A while back, I mentioned a story here about seeing John Goodman at the start of his career in a small role in the pre-Broadway world premiere of Big River, based on Huckleberry Finn. He played 'Pap Fin,' and the musical, which began at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, eventually made it to Broadway, where it won the Tony Award as Best Musical, with a score by country music songwriter Roger Miller, who won a Tony, as well.
What I also mentioned at the time is that during the show's Broadway run, Roger Miller himself briefly replaced John Goodman for a month in the role. Wonderful as this tale is and much as I'd love to have seen Roger Miller in the role, that's not the point here, just the background. That because there’s actually one other story similar to that which I’d put above it.
(That last sentence original read, "probably put above it. I've edited out the "probably." I'd dearly have loved to have seen Roger Miller in his show. But...well, it's just too hard to top this -- )
Back around 1960, they did a wonderful review on Broadway called A Thurber Carnival, which were adaptations of a bunch of short stories by James Thurber. There’s a great cast album which is well-worth tracking down if you like Thurber. One of my favorite scenes on it is also one of my favorite Thurber stories, “File and Forget,” a first-person story about a hellish time that Thurber supposedly had trying to correct with his publisher about a delivery problem of one of his books. On stage, the role of 'James Thurber' was played by Tom Ewell.
Into the run, it turned out that the real Thurber was a bit of a ham, and for a month the production had James Thurber himself play himself in that one scene! There was one particular challenge: Thurber was near-blind. Because of this, he couldn’t make the entrances and exits properly. What they did was build a sort of conveyor belt with a chair on it. Thurber simply sat in the chair and it would roll on and off the stage.
Now, that I would have paid really-good cash money to see. For both of these stories, Thurber and Miller, it’s a shame that no one recorded them. And a shame that they both occurred in the days before cell phones, when someone in the audience would have taped it.
Still, it’s fun to imagine both…
It's not the same thing, but this is audio of "File and Forget" from the original Broadway cast album.
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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