Other Summer Doldrums
It's the summer doldrums, I think. I don't know how it happened, but I think I do; all I know is that I have a new musical revue opening, SHOWTUNE, in Las Vegas in ten days. The cast is having lots of fun, but my head is spinning and I'm not having fun. How did this all happen? Two words: The Internet.
Musical revues have been out of fashion for years, so why would I want to write one? I dunno. A chain of events simply occurred and I had to write one. I needed to tell a story and put it on stage. Revues generally don't have a book but mine does. The whole thing is so crazy, I mean, so crazy that I just can't believe how the whole thing came about.
Several years ago, after I began TalkinBroadway.com I was interviewed by Carol Cling of the Las Vegas Review Journal. And she published a nice article about me and what I was doing with a Broadway Website. As a result of that I got a phone call from a guy named Mike Corda. Now, Mike Corda is an ol' Tin Pan Alley kind of guy. He's written songs for major stars, plus he was in the orchestra of Kiss Me, Kate's original Broadway production in 1948. Corda plays a major part in SHOWTUNE, but I'll get to that later.
Switch locations. I'm in Venice, Italy, yakking with Lee Roy Reams about a year or so later. "I miss the revue format, they're so much fun to do," says Lee Roy. I register it in my mind. Now, none of this has to do with Mike Corda, Carol Cling, or Talkin' Broadway at the time, but it's all in my mind.
We open our Las Vegas message board to discuss the local theater scene on the Internet. I take note of a particularly good theater company called Jade Productions. I see their shows and review some of them. I put them on the back burner of ideas, just like all my other ideas.
I interview Jerry Herman for TalkinBroadway.com and we talk about the great showtunes of the 20th century. Jerry wrote an obscure musical revue in 1959 called Parade, which I'm familiar with. A song in it is called "Showtune."
TalkinBroadway.com receives a First Place in Writer's Digest first annual Zine competition, and was featured in the July 2001 issue, a nice surprise, (although I was notified 6 months in advance.) How cool is this, I thought. We've won other awards and have been mentioned in many main-stream publications. So, this was kind of nice. Talkin'Broadway is recognized for its writing skills, me and the staff of 25. Dare we present a musical revue? Keep reading.
I threw a cast party at my home for Jade Productions, and I don't know, I, from nowhere, just expressed from my mind an idea for an original musical revue, and I explained it to Jade Productions founder, Joy Demain, on the spot. She liked the idea and about a month later told me to write it. I had taken the experience with Lee Roy in Venice, the Jerry Herman interview for Las Vegas Life magazine, and this whole TalkinBroadway.com experience, and it just came together. Mike Corda's song "We Are The Dreamers" really sealed the idea into place.
I told Demain that it's going to cost big bucks to pull off and made demands on the theater location, orchestral requirements, advertising, you name it, and she smiled and said, "write it." And I did.
The rehearsals begin, and I see this whole creative process taking place. It's rehearsal halls, it's work. The cast is experimenting, the choreographer (Betsie Saunders) is doing some great things that I love. A little Fosse, a little Bennett, that sort of thing. Joy Demain is staging much of it (even though I'm credited with directing, the cast and I chuckle that I'm no director, I'm a conceiver). Showtune is being created.
On top of all this, the show is submitted to the Nevada Council of the Arts, a division of the National Endowment of the Arts, and we get a grant to do the show because of the historical, and educational book for the show. Then, we get another grant if we do a public presentation, and lecture, and of course, we agree to that. Bob Burgan, of the University of Las Vegas theater department, had agreed to monitor the show's historical accuracy in the way of the book, so he'll be a part of that panel. Joy calls me and says that if I waive royalties, another grant will be given for like a thousand dollars. I waive the royalties to high schools and colleges to do SHOWTUNE because of the historical angle, and am very happy to do so. It's simply not about money.
So, how does Mike Corda and Carol Cling fit into this? Easy. Mike read Carol's article and he contacted me. After meeting with Mike, I listened to a song of his that he wrote with Academy Award winner Paul Francis Webster called "We Are The Dreamers." His song haunted me. It's an anthem to those artists who have gone before us and left their mark on the world. I loved the song. And it really pulled SHOWTUNE together. It's an important song that I wish the whole world would hear. It's never really been recorded, but it should be. I had the thought of having this song for the show, and I asked Corda for it, and he gave me permission to use the song. The song is about all the Broadway composers who have gone before us and left their legacy on Broadway. It's also about those who have died of Aids, or have fought in world wars. It's about dreamers, dreamers, like you and me. It was Cling, Corda, Herman, Reams, and many others who planted the idea for this musical revue in my head, and I just simply hope it works.
And it's all about this thing we call the Internet. It all happened here. And here I am, caught in a crazy frenzy of directing and writing a musical revue, and it would have never happened in a million years, without the Internet. Am I happy? Oh sure, but a bundle of nerves. Will people take to an historical revue of songs from Broadway, plus a little book that tells a little about those great dreamers who created so many songs that have become standards? I hope so, and my producers think so. I've heard them talking about Showtune 2, and I chuckle to myself, "Lord, let me get through Showtune 1."
And so Showtune opens July 12th at the Summerlin Performing Arts Center in Las Vegas for a three week run, followed by a run at the Pahrump Winery in their outdoor theater in August.
I laugh thinking what the hell have I gotten myself into and then rejoice in the fact that through the Internet I have found a wonderful world of artists who are making my dream come true. I invite those of the press who visit here to come and see just what the Internet can do. You can always read about Broadway, but that same creative process is happening all across America, and I'm just so glad to be a part of it, right here in Las Vegas.
We Are The Dreamers, yeah, so true.
Conceived and Directed by John V.J. Gillespie
Summerlin Performing Arts Center
(Showtune logo by Miner Miracles Graphics. The historical accuracy of the show's commentary has been monitored by Professor Bob Burgan of the University of Las Vegas theater department.)
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