MAKING A STAR
A Power Breakfast With Des Derrick.
Monday, December 21
"I want you to know right from the start that there are precious few people I
would get up this early in the morning for. I hope that's strong coffee."
Good morning, Des. It is strong coffee. Or, would you prefer tea?
"Scotch, actually. Do they serve it at 6 AM?"
"Coffee, then. So what is so bloody important I had to get out of a nice warm
bed in the middle of the night?"
"Who? Oh, yes . . . that Jonathan. What about him?"
You caught his act Friday at The Lighthouse, didn't you?
"Part of it. The traffic was terrible. Thanks for the table. Sorry I didn't
get to speak to you, but we were on our way to a party afterwards."
No problem. What did you think - of what you saw, that is?
"Not bad. Not bad at all. For cabaret, anyway. Whose dinner jacket was he
His own. We didn't have much time and had to buy off the rack. There wasn't a
chance to get it fitted properly.
"Well, it needs to be properly fit or he needs to stop waving his arms around
like that. Preferably both."
What did you think about the lighting?
"God-awful. The poor boy looked like a corpse."
Did you think he talked too much between numbers?
"Not too much, no. But, he needs to have what he says scripted. For the
life of me I don't know why singers think they can get up on a stage - even a
nightclub stage - and say whatever pops into their head and expect it to be
How about the songs he sang?
"Don't get me started. A few were okay. But, there didn't seem to be much of a
concept guiding the selection of most of them. At least, none that I could
see. One of the things Marlene taught me - "
That's right. You directed a couple of her last concerts, didn't you?
"That was years and years ago. But, yes. She taught me how to present cabaret;
the rules can't have changed much since then."
They haven't. What are you doing for the next two weeks? I need a very big
"I was planning on taking it easy through the holidays. Something tells
me I'm not going to be able to, if I say yes to your request, whatever it is."
Yesterday, Liza canceled her New Year's Eve booking at The Lighthouse. I've
convinced them to replace her with Jonathan Frank.
"How in heaven's name did you manage that?"
Long story. Anyway, it all depends on you agreeing to stage his New Year's Eve
"I see. Why me?"
Frank went over pretty well last weekend, but not good enough for them to risk
presenting him without someone like you, with your reputation, qualifications,
and track record tied into the deal. They feel that if you put together
the show, it's not such a risk presenting him on the most important night of the
"Very flattering, I'm sure. What's your angle?"
"Why do you want this to happen?"
We've already got a couple of songs from Neverland ready to go. I want
to use this venue to introduce them - particularly "We Are The Dreamers." I'm
thinking about doing a live recording of the New Year's Eve show and possibly
releasing "Dreamers" as a single in the spring. Maybe even have him lay down a
techno dance cover too.
"We've only got slightly less than two weeks, you know."
Aren't you the guy who took over Lassie - The Musical, out of town, in
rehearsals, and completely reworked it in six days?
"And on the seventh I had a nervous breakdown. That bitch hated me from the
It ran for three years.
"That was a long time ago. Although, I still find the occasional flea . . . "
So, you're telling me you can't do anything like that anymore?
"Of course I can."
Can I take that as a yes?
"It'll be expensive."
"We'll have to work around the clock."
Think of the challenge!
"Think of the stress. I'm not as young as I - "
Well, if you honestly think you're too old to pull it off -
"I didn't say that!"
"Damn! . . . Mark my words; someday, somehow I'm going to make you pay for
Then, it's a yes?
Good. I've taken the liberty of setting up a meeting for you with Sam Winston -
I've hired him as our musical director - and Jonathan to select the music.
Let's go. I've got a cab waiting. This early in the morning the traffic is
light enough we shouldn't be late.
"Wait a minute ... you've already hired the ... you bastard!"
Come on, the cab's waiting!
"Why did Liza ever get sick?"
She's not ill.
"Why did she cancel, then?"
I'm not sure. Something about being stalked and threatened by some guy who
claims to be Bob Fosse. Come on! We can talk about what you'll need for
lighting in the cab and -
"Bob Fosse? Isn't he that guy who you - "
Nonsense! Now about costumes; what do you think of . . .
Tom Stoppard's new play The Invention of Love; extracts from the reviews:
Who would you rather have been? Oscar Wilde, who threw his life away on a
flamboyant infatuation with Lord Alfred Douglas, or A. E. Housman, Latin
scholar and author of A Shropshire Lad, whose unrequited love for a
sporty Oxford contemporary, Moses Jackson, had to be repressed and channeled
into the passionate pedantries of textual criticism and the obliquities of lyric
verse? "Better a fallen rocket than never a burst of light," is Wilde's view of
the matter, when the disgraced aesthete makes a late, scene-stealing arrival in
The Invention of Love. Tom Stoppard's excellent play movingly refuses to
adjudicate on this issue. Through the figure of Housman, whose dying mind
provides the dream landscape for this fantasia-like memory play, Stoppard makes
a powerful case that it is simply impertinent to regard the professor's lonely,
exacting scholarship as a retreat from life. On the contrary he shows it to be
life lived at an extraordinary pitch of intensity. What struck me most was the
skill and insight with which Stoppard connects Housman the homosexual and
Housman the scholar; in one scene, Jowett, the Master of Balliol, mentions a
typewritten copy of a letter he had written that refers to his "solemn duty to
stamp out unnatural mice". The mistake the typist has introduced nicely
telescopes two kinds of corruption: sexual and textual. By an irony which
Stoppard's drama makes both learnedly playful and endlessly poignant, Housman
spent his life trying to eradicate errors of transmission in texts that emerged
from a culture where love between men was not regarded as corrupt "beastliness".
As he tells his young undergraduate self in the incomparable scene where the two
meet, "it's all in the timing". In the ancient world, you could die in your
comrade's arms; in Victorian England, where the classics, suitably
heterosexualised, are considered a major civilising force, you are left to
nearly die in Reading Gaol. -- The Independent
At the heart of Tom Stoppard's new play The Invention of Love lies a
melancholic, meditative reflection on the mystery of existence. In the great,
first-act scene where the dead A. E. Housman communes with his younger self, he
tells him it is hopeless to seek "the lost autograph copy of life's meaning
which we might recover from the corruptions that have made it nonsense". But the
supreme irony of the scene is that while the older man urges the younger to
pluck the fruit while there is still time, he is incapable of altering either
events or his own character. He knows that lie is doomed by the repressions of
his nature and the circumstances of late-Victorian England, to nurse a hopeless
passion for his Oxford friend Moses Jackson. But the art of the play lies in the
way one idea bleeds into another. Stoppard is also concerned with the notion
expressed in his punning title. Does love really exist before its literary
invention? And is love itself capable of endless inventiveness? Wilde, whose
presence haunts the play, tells Housman, "Bosie is my creation, my poem."
Equally, the unexceptional Jackson becomes half of Housman's life and the source
of his best poetry. Wilde and Housman are presented as diagonal opposites - the
extrovert aesthete and the introvert scholar - yet both are strangely joined by
their belief in the transfigurative power of love. A play that will keep
analysts happy for years also deals, like so many Stoppard works, with our
misunderstanding of the past and our creation of false Edens. Victorian Oxford
exists in the literary imagination as a sunlit idyll; Stoppard exhibits its
ignorance and prejudice. The Victorians see a classical education as the path to
virtue and understanding; Stoppard shows how that is based on faulty
scholarship, corrupt texts and an inability to accept the erotic implications of
male comradeship. Here he reveals both the transcendent nature of Housman's love
of textual scholarship - exulting in the discovery of a misplaced comma in
Catullus - and his sense of pain at life's missed chances. Stoppard's pervasive
sense of life's fragility and mystery is deeply moving. -- The Guardian
It is not that Tom Stoppard's new play The Invention of Love is witty,
though it is. Nobody but Sir Tom could have got a memory-play moving by bringing
on Charon the Stygian cabbie, let alone given him so entertaining and
effortlessly informative an exchange with the newly dead A. E. Housman. It is
not that it exudes an exhilarating curiosity about a dozen interlocking
subjects, from textual emendation to aestheticism to shifting attitudes to sex,
though it does. No, it is surely that The Invention of Love is about
grief, pain and the difficult feelings that were long concealed beneath the
scary brilliance of Stoppard's dramaturgy. True, in both Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern Are Dead and Jumpers, his first big successes, one was
aware of a Beckett-like regret for our insignificance in the universal void. But
from The Real Thing through Arcadia the emotions have become more
human and particular: a lost love, a dead girl. And now the Stoppard heart is
ticking almost more strongly than that famously formidable organ, the Stoppard
brain. Indeed, The Invention of Love is actually about emotional
repression. The long, excited discussions about the exigencies of classical
scholarship are reminders of how profound feelings can be sublimated or evaded.
The omnipresence of Oscar Wilde, first as an offstage legend, then as a man
exulting in the erotic blaze that has consumed him, is a wry comment on those
who live more warily. Then there is Housman himself - or, rather, themselves. .
At the start, when he is as old as he will get, he comes across as a genial
buffer; but that is because, as he says, he is delighted to be dead. And then he
shows you why. Housman's brain has tried to crush Housman's heart and has
failed. Could there be a more telling metaphor for Stoppard's own writing career
to date? -- The London Times
The loveless life of A. E. Housman, in which nothing wonderful happened even
once, inspired Tom Stoppard's exquisite comedy at the expense of Victorian
values and those smugly upholding them like clean linen. Stoppard's wit, which
incites wry and rueful laughter, still works wonders. The Invention of
Love comes over as a tremendous work of theatrical imagination. -- The London Evening Standard
The Invention of Love
by Tom Stoppard
List Price $11.00
Publishers' Group West
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