STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: Fall Follies

STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: Fall Follies Some thoughts on the world of theatre this fall:
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Some thoughts on the world of theatre this fall:

Why all this consternation about “ER” going live? Isn’t that what our shows do up to eight times a week, up to 52 weeks a year?

Which “Maria” do you prefer -- Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, or Bernstein and Sondheim’s?

So, my out-of-town friends say, “You write about New Jersey theater for a living So who’s going to be in Follies at Paper Mill in April?” Answer: Darned if I know. They won’t even tell me the rumors. They know I’ve got a big mouth.

Will you ever, for the life of you, understand why Alan Jay Lerner, for the movie version of Clear Day, changed the final couplet in “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here!” from “Push up, azalea! Don’t be a fail-ya!” to the far less interesting “Come give at least a/ preview of East-a.”? Which “Our Children” do you prefer -- Strouse and Adams’ from All-American or Ahrens and Flaherty’s from Ragtime?

Have you noticed the new “plastics” shining on the marquee of The Times Square Church? The former Mark Hellinger, the home of My Fair Lady that closed in 1989 with Legs Diamond, has put in something more theatrical, one lit-from-behind. It looks more like a Broadway marquee than it has since that fateful Sunday in 1989 when Legs Diamond closed the place. But don’t you think that having a more theatrical marquee makes the loss of the place all that more severe?

Unless ... someone wrote a musical called, Times Square Church? I’m not sure if I’m kidding or not. But if there were a first-class Broadway musical that eight times a week preached the philosophies of the Church in song and dance, we’d at least still be seeing the place used as a legit house. Remember -- I’m not sure if I’m kidding or not.

Which “Next” do you prefer -- Sondheim’s from Pacific Overtures, or Jacques Brel’s from Jacques Brel?

Don’t you think it’s time for Miss Saigon to use a new quote in its advertising campaign? Newsweek’s quip that “This show is already a legend” made sense when the show first opened, but now that the show is over eight years old, it’s had enough time to become a legend.

Have you read Karin Kasdin’s new book, “Oh, Boy, Oh, Boy, Oh, Boy!” subtitled “Confronting Motherhood, Womanhood, & Selfhood in a Household of Boys”? She describes what it was like to take her sons to The Secret Garden. About her older boy Dan. “Under his breath, he found every word in the English language that rhymes with boring ... In sotto voce he asked what he had done to be punished this way, and if he promised to stop doing it, would I promise to keep him away from Broadway forever?”

With Titanic so successful, are we more likely -- or less -- to get a revival of The Unsinkable Molly Brown?

Which “Tomorrow” do you prefer -- Strouse and Charnin’s from Annie or Newley and Bricusse’s from The Gold Old Bad Old Days? Or do you think that Arlen and Harburg’s “T’morra, T’morra” is twice as good as either of them?

Don’t you wish that the Winnipeg Jets hockey team had stayed in that town, and hadn’t moved to Arizona and become the Phoenix Coyotes? For when the Winnipeg team used to play the San Jose Sharks, it was the Jets against the Sharks.

Have you heard that movie producer Alan Ladd, Jr. shelved his remake of The Night of the Hunter “because we couldn’t find anyone to do justice to the part” that Robert Mitchum filmed in 1955? Too bad he didn’t see Martin Vidnovic play the role in Claibe Richardson and Stephen Cole’s musical adaptation at the Vineyard two years ago. Riveting in both story and song. Call him in, Mr. Ladd.

Which “I Love You” do you prefer? Archer and Thompson’s in 1923’s Little Jessie James? Cole Porter’s in 1944’s Mexican Hayride? Wright and Forrest’s in 1944’s Song of Norway? Coleman and Leigh’s in 1962’s Little Me?

Does anyone know when the telephone first entered the plot of a play? I thought of that while watching Tell-Tale, the hilarious hoot at the Cherry Lane. It’s the first show I’ve seen in which a plot turns not only on the use of “Redial,” but also on “*-6-9” to retrieve the party who last called.

Shall we take a moment to thank the telephone for all it’s done to help playwrights deliver the exposition at the start their plays? Or should we condemn it for making dramatists lazy? What a cheap ‘n’ easy way to get out what we need to know, huh? Actually, Thornton Wilder got good humor out of the convention at the beginning of The Skin of Our Teeth. So did Tom Stoppard in The Real Inspector Hound. When the ‘71 revival of No, No, Nanette’s began with the maid’s entering to answer the telephone, librettist Bert Shevelove was letting us know it was going to be that kind of night, and let’s not worry about it.

Which was the first to use an answering machine to deliver the expo? Which was the first to use a busy signal as a plot device (No, I don’t mean Company. That’s something different and wonderful.)

Oh -- and when you see Tell-Tale, don’t get nervous when the cheesecloth covering every square inch of the proscenium isn’t removed during the first scene. They remove it before the second one starts. Though I once did see a show in Cheltenham, PA, in which that cheesecloth covering every square inch of the proscenium was never removed. Never. The play took place during the bubonic plague years. The director wanted to convey the sense of what it was like to go around bundled up and alienated from everyone. Still made it awful hard to see anything, though.

-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey drama critic of the Star Ledger
You can e-mail him at Pfilichia@aol.com