STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: January Jottings | Playbill

Special Features STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: January Jottings
Never mind What Makes Sammy Run? -- what makes Perfect Crime run?

Never mind What Makes Sammy Run? -- what makes Perfect Crime run?

But here it is, 1999, and the show that opened on October 16, 1987 keeps going and going and going. That's the real mystery of the piece, wouldn't you say?

It's just one of the questions I pose to you to inagurate this new year. Here are some others:

Have you heard movie critics grouse about Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho" -- because it really is a remake, replicating every shot and piece dialogue Alfred Hitchcock delivered almost 40 years ago? To be frank, I wish more directors helming revivals of Broadway musicals would do exactly the same thing, instead of " improving" the product with interpolations and other ideas.

Were you at the 16,000th performance of The Fantasticks on December 18, 1998? Bookwriter-lyricist Tom Jones was there, beaming with pride. And why shouldn't he be? It's a well-known fact that a show gets more attractive every passing year, gets more and more attractive. But what was a eerie was reading the program note that says the show "has seen nine presidents so far" -- considering that everyone in the house knew that on the very next day, the House of Representatives took steps that could make the show see its 10th president. Have you heard that Hollywood is about to release a sequel to "Carrie," called "The Rage: Carrie 2?" Do you think Broadway will dare to try to adapt it into a new musical?

Given that the rabid fans of Star Trek hate to be called Trekkies -- but prefer Trekkers -- should the rabid fans of Jekyll & Hyde be called not Jekkies, but Jekkers?

While we're on Frank Wildhorn shows: Do people seeing new productions of Wendy Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig assume that the musical version of The Scarlet Pimpernel she skewers is the same one that's in its second year on Broadway?

Do you think that Hello, Dolly!'s Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker were disappointed that they only wound up in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, given that when they started out from Yonkers, they planned not only to "see the shows," but also "Delmonicos"?

Given that Tennessee Williams came not from Tennessee, but from St. Louis, do you think by some chance dance and vocal arranger Louis St. Louis hails not from Missouri, but from Tennessee?

Wouldn't you love to see that play that Penny Sycamore is writing in You Can't Take It with You -- the one called "Sex Takes a Holiday?"

Do you realize that if playwrights never wrote such plays as Alfie, Come Blow Your Horn, Sunday in New York, The Tender Trap, Barefoot in the Park, and The Odd Couple, we'd never have those nifty title songs from the movie versions? By the way, Barefoot and Odd Couple were by Neil Hefti, certainly a composer with a signature style -- and the man who wrote the title tune for the another movie version of a play, which must have been the hardest of all: To set all 15 words of Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad. But if you can get your hands on the ol' RCA soundtrack, you'll find that he did a good job with it.

Why are Malapropisms called Malapropisms and not Gobbos? Sure, Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals had a more than ordinary glorious vocabulary, but check out the Lancelot and Old Gobbo scenes in The Merchant of Venice. Gobbo pere states that Gobbo fils had "a great infection" to serve, which is "the very defect of the matter." Looks like Old Gobbo was making mistakes with words 179 years before Richard Brinsley Sheridan thought of having Mrs. Malaprop do the same.

What was this country's first restaurant franchise? McDonald's? Howard Johnson's? I maintain it was Flanagan's. After all, as early as 1905, Will Parker was singing about avoiding shenanigans in Flanagan's in Oklahoma! while Take Me Along's Sid Miller mentioned in 1906 the shenanigans he had in the Flanagan's located in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Did you know that Madame Rose originally didn't steal the gold plaque off the wall in order to get her 88 bucks? Merman's early, pre-rehearsal recording of Gypsy shows she simply wore down her father until he gave her the money -- and that she settled for $50.

And speaking of The Merm -- do you think that after she married Bob Six, the head of Continental Airlines, they had a discussion on whether or not she should add "The Continental" to her act?

Don't you think that if Illya, Darling were produced today, it would be entitled Never on Sunday: The Musical?

How about a Federal Express commercial that uses that song from Flora, the Red Menace -- "Express Yourself (to Me)"? Or one for Minute Maid, in which cans are passed around to four guys while they sing "Everybody Ought To Have a 'Maid"?

And finally, I can't keep track of how many of you have written me about the observation I recently made that Rick Besoyan, author of Little Mary Sunshine, cribbed some lyrics from the There's No Business Like Show Business movie when writing his operetta parody. In the picture, when Donald O'Connor is coming onto Marilyn Monroe, he describes himself as "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent." Five years later, when Besoyan wrote "The Forest Rangers" that opened his spoof, he had each of the Canadian Rockies describe himself as "thoughtful, friendly, courteous, and kind; he's reverent and grave; he's healthy and he's brave; he's clean in soul and body and mind; he's cheerful, honest, thrifty, and obedient."

But what I've since learned from so many of you is that both are adapted from the Boy Scout oath. "Weren't you ever a Boy Scout?" more than one E mailer taunted. Of course not. Once I heard that the organization didn't offer a merit badge in Musical Theater Appreciation, I wasn't the least bit interested.

Peter Filichia is the New Jersey theatre critic for the Star-Ledger. You may E-mail him at

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