LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth
|by Doug Yetter|
I've entered that period in life where the ability to successfully sleep through the night has ceased. No matter how tired I am before retiring, I seem to awaken at least twice throughout the night and lay there obsessing over some minutia that never would have entered my consciousness during my waking hours.
As the Lord Chancellor bemoans in Iolanthe, "When you're lying awake, with a dreadful headache and repose is tabooed by anxiety." The downside to this recent turn of events means that I frequently look like I've been on an all-night bender, but the upside is that, as a writer, I've found several extra hours a week to ponder my craft.
There are nights I transpose "Stardust" on my mental piano into all 12 keys, or I try to recall lyrics to songs I haven't played in 30 or 40 years. I'm quite certain that I can now perform the almost-never-heard lyrics to the piano novelty song, "Alley Cat" without a mistake, as well as the original introduction and all three of the verses written by Johnny Mercer for the Mills Brothers version of "Glowworm." Inexplicably, I spent most of last Sunday night counting the number of times my partner rolled over while I quizzed myself on the original source material of almost every show that's ever played the Great White Way. It struck me as odd that I was trying to adapt to my insomnia by listing adaptations. Adaptive of me, no?
And why not make this the foundation of a column? Why not share that vast wealth of nearly useless information that floods my brain? So you, gentle reader, can waste some grey matter of your own now.
Most successful shows are based on some source material. There just aren't many shows that made it that came from original ideas. Just take a glance at the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog for example. Green Grow the Lilacs became Oklahoma!, Anna and the King of Siam fathered The King and I, Liliom changed locations from Hungary to Maine and turned into Carousel. Even one of their less-than-successful attempts had good source materialPipe Dream was based on the John Steinbeck novel Cannery Row. But what about Allegro? Oscar Hammerstein often said that it was his greatest disappointment as a writer and blamed himself for the failure of the show as it was all his idea. The show is an allegory about a small-town doctor complete with a Greek chorus. It did have a few nice tunes though.
Speaking of...The Sound of Music (based on the factual The Story of the Trapp Family Singers) starring Lorraine Steinhoff as Maria plays April 25-27 and May 2-4 at the Riverfront Theatre of the Second Street Players (2 S. Walnut St) in Milford. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $17 for seniors, students, and military at the Sunday matinees. The production is under the direction of Mark Dissinger. Reservations may be made by calling the box office at 302- 422-0220 ext. 1.
It used to be that virtually every show on Broadway was based on a play or a book. Camelot was based on T. H. White's The Once and Future King though only on the latter parts of the novel as Disney had purchased the rights to the first section for The Sword and The Stone. Peter Pan began as a novel, transferred to the stage, was the source of at least three musicals and begat too many films. J. M. Barrie granted the royalties to the Children's Hospital of London in perpetuity, so someone has benefited from this glut of adaptations!
Then, somewhere along the way the wind changed and musicals stopped coming from plays and novels. That wind seemed to blow from the West and originated in Hollywood. Several of the old Busby Berkeley films were loosely pasted together as Gower Champion created 42nd Street. With only a line or two between the musical numbers, so slight was the book for the show that the author, Mark Bramble, is credited with "transitions" only. This transfer from film to stage reversed the trend that had stood since the advent of "talkies." Broadway producers stopped dealing with other Broadway writers and turned to the silver screen for material.
Just look at recent seasons Monty Python's Spamalot, Legally Blonde, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Wedding Singer, Hairspray, The Full Monty, and now Cry Baby. Oddly, some of the above have gone full circle starting with a film version becoming a stage musical and then being filmed as a musical.
One shining example of film-to-stage-to-film is being featured locally. Little Shop of Horrors, (based on the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same name) starring local favorite David Button as amateur horticulturist Seymour Krelborn plays April 4-6, and 11-13, 2008 at Possum Hall, a183-seat, handicapped-accessible, volunteer community theatre at 441 Old Laurel Road in Georgetown. Tickets are $18, general admission and $17 for Seniors (65+) and Students (21 and under). The show is under the direction of Kenney Workman. Reservations may be made by calling the box office at 302-856-4560.
Granted, some of the films started as works of fiction, so there's still a base which makes this all work. Even a show such as Little Shop of Horrors which Roger Corman made on a shoe-string budget and filmed over the course of a few days has a foundation in literature. Corman was out to make an original, though campy horror film, but the plot is Faustian in nature. Poor Seymour Krelborn sells his soul to a plant from outer space to get what he wants. Only the details of the plot separate Little Shop from Damn Yankees. Damn Yankees was based on The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant and was a modern version of the Faust story. "I'd sell my soul to the devil to see the Senator's win a pennant!" cries a beleaguered baseball fan when old Lucifer appears in the form of Mr. Applegate and seals the deal. A little side trivia on the show...it has my favorite opening date in history. May 5, 1955 or 5/5/55.
Well, now you see why I don't sleep well. Too much useless information floating around in the brain.
Doug Yetter is Artistic Director of the Clear Space Theatre Company. Email him at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 03 April 04, 2008