Going just a bit more than the usual amount of batshit crazy this week…Getting estimates from movers, making lists, and doing a bazillion things to get ready to move to Los Angeles at the end of the month. So why, you might ask, am I taking time to write another tangentially-skewed blog post?
It’s for you, dear readers. I do it all for you. More than that I just got back from Los Angeles last night, haven’t slept well in four days, and am over-caffeinated as hell, so…Here’s a post brought to you by Cole Coffee Max’s Blend, pharmaceutical grade caffeine for the times when racing your brain like an Indy Car is the only option.
I love musicals. Pretty much always have…Ever since Mom took me to see the original off-Broadway production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in the ’60s. Part of it must be genetic…The Riddering Clan, my Mom’s family, are a musical lot, all the way back to my Great-Grandfather, a cigar-maker from France who sang in the local opera company in Liege, Belgium—But it’s more than just family heritage. I love this particular form because there is nothing that can capture, or evoke, more passion or emotion than the human voice unleashed in song, and musicals, or opera, does it for me like nothing else (well, except maybe drum corps, but that’s another story…)
My favorite numbers have always been duets, or trios, where the vocalists are singing at counterpoint to each other…The trio in Gounod’s “Faust” being one of the most explosive examples from Opera, or “The Point of No Return” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, another (which was heavily influenced by “Faust”.) One of my all-time favorite theatrical duets is “Lily’s Eyes” from “The Secret Garden”, an amazing musical from the early ’90s based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel of the same name.
(Note: I could write a whole separate post on the book, “The Secret Garden”, as it is one of my all-time favorite children’s books. Sufficed to say that if you haven’t read it you should, especially if you’re a parent…I know if I were this is one of the books I’d be reading to my kids.)
The book is mostly about the children in the story, but the musical departs somewhat from the book in playing up the rivalry between two brothers, Archibald and Neville Craven. The Cravens (an ironic choice of family name) were both in love with the same woman, Lily, Archibald’s late wife. When Archibald’s recently-orphaned niece, Mary Lennox, the daughter of Lily’s sister, comes to live with them, her resemblance to her aunt re-awakens feelings in both men. “The girl has Lily’s hazel eyes…”
I’ve posted a link to the 1991 Tony performance by cast members of the show, which is a quick musical digest of the show’s high points, but below is a YouTube recording of the entire duet, brilliantly performed by Mandy Patinkin, as the tortured Archibald Craven, and Robert Westenberg as his scheming brother, Dr. Neville Craven:
Powerful. Amazing…The contrast between Patinkin’s lyrical tenor and Westenberg’s raw fire just blows me away. Again, it’s the human voice; You just can’t get that kind of power and passion from any other instrument.
So now you’re wondering, okay…Great stuff. Always nice to hear a good tune from an (somewhat) obscure Broadway show, but why are you blogging today about a musical from 1990?
I’ve been listening to the soundtrack from this show all weekend, prompted by a visit last Friday to see the 30MM (30 Minute Musicals) version of “Hook” in Los Angeles.
“Wait, what?, you’re saying. “A 30-minute musical version of an awful Spielberg film…What has that got to do with…?”
Okay…Alright. Let me ‘plain already.
One of the stars of this ‘Hook’ parody is Daisy Eagan, the actress who played Mary Lennox in the original Broadway cast of “The Secret Garden”, and who, at the ripe old age of 11 (there’s got to be a Spinal Tap joke in here somewhere) won the 1991 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance. The kid blew the friggin’ house apart in that show with a voice that was so powerful for a kid her age that you could say it truly went to 11 (Spinal Tap reference delivered, you’re welcome.) What made this all the more amazing was that this powerhouse voice came out of a tiny little person who was, most likely, barely four-foot tall at the time. So, yeah, memorable.
The recollection made her role as ‘Tink’ in ‘Hook’ just a bit (deliciously) ironic…And she was fucking hilarious. (Fun show, great cast, including Tom Lenk from “Buffy” and “Much Ado”.)
But enough about pint-sized child stars, and on to seeing stars…
You run into a lot of celebrities living in Los Angeles…Most of the time you (especially if you’re in the business) just pretend not to notice and let them do their thing…It’s just, you know, courtesy. I’ve had some funny shit happen with celeb sightings, like the time I was sitting in a movie theater and heard the voice of Buffy’s former High School Principal, Bob Flutie (Ken Lerner) coming from the seat behind me…He just kept talking, and I just kept thinking about how the character was eaten by a pack of were-hyenas and how Oz (Seth Green) was feeling so kinda’ full at the end of the episode. Good times.
Another time I had a close encounter that was truly epic (and I don’t mean “epic” in the usual, over-used-in-every-other-tweet-you-see sense. This was the real deal)…At the same movie theater where I ran into the former Principal.
The theater is in a shopping mall, and is on the same floor as a popular gym. It’s in the middle of an area of L.A. where a lot of Industry people live, and you never know who you’re going to run into there. One day I was going up the escalator to see a movie, when I heard this lilting, lyrical, tenor voice singing and doing warbling trills…I thought someone had a boom box, or something, but no…Wait, no it couldn’t be…But it was. On the downward escalator, wearing earbuds and singing along to his Walkman, was none other than Mandy Patinkin. Day made. Story of a lifetime…In fact that’s why I’m writing it here.
Again, it was totally epic, in a “Yeah, I’m a total Musical Theater Nerd” kind-of-way, and just another totally random, epic, L.A. moment.
Oh, and I forgot to mention…Mandy Patinkin is one of my all-time favorite Broadway tenors. He is always brilliant, but “The Secret Garden” is my favorite Patinkin musical, along with “Sunday in The Park with George.” So yeah, even more epicer (yes, that is a word now. If ‘hella’ can be a word, so can epicer.)
So now that I’ve tied together musicals, duets, “The Secret Garden”, Daisy Eagan, 30MM, Spinal Tape, Mandy Patinkin, and Los Angeles, in a way that borders on being coherent, my work is done here. I’m off to make another cup of coffee and start packing…I’ve got a life to move.