Friday, May 12, 2017

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened... (2016)

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened... (2016) Directed by Lonny Price

I have somehow been cast in a Stephen Sondheim show.

We are all in a big theater in Manhattan and rehearsals are getting underway. There are a lot of people around and I’m the oldest. I’m the oldest in the cast by far and older than the production crew. I don’t feel like I fit into this scene at all, actually I’m a bit frightened of it all. I live on Long Island and need to get back there. I’m not really sure how I got involved in this show but think I’ll just slip away at least from this rehearsal. I probably won’t be missed. The theater is in a large building with many rooms.
I’m filled with anxiety and wonder if I should get some pot, but then that might sabotage the whole thing, which might be what I want to just not be challenged by this involvement.
I go outside and realize that I am downtown, in the East Village and the theater building is very near a building I lived in years ago on 12th St. But the building, and a few adjacent to it have been gutted, they are being torn down to build something new. How could I not know about this? This is a big thing and no one has told me.
I head back into the building and am looking for my stuff so I can slip away and head back home. There is food, but I don’t eat anything. I worry that I will be noticed when I leave because I am not like the others, being the older man.
Now I think the production people are on to me. I guess I get that from the other kids. I’m outside in the yard and a production woman finds me and tells me that they, I guess Steve and Hal, want me to try one of the songs. Well, I, of course think this is great, but having not sung in a while wonder if I can pull this off. I start vocalizing, trying what techniques I know to prepare my voice, get my range to where it should be to get this role. I don’t really want to be in this thing, and travel back and forth from Long Island just for a chorus role, so this is it. . .
***
Moving image in a powerful medium.
The above is a dream I had last night after seeing  Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened on Netflix last night.
This is a well done documentary about the production of a new Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince musical Merrily We Roll Along  in 1980. It is a musical adaptation of a Kaufman and Hart play that goes backward in time with the characters in middle-age going back through their lives to the time when they are graduating from high school years before. Hal Prince had decided that it would be interesting to stage this with young people close to the age of the high schoolers. The result was a Broadway musical in which the first act was performed by essentially, kids acting as middle aged people.
The critics hated the show which became a notorious flop in the illustrious careers of Sondheim and Prince. They did not collaborate again after that even though they had several big hits before.

With some footage from back in the day as well as contemporary interviews looking back, the film focuses on the young cast. They are, of course, thrilled to be cast in this show right off the bat on arriving in NYC to that their turn at attempting Broadway stardom. And it is Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim, star heros of the day who treated them warmly as colleagues. So we hear about the effect of that on them, the unexpected flop and how that might have set the paths of their lives up until the present.


The result is an interesting theater history life story documentary. Probably a must see for actor wannabes and people who care about musical theater.  Watching it I had a notion that maybe it should have been structured like the play itself, starting with the cast now and then moving back to the 1980 show. But maybe Lonny Price thought of that and abandoned the idea.
***
But behold the awesome power on moving image to effect my dreams like that. And I’m a skeptical old man hardly a wide-open-to-influence kid.
I find this mass media power awesome and scary.    

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