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Thursday, July 31, 2014

No Sweat, No Reward!

Nil sine magno vita labore dedit mortalibus.
Horatius (Satires, Book I, IX, Line 59).
     

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Slowly But Surely

It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction.
Rob Reiner

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On Its Way To The White Way

Film director Rob Reiner still plans to turn his movie  The Princess Bride into a Broadway musical. He
told entertainment news blog WENN: "I think it would make a great musical. I think the songs As You Wish and Inconceivable, and The Battle of Wits just jump out at you." Reiner's best known movies are Stand By Me and When Harry Met Sally. He has previously approached composer Randy Newman and musician John Mayer to write the songs. They both have declined. Back in 2006, Tony award-winning composer Adam Guettel and the original book's author William Goldman announced their plans for a Princess Bride musical, but the project was abandoned in early 2007, when Goldman and Guettel cited contract disputes. In November 2013, Disney announced plans to team up with Goldman for a musical adaptation of The Princess Bride, launching a website in February 2014 that offered fans future updates. It has never been updated.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Presley Memorabilia

According to the Graceland website there will be an auction of several Presley memorabilia from independent collectors to be held at the singer’s palatial headquarters in Memphis on August 14th. Among them is a library card he signed as a 13-year-old student in Tupelo, Mississippi and a 1976 Cadillac Seville from the singer’s collection, the last Caddy he is known to have driven. Also set to go on the block is Presley’s copy of the script for his first film, “Love Me Tender,” stamped with the movie’s original title.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Theodice


“God's only excuse is that he does not exist”
Marie-Henri Beyle aka Stendhal (1783-1842)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fly, Cessna, Fly!

One of the many things I missed in my life is learning how to fly an aircraft. The good thing is there is Infinte Flight, a flight simulator that is the next best thing to controlling a real plane. You start selecting an aircraft type, like a small Cessna. Next you choose a location and some basic weather options. Then you’re transported to the cockpit, with a beautiful view of the sky and ground and a display of the important aircraft controls. The sheer number of buttons and dials is kind of daunting, but the app has introductory lessons for guidance. As you fly the ground is shown in pretty persuasive detail, as are mountains and seas. The app costs $ 5.00. If you share the dream of being a pilot, it's the cheapest way to make it come true.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gershwin Prize For Billy Joel

Another prestigious award goes to Billy Joel. The Library of Congress is honoring him with this year's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Librarian James Billington said Tuesday the singer-songwriter, whose hits include "Piano Man" and "Uptown Girl," will receive the prize in Washington in November. The Gershwin Prize honors a living artist's lifetime achievement in music. Previous recipients include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, the songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, and Carole King. Joel is among the world's most popular recording artists. He has said his piano-driven compositions spring from personal experiences, and that he strives to write songs that capture and transcend those moments.
With a career spanning 50 years in the entertainment industry, Joel is the sixth top-selling artist of all time. I always thought he should compose the score for a stage musical. He's certainly got what it takes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Heartfelt Congratulations, John!

President Obama will present the 2013 National Medal of Arts, the US government’s highest award for artists and arts patrons, to the music theater composer John Kander and 11 other honorees at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Nobody deserves this extraordinary honor more than John Kander who is not only one of the most prolific but also one of the nicest composers of Broadway. He started out as a rehearsal pianist for West Side Story. As the late Fred Ebb's partner he created perennial musical hits, such as Cabaret and Chicago. Some of his songs have become standards I only mention New York, New York. I met John Kander during my work on the adaptation of Kiss of the Spider Woman for the German stage. The other recipients of the medal are the novelist, poet and playwright Julia Alvarez; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Joan Harris, an arts patron; the dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones; Jeffrey Katzenberg, the director and CEO of DreamWorks; the novelist Maxine Hong Kingston; the documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles; the singer Linda Ronstadt; the architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams and the visual artist James Turrell. It is wonderful that the United States honor all of their best artists in such a ceremony, which, by the way, will be streamed live at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday at WH.gov/Live.  In continental Europe entertainment artists are still excluded from all public recognition except the audience applause.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The New Shakespeare Musical

One of my heroes, the playwright Tom Stoppard, wrote the script of the movie "Shakespeare In Love". He also wrote a stage version which he did not like at all. Today Disney Theatrical Productions and the London impresario Sonia Friedman open a stage musical adaptation of the film in London's West End. The libretto was created by the playwright Lee Hall, a Tony winner for the book for “Billy Elliot the Musical,” another screen-to-stage work. The production includes 28 actors and musicians, one of the largest casts ever for a West End play. There is also a dog. If the play is a hit at the Noël Coward Theater tonight, the producers will undoubtedly consider mounting a production on Broadway next.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sing Like The Star

So far, all Karaoke apps offer rerecorded backing tracks because the original recordings are usually kept sealed. There's a new app now on the market for those who want to be backed up by the real tracks when they dream of stardom. It's called Hook’d. It started on July 10 as a free app for iPhone and iPod Touch and offers 42 original backing tracks of hit songs. Unlike singalong apps that play covers — renditions of hit songs rerecorded by anonymous studio musicians — Hook’d features everything from the original recording except the voice track. The software developer who created Hook'd negotiated with the three major recording companies, Warner Music Group, Sony and Universal Music Group to get permission to use the original recordings. The app also shows the lyrics on the cellphone screen, above the image being recorded as you sing. And if you want more guidance, you can listen to  the original lead vocalist. Hook’d builds on technology from MuseAmi’s first app, ImproVox, introduced in 2010 to help singers who probably should not perform outside the shower. Real-time digital signal processing corrects those who are off key. Hook’d also has other studio effects that users can apply before they share their performances on Hook’d’s YouTube channel or on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, July 21, 2014

All Art Is (Also) A Craft

All great composers of the past spent most of their time studying. Feeling alone won't do the job. A man also needs technique.
George Gershwin

Sunday, July 20, 2014

An American, back in Paris and headed for Broadway

Stuart Oken, producer of the upcoming world premiere of the new stage musical AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, has just announced dates and the theatre for the Broadway run of this new production. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS's home will be the Palace Theatre (Broadway at 47th Street) with previews beginning Friday, March 13, 2015 for a Sunday, April 12, 2015 opening night. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS will open on Broadway following its world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Previews begin in Paris on Saturday, November 22, 2014 for a Wednesday, December 10, 2014 opening night. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS will be directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, making his Broadway directing debut. Inspired by the Academy-Award winning film, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS brings this classic tale to Broadway for the first time with music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin and a book by Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominee Craig Lucas. The Paris cast will include Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan, Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin, Veanne Cox as Madame Baurel, Jill Paice as Milo Davenport, Brandon Uranowitz as Adam Hochberg, and Max Von Essen as Henri Baurel. The New York Times is currently reporting that "much" of the original cast will return for the production's Broadway run, though no official word has been given. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS transforms the timeless story of love in a city rebuilding from the heartbreak of World War II into a new Broadway musical of romance, redemption and hope. The creative team includes Tony Award winners Bob Crowley (sets and costumes) and Natasha Katz (lighting), Jon Weston (sound) with the musical score adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher, orchestrations by Christopher Austin and musical direction by Brad Haak. Casting is by Telsey + Company/Rachel Hoffman. The score will include the Gershwin songs "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful," "But Not For Me," "Stairway to Paradise," "Our Love Is Here To Stay", "They Can't Take That Away" and orchestral music including "Concerto in F," "2nd Prelude," "2nd Rhapsody" and "An American In Paris." Sounds marvellous, Stuart!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A New Beatles Documentary

Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard and Grammy Award-winning producer Nigel Sinclair have teamed up to make a feature documentary on The Beatles. The focus will trace their days from the clubs of Liverpool, England, and Hamburg, Germany, to their final appearance at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966. By the time they finished their last concert, they were an iconic band destined to become a legend. The film has been authorized by the band’s holding company, Apple Corps Ltd, and will have the full cooperation and support of surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono Lennon, and George Harrison’s widow Olivia Harrison.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Knock Out!

Broadway veterans keep telling me it's impossible to successfully import a musical from continental Europe to Broadway. Well, what about a show created by an all American team of Broadway pros? If it was first staged in Hamburg it still seems to wear the mark of death. The Broadway musical Rocky, with a score by the Tony-winning songwriting team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and a book by Tony winner Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone, has announced plans to close on August 17. Directed by Alex Timbers, the production of the Dutch Stage Entertainment company of Joop van den Ende began performances on February 13 and officially opened on March 13 at Broadway's Winter Garden. At time of closing, the musical will have played 28 previews and 188 regular performances at the Winter Garden Theatre. That's only a tad more than my "Dance Of The Vampires" which flopped in New York after being mutilated by a Broadway team. The original is still doing perfectly fine everywhere else.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Secrets Of A Writer's Heart

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”
Stephen King

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why You Write

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
George Orwell

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

American Psycho

London's West End is the perfect springboard for stage musicals on their way to Broadway. A great advantage for British authors. More and more Americans use it too. Duncan Sheik, the Tony Award winner for “Spring Awakening”, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”) mounted their new show “American Psycho” at Almeida Theater in London. The musical is based on Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel of the same name about an investment banker who's also a serial killer. He will be singing and dancing amid spatters of blood in this musical adaptation at Second Stage Theater starting in February, executives there announced Monday.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Perfection

"It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away".
Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Keep It Simple!

Only now did I learn about Hartmut Esslinger's book Keep It Simple – The Early Design Years of Apple, an insider’s account of the origins of Apple’s iconic products and brand. It's a book every Apple fan will devour. Esslinger who was born in in Germany's Black Forest was in his twenties when he designed the first plastic color TV and HiFi series Wega system 3000. When Wega was acquired by Sony, he created the design of the legendary Sony Trinitron. That's how Steve Jobs learned aboutt him. "In fact,"  Steve didn't really know much about design, but he liked German cars. Leveraging that connection, I explained that design like that has to be a complete package, that it must express the product's very soul; without the excellent driving experience and the history of stellar performance, a Porsche would be just another nice car--but it wouldn't be a Porsche. We also discussed American design, and I offended him when I insisted that American computer and consumer electronics companies totally underestimated the taste of American consumers--Sony's success with clean design being the proof. He was gracious enough to concede that Apple didn't make the cut, but he also said that he was out to change all that, which was why he was looking for a world-class designer. When I asked him about his bigger ambitions, he simply smiled and said: "First, I want to sell a million Macs. Then I want Apple to become the greatest company on earth." For some strange reason, we both agreed that those goals were absolutely achievable."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chasm

Ryuichi Sakamoto is one of my favorite composers. His has released dozens of albums ranging from synthpop to minimal classical music to re-imagined bossa nova. He has collaborated with artists including Brian Wilson, David Byrne, Aztec Camera and Iggy Pop, and received an Academy Award for scoring 1987's The Last Emperor. In recent decades, Sakamoto has been an important spokesperson for copyright reform and Japan's anti-nuclear movement. It grieves me to read that Sakamoto san has been diagnosed with throat cancer. He has cancelled all of his upcoming appearances as he concentrates on treating the illness and "regaining my health". Doctors identified the cancer in June, Sakamoto wrote, just weeks before he was due to inaugurate the first annual Sapporo International Art Festival. As guest director, he has been working on the 2014 festival for "the past two painstaking years". "Although I will be absent, all of the programs will be of highest quality - this I promise. I would like nothing more than for everyone to enjoy the festival in my place."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Threatening ASCAP and BMI

A month after the US Justice Department said it would review the decades-old regulatory agreements governing the music licensing agencies Ascap and BMI, the world’s biggest song publisher has threatened to end its relationship with those groups if the changes it wants are not made. The announcement, made by Sony/ATV Music Publishing — whose catalog of more than two million songs includes Beatles classics as well as current hits by Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga — comes as the music publishing world ponders major structural changes, in response to the rise of online streaming services like Pandora, Spotify and YouTube, which critics say pay too little in royalties.
In a letter to tens of thousands of Sony/ATV songwriters, Martin N. Bandier, the company’s chairman, addressed some of the issues facing the world of music publishing, including the Justice Department review and Ascap and BMI’s legal battles with Pandora over licensing. If those matters turn out badly for the publishing world, then Sony/ATV would consider “the potential complete withdrawal of all rights from Ascap and BMI,” Mr. Bandier wrote in the letter, sent Wednesday.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Musical Charts

The top ten Broadway shows for the week ending July 6:

1. The Lion King
2. Wicked
3. The Book of Mormon
4. Aladdin
5. Kinky Boots
6. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
7. Matilda the Musical
8. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
9. The Phantom of the Opera
10.Les Miserables

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Clinton: The Musical

It was about time. A musical about Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal of the 1990s will make its United States premiere on July 18 as part of the New York Musical Theater Festival. Written by Paul and Michael Hodge, Australian brothers, it portrays two sides of President Bill Clinton: the jovial id who cannot control himself and the pensive policy wonk who cannot stop talking about the intricacies of health care reform. Mrs. Clinton is the struggling-to-be-stabilizing force, grappling with the Lewinsky scandal while slyly eyeing her own Senate run. Critics have described the show that premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland in 2012 before transferring to London as "witty, quirky" and a "delicious political satire."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Attracting A Crowd

Most probably Harry Houdini was not the greatest magician who ever lived, but he was arguably the greatest showman and certainly the world's most famous illusionist. He found out that the easiest way to attract a crowd is to let it be known that at a given time and a given place someone is going to attempt something that in the event of failure will result in sudden death. I think that is a truth every writer should remember when he starts concocting a story.



Monday, July 7, 2014

I found the following numbers in Saturday's New York Times: According to data from Nielsen SoundScan listeners in the United States used audio and video streaming services to listen to 70.3 billion songs in the first half of 2014, an increase of 42 percent from the first half of 2013. This growth appears to have come at the expense of traditional sales, with downloads now joining CDs as a format in decline. 120.9 million albums have been sold so far this year, down 14.9 percent from the first half of 2013. Of those albums, 62.9 million were on CD (down 19.6 percent) and 53.8 million were digital downloads (down 11.6 percent). Download sales — a major growth engine for the music industry since the introduction of Apple’s iTunes store in 2003 — began to cool several years ago. But their slip from a format on the rise to one on the decline has come suddenly. Last year, downloads of individual tracks fell for the first time, by 6 percent, and in the first half of 2014 they dropped 13 percent, to 593.6 million. For music companies and the artists they represent, a crucial question is whether the increasing income from streaming services — which pay fractions of pennies in royalties each time a song is listened to — will offset the drop in sales. While many in the industry are bullish on this question, Nielsen’s own formula suggests that, at least so far, it is not enough. All in all the news are pretty bad for songwriters.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tim At Sixteen

"It’s such a privilege just being 16 but you don’t know that until you’re 40. Especially if, like me, you’re a bit baffled by it all and don’t have any ideas about what you want to do. I haven’t changed my views on a lot of things. We went to chapel a lot at school and I remember thinking Judas Iscariot got rather a hard time and I think a lot of the work I ended up doing has been inspired by thoughts I had in my childhood. I collected stamps and always remember looking at Eva Peron on the Argentinian stamps with great interest. The 16-year-old me would find my life since then quite extraordinary. But he wouldn’t be aware yet of how many other things are much more important than acknowledged success. I’m thinking of my children really, caring for them, trying to turn them into happy, nice people. Making sure they know you love them."
Tim Rice

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence



“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice."
Steve Jobs

Friday, July 4, 2014

In The Dark

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night," said E.L. Doctorow, and explained his metaphor like this: "You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you." This may be true for writing a novel, but I don't think it is smart advice for young playwrights. If you write a play or a show like driving a car at night you'll end up somewhere in the roadside ditch or, worse, crash
into a brick wall.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Janis Joplin Gets A Stamp

God didn't buy her a Mercedes Benz, but she gets a stamp now. That's how the United States Postal Service will honor Janis Joplin who would have turned 71 this year. The stamp will be released this August and will feature the singer smiling and wearing shades surrounded by a psychedelic background and lettering evoking the popular font of the Sixties. A biographical description on the sheet of 16 stamps says: "Janis Joplin (1943-1970) was a groundbreaking singer whose powerful, bluesy voice propelled her to the pinnacle of rock stardom. An icon of the 1960s, she was known for her uninhibited and soulful performances. Joplin is now recognized as one of the greatest rock singers of all time, as well as a pioneer who paved the way for other women in rock music." The new stamp is part of the USPS's Music Icons series, which had previously honored Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Tejano songstress Lydia Mendoza in 2012.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

No Echo

“Holler if Ya Hear Me,” the new Broadway musical inspired by the lyrics and life of the rapper Tupac Shakur, had little to shout about at the box office in its first full week of post-opening performances. According to box office data released on Monday by the Broadway League, the musical, which opened to mediocre reviews on June 19, was the lowest-grossing show on Broadway for the week ending June 29, taking in $159,571 for eight performances. It played to just under 40 percent of capacity at the Palace Theater, which is usually home to large-scale musicals, such as the recent revival of “Annie.” For “Holler,” a smaller-scale show, the theater’s seating capacity was reduced from about 1,743 to around 1,100. Last week’s grosses for “Holler if Ya Hear Me” were actually down from the previous week, when its meager gross of just $170,652 fueled speculation that it would close on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Failure

I wanted to be a soccer player, and I became the best of the best, the number one, better than Maradona, better than Pele, and even better than Messi - but only at night, nighttime, during my dreams. When I wake up, I realized that I have wooden legs and that I'm doomed to be a writer.
Eduardo Galeano