Monday, December 21, 2009

Thank Heaven: A Memoir by Leslie Caron

Leslie Caron is one of the few leading ladies of the MGM musical heyday that has remained active into the 21st Century.  In 2000, she starred in the memorable Chocolate with Johnny Depp and Juliet Binoche, and then in 2003 Le Divorce with Kate Hudson.  However, I think she will be best remembered by us Moonies for her involvement in "I Remember It Well: The Songs of Alan Jay Lerner."  This beautiful tribute to Lerner was held in the Herbst Theater on June 30, 2003 as 42nd Street Moon's Gala.

I was looking in the paper today and saw that Caron has a new memoir, Thank Heaven.  While I haven't read it yet, it has officially gone on my reading list.  If you want to learn more about the life and work of Leslie Caron you can purchase Thank Heaven at Amazon.com.  It would also make a great holiday gift.



Speaking of great gift ideas!

42nd Street Moon has some wonderful stocking stuffers available for anyone that loves musical theatre. 

If you'd like to give the gift of music, consider our recordings:


For the Jerome Kern fan, we have The First Rose of Summer, a collection of Kern's lost gems.  Included are many songs that were recorded for the first time for this CD!

Of course, if Cole Porter is more your style, how about the first full cast recording of Something For the Boys.  This 42nd Street Moon revival cast of the 1943 hit Porter show includes Cabaret sensation Meg Mackay and Moon favorite Leslie Hamilton.

Get these CD's for $15 each or BOTH for only $25 (call to arrange pick-up for pre-christmas sales, or add $4 for shipping and handling).  Just click here.

Plus...

There are always tickets for our next salon evening, Nice Work If You Can Get It, starring living legend Donna McKechnie.  If you really want to impress you're special someone, get them tickets to what will be the hottest show in town.

Friday, December 4, 2009

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor: 42nd Street Moon Goes to the Commercials?

Some of you get to the Eureka and you come out during intermission saying... "I know I've seen him before."  "She reminds me of someone, but I don't quite know why."  Well...

Hidden in your subconscious might be memories.  Memories of seeing some of these commercials...

Who's that Gal in the Diner with Paul Reiser...?



I think it's the same actress who's controlling this absurd air traffic....



Recognize her yet?  It's Queen Butch herself, Megan Cavanagh.  But do you think she's the ONLY Moonie to have a commercial? 



That client is very reminiscent of Prince Rudolph wouldn't you say?  Ben Pither you know how to sell a pen!



"What the.." is right.  This was one of Nintendo's most acclaimed commercials, and if you listen closely, you can here just a faint bit of Eva Standing in that cute cuddly little bear.  Dyan McBride provided the voice over for that spot.

Come  see Megan, Ben, and Dyan at the Eureka Theatre in 42nd Street Moon's Production of Cole Porter's Jubilee playing now through December 13.  For tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who's Who of 1935: An Insider's Guide to JUBILEE

Jubilee was an ultra-hip hit on Broadway in 1935 and lampooned many famous people of the day. Some of the best known were portrayed as thinly disguised characters in the show. For example, the characters of Karen O’Kane and Eric Dare in Jubilee were meant to represent Ginger Rogers and Noel Coward, respectively.   Eva Standing is the fictious representation of Elsa Maxwell, while Charles "Mowgli" Rausmiller represents Johnny "Tarzan" Weismuller. (Click here for a fascinating look at Elsa Maxwell).

But these are the tip of the Jubilee iceberg. Cole Porter and Moss Hart play fast and loose with their name-dropping in the script and score, and a host of 1930s celebrities are mentioned throughout.  Here are a few of the real life personalities of the period who are mentioned in the show...


Neysa McMein was an American artist and long-time love of the famous Broadway Director George Abbott. She was also a member of the famed “Algonquin Round Table” – noted for her parties. A renowned portraitist, her famous subjects included Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Helen Hayes, Dorothy Parker, and Charlie Chaplin. However, her most recognizable work is the image of a fictional housewife… Betty Crocker.

Mercedes De Acosta was an American poet, playwright, costume designer and socialite known for her many lesbian affairs with Hollywood personalities including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Isadora Duncan, Tallulah BankheadOna Munson, and, allegedly, Adele Astaire. De Acosta detailed these relationships in her autobiography Here Lies the Heart, which prompted an outraged Elsa Maxwell to quip “…and lies, and lies, and lies.”

Aimee Semple McPherson or “Sister Aimee” was American evangelist, creator of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel and Angelus Temple in LA. She was involved in a scandal in 1926 when she disappeared and was believed drowned. When she showed up six weeks later she claimed to have been kidnapped, but evidence pointed to her having been enjoying an illicit tryst in Carmel and Arizona. Her last name rhymes with “person,” not “dear son.”

Grace Moore was famous operatic soprano of the 1920s-40s who started in musical theatre and later did films. Along with John Steel, she introduced Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I do”. She was known as the “Tennessee Nightengale” and Elvis Presley named Graceland after her. She died at 48 in a plane crash.

Giulio Gatti-Casazza was an opera manager, having managed both La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. His name is pronounced like “Patti razzamatazza”

Cecil Beaton was English fashion and portrait photographer who later had an acclaimed career as an Academy Award-winning designer of sets and costumes for film and theatre (My Fair Lady, Gigi, Coco, among others). His portrait of a young WWII victim helped rally support for the war in the U.S.

(Cecil Beaton's portray of a young Blitz Victim)


Herbert Swope was a U.S. editor and journalist of the New York World. He not only coined the term “Cold War,” but created the concept of the “op-ed” piece as well. He was the first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for reporting. He famously said, "I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time."

The Dionne quintuplets “Dionne Quints” (born May 28, 1934) are the first quintuplets known to survive infancy. The sisters were born in Canada, and are the only female identical set of five ever recorded.. These are the same “five Dionne babies” Sondheim wrote about in his stage anthem “I’m Still Here,” from Follies.


Elizabeth Arden was born Florence Nightengale Graham. Elizabeth Arden is one of the most recognizable names in make-up. She and Helena Rubenstein were the two beauty gurus of the 1930s.

Fritz Kreisler – world-renowned violinist and composer. Kreisler revealed in 1935 that many compositions that were earlier ascribed to composers such as Gaetano Pugnani, Giuseppe Tartini, Jacques Marnier Companie, and Antonio Vivaldi were actually written by him. When critics complained, Kreisler answered "The name changes, the value remains."

Huey Long was a Democratic Governor and then Senator of Louisiana, noted for his radical populist policies. Though a backer of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election, Long split with Roosevelt in June 1933 and allegedly planned to mount his own presidential bid. Long created the “Share Our Wealth” program in 1934, with the motto "Every Man a King," proposing new wealth redistribution measures in the form of a net asset tax on corporations and individuals to curb the poverty and crime resulting from the Depression. To stimulate the economy, Long advocated federal spending on public works, public education, old-age pensions and other social programs.  Long was assassinated during rehearsals of the original Jubilee, causing Porter ro rewrite the lyric reference to him (which is now restored for 42nd Street Moon's production!).


Averell Harriman was Democratic politician, businessman, and diplomat. Served as Secretary of Commerce and eventually Governor of New York. “Without a train” is a reference to his constant commuting between Washington, DC, and New York.


Billy the Oysterman, William Ockendorf, owned two popular oyster houses in New York in the 20s- 30s.


Lord and Taylor is a Men’s clothing store. Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor founded the company in 1826; it was the first major store on Fifth Avenue. Among other firsts, it was the first store to present innovative Christmas windows filled with holiday displays rather than merchandise.

Ivor Novello – British matinee idol, actor, singer, playwright, composer. Famed for his World War I song “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” His musicals in the 1930s were expensive, spectacular productions, with several scene changes and a large cast including many extras and dancers.

Dorothy Di Frasso or Countess Di Frasso was born Dorothy Taylor in Watertown, Connecticut.  She was a famous beauty noted for her affairs with many famous men and women, including Gary Cooper, Bugsy Siegel and Greta Garbo.

NRA – no, not that NRA.  This one was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “National Recovery Administration.”  Any early attempt to combat the Great Depression.

Ok, now you know all the players... come see Jubilee at the Eureka, and see how many references to the above celebrities of the day you can catch!

Running November 25 - December 13th, with a special "Black Friday" Matinee at 2pm on Friday November 27th.   For tickets click here, or call (415) 255-8207.  This is shaping up to be the most popular show of our season... don't wait. Performances are already selling out!


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Destiny of Destry Dancer: Rachelle Reyes

"You make me fall in love with these shows again."

Sometimes you, our faithful Moon audience, are the ones with the fascinating life stories to share, and last week at our final performance of Destry Rides Again, the above words were uttered by a very special audience member: Rachelle Reyes.


(Rachelle Reyes at Moonspace)


Rachelle was born and raised right here in San Francisco, and she still calls S.F. home!  She’s a proud subscriber to 42nd Street Moon and knows from good performances: she was a professional dancer for many years.
In 1939, at age 7, she was already hoofin’ it with the Anderson Sisters dancing at the Treasure Island World’s Fair.  In high school (at Lowell) she began dancing with the San Francisco Opera Ballet under the Christiansons



(Rachelle in a Promo shot for the Mason-Kahn Dancers)
 

Later she joined the Mason-Kahn Dancers where she met everyone from Ricky Nelson to Johnny Cash.
She told me Cash tried to steal a cab from her in Hawaii where she was performing in the celebration of their Statehood.
I saw him as I was walking to the cab from one stage entrance and he from another.  We smiled at each other and both walked toward the cab just a little bit faster, and smiled a little more, and walked a little bit faster.  We both got there at the same time and I said to him, ‘Excuse me Mr. Cash, I ordered this cab,’ and he said to me, ‘I’ll make you a deal, we’ll drop you off first, and then I’ll pay for the fare.’  Well that worked for me!

She even entertained the inmates at San Quentin, for which she received a lovely note from the Warden which read in part “You’ll always be welcomed warmly at San Quentin.” Rachelle has always wondered, “who wants to be welcomed at San Quentin?” Good question!
Though she was classically trained, she danced in many stage shows, and national tours, from Show Boat with Ruta Lee (pictured with Rachelle on the right) in Los Angeles, to Balanchine’s The Merry Widow.  And, of course, she danced in the national tour of Michael Kidd's Destry Rides Again.
I asked her which was “harder” - Balanchine or Michael Kidd?
Kidd’s choreography is much more athletic.  What we did was much more demanding athletically.  They even had to take Extraordinary Risk insurance out on us because of Kidd’s Choreography, but it was also more exciting!

When it comes to embarrassing stories about the Destry tour, she didn’t have many, but one was a doozy.
The night we closed in Toronto, during the Whip dance my costume got caught on a nail and all this fabric started unraveling, but I was dancing with a partner, I couldn’t just stop.  So it continued to unravel and there was all this fabric on stage!  The other performers who were on the balcony where laughing because I wouldn’t stop dancing.  They were just howling with laughter.  Finally, the Stage Manager’s wife ran down, grabbed all the fabric and just stuffed it in my bloomers! And off I went to finish the coda of that dance…



 (Rachelle in various poses for Destry Rides Again)


Rachelle told me some more wonderful stories, but I only have room for a few:

During Show Boat - she played La Belle Fatima (Left) - there was a moment when most of the actors on stage were facing Rachelle, and away from the audience.  Every night, the actors would try as hard as they could to get Rachelle to break character.  Rachelle would literally bit her lip to keep from cracking up, “I had the bloodiest lip."
Actors!  A vicious bunch I tell you!
She also told me about a time when a man came up to her and said, “Excuse me, my wife would like to meet you.”  She had no idea who it was, but it was Margaret Keane’s husband.  They told her she was the only woman they had ever met that looked like one of the Keane Girls.  Margaret never painted Rachelle, but they did take a picture together, a promotional picture and they had a wonderful time seeing Florence Henderson in The Sound of Music.


(Two looks for Rachelle)


Rachelle last performance was a Television Special in which she danced with Bing Crosby. After that she put up her tap/toe shoes and became a teacher here in San Francisco.  
With all the amazing people Rachelle has met, and all the wonderful stories she has, the thing that struck me most about her was how humble she was.  She never mentioned someone to show off, it was always so matter of fact and she truly didn’t seem to realize how fascinating and interesting her stories were. 
Rachelle, it was sincerely my pleasure talking with you and I look forward to many more conversations in the future.  Thank you for being a Moonie and supporting us!

Next up at 42nd Street Moon... Jubilee. Begins previews on November 25.  For tickets, click here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Toast to Connie Champagne

Connie Champagne is currently starring as Frenchy in 42nd Street Moon's production of Harold Rome's Destry Rides Again. Connie and I sat down for an interview after a performance of Destry.  Find out how she got her start, how she's connected to Molly Ringwald (six-degrees of Kevin Bacon... I think not), and where her fabulous nom de plume comes from.

Enjoy the interview!



Destry Rides Again runs through November 15th at the Eureka Theatre. For tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Tale of a Black Hat: Destry Rides Again From a Different Perspective

We all have our own particular paradigm for how we view things... life, work, musical plots...

Michael Cassidy plays the evil Saloon owner Kent in 42nd Street Moon's production of Destry Rides Again. Hear his take on the Destry story... from the perspective of Kent that is:





Destry Rides Again runs through November 15th at the Eureka Theatre. For tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Destry Rides Again... and Again... and Again

 I found it very interesting in reading Artistic Director Greg MacKellan's program notes that Destry Rides Again is one of the most adapted western stories of our time!


The brain child of author Max Brand*, Destry was first adapted in 1932 by Universal and starred Tom Mix (this is when and how Harry Destry became "Tom" Destry - Tom Mix is pictured left).

While James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich get top honors for immortalizing the characters of Tom Destry and Frenchy in the 1939 version of Destry Rides Again, Audie Murphy and Thomas Mitchell would star in the 1954 remake entitled simply Destry (which would also star Mary Wickes!).

The most interesting remake however has to be the 1951 version entitled Frenchie starring Shelley Winters.

Greg discussed Frenchie during the "talk back" on Sunday, Nov. 1 , here's what he had to say:





The final screen version of the Destry story was a television series also entitled Destry, staring John Gavin (Right). However the character was not Harry or Tom, but Harrison Destry. Harrison, Tom Destry's son, was wrongfully imprisoned and, after he was released, sought justice from those who framed him. Just like his dad, he eschewed guns and violence whenever possible.

Destry didn't make it to the stage until David Merrick (in his debut on Broadway) brought him to the Great White Way in 1959 with the tremendous talent of Harold Rome and Leonard Gershe. The only other major production of the Musical was a London production in 1982 starring Alfred Molina.

Don't miss your chance to catch a truly rare musical, Destry Rides Again stars San Francisco's favorite chanteuse Connie Champagne, and runs until November 15 at the Eureka Theatre. For tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207.





*Max Brand was actually the acclaimed poet Fredrick Schiller Faust. He was one of the most prolific writers of all time having written nearly 30,000,000 words under 19 different pseudonyms. He is most famous for his characters Tom Destry and Dr. James Kildare.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Look Behind Bottleneck: Destry Rehearsals

When Connie Champagne takes the stage at 42nd Street Moon, she transports us to the Wild West, to the small town of Bottleneck where the bad guys is bad, and the good guys is good. And Connie should know from bad guys and good guys of the Wild West, she shares a birthday with Billy the Kid


(Connie Champagne and Steve Rhyne)

One of the great perks of writing this blog is that I get to go into rehearsal and see the show taking shape.  I get to see the bad guys and good guys forming their characters and their relationships.  As we enter our last preview, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what I saw.


Many of you have probably already seen my footage of "Are You Ready, Gyp Watson?"  It was a really interesting experience to watch the actors just practicing around the piano. It felt like a good ol' fashioned piano sing-along.  More like friends coming together and have fun than a "rehearsal". 


If you didn't get a chance to see the video, well here ya go!



I also took some snapshots of various moments.  Below the boys are having a barbershop-sextet moment with "Not Guilty."


(Clockwise: Ernie Tovar, Wendell H. Wilson, Michael Cassidy, Jeremy Vik, Tom Orr, Coley Grundman)


Moon productions don't get weeks of rehearsals, so whenever possible, double duty is done! While most of the cast is rehearsing the second act, Robbie Cowan and Louise Jarmilowicz work on costuming in back.

From This....

(Robbie Cowan and Louise Jarmilowicz)

To this...

(Robbie Cowan)

Pretty snazzy Louise!


Come check out all the hard work the Destry company has done! Destry Rides Again opens tomorrow, October 31st and runs through November 15th. Opening Night Champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception included with your Opening Night ticket. Come in costume and get a coupon good for a half-off ticket for our next show Jubilee! For Tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Destry Rides Where the Buffalo Rome

Gershwin, Kern, Porter, and Berlin, these are some of the best-known contributors to the Great American Songbook canon and of Broadway's history. However this season's fifth composer, Harold Rome (b. 1908), may not be as familiar.


Although you'll soon be familiar with Destry Rides Again, you may not know that, coincidental to our just completed production, one of his early successes was entitled Call Me Mister (1946) about service men returning home from war.

Rome had a number of hit shows however, with I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962), Pins and Needles (1934), and of course Fanny (1954) - the hit show starring Florence Henderson and Ezio Pinza that would debut David Merrick's talents as a Broadway producer.

Rome also introduced the world to a new ingĂ©nue in Wholesale, it’s such a shame she was lost to obscurity. I doubt any of you have ever heard of her, Barbra Streisand?

But I digress.

Rome was actually a Yale-educated architect who showed promise as a painter as well. He said, "I was an architect with no buildings to build, a painter with no patrons." So of course, he felt musical theatre would be an easier life.

Rome's music career was highlighted by truly satirical songs. He often used his musical talents to campaign against social injustice; one critic of the 1930's hailed him "Noel Coward, with a social conscience." An example is "Four Angels of Peace", which was written as a quartet for Neville Chamberlin, Tojo, Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler to sing in Pins and Needles. It seems the relevance of his lyrics has not been lost to time:
Four little angels of peace are we
Loving our neighbors so peacefully
There's really no harm if we do not disarm
For we always in close harmony

He was also fond of singing "Sing Me a Song With Social Significance" when he made public appearances throughout his life:

Sing me a song with social significance
Or you can sing 'til you're blue
Let meaning shine from ev'ry line
Or I won't love you

Rome left us relatively recently, in 1993, but his vibrant music and wonderful adaption of the western comedy spoof, Destry Rides Again will live on at the Eureka Theatre beginning October 28th.  For tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Show Must Go On

Wow!  What excitement last night.  There is nothing like live theatre, you never know when something is going to happen.

And something certainly did happen!

A truck jack-kniffed on the Bay Bridge and trapped three of our actors on the other side!

What to do?  What to do?

Do we cancel the show?  Has Moon ever cancelled a show before?

Of course not!  Sure we might have started a *wee* bit late.  But we did go on!

For a few minutes there, it looked like 42nd Street Moon Board President J. Patterson McBaine was going to fill in for one of the actors. He even got on stage, but just to assure all the lovely Moonies in attendance that the show would go on!


Sarah Kathleen Farrell (pictured left) stepped into the role of Sebastian Sebastian and we were short one part of our trio for the opening number, and some of the lines were going to be divied up amongst some of the other actors.

But our fearless company started the show to a very appreciative crowd; a crowd that included our guest host from I Feel a Song Coming On, Tony-winner Cady Huffman (pictured below right).

Luckily, two of the actors were able to make it about 10 min after curtain and slipped seamlessly back into their roles. And by the second act, our cast was once again complete.

I can't tell you how proud I am of this cast.  They had no intention of letting the audience go home empty handed, and the standing ovation at the end proved that the audience had a ride they won't soon forget!

Kudos to all the cast and crew last night, and to Director Dyan McBride and Artistic Director Greg MacKellan for their leadership;  they took the reins and directed us into a harried, but successful evening.

Showbiz, there's nothin' like it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Six Reasons to See I FEEL A SONG COMING ON

So I have a few people here who would like to tell you why you should join us for our first salon, I Feel a Song Coming On.  Here they are... in their own words.













So there ya have it, do you have your tickets yet?  If not purchase them by clicking here.  Or call us at the Box Office at (415) 255 - 8207.  Any don't forget you can meet ALL these guys PLUS Tony Award-winner Cady Huffman by joining us for the "Sweet Treat" reception after the show.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Donna - Donna McKechnie to Host Ira Gershwin Salon

There are Stars among the Moon this season.

Internationally renowned cabaret sensation and MAC-award winning Klea Blackhurst begins the second half of Moon's Call Me Madam this week, while our own home town star and chanteuse Connie Champagne begins rehearsal's of Destry Rides Again.




(Klea Blackhurst and Connie Champagne)

Megan Cavanagh, star of hit films A League of Their Own and Robin Hood: Men in Tights -- not to mention the voice of Jimmy Neutron's mom -- will be joining us this holiday season for Cole Porter's Jubilee.


(Megan Cavanagh)

As if that wasn't enough Tony-winner Cady Huffman just sent us a note telling us how much she loves the script for I Feel a Song Coming On: A Dorothy Fields Salon (which is this Tuesday, Oct 13th).


(Cady Huffman as Ulla in The Producers)

How could this season get better?

How about Donna McKechnie joining us for the Ira Gershwin Salon this January? (Thursday, January 28th at 7:00PM to be exact.)


(Donna McKechnie)

Yes, once again all my devoted Moon Blog readers you get the scoop.  Donnie McKechnie who changed Broadway forever by helping shape A Chorus Line and then went on to win the Tony-award with her role as Cassie will be hosting the Ira Gershwin Salon. 

We are so excited here at Moon we've decided to re-introduce the Salon Series pricing.  See Cady Huffman and Donna McKechnie for only $100 dollars. Click Here for the special rate.  Hurry, this is a limited time offer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Like Ike - Call Me Madam and the Election of 1952

Right after opening night I overheard two Moonies talking about the election of 1952.  Not all that odd considering one of the great comedic songs of Call Me Madam is entitled, "They Like Ike."

But I realized I too had no idea who had actually won that particular election. 

Had Harry S. Truman bested Eisenhower who would come back later to win the Presidency?  I could have sworn it was Adlai Stevenson that lost to Eisenhower.

I would say this is one of those times where my public education failed me.

For those of you, who like me, are a little fuzzy on the details... here they are.
Truman took over the post of the Presidency when FDR passed away.  He then won re-election (just barely) against Thomas Dewey in 1948 leading to this now famous picture ---------------->

He was a good two years into his second term when Irving Berlin wrote "They Like Ike" for Call Me Madam.  Madam's Democratic Senators Brockbank and Gallagher (played by DC Scarpelli and John-Elliot Kirk) could not have known how unpopular Truman would become shortly after the Korean War began to escalate toward the end of 1950.

(DC Scarpelli and John-Elliott Kirk)

So unpopular in fact, that he lost the New Hampshire primary to Senator Estes Kefauver.  A loss that surely would have made Madam's Congresswoman Betsey "I'm the Republican" Wilkins (played by Scarlett Hepworth) very happy indeed.

(Scarlett Hepworth)

Truman bowed out of the election.  Adlai Stevenson received the democratic nomination and lost to Dwight "I Like Ike" D. Eisenhower.  Berlin, a life long conservative, lent his song to Ike.  It would become a fixture in the campaign.

Eisenhower recalled Perle Mesta for political reasons in the spring of 1953.  There is a lovely letter from Mesta to Eisenhower currently on display at the Eureka Theatre.  Make sure to look it over when you come to see Call Me Madam, now playing through Oct. 18th.

Tell us your recollections of the Election of 1952.  Who did you, or your family vote for and why?  Do you think history looked more kindly upon Truman than his contemporaries did?  Leave a comment and let us Moonies what you think about this time in our past.