Monday, March 31, 2014

Einstein's Success Formula


If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.
Albert Einstein

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The King

My favorite picture of Elvis Presley was shot in 1956 by Roger Marshutz.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aladdin, The Musical

Disney's theatrical department deserves more credit than it gets. The kids who fell in love with Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and other Disney films followed them to Broadway, and dragged their parents along. Family-friendly shows like The Lion King have become the biggest box office hits in Broadway history. More important, Disney has shown a lot of respect for creative artists. Nearly every Disney show has featured innovative staging to turn animation into theatrical entertainment. Most of all Julie Taymor’s groundbreaking puppetry and set design for The Lion King. Disney recruits artists, not hacks; spends years developing its shows; and turns out product that may be formulaic but never looks cheap or half-baked. The person who started all this was Stuart Oken who has left Disney by now and has become an independent and successful Broadway producer (The Addams Family). Judging from New York's reviews, Disney's latest show, Aladdin, is another demonstration of Disney professionalism.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Misbehaving Minds

John Lennon recalled in an interview that he wrote “Nowhere Man” after working five hours in vain. He was about to give up when all of a sudden inspiration struck. "‘Nowhere Man’ came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down.” As a young man Steve Jobs had taken a class in calligraphy. He didn't really know why he did this, until ten years later he was trying to give his Mac an appropriate font. Oscar Wilde found a perfect way to describe creativity: “A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Creativity Miracle

Whoever writes, develops, invents - in short: creates - anything will make a strange observation sooner or later. The more you do, the better you are. You would think that you only have so and so much to give, but as long as you take care of your health, your brain gets more productive if you demand more creativity. It's much harder to get something out of it after you've been lazy for a time. When Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) was asked why she's able to work so hard and still be in great shape, she answered "Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich." It's a miracle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

From Here To Eternity

Tim Rice's latest stage musical From Here To Eternity may have been a disappointment in London, but it will not go from here into eternal oblivion. American producers have announced plans to film the show for a release for U.S. movie theatres later this year. A 2015 Broadway production slated for 2015 may follow. The musical based on James Jones' 1951 debut novel that's best known for the 1953 Oscar-winning film that starred Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra and Montgomery Clift, has run in the West End for six months at the Shaftesbury.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Glory Of The Climb

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.
Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, March 24, 2014

On The Uphill Road To Broadway

Theatre: Longacre Theatre
Opening: April 16, 2014
Written by John Steinbeck
Director: Anna D. Shapiro

Theatre: Vivian Beaumont Theatre
Opening: April 17, 2014
Written by James Lapine
Director: James Lapine

Theatre: Studio 54
Opening: April 24, 2014
Written by John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics), Joe Masteroff (book)
Director: Sam Mendes & Rob Marshall

Theatre: Circle in the Square
Opening: April 13, 2014
Written by Lanie Robertson
Director: Lonny Price

Theatre: American Airlines Theatre
Opening: April 20, 2014
Written by Jeanine Tesori (music), Brian Crawley (book & lyrics)
Director: Leigh Silverman

Theatre: Belasco Theatre
Opens: April 22, 2014
Written by Stephen Trask (music & lyrics), John Cameron Mitchell (book)
Director: Michael Mayer

Theatre: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Opening: April 23, 2014
Written by Harvey Fierstein
Director: Joe Mantello

Theatre: Booth Theatre
Opening: April 21, 2014
Written by Eric Coble
Director: Molly Smith

Theatre: Cort Theatre
Opening: April 20, 2014
Closing: July 20, 2014
Written by Martin McDonagh
Director: Michael Grandage

Theatre: Palace Theatre
Opening: June 19, 2014
Written by Tupac Shakur (music & lyrics), Todd Kreidler (book)
Director: Kenny Leon

Theatre: Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Opening: October 5, 2014
Written by Mark Haddon (novel), Simon Stephens (adaptation)
Director: Marianne Elliott

Theatre: Neil Simon Theatre
Opening: October 26, 2014
Written by Sting (music & lyrics), Brian Yorkey and John Logan (book)
Director: Joe Mantello

Theatre: American Airlines Theatre
Opening: October 30, 2014
Written by Tom Stoppard
Director: Sam Gold

Theatre: Lyric Theatre (formerly Foxwoods)
Opening: October 2014
Music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics & book by Betty Comden & Adolph Green; conceived by Jerome Robbins
Director: John Rando

Theatre: American Airlines Theatre
Opening: January 2015
Written by Michael Frayn
Director: Jeremy Herrin

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: Spring 2014
Written by Jay Kuo (book, music & lyrics), Marc Acito (book) and Lorenzo Thione (book).
Director: Stafford Arima

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: 2014
Written by Jim Wise (music), George Haimsohn (book & lyrics), Robin Miller (book & lyrics)
Director: Randy Skinner

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: Fall 2014
Written by Bernard Pomerance
Director: Scott Ellis

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: 2014
Written by Tracy Letts
Director: Pam MacKinnon

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: TBA
Written by Craig Lucas (book), Marius de Vries (composer & arrangements), Michael Mitnick and Richard Thomas (additional lyrics)
Director: Daniel Kramer

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: Fall 2014
Written by Michael Kunze (original book and lyrics), Sylvester Levay (music), Christopher Hampton (English book adaptation), with English lyrics by Hampton and Kunze
Director: Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: 2014
Written by Neil Simon
Director: Thea Sharrock

Theatre: TBA
Target Opening: Fall 2014
Written by Maury Yeston (music & lyrics) and Peter Stone (book)
Director: Thom Southerland

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Give Them A Voice!

"One of the things we’re supposed to be able to do as playwrights is write from a place of empathy, get into another character’s shoes and experience things both mundane and tragic. And people aren’t necessarily the most eloquent when trying to express their emotions. I guess I feel as a playwright that those people deserve a voice, too, a voice that isn’t so articulate that they themselves can no longer identify with it."
Tracy Letts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Music Industry Still In Crisis

According to an annual sales report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, wholesale revenue from recorded music around the world in 2013 fell by 3.9 percent compared with the year before, to $15 billion. Digital sales last year grew by 4.3 percent around the world, led by a 51 percent increase in revenue from subscription services. Income from Spotify, Deezer and Rhapsody, exceeded $1 billion for the first time last year. About 28 million people around the world pay for access to them, up from eight million just three years earlier. Yet this success was offset by declines in downloads and physical sales. Sales of physical formats like CDs, which still supply about 51 of the industry’s trade revenue, fell by 11.7 percent last year. And sales of downloads, a growth business for more than a decade, were off by 2.1 percent. Still, downloads represent 67 percent of the digital market.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wisdom Of The Old

Getting older each year, I am naturally concerned about getting dumber. I gave up the idea of wise old people already in the late sixties. Experience told me that there are at least as many idiots among the elderly people as among the young ones. Actually research shows that cognitive functioning slows as people age. Now I get the consolation that speed isn’t everything. A recent study in Topics in Cognitive Science pointed out that older people have much more information in their brains than younger ones, so retrieving it naturally takes longer. And the quality of the information in the older brain is more nuanced. While younger people were faster in tests of cognitive performance, older people showed “greater sensitivity to fine-grained differences,” the study found. It stands to reason that the more information people have in their brains, the more they can detect familiar patterns. Elkhonon Goldberg, a neuroscientist in New York and author of “The Wisdom Paradox,” says that “cognitive templates” develop in the older brain based on pattern recognition, and that these can form the basis for wise behavior and decisions. I wish to believe it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Next: Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman could be the next blockbuster film in line for a big stage makeover. The New York Post’s Michael Riedel reports that Garry Marshall, who directed the 1990 smash, has teamed up with producer Paula Wagner in an attempt to bring the Julia Roberts/Richard Gere fairytale to Broadway, with the help of JF Lawton, who wrote the original script. The film starred Roberts as an LA prostitute hired by Gere’s wealthy businessman. The two eventually fall in love. It was a worldwide hit and is one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time, grossing upwards of $460m in the US alone. The plot shares a number of similarities with the rags-to-riches story My Fair Lady, which suggests it may slot into a new musical home with ease. A number of Hollywood movies have made the transition to the stage in recent years, with a musical version of Rocky opening on Broadway this week.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Books, Books, Books

Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.
Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Polanski In A Coffin

Film director Roman Polanski stood in a coffin as he took part in a presentation of the musical "Le Bal des Vampires" (Dance of the Vampires) by Michael Kunze and Jim Steinman at the Mogador theater in Paris on Monday. The musical is a remake of Polanski's 1967 film "The Fearless Vampire Killers".

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lynn Ahrens On Rocky

“When people say ‘Rocky on Broadway,’ we know there’s a big question mark there. We had the same question mark in our minds when we were first offered this project,” said Ahrens, who grew up in Neptune. “We were skeptical about it being possible to do, too… There are so many factors here. The one thing we knew we didn’t want to do is a parody of the original movie, and I think some people were, and maybe still are, expecting it to be like ‘Book of Mormon,’ where we’re making fun of the movie…We were drawn to the heart of the movie, to its emotional quality. We just wanted to give it justice and put it on stage in a new way… We give the characters a bit of a back story. How did Rocky get that way? Why is Adrian the way she is? Who said what to damage them,” Ahrens said. “The movie relies a lot on these long gazes and moody shots where no one says anything, which is what film can do so well. But in the theater, you have to explore what’s happening behind the look… I’ve never had a show ever that had this kind of reaction. We’ve had hits and flops, but I’ve never had an audience become so engrossed in two humble characters and get so wrapped up in them. By the time the big fight comes at the end of the show, you can feel that the audience cares so much about the two of them. We’ve had people standing and screaming, and they’re chanting ‘Rocky, Rocky.’ I’ve never had that before. It makes us hopeful and also terrified, which you are for every show anyway.It is sort of like being back in that movie house and watching this little film ‘Rocky’. Now that same reaction is happening on Broadway, and that’s very moving to me and very miraculous.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Critics On Rocky - The Musical

Critics are united in their praise for the Eye Of The Tiger - Climax of the musical version of Rocky which opened Thursday night on Broadway. They are less excited about the first three quarters of the show. Here are some excerpts from the reviews:
New York Daily News: The Broadway musical “Rocky” is big-hearted, quick-fisted and predictable, but its last 15 minutes pack the punch of a heavyweight champ…It’s a real knockout moment. But to “go the distance,” to quote the fictional Balboa, a musical needs more than a stunning climax.
Variety: Whatever your expectations going into “Rocky,” you come out rocking the technology.  No mystery about where the $16.5 million capital investment went in this musical iteration of the 1976 movie that made an iconic hero of Rocky Balboa.
New York Post: Problem is, that finale is preceded by an hour and a half of less thrilling moments.
New York Times: The official curtain time for “Rocky,” the new musical at the Winter Garden Theater, is 8 on most nights. But at the risk of promoting tardiness among theatergoers, I feel obliged to point out that the show doesn’t really get started until 10:10 or thereabouts.
That’s when a production that has seemed to be down for the count since the opening bars of its overture suddenly acquires a pulse. And the audience wakes out of a couch potato stupor — the kind you experience when you have the television tuned to an infomercial station — to the startling tingle of adrenaline in its blood.
Wall Street Journal: A new drinking game comes to Broadway thanks to the musical "Rocky." Here are the rules: Take a shot every time Rocky says "Yo, Adrian." If you get to intermission without passing out, you win.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Writing Is A Hard Job

Recently Philip Roth sighed: “The struggle with writing is over”. In an interview he gave to Daniel Sandstorm, the cultural editor at Svenska Dagbladet, he described that struggle, and explained why it is over for him:
Everybody has a hard job. All real work is hard. My work happened also to be undoable. Morning after morning for 50 years, I faced the next page defenseless and unprepared. Writing for me was a feat of self-preservation. If I did not do it, I would die. So I did it. Obstinacy, not talent, saved my life. It was also my good luck that happiness didn’t matter to me and I had no compassion for myself. Though why such a task should have fallen to me I have no idea. Maybe writing protected me against even worse menace.
Now? Now I am a bird sprung from a cage instead of (to reverse Kafka’s famous conundrum) a bird in search of a cage. The horror of being caged has lost its thrill. It is now truly a great relief, something close to a sublime experience, to have nothing more to worry about than death.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tom Stoppard


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Depressed, Not Lonely.

“I've never been lonely. I've been in a room -- I've felt suicidal. I've been depressed. I've felt awful -- awful beyond all -- but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me...or that any number of people could enter that room. In other words, loneliness is something I've never been bothered with because I've always had this terrible itch for solitude. It's being at a party, or at a stadium full of people cheering for something, that I might feel loneliness. I'll quote Ibsen, "The strongest men are the most alone." I've never thought, "Well, some beautiful blonde will come in here and give me a fuck-job, rub my balls, and I'll feel good." No, that won't help. You know the typical crowd, "Wow, it's Friday night, what are you going to do? Just sit there?" Well, yeah. Because there's nothing out there. It's stupidity. Stupid people mingling with stupid people. Let them stupidify themselves. I've never been bothered with the need to rush out into the night. I hid in bars, because I didn't want to hide in factories. That's all. Sorry for all the millions, but I've never been lonely. I like myself. I'm the best form of entertainment I have. Let's drink more wine!”
Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Charles Bukowski used to be a favorite of the nonconformists. Today almost everybody is conformed, and so it's not surprising that Bukowski's poems are not very popular anymore. Anyway, I still love this one, titled "I Met A Genius":

about 6 years old,
he sat beside me
and as the train 
ran down along the coast
we came to the ocean
and then he looked at me
and said,
it's not pretty. 
Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Improving Digital Recordings

As a former pop music producer and a current musical theatre buff you may assume that I am very critical about digitalized music. I'm not. My son, Stephan, keeps telling me that dvds don't have the warm, full range sound of the former shellac discs which he consequently still prefers. The sound engineers and composers I'm working with insist that I listen to the 24 gigabyte versions instead of the 6 MB mp3s of studio recordings. I do, but I am honest enough that I really can't hear a lot of difference. Nevertheless I do believe the experts. One of them is Neil Young who contends that the mp3 gives us "less than 5 percent of the original recording". He has developed a system he calls PonoMusic as an alternative. On Monday it was announced that Pono is ready to hit the market. If you have better ears than me you may want to check out

Monday, March 10, 2014

Old, but still true

I just came across a sentence that made me first think, then nod and finally smile with consent. Paul Krugman used it in his column in this Sunday's New York Times: “Hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue.” It turns out that the sentence has not been coined by the admirable Krugman but already a few hundred years ago by Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld who used it in his Reflections or Sentences and Moral Maxims. A great observation well worded, undisputedly true.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Magic: Posthumous Career

Aladdin, the new Disney musical based on the 1992 animated film, which arrives on Broadway this month, brings a great many magical things to the New Amsterdam Theatre, including a genie and a flying carpet. But the most fantastic aspect of the production may be a collection of new tunes by the legendary songwriting team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. This is fantastic because Ashman died more than twenty years ago. Most of the songs they wrote for the original Disney film were never used. When it became clear a few years ago that Disney wanted to bring "Aladdin" to the stage, Menken saw an opportunity to finally bring his and Ashman's old work to light. Since a few of the numbers were connected to characters who were cut from the movie, those figures, too, were brought back to life. Howard Ashman has had one of the most remarkable posthumous careers in theatre history. Since his death at the age of 40 following complications from AIDS, he has amassed four Broadway credits, three of them drawn from the Disney films he scored with Menken toward the end of his life. Beauty and the Beast came first and was the most successful to date, running on Broadway from 1994 to 2007. It was followed by The Little Mermaid in 2008 and now by Aladdin.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Public Service Cats

It's hard to believe, but less than a hundred years ago some cats (I'm talking of animals!) had the status of public servants. They were officially appointed by the British Post Office to catch rats and mice. Three cats worked on probation at the Money Order Office in London, with an allowance of one shilling a week. Because the cats did "their duty very efficiently", their salary was raised to 6d per week. The official use of cats soon spread to other post offices with the cost of maintaining them varying at each office.The most popular cat of all was Tibs, born in November 1950. He not only kept London's Post Office Headquarters completely mouse-free during his 14 years' service, but found time to appear at a 'cats and film stars' party and have his portrait included in a 1953 book Cockney Cats. After Tibs died on 23 November 1964, his obituary in the January 1965 Post Office Magazine was headed "Tibs the Great is No More". No, I will not write another Cat musical.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tim's Fear

I have a fear of doing stuff that's not very good and being remembered for that.
Tim Rice

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tim Rice Licks His Wound

The great Tim Rice who as Andrew Lloyd Webber's partner created such blockbusters as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, and continued his stellar career as the lyricist of the Disney hits Aladdin and The Lion King has landed a flop with his latest West End musical, From Here To Eternity. The show will close on 29 March, the same day as Andrew's Stephen Ward, pulls down the final curtain. It comes as no surprise that Tim still thinks his work had all it takes. Disappointed about the failure he said: "The public don't seem interested in musicals with new material anymore. They just want old songs repackaged." He even threatened to never again write another musical. No, Tim, I have a better idea: The time has come to get back together with Andrew.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Next Thing: Phablets

Last time I was in Seoul I was surprised to see almost everybody use a double sized smart phone, a mix between a phone and a tablet, in short a Phablet. I made the same observation in Tokyo where I was two weeks ago. Obviously smartphones are going against one of the long-held rules in portable electronics, that smaller is better. At least in Korea and Japan which are trendsetting markets. Samsung Electronics, Sony and the Chinese manufacturer Huawei are all betting that consumers find images and video to be more vivid and engaging on a bigger screen, and that they may prefer to carry a larger phone instead of both a smartphone and a tablet. I'm afraid that Apple has once again shown that it has lost market leadership. The new iPhone 5 is smaller than all former models. A hard sell in the Far East.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An Adequate Response

Here is a true story which a reader of my blog made me aware of. A young lady from New York posted an open letter on the internet to find out why she wasn't able to get hold of a rich man she could marry. She wrote: "I’m 25 this year. I’m very pretty, have style and good taste. I wish to marry a guy with $500k annual salary or above. You might say that I’m greedy, but an annual salary of $1M is considered only as middle class in New York. My requirement is not high. Is there anyone in this forum who has an income of $500k annual salary? Among those I’ve dated, the richest is $250k annual income, and it seems that this is my upper limit... $250k annual income is not enough... My target is to get married (not only by a girlfriend)."
A banker answered as follows:
"Dear Ms. Pretty,
I have read your post with great interest. Guess there are lots of girls out there who have similar questions like yours. Please allow me to analyse your situation as a professional investor.
My annual income is more than $500k, which meets your requirement, so I hope everyone believes that I’m not wasting time here.
From the standpoint of a business person, it is a bad decision to marry you. The answer is very simple, so let me explain.
Put the details aside, what you’re trying to do is an exchange of “beauty” and “money” : Person A provides beauty, and Person B pays for it, fair and square.
However, there’s a deadly problem here, your beauty will fade, but my money will not be gone without any good reason. The fact is, my income might increase from year to year, but you can’t be prettier year after year.
Hence from the viewpoint of economics, I am an appreciation asset, and you are a depreciation asset. It’s not just normal depreciation, but exponential depreciation. If that is your only asset, your value will be much worse 10 years later.
By the terms we use in Wall Street, every trading has a position, dating with you is also a “trading position”.
If the trade value dropped we will sell it and it is not a good idea to keep it for long term – same goes with the marriage that you wanted. It might be cruel to say this, but in order to make a wiser decision any assets with great depreciation value will be sold or “leased”.
Anyone with over $500k annual income is not a fool; we would only date you, but will not marry you. I would advice that you forget looking for any clues to marry a rich guy. And by the way, you could make yourself to become a rich person with $500k annual income.This has better chance than finding a rich fool.
Hope this reply helps.
James Dimon. J.P. Morgan CEO"

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kris Kristofferson's Harpoon

"Me and Bobby McGee" is one of the unforgettable hits of the Seventies, and one of the songs I almost know by heart. The most famous line of that song is of course "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, nothing ain't worth nothing but it's free". You can't discuss that. There is, however, a line in that song I never quite understood. I mean "I pulled my Harpoon from my dirty red bandana". What? The two lovers hitchhiked across America carrying a harpoon? I was naive enough to accept it as a songwriter's fantasy. Someone told me "Harpoon" was a slang word for harmonica. Not very probable. By now I'm convinced that the correct interpretation is to consider Kristofferson's "Harpoon" a hypodermic needle, since a bandana was often used to tie off the arm before an addict shot up.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Being a professional lyricist I love good limericks for their form, shrewdness and conciseness. One of my favorites goes like this:

On the chest of a barmaid at Yale
were tattooed the prices of ale,
and on her behind,
for the sake of the blind,
was the same information in Braille.

Unavoidably the best limericks are a bit naughty or even vulgar. I guess it is because it's more fun to be a little dirty with style.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fly, Robin, Fly. How High?