STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: November Natterings

News   STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: November Natterings
Okay -- who did it? I want to know. And, no, it wasn't I -- though I wouldn't be surprised if I were blamed for it.

Okay -- who did it? I want to know. And, no, it wasn't I -- though I wouldn't be surprised if I were blamed for it.

There I was, standing on the uptown subway platform at 50th Street, where I saw the ad for the new movie, "You've Got Mail" (which, as you may know, is an updated version of She Loves Me's original source, Parfumerie. Now the two unwitting lovers correspond by E-mail). But there, between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan's names, like some adolescent, someone scrawled the name "Curley McDimple."

Does anyone remember Curley McDimple? It was an off-Broadway musical that opened just a bit over 31 years ago -- on Nov. 22, 1967 -- at the Bert Wheeler Theatre, and didn't close until Jan. 25, 1970, after a most healthy 931-performance run. Robert Dahdah and Mary Boylan wrote the book, while Dahdah did the entire score -- a spoof of Shirley Temple movies. I've heard that Capitol recorded it, but never released the disc. Was the graffitist celebrating the anniversary, and perhaps urging EMI to release the recording? If so, I'm all in favor of that, even if I do frown on marking up subway posters.

This is one of the questions I'd like to pose this morn. Some others:

Have you heard that in football, the Chiefs have been eliminated from the playoff race? That means that, in Kansas City, they've gone about as far they can go. What musical sports the songs, "When Spring Returns" and "If I Had Forever"? Hint: It's a musical version of Johnny Pye and the Foolkiller, though not the version Mark St. Germain and Randy Courts did some years back. That's the question asked by Jane Klain, the theatre historian who tirelessly acquires properties for the Museum of Television and Radio. She recently unearthed an audiotape that sported nothing more than a label proclaiming it "a backers' audition of a musical." Once she gave a listen, she inferred the names of the two above-mentioned songs, and gleaned from the narration that the Stephen Vincent Benet story was the source. So she put me on the case.

A few years ago, Klain asked me who sang "I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet" from the Comden-Green-Walker recording of On the Town. Seems that the singer's name wasn't ever listed on any of the issues of the disc, so I posed the question in my column in the late, lamented Theater Week. Broadway stalwart Ken (The Grand Tour, Guys and Dolls, Forum) Kantor listened to his recording, and swore that it just had to be Michael Kermoyan. Klain checked with Kermoyan's widow, and the mystery was solved.

So maybe lightning can strike twice. Anybody know? How about you, Mr. Kantor?

Did you see that documentary about Fosse: A Musical Celebration on Bravo? And did you see deposed head Garth Drabinsky on it? No, you didn't -- but if you had caught the show when it first aired on Toronto TV a few months back, you would have seen and heard Drabinsky's opinions. Now his fall includes a tumble onto the cutting room floor.

Will someone please tell Mayor Giuliani that the word theatre is not pronounced "thee-aye-turr"? That's the way he said it when he came on stage at opening night of the (could-be-better) On the Town. It's "there-turr," Mayor. I'll forgive you if you picked up that pronunciation from Jean Stapleton in her opening line on the Funny Girl album.

You know what I love about the English? They're so much more rarefied than we when announcing that an understudy will go on. At Oklahoma! the notice didn't just say, "The part of Andrew Carnes will be played at this performance by David Shelmerdine" -- it was preceded by "Because of the indisposition of Sidney Livingstone ...." Nice!

Have you heard that former basketball star Magic Johnson is starting his own record company -- called Magic 32 (for the number he wore while playing)? I think he should record the original cast album of Sneakers, the mythical musical about basketball that was the subject of the 1979 Broadway musical known as A Broadway Musical. Or even better -- how about Al Carmines' musical A Look at the Fifties, about life in a Midwestern town that's just crazy for basketball? The second act of the show (which I caught at Arena Stage a quarter century ago) is actually a basketball game, and the team that emerged victorious -- which could differ from night to night -- got to sing a song that began, "Winning is better than losing, because when you lose, you've done all that work for nothing." Good song. I'd like to hear it again.

Do you know that a song from Annie is now a very popular song in the world of rap? Believe it or don't, but "It's the Hard Knock Life" has been selling hundreds of thousands of copies, thanks to a recording made by rapper Jay-Z. Turns out the singer was watching the movie version of the Broadway hit and was "mesmerized" (his word, honestly) by the orphans' gritty ability to withstand their rigors. He could relate to that, and now Messrs. Strouse and Charnin are the richer for it.

So what are the all-time big hits in high school theater? This month's issue of "Dramatics," the Educational Theatre Association magazine, tells us. Ever since 1938, the editors have been keeping track, and ever since then, one title has appeared on all 59 lists: You Can't Take It with You, which has finished Number One no fewer than 12 times. Second place goes to Our Town (56 years; 11 at Number One), while Arsenic and Old Lace rings in at third (52 times on the list, albeit never Number One). Others that have landed a first-place finish or two: The Curious Savage (five times in 38 appearances); You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (four times in 19); Grease (three in 13), Up the Down Staircase (twice in 19), and, with one first place finish each, Oklahoma! (35 appearances), Bye Bye Birdie (30 appearances), The Miracle Worker (30), Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (21), A Midsummer-Night's Dream (12, and the only Shakespeare), and Time Out for Ginger (10). Now you know!

Peter Filichia is the New Jersey drama critic for the Star-Ledger. You can e-mail him at

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