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Here’s to the ladies who lunch – everybody laugh

"Ladies Who Lunch" used to mean the idle spouses of financially successful husbands, as one New Yorker cartoonist fondly dubbed them, his Grand Dames, until Broadway in the mid-seventies where Stephen Sondheim subverted the idiom for Elaine Stritch's COMPANY showstopper which exploded the pretense of the ladies' self-serving philanthropy. Forty years on, out in the provinces, the expression adorns a Colorado Springs radio show on what is an otherwise erudite classical music station, at lunchtime, for ladies. Cultural illiterates too, probably. Imagine thinking that Titanic means big like Titan, absent the hubris. My neighbors could happily move back to the farm after they'd seen Paree, wondering what idiot decreed "you can't go home again." Here are the lyrics since you missed them. Here's to the ladies who lunch By Stephen Sondheim Here's to the ladies who lunch-- Everybody laugh. Lounging in their caftans And planning a brunch On their own behalf. Off to the gym, Then to a fitting, Claiming they're fat. And looking grim, 'Cause they've been sitting Choosing a hat. Does anyone still wear a hat? I'll drink to that. And here's to the girls who play smart-- Aren't they a gas? Rushing to their classes In optical art, Wishing it would pass. Another long exhausting day, Another thousand dollars, A matinee, a Pinter play, Perhaps a piece of Mahler's. I'll drink to that. And one for Mahler! And here's to the girls who play wife-- Aren't they too much? Keeping house but clutching A copy of LIFE, Just to keep in touch. The ones who follow the rules, And meet themselves at the schools, Too busy to know that they're fools. Aren't they a gem? I'll drink to them! Let's all drink to them! And here's to the girls who just watch-- Aren't they the best? When they get depressed, It's a bottle of Scotch, Plus a little jest. Another chance to disapprove, Another brilliant zinger, Another reason not to move, Another vodka stinger. Aaaahhhhhh! I'll drink to that. So here's to the girls on the go-- Everybody tries. Look into their eyes, And you'll see what they know: Everybody dies. A toast to that invincible bunch, The dinosaurs surviving the crunch. Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch-- Everybody rise! Rise!

It Was Always, Always You

My maternal grandparents had a favorite song, their song, Irving Berlin's sentimental Always. With "always" capping every line and recurring as a chorus echo, the verbal chime quickly packed a saccharine wallop if it wasn't you celebrating your 50th or 60th anniversary. I've chanced upon another lyric of the stage era that may have Berlin beat by ardor and iteration: Bob Merrill's "It Was Always You" (also known as "Always Always You") from the 1961 musical Carnival. I could find scant trace online, so I'll transcribe the song here. Weighed by syllable, it's 25% alwayses: It was always, always you, Always, always you. Though my eyes may wander To and fro and yonder, Still my heart's affection Always beats in your direction. Every beat for you, My Sweet, All the love my beating heart can brew. It shocks me so, you didn't know That it was always you. Always, always, always, Always, always you. Her reprise: It was always, always you, Always, always you. You would cheat your mother, In your heart a thief, Dear. Still I want no other Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, Dear. Life is strange, a man can change, Though years could find me basking in the sun. But all the same, I'll dress for rain… (melody carries line unspoken) Always, always, always, Always, always you. Though CARNIVAL may have sunk into obscurity, its theme song became the pop standard "Love Makes the World Go 'Round" --not such a surprise if you consider that Merrill also penned "How Much is That Doggy in the Window." You'd also recognize "[Everywhere I Look I Can See] Her Face" now a lounge classic. In performance, this is where the bitter puppeteer Paul realizes he loves the orphan Lili. This number was also reprised in duet where angst is given foil with Lili's "I Hate Him" sung in obbligato. If I'm giving CARNIVAL its due now, there's an entire ode I'd like to write about the spot-on "A Very Nice Man" where Lili's unguarded extemporaneous praise of the traveling bric-a-brac shop cannot conceal its shabbiness. Sample lyric: What a very nice pitcher, though the handle is off, But who says that a pitcher needs a handle? And so I'm compelled to accord CARNIVAL its proper context, therefore I have to confess that ALWAYS ALWAYS belongs to the secondary romantic plot, between Marco the philandering magician and his forgiving assistant Rose, the semi-comic relief to the show's center ring. CARNIVAL reconciled its main characters' darker problems, which would probably not confound today's Codependent No More audiences. With audiences wised-up, and CARNIVAL's stage melodies like "She's My Love" fading to obscurity, it feels like Paul's nearly lost love, a fiction except in our hearts, slips through his fingers minus the happy/unhappy ever after, when the curtain comes down forever. She is soft, she is fair, she's my love. She is song, she is prayer, she's my love. Though I reach, though I try, she is braver than I And is far less of earth than she is of sky. She is moon to my night, she's my love. She is sight, sound and light, she's my love. Still the one heart I own hungers lost

Love is the Reason, with grammatical advice, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I once saw a British TV spot for Hamlet Cigars which featured an oddball posing in a photo booth, but so endearingly. For years on, when asked to smile, I affected his toothy grimace, thinking my rendition channeled but transcended his comically unbecoming turn. I channeled nothing of it, each time, I can confirm.   Now I've traced my abuse of adverbs, not to this song, but to the spirit in which Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields used THREE to frame the verses of Love is the Reason from the musical version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In this song showstopping comic Shirley Booth advises her younger sister on love, ornamenting her insight with the authority-robbing qualifiers, meant to be irrelevant. Aspire as I might to stop, HANDILY I am my parody. Love is the Reason Each line is echoed by the chorus (Parentheses indicate where reply varies) Spoken: Suppose your mother never stood in a dark vestibule with your father, they might never have had to get married. Why do you suppose they did it? It was love.   Love is the reason you was born,   Love was the gleam in Papa's eye.   People suddenly meet, People suddenly fit,   People suddenly hit, And brother, that's it! PERSONALLY Love is a kick right in the pants, Love is the aspirin you buy. If you're flappin' your fins, If you're climbin' a wall, There must be a reason for it all. (What is the reason for it?) Love is the reason for it all!   Love is a night you can't recall,   Love is that extra drink you drank.   Love's a shot in the arm, Love's a poke in the ribs,   Buyin' bottles and bibs, And fillin' up cribs. OBVIOUSLY Love is an old established trap, Ten million suckers walk the plank. If you land on your tail, Ev'ry time that you fall, There must be a reason for it all. (Who needs a reason for it?) Love is the reason for it all!   Love is a toothache in your heart,   Love is a gentlemanly pinch.   Love is stubbin' your toe, Mashed potatoes with lumps,   Wearin' very tight pumps, Or catchin' the mumps. GENERALLY Love is a blow below the belt, Love is a holdin' in a clinch. If you shut your big mouth When his relatives call, There must be a reason for it all. (Who needs a reason for it?) Always the teasin' in the hall; (Hallways are lovely for a call;) Call it the season, I say, love is the reason for it all.

Li’l Abner on the debt ceiling panic

When the satiric cartoon Li'l Abner was made a musical on Broadway, robber baron General Bullmoose sang Bring back the good old days, lamenting the regulation of capitalism, pondering: "How can you break the market?             How? The SEC will not allow             ...one little panic." Today with graft unregulated and un-policed, the American public is made to panic for every swindle, to extort from them bank bailouts, tax breaks for the rich, and now cuts to "entitlements" such as poverty class pensions and medical care. The Li'l Abner strip may not have had the legacy of Pogo, or longevity of Gasoline Alley, but it was the Doonesbury of the 30s and up to the 70s. In the introduction to From Dogpatch to Slobbovia, a little compendium of Abner scenarios, cartoonist Al Capp said this about his artistic intentions: "to create suspicion of, and disrespect for, the perfection of all established institutions. That's what I think education is. Anybody who gets out of college having had his confidence in the perfection of existing institutions affirmed has not been educated. Just suffocated." Avid fans included Queen Elizabeth, Charlie Chaplin and John Steinbeck who wrote: Capp is probably the greatest contemporary writer and my suggestion is that if the Nobel Prize committee is at all alert, they should seriously consider him." As a side note, the Broadway cast of Li'l Abner included the character Stupefyin' Jones, played by Julie Newmar aka Catwoman, and Appassionata Von Climax, played by Tina Louise, Ginger of Gilligan's Island --if you always wondered how the character Ginger could not have failed to be a real "movie star." Tina Louise began her career on Broadway in the 50s and was age thirty-something when the TV series aired. Imagine green-lighting an actress of that age today to play a sex symbol, yet Louise became as yet TV's most enduring sex symbol.

For people who hate opera

The trouble with introductory collections like "Opera for People Who Hate Opera" is of course that it's still OPERA. I'm inclined to believe the gateway acquired-taste for American pop music ears is --why not-- American Musical Theater. But before I get to the particular show I have in mind THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, for a teaser, get thee to Tevye's dream of Fiddler On The Roof. Find the original Broadway stage recording (These girls found it: The Dream) where Zero Mostel pretends to be visited by two ghosts, blending three melodies --with dances-- to a whirlwind intensity. Discordant, shrill, phenomenal, pure opera. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF: THE DREAM Really, you cannot but love the energy and drama of that piece. And it meets the lower brow halfway: it's in English, mostly, it's sung in the registers to which we are more accustomed today, and the cacophony is corralled at a driving dervish pace, also most contemporary. A Broadway convention of the golden age of musicals was the Dream Ballet scene. In Fiddler it was an opera and a ballet, but instead of a dream or a character's hallucination, this was Tevye's pretense of a nightmare, conjured to convince his wife to assent to let their oldest daughter marry the boy she loved, instead of the old man to whom she was promised. The Dream features three motifs: Grandma Tzeitel represented by the Mazel Tov refrain, with the rejoinder of Tevye and his wife Golde, overtaken by the crescendo of the butcher's deceased wife Fruma-Sarah, clearly borrowing the menace of the Wicked Witch of Oz. That's it -- you can like opera! Don't think yourself less sophisticated because lyrics in a foreign language bore you, or because sopranos or tenors strain your ears. You probably wouldn't favor centuries-ago gruel either. THE MOST HAPPY FELLA Just as maturing musical taste builds inevitably toward Jazz, I have a theory that Broadway fans eventually seek for melodies a little less pat. After not so long, the tunes you can easily whistle up the aisle begin to sound the same. Fresh ones don't solve anything. Trust me, the unsung Broadway shows which didn't recoup their production costs don't sound any better now. Great as were all the Rogers & Hammerstein hits, you have heard only half their shows and yet you've heard them all. Ironically, R&H tried their hand at an opera-like show, called ALLEGRO, I don't favor it, and neither did anyone else. What I do know is that I love THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, a comparatively obscure musical which had the misfortune of opening in the shadow of MY FAIR LADY, you remember that one in your sleep. TMHF is the acknowledged masterpiece of Frank Loesser, who had no need to prove himself after composing GUYS AND DOLLS. Great as it is, how many times can you listen to Luck Be a Lady? Being labeled an opera has meant ruin for Broadway musicals which stray from the basic musical review format. Musical Theater traditionally meant catchy tunes

Composer Jason Robert Brown wants to protect his unintellectual rights

As a musician and fan of stage musicals, I must proffer this disclaimer about American theater composer Jason Robert Brown: he's terrible. Brown is a poster child for the music industry's common mediocrity, of commerce's habitual triumph over art. Now Brown has appointed himself defender of intellectual property rights, holding that teens should not use the internet to pirate his sheet music. Of course, I can only wish him foolproof success. American musical theater saw a golden age in the 1940s, with notable glimmers of resurgence since then, in ever infrequent cycles. I don't think anyone would argue that in-between was constant dreck --to which "show tunes" owe their stigma. Defenders of Andrew Lloyd Webber will find themselves similarly unrestrained enthusiasts for popular music, popular fiction and television. To each his own slop. I have particular antipathy for contemporary composers of awfulness because they drive the inartistic music publishing industry where it does irreparable harm. School bands and theater departments are influenced to pay royalties for the performance pieces whose rights are most profitably leveraged, at the expense of older works of renown. Instead of seeding young repertoires with melodies and lyrics to enrich their memories, teachers pollute their students with forgettable claptrap, courtesy of bards like Brown. I have the same prejudice with regard to literature. Why aren't today's students reading Stevenson or Poe instead of Blume or Rowling? Of course, composer JR Brown is more on par with author RL Stine, he's that horrible. But don't take my word for it, have a listen. That said, here's Jason Robert Brown championing not just the exclusive right to sell online what his publishers hawk through their network of scholastic pushers, but he wants the same markup. If ever a commodity could change hands for its true worth, Brown's entire catalog should be ventilated for free through file sharing. Instead he's personally joining various trading websites and then emailing each and every member who appears to be trading in his goods. To paraphrase: Hello, I'm Jason Robert Brown, yes, The Jason Robert Brown, and I'd appreciate it if you stopped illegally sharing my music, since it deprives me of my rightful royalties. Brown has posted some of the ensuing email exchanges on his blog, without any mention of offering remuneration for their contributions. Most laughable, but consistent with the weakness of his music work, Brown has engaged chiefly teens in his discussion of intellectual rights. He lists one discussion in which he compares his stolen sheet music to a loaned screwdriver, a Xerox'd book, and a copied CD. Mr. Brown, might I direct you to the innumerable organizations which argue that intellectual property rights are not inalienable. They are restraints to trade, impediments to idea sharing, and diametric to elevating community wealth. You have every right to contrive a product and sell it by whatever connivance, but your monopoly ends there. Whoever were your customers should have the right to do with their purchases what they will. What right have you to tax the use of your

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