THE DVD SHELF: "Being John Malkovich," Julie Andrews as "Victor Victoria," and the Vintage "Dearest Enemy"

By Steven Suskin
20 May 2012

Cover art for "Men in Black"

Viewers looking for subversive fun with a wildly humorous streak might do well to check out the 1997 Men in Black [Sony], rereleased — along with the 1992 Men in Black 2 — in anticipation of this summer's "Men in Black 3." Whatever transpires with the new film, the original remains highly enjoyable. The performances of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are exceedingly droll, while director Barry Sonnenfeld and his various effects experts will keep an intergalactical smile on your face. You know you are in a strange new world when Rip Torn is more or less the sane one in the group. These two separate Blu-ray releases include UltraViolet, which allows you to download or stream the films.

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Cover art for "On Singing Onstage"

David Craig wrote the book on singing onstage — which was called, not coincidentally, "On Singing Onstage." This tome, written in 1978 and last reissued in 2000, remains in print and invaluable. Over the years, Craig developed an understanding of musical theatre singing — and an ability to teach it — that was unparalleled.



Craig knew his field. Back in the late 1940s, a group of young non-singing actors — including Karl Malden and Roddy McDowall — asked for a few pointers so they could get by, without making fools of themselves, when they needed to sing. This led to Craig's career as a very-much-in-demand teacher specializing in Broadway. He wrote two interesting musicals, the Nancy Walker revue Phoenix '55 and the Nancy Walker musical Copper and Brass. Craig was married to Walker from 1951 until she died in 1992. He died in 1998.

The promotional material includes two quotes pertinent enough to repeat here. From Harold Prince: "David Craig knows more about singing in the musical theatre than anyone in this country." And from the notoriously difficult-to-please Jerome Robbins: "What David Craig has contributed to the American musical cannot be estimated in words. It was always strikingly clear when a singer who auditioned for me had been trained by him. David Craig is a must." You get the point.

Somewhere along the way, Craig made a series of training tapes: six 90-minute master classes under various headings (Technique, Subtext, Ballads, Uptempo, Performance). On Singing Onstage [Applause] has now been released on DVD. For those interested in singing onstage, Craig offers a half-century of experience. From the last century, yes; but while aspects of the world have changed, truth in musical theatre performance remains a prime asset.

(Steven Suskin is author of the recently released Updated and Expanded Fourth Edition of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble" and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and On the Record columns. He can be reached at ssuskin@aol.com.)

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