Tuesday, August 14, 2007
My apologies to Eddie Fisher for hurrying along his journey by a year. He turned seventy-nine this past August 10, not 80 as I thought. I don't like getting birthday's incorrect. (Not that I'm particularly obsessed with my own birthday, agreeing with Gore Vidal who once wondered why anyone "would choose to celebrate time's ruthless one way passage"). Still, I was quick to assume that it was IMDB's fault, not mine. But alas, IMDB has Eddie Fisher's birthday correct--8/10/28. It's just that I've thought it was 2008 all year. Thanks to a reader (!) named Betty Anne for pointing this out. She also informs us that Eddie and Connie Stevens have recently been in touch. Oh, what I'd give for an MP3 of that conversation.
Moving from a mid-fifties icon to an early sixties icon:
Last Sunday I saw one of the best scripted musicals I've ever seen. "Jersey Boys", the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is far more than the usual jukebox show ("Five Guys Named Mo", etc). Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice managed to create a script (not a "book"--I hate that term, it's leftover from paper-thin musical comedy confections of the teens and twenties where truly the unsung parts of the show were merely connctive tissue for the songs)--a real SCRIPT that weaves the complex and not always pleasant tale of the original Four Seasons around a full menu of their many hits (plus a few tunes that--not being a major FV/FS afficianado--I hadn't heard of). To be sure, Brickman and Elice had good stuff to work with--the true story is hardly lacking in drama. But their acheivement seems to me particularly satisfying because of several hard to pull off techniques that they deployed with aplomb.
For instance: the show is narrated--always a tiresomely controversial decision. But not by just one narrator. The four principals each take the reigns of the story at different times. (Having written scripts with narration myself, I know how frantic everybody gets about "the rules"--are you allowed to have more than one, shouldn't you cut any narration that tells what you're already showing, etc.) (By the way, the answer to the last question is no--watch "Double Indemnity", screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler no less, which is filled with beautifully evocative narration of exactly what the camera is showing you). In the case of "Jersey Boys" the use of multiple narrators both deepens the emotional story of each man and also creates a unique bond with the audience; we come to feel simpatico with each of the main characters on an oddly personal level since each have taken turns telling us their side of the story "privately", as it were.
Additionally, Brickman and Elice wisely took stock of the standard tunes they were dealing with and seemed to recognize that, while the songs are still terrific, they needed to be (how to say this nicely)...given a little extra push...refreshed, perhaps...re-contextualized, you might say. In other words, who the hell really is going to hear "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" for the ten-billionth time and find themselves welling up with emotion? Thanks to the script, that song is--bizarrely--one of the most moving pieces of musical theater you're likely to ever see. I won't spoil it but anyone whose seen the show will know what I mean when I say that the sight of the "horn section" appearing on stage and the look between Valli and Bob Gaudio would make a stone cry (to borrow Orson Welles phrase on Leo McCarey's "Make Way For Tomorrow" as quoted by Peter Bogdanovich in "This Is Orson Welles." What a pile-up!)
I don't know what show this is from. Possibly Ed Sullivan. Quite something to see the real guys after seeing them brought to life on stage just a few days ago.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 11:28 AM