday's performance. 
After the matinee performance of "Zero Hour," I asked Marian Seldes, one of the greatest actresses of our time who, this past year, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, what she thought.

She looked at me, deadly serious, and said, "Horrible. Just horrible."

I smiled, because I knew exactly what she meant as she continued...

"So horrible what happened. Those were all my friends."

I love the way an artist like her evaluates a play. She doesn't watch it. She feels it.

Asst. Stage Manager Paul Bourgeois gets to meet Marian Seldes.
(Anna Berger and Jim Brochu watch.)

Marian Seldes greets Jim Brochu at Sunday's performance of "Zero Hour."

Jim Brochu, Jackie Joseph and David Lawrence, and Fran Bator.
Kevin Scullin, Jim Brochu, Jackie Joseph Lawrence, David Lawrence, Fran Bator.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Week in Review.

This morning, at Christ Church Episcopal in Brooklyn, at the 11am service, we are going to debut another new arrangement. It's one I had to throw together yesterday, after having worked all week long on another.

Mostly, this week, we've been nesting. After having stuffed 25 years of our lives into 28 boxes -- 30, actually. On the day the junk guys came, we found four more drawers of stuff I had overlooked, but 28 sounds better.

The opening and unstuffing of the boxes, the repainting of the apartment, the careful placement of our pictures and keepsakes. The original Blue Angel poster, signed by Dietrich. Given to us by jazz pianist Stan Freeman, one of the great minds of the 20th century, who accidentally pulled Dietrich into the orchestra pit, thus ending her concert career.

Charles Pierce, who brought Bea Arthur into my living room on the day I was just out of the hospital that first time, when I couldn't lift my head off the pillow. I woke up from a dream where I thought I was watching The Golden Girls. The first thing she did, after I came to, was tell an off-color joke. You have to hear Jim imitating Bea Arthur telling that joke.

Kathleen Freeman. Lucy. Ethel.

The color of the paint on our bedroom walls, which we just finished, is Barbara Red, named after our friend, Barbara Spiegel, who you saw in the Richard Thomas picture. Barbara's mother, Sophia, lives in a place of honor, too. She died in this apartment. She was the sax player in an all-girl band in the '30s and 40s.

New York is filled with such fascinating people.

This past Thursday, we were invited to a gathering where the Drama Desk Awards were handed out. Jim got his statue, which now resides in the living room. (All the rest have been moved into the Barbara Red bedroom/office.)

Ashley C. Williams, brave star of the cult Ick/Horror film from last year, "Human Centipede."
I told her I hadn't seen it, but that my geeky film freak brother did.

Jim Brochu signs for his statue.

Jim Brochu  with Dram Desk president, Barbara Siegel.
She and her husband, Scott Siegel, produce fantastic concerts at Town Hall,
among many other things.
When I saw them, I said, "Hello, Mr. and Ms. New York."

Jim Brochu showing off his Drama Desk Award.
Friday night, I got the best hug.

I was sitting at Mark Janas' piano. I had just played him the SATB vocal arrangement of "Holy Dirt," which I had been laboring over for the past week.  Usually, Mark is a fountain of ideas and opinions. When he gets into the zone, while creating, he thinks so fast, that things pour out. I'm like a kid trying to catch fish leaping over a waterfall when I ask him opinion on something.

And I mean this is a genius perfectionist kind of way, not an annoying kind of way.

Anyway, this arrangement was different. I hadn't asked him anything. I just knew I wanted to do it. So, every moment that we weren't fussing with the house, running errands, going to the doctor, the bank, the driver's license bureau -- a two hour fiasco that I'll tell you about another time -- I was writing this arrangement.

It dominated my mind the whole week. Everything was about this arrangement.

So, when I sat down and showed it to him, when it was all complete, I just waited. He was standing near me, kind of behind me. Suddenly, his arms were around my neck and his head was on my chest. It was so sudden and unexpected that it startled me.

"What's that for?"

"I'm just so proud. It's perfect. I wouldn't change a note. It's absolutely perfect."

(Later on, as we went through it, measure by measure, he did make one small suggestion, which I used.)

But, after having done that, we decided that, thematically, it didn't fit this Sunday, so on Saturday, I did a whole new arrangement all in one day. He came over. We fiddled with it. It's done.

Whew. And now, off to Brooklyn.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Look Who Came To Dinner.

Richard Thomas ("John-Boy Walton"), Georgiana Thomas, actress Barbara Spiegel ("Law & Order"), actor Jim Brochu, Anne Kaufman Schneider (daughter of playwright George S. Kaufman), actor James Cronin (grandson of George S. Kaufman).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jim Does Greasepaint Oct 1-3 at the York.

Only five performances. JIM BROCHU and JOSH GRISETTI are playing the iconic roles of "Sir" and "Cocky" in a classic show that rarely gets revived because the book is kind of a kind of fantasia on power and class warfare in England. The two characters appear on the stage and play a game where Sir can change all the rules. It was hard for American audiences in 1965 to embrace it, but it had two hit songs -- and many others that have become theater standards.

In this day and age, with Wall Street and Washington changing all the rules all the time, it actually makes more sense.

Social norms and qualms are thrown out the window inĂ‚ The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd, a musical about 1960s London, where two gentlemen of different classes are always trying to get the best of each other and neither truly win. This comic musical premiered on Broadway in 1965 and includes the standards“Feeling Good” and “Who Can I Turn To?”

AndyGram Interview: Zero Hour at 200 Performances.

Wonderful interview with Jim Brochu at AndyGram.
In 1953, Ed Sullivan, who was really a truly wicked man, threatened to expose Jerry Robbins as gay in his column unless he named names. So not only did he have pressure from the Committee [House Un-American Activities Committee] to name names, his career was about to be ruined on many different levels. And back then there was the social stigma of being queer. Of course he capitulated and gave names. He said he gave names that he thought had already been given, but he certainly named Madeline Lee. Madeline and I had a long talk about it one night. 

The other thing that surprised me was his friends. They started to come in droves to the show. And most of them came with their arms crossed: ‘Somebody thinks he can be Zero? Oh, yeah? Show me!’ And by the end, now we are all friends. They gave me stories for the show -- Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Theodore Bikel gave me some wonderful things that are in the play now. So that’s been a wonderful blessing. And all the family has come. Esther Mostel – his niece – all of 86 years old got to the St. Clements Theater [where the production opened in New York in 2009]. She was in a walker and she couldn’t climb the stairs. So our two stage managers just picked her up and brought her up 30 stairs. And she had hands in places that she hasn’t had hands in places in a long time. So she really enjoyed the show. Ha! Ha ha!
We started the show in Los Angeles, from there we went to Houston and San Francisco. I did a couple of shows in Boston and then we went to Florida. We did a 16 week run in Coral Springs and sold out this 400-seat theater every night and that’s what gave the shape to the New York show. Then the final touches were in Washington, just before we came up here last year. We won the Ovation in LA, the Carbonell in Florida, the Helen Hayes in Washington, and the Drama Desk in New York. Jesus, as an actor – thank you, thank you! We came here for 12 weeks but when that was up – the reviews were love letters -- the producers said we can’t close this. So now we are going to stay here in New York.
Zero brought me back, and I brought Zero back. He’s a star again. He likes that.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Broadway Grab Bag.

For people in New York, or coming to New York, Zero Hour is participating in a little trivia grab bag contest being put on by Here's the press release:
Announces “Broadway Grab Bag” Giveaway Contest! announces the “Broadway Grab Bag”
Giveaway Contest! From September 13th, 2010 through October
10th, 2010, visit each week, click on
the contest page, and using the site,
answer the ten trivia questions (new questions posted each week)
to be eligible to win one of four weekly Broadway “Grab Bag” prize

“GRAB BAG” Prizes offered will include a mix of some of the following:

A poster and playbill signed by the cast of Billy Elliot on Broadway;

Two tickets to one of the Off-Broadway Shows: Zero Hour, All
American Girls, Danny & Sylvia, the Danny Kaye Musical,
Dietrich & Chevalier and Black Angels of Tuskegee;

Memorabilia from Broadway cast members of Jersey Boys and Billy

Direct from University of Minnesota Press, reprints of Meredith
Wilson’s Classic Books:

“But He Doesn’t Know The Territory”, detailing the making of
the musical, The Music Man; and

“And, There I Stood With My Piccolo”, Meredith Wilson’s
detailed autobiography which led to the creation of The Music

From our partner,

Hairspray, the original Broadway cast recording, signed by
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman; and

Frank Loesser Centennial Celebration poster, signed by Jo
Sullivan Loesser

Visit to see what's included in each
weekly "Grab Bag" package! There you'll find the contest rules, regulations
and how to participate. is a theatrical resource website designed
to inspire, educate and create a sense of appreciation for the people who
work both on stage and behind the scenes on Broadway and beyond. features three ongoing video series:

"Broadway Backstage" Series - featuring backstage tours of Broadway’s
legit theatres and interviews with the creative, dedicated professionals who
work behind the scenes.

"The Glamorous Life" Series - an inside look at what it’s like to audition
for and pursue a musical theatre career in NYC; i.e. attend auditions,
plus get advice from working actors, casting directors, agents, musical
directors and others. It's everything they never taught you in school!

"Broadway Encore" Series - special videos featuring charitable organizations
working with Broadway shows, celebrity interviews, personal backstage stories,
and more!

See these videos now and coming soon to

Victoria Mallory: Original Company - Follies and A Little Night Music

Jim Brochu: Zero Hour Off-Broadway

Neva Small: Chava - Fiddler on the Roof movie

Dan Whitten: Producer/Owner - Tiger Theatricals

Steve Schalchlin: Big Voice: God or Merman and The Last Session

Jason Howland: Composer - Little Women-The Musical

Taylor Sternberg: Jersey Boys on Broadway

Theatrical Gems: Producers, Actors Fund benefit - Mr. President

Ty Lackey: Sound Engineer - Memphis on Broadway

Susan L. Schulman: Theatrical Publicist

Dani Davis: Producer - Little Women-The Musical and The Lonesome West

Kolstein Talent Agency: Naomi Kolstein and Laura Packer

Sing for Your Seniors:

PLUS a backstage tour at BILLY ELLIOT on Broadway!

"When You Care" new live recording.

For those who have just been clamoring for the recording I made of myself singing "When You Care," I've put it up as a free download from Google Docs. The choir is from the Christ Church Episcopal of Bay Ridge. Fr. Jeff Tamblin is the preacher there, a very gregarious, kind and generous man who, himself, loves music and loves to sing.

You know, I never know how to address clergy at these fancier churches. My dad never cared for titles or even the idea of being "elevated" over the congregation in any way. In fact, I remember one time he pointed at his driver's license and said he didn't even like to see "Rev." on that.

I inculcated this attitude early in life, later to discover it has a fancy name, "egalitarianism."

In the South, when you see the preacher, you say, "Hey, preacher!" in a big Gomer Pyle voice. Not "Hello, reverend" as if going to funeral. At least, I always did. 

The first time I got into trouble for doing that was when Damascus Road, my old Jesus rock band, played at some Episcopal church in south Texas. The minister there didn't respond to my "Hey, Preach!" very well. 

So, each Sunday morning, when I see Fr. Tamblin, I usually say, "Hey, rabbi!"

He just grins back at me.

 "When You Care" is the second formal arrangement I've given this choir. The first was a more elaborate version of "My Thanksgiving Prayer." I will do that with them again, soon, to get a  recording of that. 

What's amazing is that these skilled readers can dive into just about any arrangement at 10am, run through it three or four times, and have it performance-ready at 11. For a songwriter, this is an incredibly valuable gift. And what a music program they're developing as a result. The congregation gets the benefit of terrific music for every service. 

The singer side of me is equally being fed because it's thrilling to sing with great singers, and to be a part of a great ensemble. About 12 of us, more or less, each week.

This past Sunday, for instance, they were having two baptisms. I didn't sing the solo because Mark brought in a cello player and singer, Julie Reyburn, along with the vocal group, Marquee Five -- one of whom sings in the choir already -- and we all sang Mark's very sophisticated arrangement of "Shall We Gather At The River."

I hope you enjoy the recording of "When You Care." It was done with a single mic, informally. But I think it sounds pretty good, except for that lousy lead singer. 

Do you like a man in uniform?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Quran/Bible Burnings: My Opinion

People have been asking me my opinion on a publicity-seeking "Christian" pastor who has managed to gain world-wide attention for an upcoming Quran-burning, especially now that America's other publicity-hungry "Christian" gay-hating Baptist family is protesting that the media ignored their Quran-burning activities.

So let's look at this rationally. To burn a Bible or a Quran means nothing, physically.

After you've burned one, you can go to the book store or a hotel room and find another. It's not like Rev. Handlebar is burning the last one on earth, though would be a great Twilight Zone episode -- where the last people on earth are a bunch of religious zealots holding the last copies of each other's holy books hostage with matches and kerosene.)

In an earlier era, he would have been just one lone nutcase with bad facial hair, making money off the locals and moving from town to town after everyone got tired of his shtick. But, now he's got an army of media waiting in his front yard, all breathlessly awaiting his every word.

When he is interviewed, each commentator gets to berate him freely because he's the current Worst Person in the World, and we all get to hate the Worst Person in the World --  especially when they're religious fanatics who are mentally or emotionally ill. We may not be able to figure out who to hate in politics, but we can all agree to hate Pastor Doc Holiday and his stash of burnable books.

Personally, I believe that when we make objects "holy" or "sacred" we're pointing our sacred-antenna in the wrong direction.
"I said there's not a grain of sand
Worth any girl or boy
But somehow in our twisted minds
The killing turns to joy
We watch it like a football game
And wait for it on CNN
Cuz winning's, somehow, everything
And they'll re-run it all again"

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Cloud Over Ground Zero Searchlight.

How I Got "My Own Choir and World Class Conductor."

"So, what have you been up to?" Said Miss E., who is one of my new sophisticated New York friends, who's involved in opera and is also a food and wine connoisseur.

"Well," I said, "I have a choir with whom I sing one of my songs each week, under the baton of a musical director who was a protege of Leonard Bernstein."

Her jaw dropped."You're kidding! How did you manage that? You've only been here for how long?"

I laughed. 

"Officially, since last Sunday. But we've been here for awhile with Zero Hour."

"But, how..."

"Well, once we moved Zero in, I decided that I was going to treat New York as if I were a Freshman in college. Mark is the most talented and knowledgeable person I know. So I decided to attach myself to him and learn everything I can."

"Very smart."

"Happily, there's a mutuality about it. He respects me as a writer. In fact, how it started was he asked me to sing a solo at this Episcopal church in Brooklyn where he's the musical director. The choir consists of some of his vocal students from Manhattan School of Music and a few veteran performers in the theater/cabaret scene.

"After I arrived, he asked me where I wanted to sit during the sermon, and I said, 'Can I just be in the choir with everybody else?'

"Then, when it came my turn during rehearsal, I told the choir to make up the harmonies behind me and we did a song. The next week, I went back, purely to sing in the choir, and they gave me another solo spot. Once again, I used the choir, improvising the harmonies. And on the third week, they made my little solo presentation official.

"And now I'm a regular. And I can use the choir for that spot. And I have Mark Janas conducting. Three weeks ago, Mark and I wrote up an all new arrangement for one of my songs. And that's what I realized the incredible opportunity I've been given: a great choir and a world class conductor."

I have always believed that the best way to succeed in life is to go where you want to be and, if you have to, volunteer yourself. Make yourself useful. If you start at the bottom, being everyone's helper, it's the quickest way to learn everything.

Jim cut in, "Did you tell her where the church is?" I hadn't. He continued, "It's right across the street from where I grew up."

So, the point of the story was that I honestly went there with the simple intention of being just another face in the choir so that I could learn from Mark Janas. And my reward was a continuing solo spot, the use of a great choir and a world class conductor/arranger guiding me and teaching me.

The kicker was when I looked up the liturgical scripture reading for a couple of weeks ago, and this is what it said:
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, `Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Only ln NY?

It's a store in the Village called Pop Mart. It only has one product. Can you tell what it is? Hint: The cheapest one costs $3.75.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"When You Care" Choral Arr. This Morning.

This morning, at Christ Church, Bay Ridge Episcopal in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, I'm going to sing "When You Care" during the morning liturgy, which starts, at 10am. And, behind me, if there's enough to rehearse it, the church choir will be singing the actual original arrangement which you hear on "Buddy's tape" in the final scene, and which you hear on the Original Cast Album and my Bonus Round Sessions CD.

I hadn't announced it earlier because I wasn't sure I would find it. But I did. It was a photocopy of a photocopy of the original, hand-written (more like, hand-scrawled) by Alan Satchwell -- and I've spent all week deciphering it. (Does anyone know where Alan is? I'd love to find him and reconnect.)

I'm now off to meet Mark for rehearsal. But I have a great story about that choir. I'll tell it when I come back.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Ayatollah Fears Musical Insurgency!

I'm trying to imagine a country without music, but destroying music and art is exactly what the despots, who disguise themselves as "religious leaders," do. From the Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout reports:
According to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's maximum politico- spiritual leader, the promoting and teaching of music—not just Western music, but any kind whatsoever—is "not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic." 
 The Journal's Eric Felten suggested the other day that such attitudes are at bottom political. Music, Mr. Felten writes, "somehow manages to make despots nervous." Why? Because "it affects people profoundly and can't be controlled," which would explain why authoritarians of all stripes look upon it as trouble incarnate.
TROUBLE! Right here in River City!! And here you thought my idea of a "musical insurgency" was just a clever marketing ploy? Do you think we should start body scans when people get on a plane, looking for hidden harmonicas? Will a person whistling while walking down the street get arrested?
He "suggests" that Iranian youth should instead "spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and healthy recreations instead of music." Those Iranians who prefer to do as they please run the risk of getting themselves stoned, by which I don't mean high.
Apparently, this religious leader never read the studies showing how music helps the brain develop so that it can more effectively learn "science and essential and useful skills." And I'm guessing there won't be any marching bands at halftime at soccer tournaments.
If it seems to you that you've heard that song before, you're right. The Taliban of Afghanistan long ago acquired the nasty habit of blowing up music stores, and they also believe in the word of the Prophet Muhammad, who said that "on the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress." An equally tough antimusic line is now being taken by the Islamist militia that runs much of Somalia.
 Time to find a new god to worship. Christians love music and would never do such a thing, would they?
Most of the early Protestant reformers, including John Calvin and Martin Luther, opposed the use of musical instruments in worship, and Puritans have always set strict limits on what kinds of music were permissible. Many an English church organ was put to the torch in the 17th century, and to this day there are numerous sects that refuse to allow instrumental music in their services.
Oops. Burn those church organs! The Ayatollah, oops, I mean, the preacher don't like no music playing. But, why?
Flash forward to 1698 and you'll find in Jeremy Collier's "A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English State" a pair of sentences that would sound no less at home in the mouth of a Taliban cleric: "Music is almost as dangerous as gunpowder; and it may be requires looking after no less than the press, or the mint."
Music scary!

In the song "Holy Dirt," I make the point that you can judge a religion by two rules. One, "what does it make you do." Two, "What does it make you do to others."

When your religion tells you that music is bad, and when your religion blows up music stores and burns musical instruments, you're in the wrong religion. Time to get out, no matter what your "prophet" or "minister" or "holy book" says, said or didn't say.

The saddest thing is that an entire generation of kids will grow up without music. Now, that's how you destroy the spirit of a culture.

Lazarus come out.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Happy 200th Off-Broadway Perf. for Zero Hour

It happened on the day I arrived back in New York. Zero Hour hit its 200th performance, Off-Broadway. Don Myers, our beloved former stage manager, brought a cake. (We love our Don).

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Philip Loeb Panel Emphasized his Activism, Kindness, Humor & Obstinacy.

Philip Loeb was one of the most beloved "TV dads" during the 50s, when he was unjustly named as a communist on a publication called Red Channels, which sought to expunge any possible "commies" from being able to work in TV and film. Eventually, Philip, who was living with Zero and Kate Mostel, committed suicide. Or, as Anna Berger put it, at the panel discussion, sponsored by Actors Equity and the Museum of Jewish Heritage last night, "He died of a disease called the blacklist."

I met the panel earlier that day at O'Lunney's, an Irish bar near Actor's Equity headquarters. Then, we adjourned to the Philip Loeb Room at Actor's Equity. Phil was a fiery activist on behalf of actors, especially concerning issues such as paid rehearsal time, hot running water in dressing room areas, allowing black actors full equality, etc.

This is a new plaque. The old one had his name misspelled with two "l's."

Author Glenn Smith ("Something on My Own"), filmmaker Aviva Kempner ("Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg!"), actress Anna Berger,
Loeb's nephew, Dr. Steve Loeb.

Philip Loeb's great-nephew, Dr. Steve Loeb.

On the wall: Photo of Philip Loeb in a play.

Scholar Glenn Smith holding his Gertrude Berg book, "Something On My Own."
which provided the basis for the film "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg."

Aviva Kempner, Steve Loeb, Actor Equity President Nick Wyman.

Nick Wyman delivers emotional speech about Phil Loeb and his contributions as an actor.

Author Glenn Smith, actor Jim Brochu.

Actor Peter Friedman ("Brooklyn Bridge"), Steve Loeb, Aviva Kempner, Anna Berger, Glenn Smith, Jim Brochu.

Peter Friedman, Anna Berger, Aviva Kempner, Jim Brochu.

Jim Brochu ("Zero Hour") speaks about Zero Mostel's love for Philip Loeb.

Panel on Philip Loeb.
The DVD of "Yoo Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" is packed with extra footage about Phil.

Philip Loeb panel at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Peter Friedman, Jim Brochu, Glenn Smith, Steve Loeb, Anna Berger, Aviva Kempner.
The panel discussed Phil's life, how he was both beloved and reviled, similarly to the reactions people had to Zero Mostel. They both fought against the blacklist and injustice, but their headstrong ways did not win them friends among their opponents.

They also talked about how funny he was, that he could, without notes, keep an audience or small crowd, laughing. Anna Berger talked about how she, as a young actress, found a defender and helper in Phil Loeb. And how, even after he was forced off the show, he would come to the set and be a friend.

Phil died of an overdose in the Taft Hotel after painful cataract surgery. Shortly afterwards, the FBI cleared his name.