People. People! I have just watched the 1993 made-for-TV version of Gypsy and THERE IS A TINY ELISABETH MOSS! She’s playing Bette Midler’s daughter and she’s like ten years old! And she spend every single second of screen-time wearing boy-clothes! First she’s some kind of strange tulip page:
Screen-capture shows three children in ridiculous costumes against a theatrical back-drop. The middle one is tiny Elisabeth Moss standing very upright and wearing a bright red jacket with massive yellow buttons and massive white cuffs and collar, a bright blue cap, and bright blue baggy trousers that go almost up to her armpits.
And she does this:
Tiny Elisabeth Moss again in the same scene. We can now see that on her baggy blue trousers is a big tulip design. She is holding her arms above her head with hands linked like a ballerina and looks like she’s concentrating hard.
And then she holds a tiny dog:
Tiny Elisabeth Moss in the same costume sitting at a wooden table with a long-haired brown dog on her lap.
And then she is a tiny 1920s newsperson:
A smiling and slightly blurry tiny Elisabeth Moss wearing a striped shirt, brown-and-cream patterned tank-top, braces (or suspenders if you’re North American) and a cloth cap.
And then — then! — this happens:
Tiny Elisabeth Moss dressed as Uncle Sam, carrying a blatantly fake rifle and wearing blatantly stuck-on white sideburns and beard.
And she does this:
Tiny Elisabeth Moss still dressed as Uncle Sam, slightly blurry because she is doing a heel-kick!
And SO CUUUUUUTE!
Then the character grows up a bit and changes actors. But it’s okay because the film is actually really good and to be honest it would have been distracting if it had been tiny adorable Elisabeth Moss all the way through.
Kate Baldwin, “The Miller’s Son”, Wall to Wall Sondheim.
I love this song both for its flirtatiousness and its overall message: grab life by the horns! Enjoy things when you’re in a position to do so!
I think a little hedonism is far from a bad thing, and sometimes I wish I were more like Petra (the character who sings this in A Little Night Music). Kate Baldwin, being Kate Baldwin, sings the song fabulously.
What Dorian said. Also I like the honest complexity of the song. It’s about having fun where you can, but it doesn’t make Petra into the Merry Peasant who is Happy With Her Lot (see It’s a fine life from Oliver!). The ‘I shall marry’ sections, the little sketches of possible futures, are neither idealized loveliness nor fetishized grim and grittiness. She’s going to have to get married as a matter of pragmatism because this is the way things work. Love may well not be involved. Even the scenario where she marries the prince sounds a bit tedious.
And also there’s that edge of sadness. Which often seems to come with ‘seize the day’, doesn’t it? ‘Live each day as if it were your last’. ‘Eat and drink for tomorrow we die’. ‘Forget your troubles, come on, get happy: we’re heading for the judgment day’. ‘When I go I’m going like Elsie’. Because fatalism frees you somehow, I guess. You learn the system, you accept the system, you find the places where it lets you have fun, and you’re able to rejoice fully in those moments because you’ve given up any idea of beating the system. Systems for sex, rules for romance — I suppose that’s a big part of what A little night music is about.
I’ve made it sound quite melancholy. No, Petra isn’t a sad character at all. She’s joyful and funny and glorious. The sad thing isn’t her, it’s just the fact that as a poor woman in ninetheenth-century Sweden she can only be glorious in snatches or on the sly or in the mean while. She can only have this one solo in which to put all her glory and pragmatism and sexuality and wit and charm. And it’s a great solo.
THERE ARE WORSE THINGS THAN STARING AT THE CHERRY ALL SURROUNDED BY THE WHIPPED CREAM TOPPED WITH MULTI-COLORED SPRINKLES AND SOME CASHEWS AND SOME ALMONDS DRENCHED IN HOT FUDGE CHOCOLATE SYRUP ABOVE TONS AND TONS OF ICE CREAM WITH A BANANA IN THE MIDDLE ON A SUNDAE
GOD I AM SO HOT THAT SOUNDS SO GOOD
Today the best thing in the world ever is THIS.
Can we get Jenna Russell to sing this? Somehow? Just by sheer force of awesomeness?
(And this is annoying because it would have made a more fun ending to this than the limp and uninteresting ending it got)
… somehow while I was watching Passionboth my shirt-cuffs came unbuttoned.
Gif shows a little white mouse sitting in a pair of human hands with its paws tucked up under its chin. The thumb of one hand strokes its ear. It doesn’t react at first but then turns to look straight at us and tips backward as if about to fall over in complete astonishment.
I took myself to the theatre after work this evening. Passion has been on at the Donmar Warehouse for a while, and I was all, ‘It’s Sondheim so I clearly have to go. But also I’ve heard it isn’t a very good Sondheim. But also I’ve heard it’s a good production and the Donmar always does Sondheim well. But also I’ve got no one to go with. But also I’ll kick myself if I don’t. But also I’m tired.’ And then I just mentally slapped myself and decided to go, and walked to the theatre and asked whether they had any tickets and bought a standing-room-only ticket and stood and watched it.
Photograph is a publicity image from this production, copyright presumably owned by the Donmar Warehouse. It shows a fair-to-reddish-haired European-looking man in a possibly nineteenth-century blue military uniform with red trim, in profile, stooping his head toward a dark-haired European-looking woman in a white dress or shirt. They are close together; her hand rests lightly on his chest and his is on her shoulder almost cradling her head. Her eyes are closed and she is tilting her head back, his are open and his head is angled down. They are about to kiss.
It was pretty good! I’m not sure how I feel about the plot and the morality of it and stuff. Which I like, because it makes a change from things that tell you very obviously who’s good and who’s bad and also from things that desperately want to seem morally complex but actually end up being morally compromised. I’d like to read some criticism of it and hear what other people think to help me sort out how I feel about it. I kind of sympathized with everyone and also disliked everyone a bit. And the ending felt a bit troubling, though I’m not sure why. Something about the neatness and convenience of [cryptic spoiler alert!] what happens to Fosca. Like somehow although the whole situation kind of destroys Giorgio it does it in a very tidy way that allows him to not have to deal with the situation he’s caused in the way he otherwise would. Because dealing with the fact that you’re traumatized by what you’ve done to other people is one thing, but it’s different from having to face and live with those people, and it just felt a little bit ‘Let’s get rid of the women in this love triangle so the man can be alone with his anguish’. [End of cryptic spoilers.] I don’t know. Anyway, it was definitely interesting and compelling.
Musically I wasn’t enchanted. But often Sondheim grows on me with repeated listening, so. I am starting to find it a bit disappointing, though, that the more Sondheim I hear the more I start to recognize very similar musical phrases coming up again and again. In particular it’s getting to the point where every new Sondheim show I encounter contains at least one bit of melody that reminds me of something from Into the woods. Often of No one is alone in particular. Which is far from being my favourite song. But oh well.
What I didn’t mind, to my surprise, was the lack of comedy. There were a couple of laughs near the beginning, but they quickly stopped and by that time I was sufficiently caught up that I didn’t get the ‘Oh Steve where is your lovely wit?’ that I expected. And nor did the lyrics get too ‘Aha clever word-play conveying a serious and important message’, which his lyrics occasionally do when they aren’t being funny because he’s simply too ingenious to use words without playing with them. But somehow not here, which was nice. I feel like this show must have come from a very interesting place in his heart. Maybe not a very happy place, but an unusually intense and earnest place.
Hard to fault the production. Not that I’m very good at faulting productions. I know so little about the crafts of acting and singing and am so good at suspending my disbelief that it doesn’t take that much to satisfy me on those fronts. But David Thaxton as Giorgio and Elena Roger as Fosca were completely convincing as far as I was concerned, and nobody was obviously duff. At first Roger’s accent made me go, ‘But… but… Italy… and everyone else sounds English…’ but actually it was quite good as a way of marking her out as different from everyone else, and also, hey, it’s her accent, deal with it.
So yes, I’m glad I went. If you live in London (which, as far as I know, none of my followers does) and are thinking of seeing it, do. It’s £7.50 for a standing ticket, and if you’re someone who can afford to go to the theatre at all then that’s a pretty good price, especially considering it’s less than two hours and you get a railing to lean on.
Aha, now, Passion is one of the few I’ve never seen! But there’s a production on at the Donmar Warehouse at the moment that’s had good reviews; I already wanted to go but now I really must make myself actually book a ticket so that I can give an informed response to your choice. Watch this space!
This is kind of good but too many things bug me about it to let me actually like it.
I think I’ve just been out-nerded.
(I always preferred the “let’s eat grandpa” one, anyway.)
[Original objections snipped from my reblog above because now it’s time for chat.]
[Also, to make sense of this response people may find it useful to know that Alan’s reblog above was tagged ‘nerd is a good thing in this context of course’, ‘um’, ‘hi?’]
Don’t worry, I took ‘out-nerded’ as a compliment. :) Thanks! Normally I try to rein in my pedantry, but when people are doing ‘language is important’ it seems fair enough.
And yes, indeed, hi! Not sure whether we’ve interacted directly before. I remember spending ages not following you because I was already following too many people, but Satah kept reblogging you being interesting and funny and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just have a quick look at the archive… Oooh I’m quite liking the language-geekery too, but still I really shouldn’t WHAT’S THIS? A LITTLE PRIEST? FOLLOWFOLLOWFOLLOW.’
So yeah. Hello.
I don’t know ‘let’s eat grandpa’ but I can imagine. My favourite is the panda joke.
I do love the panda joke. I think I still have the book, which is adorable.
The grandpa joke is usually followed up by “PUNCTUATION: IT SAVES LIVES” or something like that. I get very easily bugged by certain types of shallow grammar pedantry, because I’m a linguist and ARGH, but I love those two because a) they don’t involve sensitive topics (I notice someone already responded about the heteronormativity thing) and b) they’re obviously just trying to be silly.
I mean, this one is too, really. But about things that aren’t that funny. Y’know.
Yeah, I completely missed the heteronomativity because for all the pedantry I was still basically engaging with the thing inside its own frame of reference (sexism). Privilege ugh must try harder. :)
Aha, I am glad my ridiculous obsessions are finally becoming productive! I have to confess, I’ve been kind of brain-dead from the move and I’ve been delaying on reading some of your longer posts, so I’m not sure what to say here entirely, but you seem like an interesting person. So. Nice to meet you!
Likewise! Yeah, I’ve just moved too — still slowly unpacking, in fact — so I sympathize. Hope you recover and settle in easily.
(Video shows a two year old child singing bits of various songs from the musical Assassins by Stephen Sondheim, sometimes mumbling the words and sometimes prompted by his father.)
· • ·
It’s really time for me to get a new copy of Assassins.
It was one of the first CDs I ever owned. Must have been more than ten years ago now. I had the script too. It was so well-thumbed that the clear shiny film was starting to peel off the cover. I loved it so much I lent it to people constantly because it was important for everyone to know how amazing it was.
At school we had a teacher from the US who’d come over for the year after graduating from Princeton (I think), and he started doing extracurricular sessions about Broadway musicals. He’d show us videos and play us recordings. He showed us A little night music (the shoddy film version), and I asked whether he knew Assassins; he didn’t, so I lent him my CD and script. At around the same time another boy in the group was talking to him about putting on a musical at the school, and one thing connected with the other, and Assassins became one of the big school plays the next year.
I failed the audition because I was totally ignorant of music theory that I didn’t understand musical keys. I don’t mean that I didn’t understand tonics and stuff, I mean I actually didn’t realize that if you can start the same melody on different notes. I assumed that if you sang a song and it sounded right, and all the jumps between the notes were right, that must mean you’d started on the right note and you’d be singing in tune with everyone else who was singing or accompanying that song anywhere else in the world. I basically thought every piece of music ever written was in the same key. Which meant I thought if I could sing Luck be a lady to myself a cappella as I walked along the street it must mean I’d be able to sing it in an audition accompanied on the piano by someone who’s playing it was written. I couldn’t understand why the high notes were suddenly so much higher than when I sang it on my own. It was horrible.
Goodness me, I did everything wrong at that audition. They gave me two short speeches from the show: Byck’s angry rant when he’s in his truck on the way to hijack a plane and crash it into Nixon’s White House, and Czolgosz’s speech about the broken cola bottle. I read both of them over to myself, though of course I’d read them before. I assumed they would tell me which one to do. But then they asked me to choose, and I panicked and said I’d do the Byck speech. It was longer, so I thought I’d be able to do more with it. But I did nothing with it. Didn’t feel it at all. I’m not a very good actor and I can’t easily lay hands on modes of expression that lie far from my experience. I’m not the sort of person who shouts and swears and feels entitled to attention from everyone and sits in the cab of a truck surrounded by empty junk food packaging on his way to fly an aeroplane into someone’s house, and I was completely unconvincing.
They were completely right to reject me, but I’d like to think that if I’d done things differently, knowing what I now know, I’d have got a part. I could have done that Czolgosz speech. I could have done bottled up anger and resentment and frustration and outrage at the moral laziness and wastefulness and thoughtlessness of the western capitalist world. I could have convinced them that I was the sort of person who might one day hear a speaker at a rally, read a pamphlet, buy a gun, wrap it in a handkerchief, stand in a queue at the Pan-American Exposition to meet the president so I could shoot him dead in cold half-coherent quasi-political rage. And I could have sung, too. I had asked beforehand whether I could do a song from the show itself, since I knew them all back to front. I could have sung the whole score for them from memory. They said they didn’t have the sheet music yet so it would be better to choose something the pianist could play. If I’d been a little more confident, a little more assertive, I’d have said, ‘Can’t I just sing it on my own?’ I wouldn’t even have needed any more knowledge than I had: I wouldn’t have needed to understand that if I sang unaccompanied I could choose my own key and be sure of hitting all the notes. I just needed to be a bit more pushy. Then I’d have sung the shooting gallery proprietor’s part of Everybody’s got the right, or maybe The ballad of Czolgosz, in whatever key felt right for my voice, and they’d have discovered that although I was a bass with a tiny range and couldn’t really have carried any of the main parts I could still hold a tune well enough to be a bystander at the attempted murder of FDR or maybe even the fairground proprietor.
In fact I got to play a much more important role in the production: I ended up designing the set. It was a pretty fine set, too, let me tell you. And it was a really good production all round. So I’m not complaining. It isn’t like it would have launched me on a voyage to stardom on stage and screen. I’ll always be a bass with a tiny vocal range, and I’ll probably never be able to act parts much outside my own experience, and I’d much rather write a musical than be in one. But I’d like to have been in Assassins and it’s nice to tell myself, without serious self-deception, that it was within my power if only I’d made slightly different decisions. That’s one of the messages I find in the musical itself: it’s important to blame yourself for your own failures. Otherwise you might as well blame the president of the USA for all the good it’ll do.
I definitely got the CD and the script back from the musical director, who was the visiting teacher from the States, and I got them back from the director, who I also lent them to when he was in the early stages of planning the production. And after that I don’t know who I lent them to. Several people, probably. And one of those people never gave them back.
That was almost certainly more than five years ago. It may even have been within a year or two of the school production. I haven’t replaced them yet. It feels so bad to think of buying a new copy of something I’ve lent to someone else. It’s a demonstration of my lack of faith in that person. I’d feel awful if I borrowed something from somebody and later found out they’d bought a new one. Did they think I’d consciously decided never to give it back? Or that I’d never intended to give it back in the first place? Or am I so unapproachable they can’t just ask for it, or so unreliable that I might have lost it or broken it and not owned up?
But I think it’s time. That CD and book are not coming back. I can’t ask for them because I don’t know who I lent them to. All the people I ever thought it might have been have assured me it wasn’t them. Whoever it was will probably never find out that I’ve got new ones; they’ve probably forgotten they ever had mine at all. And even if they knew, and it made them feel bad because it showed that I had lost faith in them, well, they’d pretty much deserve it, wouldn’t they? Not that that makes me feel any better about it. I still don’t like to think that I shared something I was enthusiastic about with someone I trusted and the trust turned out to be misplaced.
And, more importantly, I’m starting to forget the words. If I don’t get my own copy of that CD again soon I’ll be mumbling through it like the kid in the video up there.
Czolgosz, angry man, Said, ‘I will do what a poor man can, Yes, and there’s nowhere more fitting than In the Temple of Music By the Tower of Light Between the Something of Abundance And Ti-Tum-Tum Lilies Da-Dee-Da Pan-American Exposition In Buffalo.’
Well, Tumblr, what’s been happening this week? On Monday I went round to the flat I’m about to move into, just to sign the tenancy agreement and have another look at the room to see what might fit where. I got to talking to my flatmates (and the mother of one of them, who was also there) about honorific titles and ways of addressing strangers in French and Swedish and Latin. And about Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell; about Wolf Hall and In the night garden; about Into the woods and Sweeney Todd and the Sondheim Prom; about whether Sandi Toksvig or Frances de la Tour should be the next Doctor; about how to speak Latin and why Finland does it a lot. And at one point it appeared to be time for food so they invited me to stay for food, which was lovely, and to continue their ongoing project of giving me drinks I’ve never drunk before. And, in short, my flatmates are awesome, and so is the flat, and I am so excited about living there I can’t tell you.
Tuesday was a meeting of the London Latin Circle - just me and one other person this time, what with everyone being on holiday. We had a bit of a chat and read a bit of Valerius Maximus (8.2.1 to 8.2.3). Which reminds me, I should really be posting a bit in Latin, simply because nobody blogs in Latin and it’s a shame. I’ll try to do it at least twice a month, in the weeks when the CLL doesn’t meet.
I also attempted to set up the standing order to pay my rent and was told that my building society doesn’t do weekly standing orders. Which is really annoying since I’ve just signed a tenancy agreement saying I’ll pay my rent by weekly standing order. Grr.
On Thursday I met a dear friend at the airport who’s come back to London for a visit from her home country. First time she’s been back since she stopped living here a year ago. Some of the old gang got together in the pub. Ah, Tumblr, let me tell you, the banter was just like it used to be, if not snappier. And mustard may have been involved.
Friday - Rockaoke at Punk with some friends. The sound was really poor this time: don’t know what had gone wrong, but you really couldn’t hear any treble on the guitar, and the whole thing was far too loud. The singers couldn’t hear themselves, and the sound was so distorted that it was hard for them even to work out what key the band was playing in; luckily (?) the band was so loud you couldn’t hear the singers anyway. Such a shame, because doing karaoke with a live band is a fantastic idea, and it was fun the last time I went. I put myself down to sing Panic but didn’t get called up, which was just as well because by about half-way through I was almost deaf. There’s still a little bit of ringing in my ears two days later.
On the way to Punk I’d dropped in at the bookshop to see whether Awesome Bookshop Lady was there, but she wasn’t, so I went up to Foyles to get some Judith Butler. Came away with a stash that should keep me going for a while: Gender trouble ‘cause it seems to be the obvious starting-point, Undoing gender because that seems to be where she’s at now, and Antigone’s claim because feminist Greek mythology FTW. I’ve started with Antigone’s claim because I figured I might have a decent chance of understanding it since I already know something about the topic she’s tackling. Turns out it would be more helpful to know something Hegel and Lacan, but never mind. I think I’ve understood a bit of it so far. Maybe.
Yesterday was just running errands. Among other things, I realized I needed to deliver some disclosure forms &c. to my new employer and the deadline was Friday, so I dashed up to the City and delivered them by hand. Also as I was running around I bought some floaty scarf-type things from charity shops because I’m getting a bit bored of shirt, trousers, trousers, shirt, blah, blah. Not quite sure how I’m going to wear them (or maybe I’ll attach them to other bits of clothing) but I’ll experiment and let you know how I get on.
One other thing that happened this week was that Frank Kermode died. I’ve only read one of his books, Shakespeare’s language, but that book blew my mind. I picked up a rough pre-publication copy of the paperback (I don’t know the publishing lingo - might have been an ‘advance copy’?) in a second-hand bookshop in Hay-on-Wye just before going to university. Earlier that summer, in the last English lit. lesson before my A Level exams, I’d had that amazing mind-expanding moment when you first understand how Shakespearean verse actually works, and this book took that understanding yet another leap forward. That must have been more than ten years ago, but I still remember the bit comparing the most frequently occurring words in different plays (turns out Hamlet has a disproportionate share of ‘I’ and ‘me’ - who’d’ve thunk it?), and the description of the way the soliloquies in the later plays show the character’s mind actually working as the words are coming out and the speaker tries out one metaphor and then discards it unfinished in favour of another. And I especially remember how Kermode describes the metaphors of blindness in King Lear breaking out of the language of the play into the action, as if Gloucester has his eyes put out by the words themselves.
Although I hadn’t thought of it before, I guess you can see the influence of that book on what’s probably the best bit of criticism I’ve ever written, which was on beauty and goodness in Sweeney Todd over at Ferretbrain. I really should write something new for Ferretbrain. I’m ruminating on a couple of projects, but one is going to take a lot of rumination, and the other needs at least one more example of the phenomenon I think it’s going to be about.
Anyway, Tumblr, that was my week. Hope you had a good one.