Back in December, 2018, I wrote here on the more effusive raves I’ve written about a recent stage musical in years for the show Come From Away. It was nominated as Best Musical for the Tony Awards (and for my taste should have won), but won the Olivier Award for Best Musical on London’s West End. And won the Drama Desk Award as Best Musical. Whenever I saw that it would be playing a town where I knew people I would be unrelenting in letting them know that they should go see it, coming as close to a near-insistence as I could. As I noted in my article, it has perhaps the fastest standing ovation I’ve ever seen for a show, where the entire audience was on its feet the moment the show ended and the lights went down.
It isn’t a subject matter that one would like would lend itself to a musical, let alone such a great one. The show based on the true story about the small town of Gander with 9,000 people in Newfoundland who dealt openly and graciously with the 38 planes and 7,000 passengers that were forced to land there on 9/11. But the show is tremendous.
Unfortunately, most people have never had a chance to see the show, though it’s still playing in New York, and has announced that it will be back when Broadway fully reopens.
I bring all this up because, it turns out, you will have a chance to see Come From Away. It turns out that the cast (mostly from the current production) reunited recently, and the show was filmed with all manner of different cameras – and it will be premiering on Apple TV+ on September 10, this Friday!
(Note: If you don't subscribe to Apple TV+, it only costs $4.99 a month, so you can sign up for just one month. In fact, they may even offer a free trial period. Then, you can watch Schmigadoon!, too.)
Better still, several members of the original cast are still in the show and participate, notably Joel Hatch who plays the Mayor, among other roles. Also, though the British actress in the current production who plays the pilot – among other roles -- wasn’t able to join her cast mates because of COVID-19 protocols getting her back in the country for the filming, the production brought back Jenn Collella who starred in the original Broadway cast and was acclaimed in the role. So, you'll get to see her perform her showstopping song, "Me and the Sky."
By the way, I mention “among other roles,” because – as I wrote in my earlier article, “there are 12 actors who play about 100-150 characters. (I’m not exaggerating.) It may be the first ‘non-stop musical’ I’ve seen. The first number – which grabbed me by the throat and heart half-way in – starts when the curtain rises at level nine, and it keeps that pace to the end, an hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. It's a whirling dervish of an emotional, wonderful show. And it's magnificently directed on an almost bare stage.”
The book, music and lyrics are written by a Canadian team Irene Sankoff and David Hein. They’d heard of a 10th anniversary gathering in Gander, Newfoundland – known as “The Rock” – and decided to go up to see what it was like, not having any idea what to expect. They ended up interviewing people when there, and the show sprung from there.
What I also wrote previously was that “As fun as Come From Away is (and often very funny), it is at its core a thoughtful, serious drama that is filled with emotion, sadness, twists and a sense of the utter, stunning decency of Man. Or at least this town. In the program, it notes that Newfoundland and Labrador were named "one of the top 10 friendliest cultures in the world" by MacLean's magazine. It seems like an odd distinction when you read that before the show -- it is utterly understandable afterwards. It's also near-impossible to watch the show and periodically through the evening not contrast all this decency towards one's fellow man with news today from certain corners.
To be clear, it will NOT be as good as live on stage. Part of the experience is the vibrant sound of the pounding of feet, the relentless movement. It’s a visceral production seen and heard live. But from all I’ve read, they’ve tried hard to capture being in the theater, using 10 cameras, Steadicams and crane shots to take viewers inside the show where theater audiences couldn’t go. So, my hope is that there will be a great sensibility to it, regardless. And besides, SO many people will never otherwise see the show. And this will be a great way to bring it to them.
Most of the recording was done without an audience. But they did bring an audience in one day – made up of 9/11 survivors and first-responders – and several performances were edited together.
Also worth noting is that the reunited cast will be performing the show outdoors for free at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on September 10, to help commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
And if for any reason you still have some uncertainty about watching, this is a wonderful article from the Washington Post the other day -- "A 9/11 survivor wanted nothing to do with 'Come From Away.' Now she's seen it a dozen times." But then, it's a terrific article even if you know you plan to watch. Or have seen the show on stage.
Here’s the trailer. The video production looks very well done.
Bear with me, it's worth it. Really.
Henrik Lundqvist retired today after 15 seasons as the goaltender for the New York Rangers in the NHL. born in Jämtland, Sweden, Lundqvist helped lead the Swedish Olympic team to the Gold medal in 2016. During his years in the NHL, he won the Vezina Trophy as best goaltender in 2012.
So, on the occasion of his retirement, it's only proper to honor the 39-year-old Swede with his appearance in a "This is SportsCenter" ad for ESPN, one of the more off-beat and funny, which is saying a lot for the long-running series of ads are very off-beat and funny.
I don’t know if you get Apple TV+ or not. If not, you can skip all this. Though...if it's of interest, you can wait a little over a month until all the episodes drop and then sign up for a month to binge-watch the show and also the first two seasons of the wonderful comedy series Ted Lasso (which is beginning its second season next week on July 23). Apple TV+ only costs $5 a month.
If you do get it, though, last night they premiered a new 6-part series called Schmigadoon! It’s an affectionate spoof of musicals (with, of course,” Brigadoon as the starting point, but Rodgers & Hammerstein flow through it all, and I’m sure others will, too.) The premise is two hikers get stuck in a town that’s a 1940s musical. It stars Cecily Strong of Saturnday Night Live and Keegen-Michael Key, and a good cast that includes several big Broadway stars -- I'll let it tell you know who's in it. Plus, it has a great final joke.
The first episode was a total joy. In fact, from the moment it started I was burst out laughing – because they start with an overture.
I have no idea how well it will develop, but it’s only six half-hour episodes, so it’s not like they have to stretch the the story and can move it along briskly enough. It's written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who together wrote such films as the Despicable Me series, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, and The Santa Claus 2. Paul wrote all the songs (which so far, after one episode, are wonderful) All episodes were directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, whose films include Get Shorty, all three Men in Black movies, Wild Wild West and The Addams Family and its sequel. And the orchestrations are by Doug Besterman, who did the stage musical of The Producers, so they’re rich and full. So, the credentials are top notch, all around.
The details and homages are wonderful, especially if you know musicals, but many are broad enough that even if you only know the genre tangentially you'll be able to pick many up. And It’s overflowing with homages.
I thought it said that there will be a new episode every Friday, but the first two are posted. I assume that’s just to start things off. (And no, I only watched the first one, but I’ll watch the second episode in a few days.)
If you didn't get a chance to watch the Friends reunion on HBO Max the other week -- then again, or even if you did -- James Corden released an extra 11-minute bonus of material they shot that was intended to be separate. The enjoyable, affectionate video also includes a carpool karaoke, of sorts, with everyone as Corden drives them on a tram through the Warner Bros. lot. And it's particularly fun.
I've been trying to find a video of this scene from the NBC series, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist for the past few months, but it hasn't been posted. However, they re-ran the entire first two years of the show's episodes over the holiday weekend, so I recorded the episode in question and then videotaped the specific sequence with my phone. And so, I can embed it here. The quality isn't nearly as good as a YouTube video, but it's very crisp and the sound is quite clear, so it should be fine.
The video is fun on its own, but I think it requires a short background about the show and this particular scene to get the full enjoyment.
The premise of the series is that for whatever reason, the main character Zoey (played wonderfully by Jane Levy) has developed the ability to hear what people are thinking at particularly emotional moments in their lives, which they express through song, what she refers to as "heart songs." And she's grown to hate her "power," as she calls it It's not only intrusive in her life -- having people break into passionate pop songs, often with full choreography, that no one else can see -- but also she's realized that whatever is going on in that person's life, she has to help resolve it, or the songs will continue until she does.
As for this particular scene, it comes in the first episode of Season Two. The first season ended on a sad note for Zoey, as her father (who had been ill and fading all year) passed away. The show's next season opened with her having temporarily moved back home with her mother, taking a lot of time off to deal with this upheaval and not having gone back to work at her tech firm in six weeks. She also hasn't heard any heart songs ever since she's buried herself at home, which is the one thing she's glad of. But she knows it's time to stop hiding out at home and finally go back to work, and this clip (which comes about six minutes into the episode) begins with her on the elevator heading back up to her office.
If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, the Main Story was about sponsored content. This might not sound like much, but it refers to what are basically paid aids during news broadcasts that masquerade as real news reports or interviews. The story is very interesting and fun -- albeit galling, especially when pointing out the dangers of this being abused. But stick around for the end, because the show does something it hasn't done this substantively in a long time. I started to explain more, but realized that much of the fun is discovering it when it comes along. It's wonderful -- and very funny.
The Ed Sullivan Show was on television for a remarkable 23 years. And during that time, he presented some of the most legendary and popular performers of the day -- and some of the goofiest. And for many, it's one of the rare video records we have of the artists. So, it was a treat to come across a treasure trove of material that's been posted from the show. (Missing, so far, is the vast menagerie of Broadway productions -- hits and flops -- that presented material from the show. Perhaps it's for rights reasons, though some have shown up elsewhere, of which I've posted more than a few. Hopefully, they'll show up in the collection in greater numbers.)
I'll post these from time to time. Actually, I did already, though in another context -- on this past St. Patrick's Day, I posted a video of Ed and Peter O'Toole singing "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" and that came from this collection.
We'll start (or continue, for the sake of accuracy...) with this little oddity. It's Humphrey Bogart chatting with Ed. I'm not sure what preceded it, since Humphrey Bogart wasn't especially known for his singing, dancing, or plate spinning. Perhaps he was in a sketch, but that would be pretty uncommon, as well. (When I posted his appearance with Jack Benny a few weeks back, that at least was a case of being the sole guest star on the show. And the sketch he did was not only about 17 minutes long -- but with Jack Benny.)
Whatever the reason, it's sort of fun to see Humphrey Bogart just chatting away. Something we don't have much video of.
We're going to head back to What's My Line? today, where the Mystery Guest is Lucille Ball. What makes this segment particularly entertaining is the bizarre and funny of answering.
I would also be remiss if I didn't note my short bio posted off to the right, and the first sentence of the second paragraph. (In fact, I'll have to check, but it might be contractually obligated.) It reads, "Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting." That was when I was at UCLA grad school, for a screenwriting contest that her family sponsored in her name at the school. She was no longer around at the time, so we didn't get to meet, but the first year it was presented by her daughter Lucy Arnaz. (A fellow-classmate in my dorm is still annoyed that I didn't tell her about the award in advance -- the school informed me so that I'd be sure to show up -- so she could go and applaud. I just felt awkward about telling anyone I'd gotten the award before I actually got it. Still, I suppose it would have been nice to have someone clapping and meaning it. Almost the entire audience were theater majors, all going wild when one of their own got a theater award. The light, perfunctory, smattering of claps for "Who is this screenwriting guy??" was actually pretty funny, even at the time as I walked down aisle.) And the second year, after it became clear to me that UCLA wasn't going to be doing anything to promote the winners, I contacted her still-existing production company and got a meeting with Gary Morton, who had been Lucille Ball's husband. Nothing came of that either. But hey, I still have the memory of the smattering of applause.
Which is a long way around to bring us back to Lucille Ball herself, and this video from What's My Line? video. Which we can share as a memory, as well...
I've always been a fan of Jack Benny, ever since a kid (when I probably picked it up watching his TV show with my grandmother who loved him). I particularly like his radio show, but I enjoy his TV program as well, which happily runs with back-to-back episodes on the Antenna network (channel 1258 in Los Angeles on Spectrum) every Saturday night. But I've even enjoyed a few of the movies he starred in, despite him using them as butts of jokes. (To Be or Not To Be is, in fact, very good, which Mel Brooks remade several decades later.)
The TV program has two sides to it. One is that the episode will be a slice-of-life story that supposedly comes from his daily life. And the other is doing comedy sketch with a guest star, like the episode I posted last week here with Humphrey Bogart. I tend to prefer the former, since they're so unique in centering around his well-honed persona and also uses his regular cast of characters, though the other shows can be fun. And to be clear, the slice-of-life stories periodically incorporate a guest star.
That's the case here, with uncommon guest starts Peter, Paul & Mary. They not only get to sing a song near the beginning, , but also participate in some fun banter afterwards and then take part in a story about Jack's daily life that they fit into.
Apparently, during the pandemic, the Peacock channel had a program called At Home Variety Show with Seth Macfarlane. I know nothing more about it -- even if they're still doing shows or not -- other than it was done in conjunction with Universal.
However, I came across a fun sketch that sprung from an really wonderful idea -- What if Monk was around during the pandemic and had to quarantine? And they were able to not only get Tony Shaloub to re-create his character, but other characters from the series, as well. I won't say who, that's part of the fun.
I was a fan of the show -- and still occasionally watch it in reruns -- so this was a particular treat. The end credits list several writing credits, but how many of those were for Monk only and how many for the opening and closing segments, I don't know, but one of the writing credits is for Andy Breckman, who created the series.
What's particularly weird is that I saw the video yesterday, May 11, and it was dated May 11 -- except on closer look it was May 11, 2020.
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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