Yesterday, I wrote about seeing Brian D'Arcy James perform "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton.at a Theater Department fundraiser at Northwestern University in 2018. He created the role in the original off-Broadway production before it went to Broadway and Jonathan Groff took over the role (repeating it in the film.) However, a couple of years into the show's Broadway run, he returned to the role he created.
That evening at Northwestern was called "A Starry Night," hosted by alum Stephen Colbert with several dozen famous alumni returning to perform, which I wrote about here. (I would be bereft for not mentioning that the evening was written by another fellow-alum, the Lady Shellington, my pal Shelly Goldstein, who I mention here periodically.).
Though there's no video of Brian D'Arcy James' performance off-Broadway (or at the Northwestern evening, unless in an archive somewhere), I was happily able to find audio of his stage performance. As I noted, his version is different from most. It's still funny -- hard not to be because it's a funny song -- but he doesn't play it for laughs. Rather, he takes it seriously, very majestic as a king -- and malevolent. The seriousness comes through in his voice, though the malevolence was more pronounced in his physicality and facial expressions. But you'll note that there aren't many laughs (or any) until near the end, whereas most other renditions have laughs throughout.
Brian D'Arcy James is an accomplished Broadway performer, with three Tony nominations, along with his TV work. He's probably best known for starring on Broadway in the musical Shrek, as well as Something Rotten, Next to Normal, along with the musicals Something Rotten and Next to Normal -- as well as playing 'Banquo' on on Broadway in Macbeth, and for playing Debra Messing's husband in the series Smash. Though I suspect most people might recognize him as the HBO lawyer in John Oliver's now-classic musical extravaganza "Eat Sh*t, Bob!" on Last Week Tonight, which I posted here.) However, he'll likely be getting a lot more attention in the upcoming Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story, playing 'Officer Krupke.'
And with all of that as background, here's the audio of his original performance as 'King George III singing "You'll Be Back."
And so, the U.S. is finally out of Afghanistan.
The withdrawal wasn't easy. It also wasn't perfect. It had flaws, chaos and tragic deaths. The process should have started earlier. It also had a date forced on this administration four months earlier that they were able to delay. And had had blocks put in place that made the process even more difficult with added risks for leaving people behind. Withdrawing from a 20-yeard war was never going to be easy, or done right.
But over 120,000 people were evacuated. And 6,000 Americans were evacuated. Only 100-200 Americans remain who want to leave, and the government is still working on getting them out. And still working on getting Afghan out who want to leave. And the Biden administration put together a coalition of over 100 countries who have agreed to take evacuees and have pressed the Taliban to live up to their commitments to let people leave. And the U.S. got a United Nations resolution passed where the world has put the Taliban on notice to live up to those commitments.
The Taliban may live up to those agreements – or they won’t. But the pressure that the Biden administration has put on them to do so is critical because the Taliban want to be part of the world community. And also have significant financial problems and so have a great need of aid, and they know that getting any of that assistance will be difficult if they ignore what these coalitions and the world is requiring.
It was a messy, problem-filled, tragic withdrawal. But then, it was a messy, problem-filled, tragic war for 20 years. The last-minute terrorist bombing was heart-wrenching. Sadly, terrorist bombings were a regular part of life for two decades there. There hadn’t been a terrorist bombing for several months, but then the Taliban and ISIS-K knew that the United States was leaving at the end of August. The last thing they’d want to do is something that would keep American forces there. In the waning days, however, with the military largely gone, terrorists do what terrorists had been doing for 20 years.
And now, the U.S. is out of Afghanistan. And 6,000 Americans are out. And over 120,000 Afghans are out. And the process of helping them all and getting more out will continue, with world pressure.
It was a terrible situation. It was a horrifying, unnecessary 20-year war. One that cost $2.3 trillion and for which 2,500 American soldiers' lives and 3,800 American contractors' lives were lost -- along with 100,000 Afghan lives. And as chaotic and tragic as the withdrawal was, with all its flaws, the withdrawal was handled professionally and with an effectiveness in a disastrous situation. And we are out.
And I can’t imagine the horror if the previous administration had been the ones to do the evacuating from the withdrawal treaty that they themselves signed. Releasing the co-founder of the Taliban and releasing 5,000 Taliban fighters. After all, we saw how they handled their own withdrawal from office on January 6, and that – by the U.S. Constitution -- was a peaceful transfer of power.
But now, we are out of Afghanistan. Finally.
This is a fun and interesting montage of songs from Hamilton when the show initially played in London. All of the numbers are those sung by 'King George III," and it's fascinating to hear the audience reaction and what they most-particularly find funny.
The core song is, of course, "You'll Be Back," and the subsequent two numbers are reprises of that same music, though with different lyrics each time. The first reprise is "What Comes Next?," and the other is "I Know Him."
The performer is Michael Jibson, who gives a slightly different (but wonderful) interpretation from Jonathon Groff who initiated the role on Broadway, and made it a bit more all-comic and buffoonish. Jibson is very comic, as well, but with more pointed anger which probably fits playing in London better.
(The original, but generally overlooked, performer of the song was Brian D'Arcy James who created the role in the show's first incarnation off-Broadway. I had never heard or seen his rendition, but in 2018 I wrote here about a fund-raising event I attended for the Theater Department at Northwestern University, called "A Starry Night" -- a great evening hosted by alum Stephen Colbert with famous alumni back on campus performing. One of those actors was D'Arcy James who sang "You'll Be Back" -- and he was great, and a completely different interpretation from all others, funny but totally malevolent. You'd probably recognize him from one of the many things he's done -- including starring as Shrek on Broadway, playing Debra Messing's husband in the series Smash, or as the HBO lawyer in John Oliver's great musical extravaganza "Eat Sh*t, Bob!" on Last Week Tonight, which I posted here.)
But I digress.
This is about Michael Jibson as 'King George III' in Hamilton in the London West End production. Just know that the montage repeats itself, so you can stop when it finishes around the 7:30 mark.
Mississippi now has highest COVID per capita rate in the country. And how is the Magnolia State taking it all? Well, according to their Republican governor Tate Reeves, as he told an audience in Tennessee (a cynic might suggest that Reeves felt it safer to be in a state other than his own…), southerners are “a little less scared” of the coronavirus because of their religious faith.
No, I’m serious.
Gov. Reeves actually said, "When you believe in Eternal Life -- that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen then you don't have to be so scared of things," And then he added, just to be safe perhaps that he didn’t come across like a total lunatic,: "God also tells us to take necessary precautions."
Yes. Necessary precautions. Like vaccines and masks. And listening to doctors. And listening to experts. Necessary precautions like that.
By the way, left out of the Most Reverend Gov. Reeves sermon on Eternal Life and not being scared of the coronavirus is any mention of his Gulf Coast Mississippi faithful not being scared of Hurricane Ida. No doubt, though, he’s telling them that what with Eternal Life and that blip-on-Earth thing, it’s okay to not worry about the 160 MPH winds and storms and just go on as if it’s business as usual. Though, of course,, take those...well, necessary precautions.
Other necessary precautions that many people take, apparently because God thinks they’re good ideas –
Heavy winter coats.
Child safety seats.
Guard rails on bridges
Hepatitis A and B vaccines
Because, and this is just a guess, God doesn’t want people just relying on Him to protect them about everything, but having personal responsibility and social responsibility. So that people know not to jump off a skyscraper and think they’ll be fine because they have “religious faith.” Or not get out of a moving car on the highway and think they’ll be fine because they believe in God. That’s why God created “necessary precautions.”
And why God created doctors. And created vaccines.
But no, Tate Reeves – and remember, this is the elected Republican governor of the State of Mississippi, sworn to protect the people of his state. This is not your local pastor giving his flock the annual Easter sermon (though how many of those have we already seen die of COVID-19 after telling their parishioners not to take “necessary precautions” because if they believe in God, they’ll be safe) – the governor of Mississippi is saying that the people of his state are less afraid of the coronavirus because they have “religious faith.” Telling the people of his state that life on earth is just a “blip” – so, hey, why not take that leap off the building and enjoy the exhilaration of it until you hit the ground because it’s all just part of Eternal Life.
Mississippi has the highest COVID-19 per capita rate in the country. I’m going to make another pure guess that people in his state are a whole lot more scared that Gov. Reeves (R-MS) thinks. And if not, probably a whole lot more stupid.
Seriously, and this can’t be repeated enough, this is the Mississippi governor saying you’ll be safe from an infectious disease causing a worldwide pandemic if you only have religious faith.
This reminds me of the parable.
A man is in his house when a police car drives by and tells him that a flood is coming and he should take cover. The man says he believes in God and so he’ll be safe because God will protect him.
Later, the flood swells the area so deeply that it fills the streets, and a neighbor paddles by in a canoe. The neighbors says that the flood is rising, come in his canoe. But the man says he believes in God and so he’ll be safe because God will protect him.
The water gets so high that it’s filling his house, and the man has to get on his roof. A helicopter flies overhead and drops a rope. The pilot calls out that the flood is out of control, grab the rope, and they’ll fly off to shelter. However, the man says he believes in God and so he’ll be safe because God will protect him.
Eventually, the flood rises so much that the man drowns. When he’s in heaven, he goes to God and says, “God, I believe in you. I told everyone you would protect me. Why did you let me drown??” And God said, “I sent you a police car, a canoe and a helicopter. Why didn’t you get in any of them?!!”
The Very Reverand Tate Reeves, governor of Mississippi says he and the minions of his state have total faith in God protecting them because they believe in God and Eternal Life. What he and they are missing is that God has sent them doctors and vaccines and masks.
Why didn’t they all use any of those gifts from God??!
And just to show the whimsy of life – Eternal or otherwise -- it’s not Tate Reeves (with the highest per capita infection rate in the country as he relies on faith), but rather Gov. Gavin Newsom of California -- whose state is the only one in the union where infections are decreasing over the past 14 days -- who is the facing a recall election.
It turns out that God does indeed work in mysterious way. Though at the same time, He also tells us to take necessary precautions.
Like about the blip you elect governor.
From the archives. The contestant this week is Beth Everett from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. I got the hidden song right away, though it's a bit disjointed. (To my surprise, the contestant has some trouble with it the first time around, perhaps it's that "disjointed" nature.) As for the composer style, I thought I knew it pretty quickly -- and I did. So, that means I actually got both the hidden song AND the composer style correct! Huzzah!
It didn’t get a great deal of promotion – in fact, it pretty much slipped between the cracks, and I only caught it on its repeat. But a couple weeks ago, Great Performances on PBS had a sequel to the documentary they did 18 years ago, Broadway: the Golden Age. This one is called Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age.
It’s absolutely great, arguably better than the first one. It’s a bit different– the first was largely an overview of the entire period. This is more focused on several shows, but it gives a sense of the era. And I don’t want to say why it’s so wonderful, since it’s full of surprises -- some of them small but lovely, some huge, some for the people who appear on camera. I’ll only mention one: Robert Redford, who talks with such warmth and affection about the early days of his career on Broadway. Also, the opening 5-10 minutes of the documentary are thrilling, as actors talk about what it’s like preparing for the curtain to go up, beautifully, rivetingly edited. But it’s not like that’s the high point of the production and downhill from there. It’s all terrific.
And sequences and moments are so great of a joyous, distant era, and include some rare, never-before-seen footage.
By the way, after watching it I found out through a friend who knows one of the producers why this appeared to be a bit different from the first documentary. That’s because this was only 98 minutes or so, but the full documentary was 150 minutes. They cut out a third of the film to fit in the PBS timeslot with Pledge Breaks. There’s almost another hour of material left! And yet it was still tremendous. On the positive end, I’m told that the company is looking for outlets.
Both films were directed by Rick McKay. Sadly, he passed away three years ago before this second production was completed. However, the production team and editor were finally able to finish it. A couple of friends got to know him well in the last 15 years or so of his life, though a sort of family connection, and spoke highly of him.
Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see it, or will be able to catch it on a repeat on one of the various PBS channels, or On Demand. But it’s also on the PBS Passport website for PBS subscribers. This is the direct link here.
However, good news! It appears that I can embed the show on my website – I just tested it, and that seems to be the case. Just know that the video expires in about two weeks, on September 11.
If you can make it full screen, do so.
It’s great. And one of those things I feel comfortable saying, “Trust me.”
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guests are Laurie Garrett and Andy Slavitt to discuss “Where we are NOW on COVID-19.” As Al puts it, “The Pulitzer-Winner (Garrett) and Biden Covid Advisor (Slavitt) take a deep dive.”
I hope that Terry McAuliffe wins in Virginia.
But I hated the fund-raising email I just got from his campaign telling ME in its Subject line -- "Don't blow this deadline."
With all due respect, it's his deadline, not mine. And if it's "blown," it's on HIM, not me.
And yes, of course I know that it's auto-email. And I know how and why these things are phrased. (Hey, I worked in PR for too many years before escaping.) But there's still a good way and a bad way of doing it -- and this was bad auto-email. Especially when sent to all those who likely have already donated...and may have donated since the last email asking for money. Who are being told they are blowing it.
It's one thing to always, ALWAYS claim The Sky Is Falling, we need your money. That's standard, not the best way to raise money I think -- to me, it shows unending weakness -- but I absolutely get it. It's creating urgency. And I get, too, saying that you're "humbly asking," when there's nothing humble about it at all since it's an anonymous bulk email that the candidate probably didn't even write. But it's another blame the person you want money from (and more money from) that they're causing the sky to fall. All because you aren't doing a good enough job as the candidate.
The NPR quiz show took a week off, and instead posted a “Summer Break Edition” to feature some of their favorite moments from past shows. So, that seemed like a good way to introduce the full program to people who have only heard the “Not My Job” segment that I post here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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