This is really quite an extraordinary age we live in.
What with satellites, computers, and IPhones, we can essentially take a shortcut through life.
Everything that used to require at least a trip to the library, where you usually couldn't find what you were looking for anyway, is now at your fingertips on the Internet.
It has caused me to get reacquainted with people I knew forty years ago just by one of us making a mere pass at it.
This blog has enabled me to reach people I never thought I'd reach, and enabled them to find me.
Whenever I actually sit down and write the entries for the blog, the background noise of choice for me is Sirius Radio's Broadway Channel, which I get from my Satellite TV.
That's another thing we have now. Radio on TV.
I've got it on now.
The Original Cast of "West Side Story" singing "Gee, Officer Krupke".
Yesterday, I mentioned that I believe I'm one of the five most knowledgeable heterosexuals about Musical Theatre.
The Broadway Channel certainly helps me keep current.
It has also pointed out to me that there are gaps in my knowledge.
There are a couple of shows that I deliberately kept off my radar, and never attempted to see.
They both have music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. (My second Ira Gershwin reference in two days)
Don't get me wrong. I love a Gershwin tune (How about you?).
But I guess I had a prejudice about the two shows that each took a slew of Gershwin songs used in other shows and fashioned new books around them: "My One And Only", and "Crazy For You".
I was put off by the concept. I've been a purist, I guess.
I like the songs to emanate from the book.
This seemed backwards to me.
Looking back on it, I think I blew it.
The bookwriters for those two shows were Peter Stone for one, and Ken Ludwig for the other.
Both experts in their field.
Both shows were probably great.
So I'm sitting writing the blog one night a few weeks ago with the Broadway Channel on, and I hear a song that I never heard before:
A duet between what sounds like two Chassidic Jews called "What Causes That".
An up-tempo, bouncy, clever song that is charming my pants off as I'm writing.
The only show I know that has Chassidic Jews is "Fiddler".
I know it ain't from that.
So I look up at the screen, and it says "What Causes That, Crazy For You".
The satellite gives you a lot of help.
So I know that it's Gershwin, and I thought that I knew all of Gershwin.
Turns out that I didn't.
So I do an Internet search to find out where this song was originally done.
Within minutes I learn that it came from a 1928 flop called "Treasure Girl".
Michael Feinstein was Ira Gershwin's archivist, and discovered it in a trunk.
It wasn't published or recorded until they did "Crazy For You".
In 1928, it was performed by Clifton Webb.
Probably without a Yiddish accent.
This was a big week for Clifton Webb entering my head.
After seeing "Present Laughter", I went to the IBDB website to see who starred in the original Broadway production in 1946. It was Clifton Webb.
Prior to that week, probably the last time Clifton Webb entered my head was when I saw
"Mr. Belvedere Rings The Bell" on TV about 25 years ago.
So now I go to YouTube to see if there are any performances of "What Causes That".
And there, smaller than life, was David Engel.
Those YouTube screens aren't very big.
You pretty much have to squint to see people's faces on it.
You know. David Engel. From yesterday.
There was a three minute scene leading up to the song, between David and another actor.
They looked exactly alike.
It approximated the "Mirror Scene" in the Marx Brothers comedy, "Duck Soup", and was very funny.
David and the other actor LOOKED exactly alike, but it was easy to determine which one was David.
Because he oozed personality.
The other actor didn't ooze.
David completely blew the other actor off that little screen.
And he completely blew me away.
This led me to seek out other YouTube entries for David.
And what I found made the scene from "Crazy For You" just the appetizer.
.......oh, now they're playing "Poor Jud is Dead" from "Oklahoma".
Gee, I love that song.
More about David Engel tomorrow.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."