Today is the 96h birthday of Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick, who won a Tony Award for Fiddler on the Roof, a Pulitzer Price for Fiorello!, and such other musicals with Jerry Bock as She Loves Me, The Apple Tree, The Rothschilds, Rex (with Richard Richard Rodgers), and the opera Captain Jinks and the Horse Marines -- and much more.
I interviewed him years ago when I was a student at Northwestern, and he returned to campus as Homecoming Grand Marshall. I made a radio documentary from it and two decades later when I finally tracked down his address through a mutual friend to send him a copy -- and when I told my mother that I finally found someone who knew where Harnick lived, she said, "Oh, you mean, Aunt Joan?" I was floored. I never had any idea that they grew up together and went to college together. Though. no, she didn't have her address. When I sent him the radio documentary though and explained my further connection, he sent a handwritten note back, and the first line was, "OH, MY GOD!!! JOAN SERED!!! (which was her maiden name. And yes, this is the Aunt Joan who I wrote about here back in January for her surprise 90th birthday party.) Though they've periodically crossed paths over the many decades, I was able to get them together 13 years ago when we all saw a production of his show She Loves Me at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. (And yes, this was the production I've written about several times that starred Jessie Mueller before she left for Broadway and won a Tony Award for starring in the musical Beautiful.)
But enough of all that. On with the show. Here's a wonderful, hour-long interview with Sheldon Harnick at the Kennedy Center six years ago when he was 90, and you'll see he's vibrant and entertaining.
And here's one of my favorite of his lesser-known songs, "In My Own Lifetime," from The Rothschilds, which starred Hal Linden who won the Tony Award as Best Actor. Harnick writes poetically and richly with the simplicity of almost everyday language, which is his hallmark.
And we'll end our celebration with this video from two years ago -- when Harnick was 94 -- singing absolutely wonderfully one of his classics, "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof with Judy Blazer.
I thought you’d appreciate this. The Laemmle Royal is a fine art movie house about three blocks from me. I haven’t seen it for a few months because, of course, I’ve been staying inside, and the few times I ‘ve been out, I went a different direction. But I took my morning walk in its direction the last two days. I walked past it yesterday, looked over and started laughing. I took a picture of the marquee but it was fuzzy, so I went back today – and the marquee was different. So, my guess is that they actually change this every day. I don’t know if they’ve been doing this for the past couple months, or if they just started it recently or what. But hats-off to them whenever they began.
Yesterday, the marquee was --
Here’s what it was today –
Actually, this will be three videos. I thought about posting them one at a time, but they all fit together so nicely I thought it best to just make it trilogy set.
They come with thanks to the inveterate Chris Dunn for bringing this to my attention. To be more accurate, he brought the third of these to my attention, and when I looked to find out more about the guy, it turned out that he's done a series of others.
These are play-by-play videos by Andrew Cotter about his two dogs, Mable and Olive. It turns out that he is an actual BBC sportscaster, and (as he notes on one of his tweets) he was bored during this coronavirus shutdown without any sports to broadcast.
As far as I can tell, this is the first one --
He follows it with a rematch.
Fun fact, an article about the videos (and this in particular) made note that the voiceover and final line was all done after-the-fact and edited onto the video later, in case people didn’t like what he says at the end….
And finally, this was the video that Chris sent me --
I've been mentioning that the wonderful National Theatre Live has been streaming productions from their archives for free every Thursday that will stay active for a week.
I thought it worth mentioning the new one that is streaming now, as of 2 PM ET. I've actually written about this in the past. It's their adaptation of Frankenstein that stars good friends Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (who like Cumberbatch also played 'Sherlock Holmes' in the CBS series Elementary). And it's directed by Danny Boyle who directed Slumdog Millionaire, Yesterday, and Trainspotting, among others. But what stood out most about this production is that every other night Cumberbatch and Miller switched playing the roles of the Doctor and the Creature.
What they will be doing for this streaming is that the version with Cumberbatch as the Creature (and Miller as the Doctor) begins streaming today for a week -- and the version that features Miller as the Creature (and Cumberbatch as the Doctor) will start streaming tomorrow (Friday) for a week, so you can see both, if you're so inclined.
I saw the production with Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and Cumberbatch as the Doctor. It's wonderfully done, vibrant and very interesting. But -- the adaptation takes a few liberties with the original story I didn't care for.
Anyway, here's the link to the NT Live streaming page, where you can find both versions. Know that while you can watch this online, if you have a Smart TV you can watch the production that way through a YouTube app or via the NT Live YouTube page in a browser.
And this is the trailer for the original production itself. You'll notice that it edits both actors back-and-forth in the two roles.
As readers of these pages know, I'm a huge fan of Tom Paxton, winner of a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, among many other honors. And even got to meet with the good fellow a couple of times, and got a lovely email from him after writing a column about him on the Huffington Post. So, it was a real surprise and treat when I saw a TV ad the other day that used one of his classic songs, "What Did You Learn in School Today?"
The ad was for Frontier Communications. And as pleased as I was to see one of his songs in the ad, it was also completely taken aback at home they edited it, to entirely change the meaning of the song 180-degrees.
More on that in a moment, first here's the ad.
Now, yes, it's a cheery song, and Paxton has written numerous children's songs, including the well-known "The Marvelous Toy" that Peter, Paul & Mary had a popular recording of.
But this is not a children's song. In fact, that's an almost hilarious bitter irony here in that the point of the song is proven by what the ad did. The point of the song, which was written in 1963 just as the United States had gotten involved in the Vietnam War -- and was first introduced by Pete Seger -- is to warn against believing everything you're told by authorities. That authorities sometimes leave out important facts, sometimes lie, sometimes tell you the very opposite of what the reality is, so learn what the truth is, think for yourself.
That Frontier Communication took this song with that point, moved lyrics around (to the degree that they don't even rhyme), and cut out all the dripping sarcasm, and turned it into an "All is well, authorities are always our friends!" is just too, too precious. And teeth-gnashing.
The one good thing from it, though, is that I suspect a lot of people will seek out the song online and hear the real thing.
Here's the real thing --
And just as a fun bonus, here are some updated lyrics that Tom Paxton wrote for the song -- and that he wrote these in 2010, not last year (or arguably even two weeks ago), is especially prescient of the guy,
Over the several years, I've posted a lot of 'Mystery Guest' segments from the game show What's My Line? I've had this particular video for a while but wasn't quite sure of the best time to post it because it's a great deal longer than the usual clips. This one last 90 minutes. (Though that's with commercials, so it's quite a bit shorter.) But I figured that with people now actually looking for things to watch, this might be the ideal time.
This is a 25th anniversary special of What’s My Line?
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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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