Wednesday, 1 February 2023

la cage aux folles (10. 514)

The farce, “The Cage of the Mad Women,” by playwright Jean Poiret portraying the comedy of errors that ensues when the son of a Saint Tropez night club operator and his gay boyfriend invites his fiancรฉe’s conservative parents to meet their future inlaws had its debut this day in 1973 at the Thรฉรขtre du Palais-Royal, running for over eighteen-hundred performances. After being adapted as a Franco-Italian film—a trilogy ultimately, in 1978, it became a musical with book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Jerry Herman, with later cinematic premiere as The Birdcage in 1996.

Monday, 23 January 2023

6x6 (10. 492)

zhengyue 2: the second day of the Lunar New Year is considered the birthday of all dogs 

only took the m’f’er fifteen tries: Randy Rainbow lampoons Kevin McCartney with a parody of ‘Master of the House’ from Les Misรฉrables 

i shot the serif: US Department of State drops the typeface Times New Roman in favour of the more legible Calibri font  

yellow magic orchestra: watch performances by the Japanese group that created some of the most innovative and influential acts in electronic music  

odonymy: more open etymological street maps—see also  

tet: a short, hand-drawn game about cooking and serving a Vietnamese holiday meal—via Waxy

Monday, 16 January 2023

the night of january sixteenth (10. 423)

In a rather satisfying coincidence, this day in 1983 marks the the expiration of the monopoly for the manufacture of safety matches (Zรผndwarenmonopol) in West Germany when the rights were acquired by Swedish swindler, Ponzi scheme architect and racketeer Ivar Kreuger—the Match King who’d fit in perfectly with contemporary grifters and fraudsters—in 1930 with a loan of five hundred million Reichsmark to the Weimar Republic, whose bonds extended through World War II and finally lapsed—and the titular stage play by Ayn Rand (previously), inspired by the death of Kreuger († 12 March 1932—usually performed as Woman on Trial. The lover of industrialist Bjorn Faulkner (Kreuger’s analogue, whom Rand became obsessed with though was quite a questionable pillar to uphold) is accused of his murder and the author’s intent to dramatise the conflict between conformity and individualism leaves the verdict unresolved and invites the audience to decide. The courtroom setting is artistic license as most likely Kreuger committed suicide facing the prospect of bankruptcy once accounting manipulations were revealed, paying investors dividends from their own money. One year after its premier in Los Angeles, the production team took it to Broadway in 1935 and saw a revival in 1973 under the title “Penthouse Legend.” Meanwhile it was adapted into a film in 1941—which was not a commercial or critical success—and a 1989 Bollywood version called Gawaahi (Testimony), which might be worth seeing.

Sunday, 15 January 2023

spider web castle (10. 420)

Considered among the finest adaptations of the Scottish play with production and development deferred for six years after learning that Orson Welles directed his own Macbeth in 1948, Akira Kurosawa’s (previously) transposition of the plot of Shakespeare’s masterwork to feudal Japan (่œ˜่››ๅทฃๅŸŽ, Kumononsu-jล—literally the above title but released in English-speaking markets as Throne of Blood) premiered in Tokyo on this day in 1957. Under contract to produce three samurai movies (jidaigeki—period, costume dramas) for Toho studios, Spider Web Castle was originally slated to go to director Ishirล Honda, best known for his 1954 kaiju classic Godzilla but Kurosawa ended up making the trio of films. His 1960 The Bad Sleep Well was informed by Hamlet—though not a direct correspondence—and Kurosawa’s final work Ran, which is based off of King Lear. Throne of Blood in turn influenced Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Macbeth and the death of Taketoki Wasizu (the Lady Macbeth analogue) inspired the death of the mother of the titular Carrie in the 1976 horror classic.

st john’s wood (10. 419)

Once (and yet) regarded as an assault against navigation devices and by turns an assault against proper punctuation and orthography (see also here and here), we appreciated learning about the selective preservation afforded to a number of thoroughfares, parks and venues (with a short biography) of London via our trusted flรขneur. Making note of the non-possessive exceptions that make the rule—as opposed the exclamatory figure of speech used in stagecraft to break off from the audience, “O happy dagger!,” we’re also introduced to a colourful term ‘anorak level tube apostrophe history’ to describe and prescribe the changing style to sibilant endings. Anorak, chiefly a Britishism, incidentally refers to an enthusiast dedicated to the point of obsession with a very niche subject—first to describe fans of pirate radio who would charter crafts to go out to visit the boats, whom like trainspotters, were often unfashionably but appropriately attired in parkas.

Friday, 2 December 2022

the helen of troy (10. 353)

Closing this day in 1972 after just seven performances to relentlessly panned reviews and confused audiences, the futuristic rock musical by George W George and Peter Hall—featuring a cast that included Raul Julia and Irene Cara—this flop tells the story of outcasts living on an asteroid (Ithaca) set a millennium from the present time. The protagonist (Julia) pilots a clam-shell shaped garbage scow christened with the title name collecting space junk but that was the only clear aspect of the convoluted narrative, the synopsis contained in the programme not helping to clarify what was going on. Listen to an original cast demo tape here of one of the fourteen musical numbers of the two act play.

Monday, 28 November 2022

i am a camera (10. 341)

The title of John van Druten’s theatrical adaptation taken from the first lines Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 Goodbye to Berlin (see previously) that goes on “…with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking” opened on Broadway in the Empire Theatre on this day in 1951. Also made into a film just over a decade before the second stage adaptation (which this play largely informed, though set primarily in Isherwood’s rented room rather than the night club) starring Shelly Winters as Fraulein Sally Bowles,van Druten’s work did not garner universal praise from critics, prompting the famous three word review from New York Times drama desk editor and playwright Walter Kerr: “Me no Leica.” Yes and the Buggles also recorded the song “Into the Lens (I Am a Camera)” in 1980 from the same quote.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

kit kat klub (10. 320)

Wildly successful, with the award-winning musical reprised for subsequent productions in London (Dame Judi Dench playing the original Sally Bowles in the West End version and Jane Horrocks, “Bubble” from Absolutely Fabulous in the 1993 revival) and New York and a 1972 cinematic adaptation, Cabaret, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb with book by Joe Masteroff and based on Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical accounting of the end of the Weimar Republic and the Jazz Age in the early 1930s, Goodbye to Berlin, had its Broadway premiere on this day in 1966 at the Broadhurst Theatre. Chiefly narrated by the club’s Master of Ceremonies, whose numbers depict the privation, chaos and upheaval of the interbellum times and the impending catastrophes to come with the Nazis gaining political power.

Friday, 21 October 2022

meow-mix (10. 244)

Friend of the blog Nag on the Lake treats us to a unique operatic interlude in “Duetto buffo di due gatti”—that is, a comic duet for two cats, which consists of miau sung in two parts with piano. Often performed as a concert encore, some credit Gioachino Rossini, who composed The Barber of Seville and dozens of other operas, but authorship is uncertain. More at the link above.

Sunday, 16 October 2022

the market square! the market fair! salted meat i’m selling there! (10. 230)

Beginning its second Broadway revival on this day in 1980, the 1947 Lerner and Loewe collaboration about two American tourist travelling the Scottish Highlands on a game-hunting vacation and stumble upon an enchanted village that does not appear on their map. Named after the Lowlands bridge, Brig o’ Doon, in Robert Burns’ “Tam o’Shanter,” the companions, eligible bachelors variously portrayed by Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse and in a 1966 television adaptation Robert Goulet and Peter Falk, learn that the local minister had asked God to intercede to protect the village from the modern world (not sure that the congregation was consulted on this), and now Brigadoon only appears on appears for one day every century and should any citizens every leave, the miracle will be broken and the village will disappear forever. The musical comedy Schmigadoon! is a modern parody and homage with lost backpackers finding themselves trapped in a Golden Age stage production.

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

7x7 (10. 216)

negroni sbagliato: your guide to the new hot adult beverage  

naked eye: a gallery of some of the best images of microscopic photography from the past year 

aunt jess: a celebration of the life and career of Dame Angela Lansbury—see previously  

little big world: a tilt-shift tour of Mรผnchen and Oktoberfest

if pigs could fly: iconic Battersea Power Station reopens to the public as a luxury property development–via Things Magazine

mutual of omaha: superlative wildlife photography  

ss23: backless menswear suits seem to be here to stay

Saturday, 24 September 2022

8x8 (10. 162)

herbst: vintage Eastern Bloc matchboxes welcoming Fall  

ฮฑฯฮฝฮฌฮบฮน: comedian Shari Lewis delivers One Minute Mythologies—via r/Obscure Media  

wie ist dein name, mann: adapting Hamilton in German for the Hamburg stage—possibly a bit rough for those who committed the original lyrics to heart but Lin-Manuel Miranda is deeply involved 

tl;dr: an AI powered tool that provides a summary of long videos—via Web Curios  

wolf hall: RIP historical fiction author Hilary Mantel  

not in my backyard: good luck getting anything built in Sim Nimby (see also)—again from Web Curios

voting integrity: Russian soldiers in occupied regions of Ukraine undertake door-to-door balloting in the referenda to ensure citizens choose wisely  

kirie: celebrating the onset of autumn with more of the Japanese art of leave carving

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

the moonwalk (10. 005)

To commemorate the lunar landing on this day in 1969, head barman at the Hotel Savoy’s American Bar Joe Gilmore created a champagne cocktail that ought to be revived, equal parts Grand Marnier and grapefruit juice with a dash of rosewater and topped with champagne. During Gilmore’s long tenure, spanning from when he came in as a trainee at the swanky London establishment in 1940 until his retirement in 1976, he invented many more cocktails for royalty, politicians and other celebrities—including the My Fair Lady to celebrate Julie Andrews’ opening night in the musical (equal parts gin, lemon juice, orange juice and sirop de fraise with a dash of egg white, shaken and strained) and the Link Up for the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975 (Southern Comfort and vodka, tempered with lime juice). More to explore at the links above.

Monday, 11 July 2022

band shell

Situated in a natural amphitheare in a shaded canyon just below the Hollywood Hills—a popular picnicking spot called “Daisy Dell” that also saw a number of outdoor performances and pageants, the Hollywood Bowl was officially opened on this day in 1922 with a concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Alfred Hertz, playing the overture from Richard Wagner’s Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen (after the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel of the same name—the author best known for his coinage of stock phrases like “the great unwashed masses,” “dweller on the threshold” and the opening “it was a dark and stormy night”), movements from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, a selection of Hungarian Dances from Brahms, a suite from Peer Gynt and the overture from William Tell—regular theme tune fare from the perspective of this centenary. The distinctive arched proscenium—later remodelled due to acoustic problems—was first added in 1926.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

rockoper


Opening on this day in 1979 at the Volkstheater of Rostock, the collaboration between composer Horst Krรผger and author Waldtraut Lewin and featuring the musical talents of local amateur band Badister, Rosa Laub, was the first East German rock opera and played consistently from its premiere on to sold out houses. With book by Lewin, the show tells the story of young adult Karel, new in town, and waiting for his first love is attended by good luck and equipped with a blue motorbike called “Usambara” that can fly—whom eventually meets the titular flower-seller of his dreams.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

to each his dulcinea

Revived on Broadway for the first of four times on this day in 1972 with Richard Kiley in the role of Miguel de Cervantes and alter-ego Don Quixote, the 1965 musical by Dale Wasserman (devolved from his 1959 non-singing DuPont Show of the Month teleplay), Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion (replacing W H Auden as lyricist as his words were considered too arch) is a nest, play-within-a-play performed by the imprisoned poet and errant knight and fellow inmates awaiting their hearing before the Spanish Inquisition. A cinematic version was produced this year as well—with the main part going to Peter O’Toole. Tossed in a dungeon along with Sancho Panza, Cervante’s manservant, the other prisoners are eager to take the contents of the trunk that they brought were allowed to bring with them—to which Cervantes suggests that in his defence, he be allowed to perform a play. The room consents and Cervantes is told he can keep his property if his acting and story are judged up to muster and introduces Don Quixote and his adventures, producing make-up and costumes from his trunk for himself and supporting cast.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

good wine needs no bush

A shared image of a Japanese supermarket’s libations section seems at first to illicit a mangled, machined translation or poor command of English whereas this example is no case of Engrish to be  ridiculed but rather a pretty apt quotation from William Shakespeare in, recursively, the epilogue to As you Like It. With the term bush denoting the sprigs of a grapevine that symbolised a vintner’s shingle, the phrase meant that quality speaks for itself and does not need to be advertised—with the reference all but lost to English-speakers: delivered by Rosalind, “If it be true, that good wine needs no bush, ’tis true, that a good play needes no Epilogue.” The French equivalent, still in common-parlance, is ร  bon vin point d’enseigne or the German—not beating around the bush—gute Ware lobt sich selbst.

Friday, 10 June 2022

meditate in my direction

Reaching number one on UK and US singles charts on this day in 1978, the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John duet from Grease (released as the second single, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was the lead, from the original movie soundtrack) was written specifically for Sandy Olsson and was not in the stage version and not universally admired among the production team as not fitting with the rest of the score. The number from the Warren Casey lyric was to be “All Choked Up,” an Elvis pastiche with Sandy being a bit more forward with T-Bird leader Danny Zuko.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

he’s had a little to drink—i don’t know what her excuse is

Adapted from the 1959 eponymous Broadway play from Lorraine Hansberry and starring Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, Diana Sands and introducing Louis Gossett Junior, A Raisin in the Sun had its cinematic release on this day in 1961. Following the Younger family who are seeking a better livelihood and future for themselves outside of the city, they receive a windfall insurance cheque after the loss of the patriarch, each with designs on how to best invest that money. Claudia McNeil in the role of Lena was nominated for a Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actress and awarded a BAFTA, with the film winning in two other categories plus the Cannes Palme d’Or.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

a show with everything but yul brenner

After previews and the critically-acclaimed release of a concept album, the musical collaboration by ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjรถrn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice had its premiere in London’s West End on this day in 1986, depicting geopolitical tensions of the Cold War through the lens of a tournament between two grandmasters of the game, loosely based on the game careers of Bobby Fischer (Murray Head) and Anatoly Karpov (Tommy Kรถrberg) whose stakes were reflective of the sentiment of the era and the Reagan, Thatcher Doctrine of the mid-80s. Songs include of course “One Night in Bangkok.” Full-length bootleg recording of the original cast below.