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A Letter to Santa Claus

Filichia writes to jolly old Saint Nick and suggests who needs what this Christmas. logo
Here we are, with many fewer than 12 days to Christmas, without plenty of time to do our Christmas shopping. Even if you haven't started yet, I'm not worried about you; comparatively speaking, you don't have all that many people for whom you'll need to get gifts. But what about poor Santa Claus? Is he on schedule to finish his work by the weekend? Could it be that he's stymied as to what to get some people? If so, Santa, I have a few suggestions.

To the lyricists of Bingo, Santa, please bring a rhyming dictionary. In 44 years of seeing musicals, I've never experienced a show so woeful in the craft of rhymes. I'd quote some of them, but they're so awful that you just wouldn't believe me, and I don't want to upset you before your long trip.

While we're on books, please bring a new one to Tommy Femia; the one he has now in A Very Bette Christmas isn't worthy of his talents. Femia made his reputation by imitating Judy Garland (brilliantly) and is now just as accomplished as Davis -- sucking on a cigarette, half-closing his eye in ire, then furiously blowing out smoke from the corner of his mouth. You may remember, Santa, that The Boys in the Band had a line, "What's more boring than a queen doing a Judy Garland imitation?" and the rejoinder, "A queen doing a Bette Davis imitation." Femia easily debunks this, even though Elizabeth Fuller's script is never witty and rarely funny.

I hear that the new Muhammad Ali museum makes no reference to his starring in the 1969 Broadway musical Buck White, so do bring the curators a window card and a program. Let's remind everyone of Ali's seven-performance contribution to musical theater history.

In a way, Judy Kaye has already received her Christmas present in the guise of Donald Corren, who's now accompanist to her Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir. Corren is wonderfully endearing as the closeted gay pianist who's known his share of suffering and won't inflict any on his tone-deaf employer. Since it has been announced that the show will close on January 8, Santa, could you at least soften the blow by bringing either or both of them a Tony nomination in advance of the spring? (By the way, while I have you here, let me ask: Do you think Kaye will be nominated as Best Actress in a play or in a musical? In a manner of speaking, the show is a musical. Hey, she's so impressive that I'm almost inclined to give her a nod in both categories.)

Those planning cabaret acts should be given a conference with Milla Ilieva. Too many singers choose material that's been done to the death, but for her new show, the fetching Ilieva found some songs that you rarely or never get to hear: "The Only Game in Town" (cut from The Act), "I'd Rather Wake up by Myself " (By the Beautiful Sea), "What a Night This Is Going to Be" (Baker Street), "When Does the Ravishing Begin?" (Lock up Your Daughters), and "Where's That Rainbow?" (Peggy-Ann). She did them all very well, too. Then Ilieva sang "Half a Moment" from Jeeves -- not the version from By Jeeves, which has a different B-section, but the one from Jeeves, the 1974 London show that predated it. Why did Andrew Lloyd Webber change the B-section when the show finally came to Broadway in 2001? Because, by then, he'd already recycled that B-section into "As If We Never Said Goodbye" in Sunset Boulevard. Thanks to Ilieva for reminding us of that.

Speaking of Lloyd Webber, Santa, would you please bring him the gift of melody? You and I remember when his scores had plenty of good songs. You once brought him that gift, but I guess he returned it. In The Woman in White, he's written mostly recitative and just a few songs. The ones that are supposed to be hits aren't; they don't even sound like songs he cut from other shows but, rather, like sketches of songs that he wouldn't have even allowed for his Sydmonton tryouts.

And for me, Santa? Well, I don't need much, but how about the third act of Seascape? When I saw Mark Lamos's excellent revival at the Booth, I was enjoying Act II right up to the point where the human named Nancy told the two lizards, "We could help you," and the male reptile Leslie answered, "All right: Begin" -- followed by a blackout and then the curtain calls. I felt as if the play still had somewhere to go. When I got home and decided to read up on it, I was fascinated to note in Edward Albee, Gerry McCarthy's study of the playwright, that Albee in fact did write a third act -- one where the humans go under the sea and see how the other half of the cast lives. Existence down there isn't easy, for everyone gets into a fight with an octopus and one character dies. McCarthy tells us which one, but I won't pass on this information to my readers -- just in case Santa decides to bring them the third act instead of me.

If he does, I have another request, one that takes us back to Ilieva's cabaret act. Composer Jacques Urbont was in the audience because Ilieva was doing "I Found Him," a sprightly song from All in Love, his 1961Off-Broadway musical version of The Rivals. I took the opportunity to ask him a question that's been haunting me for years. In The Best Plays of 1961-62, it says that the then-unknown Jonathan Tunick orchestrated All in Love, but the original cast album doesn't credit an orchestrator at all. What gives? "Jonathan did orchestrate the show," said Urbont, "but we weren't able to use his work because, in the small house we were in, we couldn't have as many musicians as needed." As someone who's been hankering for a CD release of All in Love for two decades, I'd love a new recording with Tunick's orchestrations. Well, Santa?


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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