STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: 30 Questions Hath November

Special Features   STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: 30 Questions Hath November
You know that expression "Ars longa, vita brevis?" "Art is long, life is short"? I guess the producers of the upcoming British play Art hope that's true, while the producers of The Life hope it's not?

You know that expression "Ars longa, vita brevis?" "Art is long, life is short"? I guess the producers of the upcoming British play Art hope that's true, while the producers of The Life hope it's not?

Well, those are just three of the 30 questions I'm posing today. The others:

Do you know how you know when you're getting old? Whenever you come across the title, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, you immediately set it to the opening eight notes of "The Varsity Drag."

Did you know there's 8mm footage of Helen Gallagher and Donald Saddler dancing in High Button Shoes? Turns out that way back in 1947, one of Saddler's friends snuck in a camera into the balcony of the Century, and filmed away. We learned this during the nifty "Mondays at the Lortel" series, when it was Gallagher and Saddler's night (to benefit the worthy Actors Work Program that helps struggling performers when the jobs don't come their way).

By the way, do you know what else Gallagher sang? Cole Porter's "After You, Who?" (which always makes me think, Wouldn't this be a good ad for Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink?) a song from Portofino (her musical monstrosity of 1958 -- the one of which Walter Kerr said, "Nor will I say that Portofino is the worst musical ever produced, because I've only been seeing musicals since 1919."), and -- best of all, her Hazel Flagg hit that I hope turns out to be the most prescient, "I Feel Like I'm Gonna Live Forever." Do you know what the two smartest moves are in the touring company of Big? First, when the carnival set comes on, you don't see the sign that says, "You must be this big to ride this ride." It's obscured until the very moment that young Josh approaches the ticket taker, which doesn't tip it off in advance. Second, Josh's friend Billy leaves the stage before Josh's mother sings "Stop, Time." Before, she used to sing this song about what it's like to watch your kid drastically change and grow -- to a 13-year-old kid?? He wouldn't understand, which new director Eric D. Schaeffer understood.

Have you seen the new "Golf Edition" of Monopoly? There are several new city editions, too, from Atlanta to Washington. Well, can't we have a Broadway edition? Instead of streets, we could have theaters (and wouldn't the New Amsterdam have to take the place of Boardwalk as the spiffiest property on the block?)

You know what I realized when I heard the upcoming Breakfast at Tiffany's studio cast album? I remembered so many melodies. And do you know why? I'd seen the show in Boston -- when it was called Holly Golightly -- and when it was really rough going. And because so comparatively few saw it, for these last 30-plus years, I've met many who've wanted to know everything about that Mary Tyler Moore-Richard Chamberlain musical. So I've had to sing them the songs as well as I remembered them. And I did, which kept them alive. Even though they were forgettable.

When you're describing the direction of a play to someone, do you use "stage right" and "stage left" from the actors' viewpoint -- which is the standard -- or from the audience's -- which is, after all, what the person would be picturing?

Would you believe that the most engrossing, page-turning book comes from a university press? I'd certainly say so, based on "An Obsession with Anne Frank,"

So do you know what's one of the most entertaining moments in "Moon over Broadway," the documentary of about the making of Moon over Buffalo that goes into nationwide release in February? Is it that you get a closer look at those vintage posters for Janie, Roberta, and What a Life that dotted the 1950's green room set? Or is it Dom DeLuise saying that he wants Bob Mackie to design a dress for him?

Do you realize that 55 years ago this month, Thornton Wilder's masterpiece, The Skin of Our Teeth opened, and audiences heard Sabina say, "Oh, why can't we have plays like we used to have -- Peg o' My Heart, and Smilin' Thru, and The Bat?"

Well, those three chestnuts haven't been deemed roastable for some time now, so what would a current production use as three likely titles The (adorable) production that the worthy Delaware Theatre Company mounted last month had Sabina substitute Harvey, The Miracle Worker, and Barefoot in the Park.

And what did they use three lines later, when Sabina proclaims, "Look at me now: I -- I, who have played Rain and The Barretts of Wimpole Street and First Lady," now that that trio has paled? Steel Magnolias, Chapter Two, and The Nerd. (Well, why not?)

Did you ever learn that the song we know as "Love Makes Such Fools of Us All" from Barnum was originally scene-change music in Sweet Charity? I learned this last week when I saw the (excellent) production at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Director extraordinaire Aubrey Berg assured me that that tune was definitely in the music that accompanied the scripts.

And do you know which ending Berg chose to use? The Good Fairy that graced the original production? Charity's being assuaged by flower children as she did in the movie's ending? Charity's getting back with Oscar in yet another ending tried for the movie? No -- but the one suggested by Margery Beddow in her book, "Bob Fosse's Broadway." Seems that Beddow, asleep one night during a stock tour of the show, dreamt that the heartbroken Charity should sing "I'm the Bravest Individual" very slowly and deliberately. (It's as good as any other ending, don't you think?)

You know how Beauty and the Beast has made available those T-shirts that say, "My first Broadway Show"? Do you think that Disney will now have T-shirts made for The Lion King saying "My Second Broadway Show?"

Were you as unamused as I when a recent David Letterman's Top Ten indicating "Signs Your Mayor Is Nuts" included, "When you call 911, you get a recording of him singing show tunes"?

And speaking of TV references to show tunes -- did you hear that kid on a recent Jeopardy Teen Tournament? During the interview, Alex Trebek asked "Evan" about his hobby of playing the piano at retirement homes. Evan answered "Do you get any requests?" by saying "Yeah, the old people like show tunes, but I don't know any." No wonder this barbarian finished a distant third! Let the punishment fit the crime!

On the other hand, did you see those nice sentiments in a new book, "The Scorecard: The Official System for Keeping Score in the Relationship Game" by Greg Gutfeld? Its one of those books that tells you "You get 30 points if you pick her up in a BMW Roadster, but lose 125 if you use your old Schwinn with a well-worn banana seat." Whether or not you agree, I'm sure you'll embrace this sentiment in the "Music to Score Points to" chapter: 10 points if you play the Rent CD, and 10 extra points if you "entertain guests with renditions of Broadway show tunes." Oh, wise Gutfeld!

And finally, you know what is one of the more delightful aspects to working at a metropolitan newspaper? The rock critics receive a ton of review CDs, and when they get extras, they put them out for any and all to take. Recently, I was able to get Misdemeanor Elliott's "Supa Dupa Fly," Megadeth's "Cryptic Writings," and The Smoking Popes' "Destination Failure." Then I came home, looked through my own CDs, saw which ones had broken jewel boxes, and replaced them with these brand-new jewel boxes. Best of all, I then got the pleasure of tossing into the trash the rock CDs, delighted to know that at least one fewer person won't have to humiliate his ears by hearing the sounds of Misdemeanor Elliott, Megadeth, or The Smoking Popes.

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

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