Monday, March 30, 2015

Son of ''23 Revue"

As I've noted elsewhere, I've finished my revue of popular American music from 1905 to 1923.  I emailed a friend today to see if she'd like to read through and listen to it.

Dear Ms. A:

Since you have been connected with countless hit musicals (among them "Angels in America: The All Day All Night Musical," "The Cripple of Innishman: The Musical [choreographed, if I recall correctly, by St. Vitus himself], "Doubt: The Gregorian Musical," "Lips Together, Teeth Apart Cha Cha Cha," "Anne Frank: A Musical Tragedy," "The Perfect Ganesh: A Tuskan Musical," "Who's Afraid of Stephen Sondheim?" and the adaptation of Albee's two one-acts, "The Box of Sand and Me" and "The Roaring Zoo Story," to name a few), I was wondering if you would mind reading through my first endeavor at revue writing.  "'23 Revue" is a celebration (or at least a presentation) of music from 1905 to 1923, currently the last year for music being in the public domain so I don't have to pay anything, a necessary consideration.

Obviously, "'23 Revue" is a play on the witty catchphrase "23 Skidoo," which, according to Wikipedia, the world's most infallible information source, was an "American slang phrase popularized during the early 20th century. It generally refers to leaving quickly, being forced to leave quickly by someone else, or taking advantage of a propitious opportunity to leave, that is, 'getting [out] while the getting's good.' The exact origin of the phrase is uncertain."  The title of the revue may also refer to the hasty retreat from the Levittown, NJ Bijou, where the revue was first staged, as well as The Orange Bagel, a cabaret/coffeehouse in Soggy Bottom, MD where our second performance fared no better.  I'm not sure what either audience found distasteful, as we had to leave before we could collect the comments cards.

With this ominous puzzle hanging heavily overhead, I was wondering if I could burden you with reading/listening to it and offering your comments.  I've made two CDs, one for each act.  The sound card my music program records on sounds like various flying insects, but they are true to beat, melody, and pitch.  Because you probably wouldn't recognize much of the music (or guess what it was from the various buzzings), I have a lyric book.  If you'd rather, I have the full orchestration.  The two CDs work with that, too, only the lyrics are smaller.  The revue itself lasts approximately two hours and twenty minutes, if one honors the suggested 15 minute interval.  I say approximately because we were unable to successfully finish either the Bijou or Orange Bagel performance.

If you care to waste an evening, I can drop off the CDs and lyric book or full score at [a certain theater] Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays around 4.  If you prefer, and if you don't mind being in a homosexualist environment, you could pick up the materials Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays at the LGBT Center, opposite a really nice, well tended vacant lot.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

David Walker

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"23 Revue" Reaches First Plateau

After dinner this evening, I opened a fortune cookie.  "Take the first step today."  As it happens, I did.  I've got "23 Revue" to the point that it could, if anyone had the bucks to throw away, be ready for a workshop.  Last week I finished the lyric book and today I saw the first act orchestrations on paper.   I've seen my choral arrangements printed out.  I've hardly ever done orchestrations, never had them printed out, and today I saw the first 360 pages of the 702 page score.  It's on 8-1/2 by 11 and clearly needs to be on bigger paper, but it's there and it's just flipping amazing to see.  I've recorded the show from my computer and the revue times out to 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The title comes from the most recent year for almost all music to be in the public domain. That's rags, George Cohan's music, Jerome Kern's "Princess Theater" music, songs for the Great War, lamenting prohibition, some excellent song-and-dance numbers, and blues.  This is music I love, and I didn't have to pay for the right to use it.

"23 Revue" (23 skiddoo sound alike) is now the biggest thing I've done.  I've written two novels and several documentary scripts, but they didn't take 2+ years to do.  First I arranged the sheet music for a better sounding piano.  Then I scored it for a 17- to 20-piece pit band and for solo voice, duet, up to a full 12- or 16-voice ensemble.  I arranged the dance breaks.  And while I've been making "23 Revue" grow for the last two years, today I saw the hard copy.  The lyric book (script) was one thing, but it also looks like a book of poetry.  Today I saw the notes, those black marks on the page that bring the songs to life.  Somehow that made it real.

There are still things to be done.  I've changed some of the lyrics to try to make them not be be offensive, but I'm white and I don't know what would be considered offensive to people of color, aside from the really obvious.  I want to use "Darktown Strutter's Ball," for example, but I don't know what ought to be changed and re-worded, and the same goes for other songs.  And how do I ask people if the words are offensive or troubling without sounding like the whitest guy in the world?

I know I'll never hear it beyond the strange electronic sounds from the computer.  I never expected it to see the light of a stage.  Now, however, I can follow the score away from the computer, turn pages, feel it and hear it.  So, yeah...the culmination of more than 2 years' work turns into taking the first step.

If this were The Producers, it's where Max would tell Leo that Max is now going into "Little Old Lady Land."  It's not, it won't happen, but what a feeling of accomplishment!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Lots of movies deserve second viewings.  My list of them is long.  "Steel Magnolias" is one of them.  "The Birds" is another, as are "The Maltese Falcon," "42nd Street," "East of Eden," "The Pawnbroker," "The Producers," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and others.  I like to take them off the shelf from time to time and appreciate them once again.

Gay movies are in this arena, too.  "Big Eden," "Latter Days," "Broken Hearts Club," "Torch Song Trilogy," "Breakfast with Scot," "The Big Gay Musical," and so on are movies that deserve an annual view.

Other movies I'm unapologetically addicted to.  I never tire of watching "Casablanca," "Psycho," "Singing in the Rain," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Mysterious Skin," and a few others.  I'm addicted to both the book and movie version of "The Help."  There is a perfection about these and some other movies, a uniqueness in the storytelling or presentation.

"Cloudburst" joined the group last year.  Two old lesbians in Maine take off for Canada to get married, and they pick up a drool-worthy young dancer along the way.  I've watched it any number of times and it has yet to get tired.

They are like favorite rides in an amusement park.  You've been on it before, loved it, and even though you know every hill on the roller coaster or how to make the car spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl, you don't get tired of it.  The ride starts and you relax and enjoy it.

And now "Pride," based on the true story of a small group of lesbians and gay men who raised money for striking miners during Thatcher's reign of terror.  It's a joy to watch and a treat to see several generations of British actors work together.  I am constantly touched by the humanity shown by the characters, how the small town miners learn to accept, respect, even love the gays and lesbians from London.  The gays and lesbians also grow and mature and come to grips with themselves and the miners.  Imagine a young miner asking a gay man to teach him to dance because he wants to be "a woman magnet."  And I have yet to watch the scene with "Bread and Roses" without needing a tissue.

Such a loving, inclusive, powerful movie...sold, at least in the US...with no mention of "gay" or "lesbian" in the blurb on the DVD cover and a Photoshopped picture that took out the "Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners" banner behind the marchers.  You want to be Dai, you want to emulate Sian, but to do that you have to buy a cover that Maureen would approve of.  "'Pride' is inspired by an extraordinary true story," but the copy doesn't tell us why.  "A group of London-based activists" is as close as it comes to indicating the dichotomy.

One young man returns to his mother without knowing if she has changed her mind about gays; another leaves home having encountered his parents' bigotry.  One of the Welsh women is happy to meet the group because "I do have some questions about the lesbians."  An older miner finally comes out to a woman friend.  The Welsh women (and a few men) want to see London's gay nightlife.  The lesbians and gays come to understand and love the people for whom they raise money.

Selling points that Sony chose to ignore.  They don't make the movie seem bland, but they are less-than-honest in terms of what it is.