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Monday, December 8, 2014

Once Again, The Return Of Doctor Rothman, Tune Detective.

So I caught up with the new production of "Peter Pan" on Saturday Night, due to my trusty Tivo.
I'll give you my general impressions of it later in the week, but today, I'd like to concentrate on one specific element.
An element that I haven't seen anyone in the blogosphere comment upon.
So in that regard, I'd like to be the first kid on my block.
There has always been a checkered history about the Music and Lyrics credits for "Peter Pan".
First, the very talented team of Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh churned out eight of the surviving songs.
Then, the powers that be felt that more help was needed, and Jule Styne and Betty Comden & Adolph Green were brought in to mop up, and provided four of their own songs.
I think that the quality in both cases was comparable.
Here is the breakdown:

"Tender Shepherd" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"I've Gotta Crow" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Never Never Land" Jule Styne Betty Comden and Adolph Green
"I'm Flying" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Pirate Song" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Hook's Tango" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Indians" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Wendy" Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Hook's Tarantella" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"I Won't Grow Up" Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh
"Oh, My Mysterious Lady" Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Ugg-a-Wugg" Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Distant Melody" Jule Styne Comden and Green
"Captain Hook's Waltz" Jule Styne Comden and Green
"We Will Grow Up " Moose Charlap Carolyn Leigh

It's roughly eight to four, in favor of Charlap and Leigh.
I didn't realize that it was so heavily weighted that way.
So I'm watching the production, and they get to Captain Hook's tap dance number, a song called "Vengeance"
And my jaw drops about three feet.
It was a song written about fifty years ago, for a Broadway Musical called "Do-Re-Mi", which starred Phil Silvers.
It was called "Ambition".
Also by Comden, Green, and Styne.
It was a list song, during which Phil tried to convince Nancy Dussault, our heroine, that she could have everything she ever dreamed of by utilizing her wonderful singing voice by cutting a record for him.
And it was turned into "Vengeance".
All new lyrics.
Another list song, where Captain Hook mused about all the pleasures he'd derive by destroying Peter Pan.
"Vengeance" was very entertaining, and certainly gave Walken an opportunity to strut his stuff.
But, I kept asking myself, why did they have to rip off the melody to "Ambition" to accomplish this?
My first thought was that it was a song originally written for "Peter Pan", and got cut along the way, so they tossed it into "Do-Re-Mi" five years later.
As it turned out, this theory didn't hold that much water.
I had also Tivoed "The Making of Peter Pan Live", which I didn't watch until I finished watching "Peter Pan" itself.
Sure enough, there was a discussion about this song.
It involved Amanda Green, Adolph's daughter, and a somewhat prominent composer and lyricist in her own right.
Her mother is the actress Phyllis Newman.
A graphic appeared by her name---"Lyricist for Peter Pan".
With the rather large menu for the composers and lyricists for "Peter Pan" in it's opening credits, it was rather easy to overlook a credit which read "Incorporating Additional Lyrics by Amanda Green".
But it was there.
I went back and checked.
Amanda Green has gigantic teeth, considering the size of her face.
It's not a deformity, and this is not an insult. Her parents both had gigantic teeth, so it sort of makes sense.
It must have made for some interesting kissing in the Green household.
There's nothing inherently wrong with having gigantic teeth.
Dinah Shore was quite attractive with hers.
Amanda Green is rather attractive with hers.
So why am I bringing this up?
Because when asked about "Vengeance", she said it was a "New song".
Oh, the lyrics were new, I suppose, and perhaps written by her.
But who knows when they were written?
They showed the sheet music for "Vengeance"
It read "Music and Lyrics by Styne, Comden & Green, and Green.
Styne, Comden, and Green (the elder) are all long since dead.
So my question is: Just what was Betty Comden and Adolph Green's contribution to "Vengeance"?
They were only the original lyricists.
They didn't seem to have the time to write any of the lyrics to "Vengeance", being dead and all.
So why are they on the sheet music?
Maybe they did write it for the original "Peter Pan", and Amanda was just trying to keep it in the family.
Why wasn't anything lifted from the Charlap-Leigh catalogue?
Moose's son Bill is a major musical artist.
Why wasn't he asked to collaborate with Amanda?
Wouldn't that have been more fair?
Did he not get jobbed out of this?
In any case, the melody for "Vengeance" was written at least fifty-four years ago.
Some lying is going on.
A lot of children watched that interview.
So she was lying to children.
What's worse than that?
The song is not exactly new.
I think we were entitled to know that.
So she was, in effect, lying through her gigantic teeth.
Makes you wonder why she pursued and got this gig.
Maybe she was at a position to hold them at gunpoint.
But "Vengeance" wasn't enough for Amanda.
She also added two other melodies from earlier Styne, Comden, and Green shows, and set new lyrics to them:
One more from "Do-Re-Mi", which was originally "I Know About Love", changed to "Is It Only Pretend?".
The only hit song from "Do Re Mi" was "Make Someone Happy".
It was re-popularized many years later by Jimmy Durante on the soundtrack of "Sleepless In Seattle".
And bizarrely enough, Jimmy's rendition of "Make Someone Happy" showed up in one of the commercials in "Peter Pan"
Maybe if it didn't, Amanda would have ransacked that too:
"Make pirates happy,
Make just one pirate happy...."
I'm just sayin'
There was another song from another Comden, Green, Styne show, "Say Darling", "Something's Always Happening On The River", and it was turned into something weaker.
Maybe they were ALL written for and cut from "Peter Pan".
She was definitely ravaging the Styne, Comden, and Green Songbook.
I mean, she is supposed to be a composer in her own right.
Why couldn't she come up with original melodies for these songs?
Is she nothing more than a hack? A nuchshlepper?
(Boy, I haven't used THAT word in a while.)
Or maybe that was part of the deal to get permission to do any of this.
There has always been a history of dropping songs from some shows and having them turn up in others.
Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote a song for "South Pacific" for Lt. Cable to sing called "Suddenly Lucky".
The director, Joshua Logan, heard them play and sing it, and immediately pronounced it "The worst song he ever heard".
Undaunted, for their next show, "The King and I" they re-wrote the lyrics, and it became "Getting To Know You".
Nobody's idea of the worst anything.
When Lerner and Loewe wrote "My Fair Lady", they had this song written for it called "Say a Prayer For Me Tonight".
A lovely song.
There was no room for it, so they dropped it.
It showed up intact in their film "Gigi".
Nothing wrong with any of this.
But Styne and Comden & Green egregiously stepped over the line.
On at least one occasion.
They took a song from a show they did for Carol Burnett called "Fade Out, Fade In", a song that had seen the light of day, changed the lyrics, and re-inserted it into a show called "Hallelujah, Baby!", which starred Leslie Uggams.
It won the Tony that year for Best Musical.
Admittedly, there was very little competition that year.
Okay. They stole from themselves.
But it's still thievery.
So as far as Amanda is concerned, it's likely a case of apples and trees.
Maybe with Peter Pan, she tried to balance the books between Styne, Comden, and Green, and Charlap and Leigh.
After dropping "Mysterious Lady", a less than sexually appropriate or stellar effort of Comden and Green's, and adding the three that Amanda added, that pretty much evened the score.
And maybe it's even more crass and mercenary than that.
The CD for this show is probably going to sell in the gazillions.
It's a real stocking stuffer.
Amanda, who was given billing at the beginning of the show as "Incorporating Additional Lyrics by Amanda Green" would surely be entitled to a sizeable chunk of royalties.
And we've already established that she has the teeth to handle it.
So in a show about pirates, apparently lots of piracy is going on.


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  1. I loved the live broadcast of "Peter Pan," and was very impressed at how well this complex production was produced live, with so many challenges and things that could go wrong. Thanks, Mark, for your interesting background discussion on the music. I read that some people made a big deal out of hating it, and I don't understand why. It was magnificent! I hope they do produce "The Music Man" as planned next year.

  2. Aside from what I said above, I was far less enthusiastic about the overall production than you were.
    I'll get to that soon enough.

  3. Your post reminded me of another case of "self-thievery," and knowing you, you're probably already aware of it.

    Years ago I was watching the 1930s Eddie Cantor musical "Kid Millions," and one of the numbers, "I Want to Be a Minstrel Man," featuring the Nicholas Brothers.

    "I've heard that melody before," I thought.

    Eventually I somehow figured it out: It's the same melody as "You're All the World to Me," from "Royal Wedding" -- the number in which Fred Astaire appears to dance on the walls and the ceiling.

    Two songs, same composer: Burton Lane. The older song's lyrics are by Harold Adamson; Alan Jay Lerner wrote the words for the later number.

  4. I'm certainly aware of "You're All The World To Me".
    I didn't know about the earlier Eddie Cantor version.
    And I love the Nicholas Brothers.
    I'll have to seek out "Kid Millions".

  5. I was trying to figure out the source of "Vengeance" (and in particularly if Walken's speech-singing was part of the song), and Google brought me to you. I love that you did the research on this, so I didn't have to!

    Re: your passgae: "Just what was Betty Comden and Adolph Green's contribution to 'Vengeance'? They were only the original lyricists. They didn't seem to have the time to write any of the lyrics to "Vengeance", being dead and all. So why are they on the sheet music?"

    Legally, the originally writers of a song-- composer and lyricists-- share the ownership of the song. Even if the lyrics are changed (and even if that lyric change leads to a new title and placement in other musical entirely), the original lyricists still need to be officially credited (like on the sheet music). See also the writing credits for Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl" (a rewrite of an interpolation of "If I Were a Rich Man"), which is an even bigger mess.

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About Me

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 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."