Thursday, April 30, 2015

Some Other Time...

When was the last time you sat down and listened to a CD?
I know just using the moniker ‘CD’ reveals my Jurassic age. We are an MP3 world or Shuffle Song world, or many other jazzy names that I do not even know.
Anyway, back to my question: when was the last time you sat down and listened to a CD?
At the end of what has been a kinda stressful week, I decided to get a CD I had bought back in the USA over Spring Break, a CD of the 2014-15 Broadway revival of On The Town, a show I saw in the fourth row back in January (and for $69 a seat, what is now a steal for a Broadway show) and loved. This afternoon I thought—no one needs you for an hour or so. Just listen…don’t multi-task, don’t put it on the ipod and shuffle.  Just sit there with the warm Jordanian breeze blowing in the window, and just listen to the music…

What a beautiful recording. And full of memories of a magical January day in my favorite city on earth. The sound was glorious—and why wouldn’t it be?  The producers of this revival have sprung for a 28-piece orchestra.

A little context for those of you who do not know this 1944 gem of a show. On the Town is a show about young people written by young people. Twenty-somethings put this show together in 1944, the year after the revolutionary musical Oklahoma!   Brash, young dancer-choreographer Jerome Robbins created a ballet called Fancy Free, about three sailors on a 24-hour leave in the Big Apple.  Brash, young composer Leonard Bernstein provided the music. The ballet found success and these two creative types decided to turn the ballet into a Broadway musical comedy. Robbins and Bernstein met up with brash, young writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green and they all created On The Town. Their youthful exuberance and unyielding optimism would prove some of the most infectious components in On the Town. I had seen a revival production in 1998 that been very good, but not great. As I listened to this CD it was clear how great this production is and sharp the score is. Bernstein infused the score with a pulsing insistence that captured both the ticking-clock of the story's premise and the ever-changing beat of the city.

What pleasures as I lay on the couch this afternoon bathing in the brassy fullness captured on the CD.

This recording (and the revival itself) opens with a delicious nod to history. During World War II, many Broadway musicals dispensed with overtures and chose to substitute “The Star Spangled Banner.” That glorious 28-piece orchestra transports us to that wartime context, invoking the powers of patriotism and nostalgia with their splendid rendition and powerful singing.  This opening is followed by the gentle and lazy melody of “I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet,” sung by a quartet of workmen who help us register how early in the morning it is. They sing it as a morning lullaby, their voices blending in exquisite, tranquil harmonies. The muted sounds of dawn are quickly dashed, however, when our three central sailors, the poetic hayseed Gabey, the eager and nerdy Chip and the libidinous Ozzie, burst onto the scene ready for 24 hours of shore leave in “New York, New York.” This explosion of energy and melody gets our hearts beating along with the throbbing cadence of On the Town. From this point forward, we are on a musical rocket that propels us (and the boys) on a 24-hour whirlwind adventure.

Each sailor sets off on their own journey, and each finds a lady along the way. Of the three duos, the most fun are Chip and the lustful cabdriver Hildy. His need to see every landmark in his guidebook is interpreted with dorky cluelessness and a charming earnestness who proves a comedic asset to both the production and this recording. He is equally matched with the zesty performance of Hildy in “Come Up to My Place,” a tour-de-force comedy duet, one of the best ever written for the musical theatre. Chip climbs into her cab and proceeds to insist on seeing landmarks that no longer exist. She provides titillating alternatives, the destination: always her apartment. Hildy drips with both sexuality and comedic desperation, her smoky voice lending itself adeptly to humor in both this number, and her sassy raison d'etre “I Can Cook, Too,” equivocating her skills in the kitchen with her talents in the boudoir. She has a one-track mind.

Gabey is off to find “Miss Turnstyles,” known as Ivy Smith, the monthly winner of a city-wide beauty contest whose picture he has seen plastered on the subway walls. It's a palpable longing that pours out of Gabey as he conveys Gabey's shy reticence and deeply felt ache where matters of the heart are concerned. You can almost buy that ‘love at first sight’ is possible and has indeed infected this poor idealist.

Ozzie finds his heart is quickly won over by anthropologist Clare de Loone when they bump into each other at the Museum of Natural History in front of a caveman exhibit. The two are a peculiar matching, but somehow their worlds collide and their baser instincts ignite in the Neanderthal-inspired “Carried Away,” a comic duet that is sung with verve and abandon.

But towards the end of the CD, and thus, of course, towards the end of the show is the song that roused tears in my eyes at the performance, and this afternoon as well as dusk settled in. The song “Some Other Time” just got me. During the performance I remembered a conversation I had had that week in January with Peter Filichia, a theater critic and I guess my idol.  (The man sees between 300 and 350 shows a year. He loves the theater! He has made a career as a critic.) But that morning when we met for coffee, he lamented that very few Broadway shows make an “emotional connection” anymore.  He misses the “Golden Age” when that was part and parcel of a great show.

This afternoon as the song played, and the guys knew their 24 hour leave was coming to an end, they sang with a touch of regret and resigned acceptance as they summed up the day's adventures each couple making their sad goodbyes. This was a genuine-theatrical emotional connection. Here are the words from the spunky writing duo Comden and Green:

"Some Other Time"

Where has the time all gone to?
Haven't done half the things we want to
Oh well, we'll catch up some other time

This day was just a token
Too many words are still unspoken
Oh well, we'll catch up some other time

Just when the fun is startin'
Comes the time for partin'
But let's just be glad for what we've had
And what's to come

There's so much more embracin'
Still to be done but time is racin'
Oh well, we'll catch up some other time

There's so much more embracin'
Still to be done but time is racin'
Oh well, we'll catch up some other time


Not only did the performers make an emotional connection in this song, but it hit me how this song, or certainly that last phrase, is my feeling when I am in the USA before leaving. Not true sadness and certainly not tragic, but a beautiful sigh about time well spent, and about how I will have to leave loved ones again, and how do we part?

What a great way to spend 70 minutes of time…listening to the gorgeous sounds, melodies, voices and orchestrations. Certainly thinking about the US friendships, far away in miles, but how in only about five weeks I will be back there, and then, yes, at the end of the summer, I will sigh and utter the classic words, we’ll catch up…some other time.

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