Rebel Without A Cause; SIX

Divorced, beheaded, survived

I haven’t attended enough cultural/entertainment events for my tastes of late. While I did go to the reopening of the Spectrum Theatre on April 24, I haven’t been able to get there since, and I want to soon.

I saw Rebel Without A Cause, the first James Dean movie I ever viewed.  Experienced with a 21st-century lens, Jim Stark (Dean) seems less a rebel than, in the words of ScreenRant, “a troubled youth struggling to find his place in a society he sees as hypocritical and devoid of meaning.”

Indeed, it is the high school clique that almost immediately scorns him without much provocation who are at least as broken as he. The knife fight between Jim and Buzz (Corey Allen), a few years before West Side Story, is said to reflect the “social pressures of male teenagers.”

Surely, Jim is frustrated by his ineffectual father Frank (Jim Backus), who allows Jim’s mother Carol (Ann Doran) to uproot the family at the first sign of difficulty.


Jim’s one male friend, Plato (Sal Mineo), is a real outsider, abandoned by his parents, needing “to assert some control over a world in which he feels powerless and invisible.”

Jim’s classmate Judy (Natalie Wood, later in West Side Story) evolves from her disregard for Jim as her classmates did, while missing her old relationship with her father (William Hopper from Perry Mason), to Jim and Judy becoming surrogate parents to Plato.

Indie Wire makes the case that Plato is the first gay teenager on film while avoiding getting stopped by the restrictive Hays Code

It’s an interesting slice of life, with Ray (Edward Platt from Get Smart), the cop specializing in dealing with youth a sympathetic character. Even if it is “overwrought and cloyingly melodramatic,” I still appreciated the chance to see it on the big screen.

Famously, the three leads all died too soon. In a gallery of Lost Photos From a Legendary Hollywood Archive, Dean is captured just a month before he died in a car crash at the age of 24 on 9/30/55, even before the film premiered. Natalie Wood drowned at sea in 1981 at the age of 43. And Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976 at the age of 37.

Divorced, beheaded, died…

SIX, which my wife, daughter, and I saw at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady I don’t think is that compelling a book. I had listened to the music beforehand. But for what it is, it does the thing extremely well. It was an 80-minute rock show with a sextet of Henry VIII’s queens.

The Times Union review by Katherine Kiess is about right. “Styled as a ‘Renaissance Idol’ belt-off…they compete in a glamor-coated trauma Olympics to see whose marriage was the worst.”

You can tell it was a rock show because they namechecked “Schenectady!” a half dozen times before the “LED wall panels and cathedral windows that become everything from a church confessional to a dating app screen.”

The four-piece band, the Ladies In Waiting, cooked.  And the singers were excellent. So it’s perhaps not great theater but, as the Los Angeles Times noted, it is “unapologetically revisionist. That’s why it’s successful.” And entertaining enough.

For Good

Because I knew you

All of life’s riddles are answered in musical theater*. In this case, For Good, from Wicked.

Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine. They wanted to get in touch with an old friend of theirs. The two had been really close for a time, but then the friend inexplicably pulled away. I knew that other person less well, but I, too, recognized the unexplained pulling away.

So I’ve been there. Haven’t you? For several reasons, one old friend is at the top of my mind, which has generated an oppressive degree of melancholy in me. When I heard this Tiny Desk concert of four songs from the show performed by Alyssa Fox and McKenzie Kurtz, it was the last song that struck me. It’s because Stephen Schwartz, who was at the piano, told the process of writing the song (at 17:26), which involved him asking his daughter what she would say to her best friend if she knew she would never see her again. Then he wrote it down.

I’ve heard For Good several times. My wife and I saw Wicked at Proctors Theatre in November 2012. Yet I HEARD the song differently this time, probably because of Schwartz’s story.

Elphaba and Glinda

I am recommending this to my friend, and myself.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend

*The actual quote is, “All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” It’s from the 1991 film Grand Canyon and is spoken by the character played by Steve Martin.

Morissette and the Temps

Otis Williams

In May 2023, my wife and I attended two musicals at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. The first was Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill: the Musical, based on her 1995 album and more of her songs. The second was Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.

The Morissette piece was interesting because it had a narrative not driven by the songs. Instead, Diablo Cody wrote the book and seemed to plug in the appropriate tune for that narrative arc.

The story revolves around a Connecticut woman named Mary Jane Healy. She’s writing the annual Christmas letter. She brags about her husband Steve’s work promotion and son Nick’s early admission to Harvard. And, oh yeah, her adopted daughter Frankie’s art. Things are not so perfect in suburbia, however.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Electrifying, visceral and stunning. JAGGED LITTLE PILL takes a stand against complacency.”

The review headline in the Albany Times Union by Steve Barnes calls the show “pushy, overambitious, loud.” The last sentence and a half: “The show, in its own weird way, has the integrity of committed beliefs. Whether that’s your kind of theater is another matter.”

It is undoubtedly MY kind of theater, a narrative that hits on several hot-button topics, including prescription drug addiction and rape by a familiar. I accept “pushy” and even “loud.” But it was clear that the Thursday matinee audience, except for an older couple who walked out after the first song in the second act, You Oughta Know, was enthralled by the material and the actors performing it.

Jagged Little Pill played on Broadway from December 2019 to March 2020, then from October to December 2021. It’s been touring since August 31, 2022, and will be touring in Buffalo, Boston, KC, and elsewhere at least through September.


Ain’t Too Proud is a standard jukebox musical. It tells the story of Motown’s leading male singing group from the point of view of Otis Williams, the only remaining member from their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.

Before the program began at our Saturday matinee, my wife asked if the group had stayed with its original members. Er, no. Indeed, the group’s evolution drove the narrative: Elbridge Bryant was replaced by David Ruffin, who was replaced by Dennis Edwards et al.

The music and the performances were top-notch. The TU’s Barnes calls it a “resplendent cavalcade of Temptations’ hits,” even as he questions the jukebox musical genre.

My issue was more prosaic. The show takes some liberties with the facts, probably to trim a full show. For instance, I would have concluded from Ain’t Too Proud that the Temptations reunion show took only a couple of years after Eddie Kendricks left the group in 1971.

Actually, it took place in 1982, and I attended it at the Colonie Colosseum in Albany County, NY. Glenn Leonard was one of the seven, not Damon Harris, who left the group in 1975.

I had to actively say to myself, “Self, these details don’t much matter to the audience.” And there were things the show got correct, such as Berry Gordy refusing to let the group release War as a single; it became a #1 hit for Edwin Starr.

Like JLP, Ain’t Too Proud’s run (Mar 21, 20190 -Jan 16, 2022) was interrupted by COVID. The show has been touring since December 2021. It’ll be touring the US Midwest, South, and Western Canada, among the locales, through February 2024.

Lydster: Be Kind to Your Parents


Florence Henderson 1954
Florence Henderson, 1954

There were several tunes I sang to my daughter when she was younger. One was Be Kind to Your Parents. It was a recording my sister Leslie and I owned on this red vinyl 45 when we were young. We even sang it, including fairly recently. I have no idea who the artist was.

As it turns out, the song is from a 1954 musical called FANNY. It ran on Broadway from Nov 04, 1954, to Dec 16, 1956, with 888 performances. The music and lyrics were by Harold Rome.

In the program, Be Kind to Your Parents sung primarily by Florence Henderson and Lloyd Resse. It was subsequently covered by Pete Seeger, Michael Cooney, and Michael Feinstein.

The lyrics as I remember them:

Here’s a piece of good advice. Think it over once or twice.

Be kind to your parents though they don’t deserve it
Remember the grown-up’s a difficult stage of life
They’re apt to be nervous and overexcited
Confused by the daily storm and strife.

Just keep in mind though it’s so hard I know
Most parents were once children long ago. Incredible!

So treat them with patience. And sweet understanding
In spite of the foolish things they do
Someday you may wake up and find out you’re a parent too.

This version from a kid’s show changes the line “though they don’t deserve it” to “you know, they deserve it.” Meh.

Now it’s time

When she was still a baby and toddler, I’d sing her Good Night, the song from the Beatles white album.

There was also a song I made up.

I love Lydia (X2)
‘Cause she is my daughter, oh yeah
She is my daughter

I knew I had copped the tune from somewhere. But it wasn’t until years later, I realized it was from I Eat Cannibals by Total Coelo. Of course, it was.

In the very first month of this blog, I noted how my daughter was named. I had a LOT of rules. And in spite of all of them, the first reference I hear to her name came from a Marx Brothers flick. One just cannot plan for every contingency.

Once On This Island- tour and Jr.

Jr. edition March 8 at First Pres

Once On This IslandMy church is performing Once Upon This Island Jr. It is a simplified version of the musical set on an island in the French Antilles at night during a storm.

Once On This Island ran from October 1990 to December 1991 (19 previews, 469 performances). It was Tony nominated for Best Musical; Book of a Musical; Original Score (Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Music by Stephen Flaherty); Featured Actress in a Musical (LaChanze); Costume Design; Lighting Design; Choreography and Direction in a Musical, the latter two by Graciela Daniele.

Revived for one day, May 12, 2002, it was as a Benefit for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS. In December 2017 to January 2019, it returned again for 29 previews and 457 shows. This time it was nominated for eight Tonys, winning as Best Revival of a Musical.

It toured nine months in 1992. The current tour started in October 2019 and runs through July 2020. It’ll be all over the country. The show we saw at Proctors in mid-January was very good. It featured Tamyra Gray, from the first season of American Idol, as Papa Ge, the demon of death.

Why not?

The weather forecast was rather dodgy. My wife recommended that we take the bus to Schenectady and back. This notion did not appeal to either our daughter or myself. It would mean taking a bus home at 10:30 p.m. If we missed the last connecting bus, we’d be stuck downtown Albany in the cold. I suppose we could have taken an Uber or something that point, but would one come in such nasty weather?

The solution was absurdly extravagant. We left c 2:30 p.m., just as the snow began. We checked into a hotel in downtown Schenectady, only a few doors from Proctors, and hung out in the room for a couple of hours. Then we went out to dinner with one of our Jr. cast members and his parents at a newish restaurant called Grano. It was nice, and more importantly, it was within walking distance.

The next morning, we went down to breakfast. My wife was talking to a woman who had a young girl. It turns out the girl was Mari, who played the young Ti Moune in the production we saw the night before. Her mom left briefly and brought back a We Dance knit hat and gave it to our daughter. Then we drove directly to church, the nasty weather having passed.

The Once On This Island Jr. edition that our church is performing March 8 contains some alterations. It cuts some verses in songs and eliminates a couple of tunes altogether, notably The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes.

The production also alters dialogue to accommodate multi-ethnic productions. “The original cast was chosen along racial lines with darker-skinned actors portraying the peasants and lighter-skinned actors portraying the upper-class landowners.” The altered script preserves the differences about class distinctions.

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