Andrew Lippa
Andrew Lippa
So my co-worker Valerie Sudol, who heads the Home and Garden section of the Star-Ledger, turned to me and said: "E-mail! Always more e-mail! Haven't you come to hate e-mail?" And I had to say that no, I don't. Maybe people who care about theater are more interesting correspondents than those who groove on mulch.

Granted, some of my e-mails are little more than public service announcements. Such as the one from Musical Theatre Works announcing its Songwriting Workshop, which will be headed by composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa. It meets for four consecutive Thursdays from May 6 through 27 at MTW's Studio Theatre. According to the release, "The emphasis of this workshop will be on the evaluation of your existing work, as well as focused question-and-answer sessions dealing with practical issues for songwriters today. Space is limited and participants will be accepted by application only. Apply no later than April 16. Tuition is $300, payable in full upon acceptance."

Sounds like a good deal to me. Andrew Lippa is, after all, the bookwriter, composer, and lyricist of the Off-Broadway Wild Party, which won the 2000 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and was nominated for 13 Drama Desk Awards including Best New Musical. He also wrote the song "My New Philosophy" for You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, which helped win a Tony for Kristin Chenoweth. So budding musical theater writers would be well advised to call 212-677-0040, ext. 304 or to visit www.mtwnyc.org/songwriting.html.

True, not every e-mail I get is happy-go-lucky. "Lublinstas" noted that, "Having danced Jerome Robbins' original choreography during the recent 2000-02 national tour, the prior 1994-96 tour, and for a total of over 1,000 performances, I can confidently state that the choreography onstage in the current Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof is not Robbins's intended work. Much of the choreography has extracted elements of the original but has been severely bastardized and altered by Jonathan Butterell. I saw with the first bottle dancer that his hat was already creased. One does not crease the hat in order to get a clean placement. Then he maneuvered the bottle to find a place. Robbins had instructed to place the bottle, take your hands off, and hope it was placed correctly. All the additional bottle dancers entered the dance with the bottles already on their heads. We always did this in full view of the audience. At the dance's conclusion, we dipped our heads and the bottle fell off and into an extended hand. These dancers reach up and take the bottle off. We used Korbel champagne bottles, which were slightly more bottom-heavy than others." I have to admit that, the moment the current crop of dancers placed their bottles in veritable canyons in their hats, similar thoughts occurred to me. So, reluctantly, I have to agree with "Lublinstas."

Then John Miller wrote to say, "I'm an actor who, in 1995, was on stage with Clayton Grissom, (now known as American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken) in a production of Oklahoma! at Leesville High School." Miller doesn't say which state this Leesville is in, but he does have more info: "Well, apparently, that entire high school production was not only illegally videotaped but is also now being sold by someone on eBay for upwards of $200 each time. I have contacted the Rodgers & Hammerstein people and registered a couple complaints with eBay. So far, the auction is still there." We'll see what happens now that Miller has blown the whistle. But isn't it fascinating that an American Idol runner-up should command such a price?

Some of the e-mails I receive are downright endearing. Scott Cain wrote to say that he and his wife Janet noticed an audition notice for a community theater production of Baby that was looking for a newborn. "The show is running May 20-23," he wrote, "and our baby Elizabeth is due on May 3. Add to this my love for Baby and we both we figured, why not? So, our yet-to-be-born baby Elizabeth has already been cast in a musical."

Some readers look for guidance. Frank Soldo wrote and requested that I make a must-read theater book list. "I would be most appreciative because there are plenty of great books that I have heard about but have not picked up yet, like Dance With Demons, The Longest Line, and Not Since Carrie."

All good choices, Frank, but I'll tell you my top 10 in order of preference: 1) The Season by William Goldman; 2) An Obsession with Anne Frank by Lawrence Graver; 3) every book by Ethan Mordden; 4) Act One by Moss Hart; 5) Ghost Light by Frank Rich; 6) The Making of "No, No Nanette" by Don Dunn; 7) The Brothers Shubert by Jerry Stagg; 8) On the Street Where I Live by Alan Jay Lerner; 9) Everything Was Possible by Ted Chapin; and 10) Exit through the Fireplace by Kate Dunn. Wait! I've got to add A Chorus Line and the Musicals of Michael Bennett by Ken Mandelbaum. Wait again! How aboutSeasons of Discontent by Robert Brustein? Oh, I can't even limit my list to a dozen. But read those and come back to me when you're done. I'll have plenty more.

Ed Weissman taught me a few things about the coluimn that I wrote recently asking if Tuesdays were super days for shows to open. Wrote he, "Until the depression, the work week, especially for banks and financial institutions, consisted of full days on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays with half-days on Wednesdays and Saturdays --hence the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Thursday was the maid's day off, so shows with appeal to the working class had Thursday matinees. Tuesday was a good day to open as there was a preview the night before and not a dark day. (Sunday performances really didn't start until the depression and didn't really catch on until the '60s.) Wednesday openings meant you'd lose the matinee. Thursdays were good, too. Until the '70s, many shows opened on Saturday nights with reviews on Monday. Friday was flop day except for the original Guys and Dolls, which opened the day after Thanksgiving. Tuesdays also became more popular as shows coming in from out of town wanted more previews than the one or two prior to a Thursday opening; so they'd close out of town on a Saturday, play almost a full week of previews, and then open on the following Tuesday. Finally, given what was then the production schedule of The New York Times, a Tuesday opening meant Wednesdays reviews and enough time to get a quote ad in that weekend's Sunday Times.

Mary Ellen Kelly had something to say about Super Tuesdays, too. "The first three hits you name -- The Boomerang, The Gold Diggers, and Kiki -- were all produced and directed by David Belasco, who preferred, if possible, to open his new productions in New York on Tuesdays." She then went on to list 11 more including his swan song, ominously titled Tonight or Never, which opened on Tuesday, November 18, 1930.

So many readers are so observant! Bill Curtis: "During the film-clip tribute to Katharine Hepburn at the Academy Awards, I started to make musical connections with some of her films -- maybe because my sister had just given me the CD of Do I Hear a Waltz? as a birthday gift and that's what I thought of when I saw the Summertime sequence. I realized that at least seven of her movies became musicals, for in addition to that one there was Holiday (Happy New Year), The Philadelphia Story (High Society), Woman of the Year (Woman of the Year), The Rainmaker (110 in the Shade), and The Madwoman of Chaillot (Dear World). And there may be an eighth, if Little Women comes to Broadway."

Curtis also noted that Madwoman and Summertime were also once plays (the latter was called The Time of the Cuckoo on Broadway), and those were hardly the only Hepburn movies based on plays. He counted 19 others! Can anyone out there find more? I certainly won't mind if you e-mail me.

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[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at pfilichia@aol.com]