STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: Just Asking . . .

STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: Just Asking . . . "Gee, but it's good to be here! Frankly, I feel right at home!" as the Merm sang in Happy Hunting.

"Gee, but it's good to be here! Frankly, I feel right at home!" as the Merm sang in Happy Hunting.

Well, for that matter, both Ken Mandelbaum and I do, now that TheaterWeek has departed. And speaking of Ken -- don't you think he should write another book about all the flop musicals that were produced after his last book went to press? It could be called "Since Carrie."

That's just one of the questions I care to pose this week. Among the others:

  • Remember that episode of "The Odd Couple" where Tony Randall's Felix was desperately trying to convince Jack Klugman's Oscar to appear in his production of A Christmas Carol because the rest of the cast was convinced that Felix couldn't do it? Well, Mr. Randall sure showed us this holiday season [as Scrooge in a production at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden in NY] that he could, didn't he?

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  • "Did you ever hear the one about . . ." promises a joke that has no basis in reality, right? But here's one that actually happened -- honest. Did you ever hear the one about the Cincinnati production of Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill that received a number of audience complaints, because the crowd assumed it was going to be an Irving Berlin revue starring someone named Kurt Weill. "Where was `God Bless America'?" they roared. "Where's `White Christmas'?"
  • You know that lyric in "Tale of the Oyster" where Cole Porter refers to "the rich Mrs. Hoggenheimer"? You do? Okay -- but did you know that he probably got the name from The Rich Mr. Hoggenheimer, a 1906 Broadway smash. (It ran 187 performances, which back then a now-and--forever run.) The Harry B. Smith show included such songs as "Au Revoir, My Little Hyacinth," and "Bag Pipe Serenade," the latter of which had not only music, but also lyrics by Jerome Kern.
  • Do you realize that for all the talk this last decade about British musical's chandeliers, barricades, helicopters, and floating mansions that the 1968 American musical Here's Where I Belong opened with a genuine street sweeper coming on stage? Producer Mitch Miller (yes, that Mitch Miller) eventually decided, though, that here's where it didn't belong, and swept it out in Philadelphia. So Broadway's opening night audience -- which was also the closing night audience -- didn't see it. (Note to those who get discouraged easily: Be apprised that two of the three writers on that one-performance flop -- Alfred (Driving Miss Daisy and The Last Night of Ballyhoo) Uhry and Terrence (too many hits to mention here) McNally -- went on with their lives pretty nicely, wouldn't you say?
  • Have you heard what the employees do at Amy's Ice Cream Shop at Austin, TX? A new book called Managing to Have Fun by Matt Weinstein fills us in. Because employees hate when customers come in just when they're ready to close, the workers lock them in, and won't let them out until they learn to do "The Time Warp" from The Rocky Horror Show.
  • Have you seen a copy of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatre Library's delightful publication, Happy Talk? Well, even if you have, you probably haven't run into the story cited in the recently published The Comedian Who Choked to Death on a Pie, a collection of oddball true events. Seems that a naked man was running across the Brooklyn Bridge in May 1993, singing "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'!" -- before being hit by a car and killed.
  • How do you think Sylvester Stallone got the idea for his film Assassins? Do you think he was passing through a movie studio office and saw on someone's desk a script of Charles Gilbert, Jr.'s play?
  • How do you feel when you're just about to enter a theater and see a sign that says, "There will be a gun shot in this performance."? Aren't you now tipped off that when a character pulls out a gun that he's probably going to shoot it? Do you resent that the suspense of whether or not he'll do it has been taken away from you? Maybe this disclaimer should be in the advance ads, but shouldn't be prominently posted on the night you attend.
  • Did you see that recent Joyce Brothers column that included an interesting fact about theatergoing? Seems that readers were asked whether they preferred going to "a hit Broadway play" to having "good sex"? And the results? 77 percent of the women opted for the show which may surprise you -- but not as much as the fact that 47 percent of the men did, too? Awright, Broadway!
  • And finally -- just for the fun of it -- don't you think that some little theater company should go ahead and do Moose Murders as a goof?

-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey drama critic for the Star-Ledger. His column will appear each Wednesday on Playbill On-Line. You can e-mail him at PFilichia@aol.com.