STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: December Divertissements

STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: December Divertissements Celebrate the 38th anniversary of Camelot's opening (on December 3, 1960) by listening to the sharper-sounding new Sony release. Of course, if you do, you might spot something I couldn't help noticing. Isn't it odd that Alan Jay Lerner, who wrote that "the way to handle a woman is to love her, simply love her, merely love her" might not have been giving us the right information -- given that he was married eight times?

Celebrate the 38th anniversary of Camelot's opening (on December 3, 1960) by listening to the sharper-sounding new Sony release. Of course, if you do, you might spot something I couldn't help noticing. Isn't it odd that Alan Jay Lerner, who wrote that "the way to handle a woman is to love her, simply love her, merely love her" might not have been giving us the right information -- given that he was married eight times?

I then decided to have a mini-Lerner festival. While listening to On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, I remembered that when the show opened 33 years ago, I laughed at stodgy ol' Warren, who urged his fiancee to "wait till we're 65," and listed all the assets of planning ahead: "Guaranteed income, house with a view, doctors and nurses, surgery too, everything paid for." But now that I'm 33 years closer to 65, I think the guy had a point.

Then onto Brigadoon. And that had me wondering: Does a cast of a Brigadoon production ever dare to say the word backstage, or do they simply refer to the show as "The Scottish musical"?

With Peter Pan back in town, I couldn't help thinking about Mr. Darling. Do you think that in between fathering Wendy, Michael, and John, he made a side-trip to Greece where he sired an illegitimate daughter named Illya?

As The Fantasticks approaches its 16,000th performance on Dec. 18 -- have you ever noticed that that "little" off-Broadway musical has a bigger cast than Ain't Misbehavin', Shakespeare's Cabaret, Falsettos, A Grand Night for Singing -- all of which either won or were nominated for Best Musical Tonys? As we approach the 41st anniversary of The Music Man (on Dec. 19) -- Don't you think it'd be great if, once Harold Hill has been exposed and the townspeople are just thrilled to see their kids playing (albeit badly), Marian very calmly said, "Uh, folks, if you really want to learn music, you only have to come to me."?

Have you heard what Scott Bakula is doing next? He's been signed for a movie called Mean Streak, about a baseball player who's challenging Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak -- and who's being stalked by someone who plans to prevent him from breaking the record. This will be Bakula's second project in which DiMaggio played an important part. The first, of course, was back in 1983, when he was starting out, and actually played the Yankee legend in Marilyn: An American Fable. (And speaking of Bakula's Broadway background -- Did you ever see the episode of "Quantum Leap" that deals with Man of La Mancha? I swear it exists. After Michelle Pawk sings a song from the score, John Cullum, playing the director, exudes, "Not since Joan Diener have I heard it done so well!")

Have you seen the new book, "Raw Deal," by Ken Smith from Blast Books? It's subtitled "22 Horrible and Ironic Stories of Forgotten Americans." Two aren't so forgotten to the stagestruck: Floyd Collins, thanks to Tina Landau and Adam Guettel's musical, and Leo Frank, the subject of Parade. But I can think of some others who got raw deals: Weidman, Maltby and Shire in 1996; Ashman and Hamlisch in 1986.

You won't see him in the current revival, but did you know that Patrick Dennis was originally a character in Little Me? He took the dictation that Belle Poitrine so happily dispensed for her forthcoming book. What's interesting is that Dennis, who inspired another memorable Broadway musical with his Auntie Mame, was a character in that one, too.

Do you suspect that Rick Besoyan, author of Little Mary Sunshine, cribbed some lyrics from the "There's No Business Like Show Business" movie when writing his operetta parody? In the picture, when Donald O'Connor is coming on to Marilyn Monroe, he describes himself as "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent." Five years later, when Besoyan wrote his "Forest Rangers" song to open the show, he had each of the Canadian Rockies describe himself as "thoughtful, friendly, courteous, and kind; he's reverent and grave; he's healthy and he's brave; he's clean in soul and body and mind; he's cheerful, honest, thrifty, and obedient." Too close for comfort?

Do you realize that for all the talk about the British musical's dependence on chandeliers, helicopters, and floating mansions, an American musical, Here's Where I Belong in 1968, originally opened with a genuine street sweeper coming on stage? (The chorus was singing that there'd be some sweeping changes around here.) The song was dropped in Philadelphia, so Broadway's opening night audience -- which was also its closing night audience -- didn't see it. (Note to those who get easily discouraged: Two of the three writers on that one-performance flop were Terrence McNally and Alfred Uhry.

How many Playbills do you have from I Remember Mama's Majestic Theater run? The one with the sepia cameo on white background of Mama holding a daughter? The one with the black-and-white cameo on sepia background of Mama holding the same daughter? The one with the black and-white cameo on black-and-white background of Mama still holding that same daughter? Or the one with the smiling picture of Liv Ullmann? Miraculously, the one of Ms. Ullmann smiling is the last of the four, after the show had played a peck of painful previews and an arduous out-of town run. And has any show that played only 148 times in New York had so many different Playbill covers?

My favorite arcane cast album? When I was in Australia, I discovered that MCA there released some double-length cassettes in a series called "Two Shows -- One Ticket," and did my eyes bulge when I saw that Wonderful Town had been paired with Your Arms Too Short to Box with God. It wasn't until I saw Bloomer Girl backed with The Boy Friend and Call Me Madam with Carousel that I understood; if you bought every cassette in the series, you could alphabetically arrange them on your shelf. Nevertheless, it's a little disconcerting to see printed-in white on the front of the cassette that the last two cuts on Side One are "Wrong Note Rag" and "Beatitudes." They had to add Your Arms' opening number on that side, because its cast album was a little longer than Wonderful Town's. And you know, it felt longer when I played the entire cassette?

Peter Filichia is the New Jersey theatre critic for the Star-Ledger. You may E-mail him at Pfilichia@aol.com