Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reveal of the Top Twelve

You've been patient. You've been curious. You've been nagging me. And, really, it's time I revealed them. You're sick to death of thinking about it. You couldn't care less. Anyway, here they are.

My top twelve favorite Broadway showtunes. Listen to the interview here... unless it gets pulled tomorrow, which is possible, in which case you missed it.

1. Mamma, Mamma by Frank Loesser from The Most Happy Fella (OBC, 1956, sung by Robert Weede)

2. Story of My Life by Bernstein/Comden/Green, cut from Wonderful Town, this recording is on Leonard Bernstein's New York (sung by Judy Blazer)

3. Giants In The Sky by Sondheim from Into The Woods (OBC, 1987, Ben Wright)

4. Out of This World by Arlen/Mercer from movie “Out Of This World” (1945, Bing Crosby) this recording is on A Vintage Year(Live) (George Shearing (piano) & Mel Tormé (vocals))

5. Hurry! It's Lovely up Here by Lerner and Lane from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (OBC, 1965, Barbara Harris)

6. Speak Low by Kurt Weill from One Touch of Venus (1943), this recording on Lotte Lenya: American Theater Songs (Lotte Lenya)

7. Right As The Rain by Harold Arlen from Bloomer Girl (1944) (Jessica Molaskey)

8. Sorry-Grateful by Stephen Sondheim from Company this is the 2006 revival sung by Keith Buterbaugh, orchestrated by my friend Mary-Mitchell Campbell

9. The Schmuel Song by JRB from The Last Five Years (OBC) 2002 (Norbert Butz)

10. Migratory V by Adam Guettel from Myths And Hymns (OBC) 1998 (Theresa McCarthy)

11. Laughing Matters by Dick Gallagher/Mark Waldrop from When Pigs Fly (OBC) 1996 (Jay Rogers)

12. Sunday by Sondheim from Sunday In The Park With George (OBC) 1985

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Retreating and Writing

Okay, okay. I know it's been a long time since I wrote anything, but I've been sitting on these things I wanted to announce, thinking any day I'd get the go ahead.... hmmm.... still waiting... any day now...

What I CAN tell you is that I did my radio interview yesterday for the Broadway Radio Show where I listed my twelve favorite showtunes. It will go on the air for a week starting on Sunday. I was fascinated to learn that of the twelve songs I picked, only one of them had ever been picked by any of Donald Feltham's previous guests. (Only ONE! And that one was so obvious I can't imagine anyone NOT having it on his/her list.) Also fun was how much time we spent talking about WHY the songs made it onto my list of favorites. Thanks to all of you guys who wrote in to the comments about what your favorites were. There were some great songs included -- many of which I considered, but only one (yep, that's the one) that was the same as any of mine.

I was in NY last week having a writing retreat with my collaborator John Jiler. You might be aware of him because he wrote the really spectacular musical play AVENUE X (which I have music directed three times). Anyway, he and I are writing a new musical called BIG RED SUN (though the title is inevitably bound to change). It was one of those intense weeks I don't get often enough where he and I met for four or five hours each morning, and then he left and I spent the afternoon writing out the music for the things we'd rewritten. The next morning, I showed him my revisions, he showed me his revisions, and we repeated the process. At the end of the week we did a reading of the script with six fantastic actors and then I flew back to LA, utterly exhausted. I found myself really jealous of people who get to live that way all the time. I get so easily distracted with the other things I've committed to in my life that sometimes a few days -- even a week -- can go by and I realize I haven't written anything. Maybe I haven't even played the piano. What a luxury it would be to have nothing else on my plate except the task of finishing this show. Of course, when I really think about it, that would mean giving up a lot of other things in my life that are way too important, and I don't really mean it. But what I'm getting at is how crucial it is to find balance.

When I was young and single in NY, I sometimes would put myself "on retreat." I'd tell everyone I knew that I was going out of town for the weekend, but I'd actually stay put in my little one-bedroom apartment and I'd unplug the phone. I'd write music all day, have a solitary dinner in a nearby restaurant at dusk, and then come home either to write more or to settle in with a great book or a favorite rented movie. It was the perfect New York City life, the kind of thing I'd dreamed about when I was a little girl lying on my bed listening to Broadway cast albums. I can't imagine doing it now, but if you're in a place in your life where you could pull it off, go for it, man! It's the most refreshing, healthiest little white lie I can imagine, and it's totally worth it.

Tomorrow I'm doing an old-fashioned backers' audition for a new musical revue I'm putting together with David Kirshenbaum. Tentatively called SING ME A HAPPY SONG (why can't I commit to titles?), it started out as just a collection of our trunk songs that we wanted to throw into two acts and call a revue. But as we've been developing it (thanks Goodspeed, thanks TheatreWorks), we're finding there's a bit more substance to it, and we've been writing all kinds of new songs. Keep your fingers crossed mid-afternoon that the 20 or so people in this room like it enough to give us our first production. If that happens, you'll definitely be hearing more about it.

And finally, oh okay, there's nothing really to announce yet but I had a meeting last week about the possibility of releasing a songbook of my music to accompany the CD, and things are looking good. So in the interest of not jinxing myself, I'll leave it at that.

Wish me a happy birthday (it was last week) and good luck tomorrow. Now I've got to go tinker with that one lyric that I just haven't gotten right yet...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Top Twelve

I guess I'm a purist.

Donald Feltham at Broadway Radio has asked me to think of my twelve favorite showtunes of all time, and we're doing an interview in the next few weeks where we talk about them and play them on his hour-long show. It's more of a challenge than I expected. At first I only had four or five songs on the list. Then, in a surge, I had twenty-six. I think I've narrowed the list back down to twelve, but I told Donald we had to do this interview quickly before I changed my mind.

There are a number of tunes that made it to my list because of the actual writing of the songs, but I didn't have a favorite performance of them. So I've been listening on iTunes and trying to determine which recording to play. A few of the songs got knocked off the list because I just couldn't find a recording that wasn't all about the arrangement. I don't need to hear what cool string line some arranger came up with, nor is this the forum for a two and a half minute trumpet solo, and why does everything have to be a bossa nova? I'm also surprised at how many songs I wanted to include on the list and then realized they weren't actually from shows. They were just standards or they were written by theater composers for their (ahem) solo albums.

Then tonight, with all this on my mind, I watched the movie "De-Lovely." (Yes, I know it came out in 2004, but sometimes it takes me a while to get around to those things I'm supposed to have done already.) And in this biopic about Cole Porter they've got some of the most contemporary singers performing songs in the most contemporary styles, but their costumes and the nature of the story imply that they're supposed to be chronologically accurate. Alanis Morissette? Really? I'm a fan, but come on. Get a coach on the set who knows something about the period. Interestingly, as the credits were rolling I didn't mind the arrangements of the songs at all, but in the context of the show, I found those contemporary chords and phrasings to be totally distracting.

It was one of the complaints I had about the GREASE show. If I had been in charge, which I so wasn't, those kids would have sung theater songs every week, all the judges would have been from the musical theater community and the network would have filmed more rehearsal and less performing. Great singers in one style of music are not necessarily great singers in ALL styles of music. But I suppose that's why I'm in the theater business and not the TV business.

While I'm complaining -- let me throw in this completely random non-sequitur of a complaint. Today at the supermarket I bought a week's worth of groceries and I paid with a credit card. As the checkout gal was handing me my receipt, she said, "Thank you very much, Miss Stitt." I was so annoyed. Why does she get to know my last name and I don't get to know hers? Why does she get to announce it to everyone else in line without my permission? And why did everyone in that store feel the need to ask me if I was finding everything okay? How hard can it be to find groceries in a grocery store?

Ah. Okay. Back to the topic at hand.

In looking at my list of twelve showtunes, I'm learning some things about myself. Apparently I'm an optimist, as I've chosen a lot of tunes about happiness and only three heartbreakers. You might be surprised to read that given the tone of the rest of this blog, but perhaps today I was having an off day. Apparently I also like very long songs. And try as I might, I couldn't get fewer than three Sondheim songs on the list. Even at that, I've left out some of my major favorites, but there were only twelve spots. I figure Sondheim deserves 25% of my list at a bare minimum.

Watch here and I'll let you know when the interview airs. Meanwhile, what are your top twelve favorite showtunes? It's harder than you think.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

El Portal recap

Oh boy, am I tired today. I just want to write a quick note to thank so many of you for coming out to the concert last night. The perfomers were fantastic, the band ROCKED and there were over 200 people in the house, which was way more than I expected. We sold a bunch of CDs and I think several new people discovered these songs, which is really what's most exciting to me. (That... and getting to play with drummer Shannon Ford, my hero.) I am so grateful. The more successful these concerts are, the more willing I am to keep doing them. (It takes a lot for me to sing in public, y'all.) So, thanks!

I want to share with you a few funny stories that are only loosely related to last night's experience.

1. Producer Jay Irwin told me I really shouldn't be concerned that outside of this series, the last two solo concerts he did at this theater were for Kitty Carlisle Hart and Charles Nelson Reilly. Hmmm. I checked my pulse as soon as I got off stage and so far it all seems okay.

2. Susan Egan told us a funny (horrifying) story backstage about how she had a babysitter one night (not last night, thankfully) who said to her, "So once I put the baby to sleep I can leave, right?" She looked at the babysitter in disbelief and said something like, "Um, no, not if we're not home yet." And the babysitter said, "Oh... cuz I sort of made plans." Needless to say, Susan kicked off her fancy shoes and decided they were staying in that evening.

3. My friend Emiko flew in from JAPAN for this concert, and she couldn't go out for drinks afterwards because she was heading BACK to the airport. Now that's dedication. Thanks, Emiko!

I have almost no pictures from last night because I was so frazzled with other things I forgot to take my camera out of my purse. So if you were there and you took photos, send them along and I'll put them on the website!

Thanks, finally, to Kathleen Monteleone's parents, David and Bunny, for their extreme generosity. Next time, drinks are on me.

Good night, gang!