Posted on August 25, 2007 at 5:00 pm
An interviewer actually chided me the other day for not updating my blog more often. I pointed out to him that I was a little busy rewriting Parade, but that genuinely seemed not to satisfy him.
The first interview Alfred and I did together in London was a disaster. The interviewer started by implying that we were particularly fortunate to get another chance to do Parade because it wasn’t very good on Broadway. Things went downhill from there.
But my strange encounters with the press aside, it’s been very exciting revisiting this show, especially working at the Donmar, which is a thrillingly supportive and creative place to be exploring. Rob Ashford is doing wonderful and unexpected things with the space and with the actors, and Alfred and I have responded by rewriting big chunks of the show to further clarify and illuminate the Leo Frank story. I couldn’t be happier with the cast; my musical director Tom Murray is bringing out gorgeous, hidden textures in the score; and David Cullen has begun sending in his orchestrations, which I can already see are bursting with invention and inspiration.
Still, this is a bittersweet experience, because the original production of Parade is imprinted so fiercely on my consciousness, and the fact that it was not greeted with the warmth and plaudits that I felt (and still feel) it deserved is brought back to me all the more resonantly every time I hear this dialogue and these songs. In one sense, yes, this does feel like a victory lap, a vindication of the show; in another, it feels like I’ve revived my baby only to drown it again. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t see both of those sides of this opportunity. Ultimately, I just don’t like feeling defensive about my work, and I think that the relative failure of the Broadway production gives people a greater justification than usual to be wary of the show. Hopefully, whatever their attitude going in, the evidence of this production will persuade them. No matter what, I know we have the right team; there could not be a group of people better equipped to introduce this show to London.
I will be doing a concert here, I’m pleased finally to be able to say. I’ll send out a newsletter next week with all the details, but it will definitely be happening on September 30, and I already know several wonderful singers who’ll be joining me. I’m trying to figure out if I can afford to bring my band over from New York – I really hope I can because the concerts are so much more fun for me when they’re around.
I’ve seen a couple of shows on my off nights here, and I am as always simply amazed by the quality and depth of the ensemble acting in this city. It’s something I’ve just never witnessed in the States, that sense that everyone on stage is doing the exact same show and doing it beautifully. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s part of why going to the theater in London is such a joy for me. Even when the shows aren’t all that great, there is a unity and a consistency in the acting ensemble that is thrilling to watch. Also, I love the ice cream at intermission.
That notwithstanding, the West End is a mess. I get the sense that nobody producing commercial theatre here has any idea what the audience wants to see. We can complain about Broadway all we want (and I do), but in New York there is a machine in place which guarantees a certain basic level of polish and competence. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s no such guarantee here. You pays your money, you takes your chances. And at these exchange rates, it’s a lot of money. Compared to the rest of London, shows are much more reasonably priced than they are in New York; but compared to New York, they cost twice as much. I saw Billy Elliott last night and it cost me $120.
I’ve been turning down a lot of concerts lately because the strain of being away from my family is wearing me down. Thank God my wife and daughter are coming in a week to stay with me here in London, because I’ve had just about all I can stand of being alone in unfamiliar hotels and apartments this year. So if it seems as though I’m not performing as often, that’s a big part of the reason.
I’ll talk some more about “13” in the next month. The first chunk of contracts just got signed, which means that now we can really start moving forward with our plans to take over the world. Dan and I have some very exciting revisions we’re working on, and we got really inspired seeing some kids at Stagedoor Manor and French Woods last month. Meanwhile, we’re scrambling to finish the novel in the next month (since I don’t have anything else going on) so it can be published in time for the Broadway opening of the show.
It’s the day off for the company tomorrow, but I’ve got lots of work to do, writing new underscore, re-conceiving a section in the second act, proofreading orchestrations, so I better get some sleep. More later. Cheerio!