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ANDREW ELIOT’S DIARY 5 ñòðàíèöà
Rehearsals had begun.
Six weeks later, prior to leaving for Boston they did a run-through in New York. Afterward Edgar Waldorf reported that the group of invited professionals had all been laudatory about the project. Some indeed had confessed to being moved to tears by the lovely duet that concluded the play.
Danny and Stuart embraced warmly.
“Just think,” the poet enthused, “we’ll be starting our triumphal march in the shadow of Harvard Yard. Doesn’t that give it an extra kick?”
“Yeah, it really does.”
“Hey,” Stuart suggested, “do you and Maria want to take the train up with me and Nina? We could all hold each other’s hands.”
“Thanks, but Maria’s going to stay in Philly. She gets sort of nervous at these things. I’m going home over the weekend to conduct two concerts and I’ll fly up Sunday night. We can meet for a drink in my suite at The Ritz.”
“Great. But listen, Danny. I know I’ve told you before but, as Hamlet says, I want to engrave this on the tablets of your memory. I’ll always be grateful that you chose me to collaborate with you —”
“Stu, you’re enormously talented —”
“Please, Danny, you could have had any lyricist you wanted, but you gave a shot to a guy with no track record. Don’t think I’ll ever forget your generosity.”
“Hey, Stuart, now it’s my turn. This whole thing has been a joy. We’re not just partners anymore. We’re almost brothers.”
It is an invariable rule in the theater that musicals are never written. They are rewritten.
“That’s what tryout towns like New Haven and Boston are for,” Edgar explained to Danny and Stu. “Bostonians are as sophisticated as New Yorkers — but more tolerant. They appreciate the fact that we’re there to cut and trim and polish. Even the critics can give you a useful tip or two.”
“Suppose a show is perfect?” Stuart asked tongue-in-cheek.
“Then we just make it more perfect. Even My Fair Lady polished all its diamonds on the road. And, boys, let me tell you, this show is a thousand times better.”
Manhattan Odyssey opened its Boston run on February 12, 1968. The initial reviews were not quite as enthusiastic as Edgar Waldorf had predicted. Indeed, they were not very good. To be more precise, they were scathing.
The only “useful tip” the Boston Globe could offer was that “this unmitigated disaster should fold its tents as quickly as possible and creep away in the night.” The critic found the words pretentious and the score incongruous. The other papers were even more disparaging.
Danny was in shock. These were the first hostile reviews he’d received since the Harvard Crimson panned Arcadia .
When she heard of the catastrophic reception, Maria offered to fly up and give him support.
“No,” he told her on the phone, “I have a feeling we’re going to be working night and day. You’d be better off out of the line of fire.”
“Danny,” she said reassuringly, “this has happened to a lot of out-of-town shows before. You’ve got plenty of time to fix whatever is wrong.”
“Yeah. Besides, I think the Boston critics are being a little bit snobbish. I’ll wait and see what Variety has to say. That’s the only opinion I really trust.”
Variety , the respected publication of the show-business world speaks unvarnished truths in its own unique idiom. And, from its opening headline, “No Cause to Rejoyce,” it was an unmitigated pan.
Danny quickly skipped over the unfavorable comments about Stuart’s words, Sir John’s staging, the stars’ heroic efforts to overcome the feeble material, and shot right to the paragraph that addressed itself specifically to his work.
On the cleffing side, Rossi is clearly out of his element. He seems to write noise, not tunes. His material is distinctly unhummable. He seems allergic to melody, which may be chic in his longhair circles, but It’s not likely to send the average playgoer stampeding to the wickets.
In short, Manhattan Odyssey is going to need mucho work to make it on the Main Stem.
As he sat there in the quiet splendor of his suite at The Ritz, Danny read the review several times, still unable to dispel his incredulity.
Why were the critics so vicious? That music was the best he had ever written. He was sure of it. At least, until this moment.
There was a knock at his door. He glanced quickly at his watch. It was twenty minutes past midnight. But, as his New York friends had often reminded him, when a show is out of town it’s like an obstetrics ward. There is no night and no day.
His nocturnal visitor was Edgar Waldorf, their no-longer-ebullient producer.
“Did I wake you, Dan?”
“No, I was just about to jump out the window.”
“Then you’ve seen Variety ?”
Edgar flopped onto a couch and breathed a histrionic sigh.
“You know, Dan, we’ve got trouble.”
“Edgar, I’m aware we have problems. But isn’t that what out-of-town tryouts are for?”
“Stu has got to be replaced,” he replied quickly. “I mean, he has big talent, a huge talent. But he’s too inexperienced. He’s never worked under the gun like this.”
Danny did not know how to react. His friend and college classmate — a fine and intelligent writer — was going to be summarily fired.
He brooded silently for a moment, and then said softly, “He’s a sensitive guy, this’ll kill him.…”
“No,” the producer replied. “He’s a big boy. He’ll live to write another day. And when we save the show he’ll have royalties to live very well. But right now we need to play doctor — somebody who writes great, funny, and fast .”
“Uh, who’d you have in mind?” said Danny, dreading what might now become of Stuart’s elegant dialogue.
“My wife is calling New York to see who’s available.”
“But Stu’ll still stay on as lyricist….”
“God knows, we still need work there, too,” Edgar commented, a perceptible tinge of uneasiness in his voice. And then quickly added, “Stu’s back in New York. I don’t want him on the lyrics, either.”
“Dammit, Edgar, the least you could have done is let me tell him! Aren’t you being a bit brutal?”
“It’s not me who’s brutal, Dan, it’s the business. Broadway is strictly sink or swim, either one night or ten years! It’s a goddamn war between the artists and The New York Times !”
“Okay, okay, I’m getting the idea,” Danny acquiesced. “But who’m I gonna work with on the lyrics?”
Edgar now took a prodigiously deep breath. It was as if the entire hotel suite had suddenly become an oxygen tent. He squirmed, clutched his heart, and in his most mellifluous lower register said, “Daniel, we have to talk about the music, too.”
“What about it?”
“It’s terrific, sensational, brilliant. It’s just maybe a little too brilliant.”
“Well, not everybody can appreciate such quality. I mean — you’ve read the reviews.”
No, thought Danny Rossi, this can’t be happening. He doesn’t want to fire me!
“We need some songs,” Edgar explained. “You know, tunes.”
“I’ve read Variety , Edgar. I’ll simplify the stuff. I’ll write catchy melodies.” Panic had gripped him, and his tone of voice had involuntarily become a plea, a supplication.
“Danny, you’re a classical composer. God knows, you may be a modern Mozart!”
He seized the feeble compliment to use as a weapon for his own survival. “That’s just the point, Edgar. Mozart could write in any style — from Requiem Mass to ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’ ”
“Yeah,” replied the producer. “But he’s not available. And listen, baby, you need help.”
There was a frightening pause. What was this ignoramus going to propose?
“You’ve gotta understand there’s nothing personal about this, Dan. It’s for the show. We’ve gotta do this to save the show. Ever hear of Leon Tashkenian?”
Indeed, to his ineffable distress, Danny had. Tashkenian was known among his serious musical friends as “Trash -canian.” A two-bit, Tin Pan Alley hack!
“He writes shit , Edgar, pure unadulterated shit!”
I don’t give a damn what you call it,” Edgar retorted. Leon’s got it and we need it. Do you hear me? Does reality ever pierce your magnificent ego? Like the fields need manure, this show needs some shit!”
Daniel Rossi was choking with rage and humiliation.
“Edgar, I know my rights under the Dramatists Guild contract. You can’t bring in a new composer without my consent. And I hereby refuse to consent.”
“Okay, Mr. Rossi,” Waldorf said calmly, “I know my rights, too. This show sucks. Your music is putrid. The people hate it. So if you don’t want the helping hand of Mr. Leon Tashkenian, you have a simple alternative. You can die in Boston and be buried in your beloved Harvard Yard, Because if you say ‘no Leon,’ I’ll go right over to the theater and post the notice.”
He stormed out in a melodramatic huff, knowing Danny was already vanquished.
In fact, Edgar went straight to the downstairs telephone to call Leon Tashkenian, who had already been working in a suite at the Statler since early that morning.
Danny swallowed a tranquilizer, which seemed to have no effect. Then he began to seek consolation from every possible source. First, his agent, Harvey Madison, who had been expecting a call and who was quick to reassure his distinguished client that during a long battle with Edgar Waldorf earlier that evening, he had preserved Danny’s integrity in every way. Leon Tashkenian would receive no billing whatsoever.
“Listen, Dan,” Harvey philosophized, “this is how every Broadway show gets on. It’s patched together with a dozen different shmatas from a dozen different people. And if you’re exceptionally lucky, the critics decide it’s silk and not the same old toilet paper.”
Danny was seething with betrayal.
“Harv, you haven’t got a shred of integrity,” he shouted.
“Danny, wake up. In the theater, ‘integrity’ is what closes on Saturday night. Stop playing Goody Two-Shoes and be grateful Tashkenian was willing to ghost for you. Look, we’ll talk, babe. As soon as the new stuff is in, I’ll fly up to Beantown and we’ll have a quiet meal and a good heart-to-heart. Stay loose.”
As he slammed down the phone, Danny thought of getting drunk. But then suddenly realized that, for all his moral indignation, he had forgotten the devoted Stuart Kingsley, now so brutally banished.
He dialed New York. Nina said her husband could not come to the phone.
“Danny, you’re a ruthless, cold-hearted bastard,” she hissed. “Is there anything or anyone you won’t sell out? He thought you were his friend. God knows he would have protected you —”
“I hope this show goes down the sewer and you with it. That’s where you all belong!”
“Please, Nina, let me speak to Stuart. Please .”
There was a slight pause. She then replied with subdued fury, “He’s in Hartford, Danny.”
“What the hell’s he doing in —?” But it dawned on him before he had finished his sentence. “You mean the sanitarium?”
“He got knifed in the back by his friend.”
“I mean, what did he do?”
“Washed down a few dozen pills with a bottle of scotch. Luckily, I came home early —”
“Thank God. Nina, I —”
“Oh, console yourself, Daniel. The doctors understand his case completely —”
“Good,” said Danny, genuinely relieved.
“— They think he’ll probably succeed next time.”
Mercifully, Danny had to be away from Boston for the next few days. First he conducted a pair of concerts in Los Angeles, then took the Red Eye straight to New York. He arrived at 6:00 A.M., caught some sleep in the dressing room, swallowed two “allegro vivaces ” for stimulation and went out to rehearse for three hours.
That evening he performed Schoenberg’s complex piano concerto to such rapturous applause that he had to play an encore.
Danny’s choice — a complete musical contrast — revealed that Boston was very much on his mind. He played Mozart’s Variations in C (K 265). Otherwise known as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
He finally got back to Boston at twenty-five to one. As he entered his suite at the Ritz, the phone was ringing.
“Yes?” he said, sighing wearily.
“Welcome home, Danny, are you free?” It was Edgar.
“Hey, I’m dog tired. Can’t we speak in the morning?”
“No, we’ve got a rehearsal call for eleven and I want to get the parts copied.”
“Leon’s new material. Can we come up?”
Oh no, did he actually have to meet his nemesis?
“Edgar, you don’t need my approval. I’ve already capitulated. I know it’s terrible without even having to hear it….”
“Then let Leon play it and maybe you’ll change your mind. You might even have a suggestion or two.”
Daniel Rossi was a quick study. He now, as it were, knew the score. Although he had waived his right to veto additional music by Leon Tashkenian, he had retained one privilege, empty gesture though it might be.
Contractually, he could still remove his name from the whole enterprise. And, what the hell, wasn’t that something? Didn’t his name lend class to the marquee? Didn’t his reputation as a serious musician ensure some kind of respect on the part of the reviewers? Edgar still had to stroke him.
“All right. But this has got to be as brief as possible.”
“It’ll be the Minute Waltz,” Edgar blurted. And immediately hung up.
Danny barely had the time to swallow an “Allegro” when he heard a knock. He opened the door with trepidation. There stood a bizarre couple. Elegant, melon-shaped Edgar Waldorf and a youngish, swarthy man with Brillo hair. The latter was garbed in black corduroy, save for a white shirt open amply enough to allow an unobstructed view of a gold medallion nestling in a field of fleecy muscularity.
“Hi.” Leon Tashkenian smiled, offering his hand.
“Bollinger,” said Edgar Waldorf, offering a magnum of champagne.
Danny said nothing. Never squander ammunition in a siege. As the two men entered the room, a waiter suddenly appeared behind them, bearing a tray of three chilled glasses. He retrieved the bottle and proceeded to open and disgorge its contents.
“You played really great tonight,” Tashkenian remarked.
“Thanks,” Danny muttered sarcastically, taking it as typical showbiz bullshit. “Were you in New York today?”
“No. But you were live on WGBH.”
“Let’s all drink up,” Edgar interposed, foisting champagne glasses into the two composers’ hands. He then raised his own goblet in an emotional toast: “To the Show.”
Leon lifted his glass but did not drink. Danny merely gulped it and sat down.
“Okay, let’s see what you’ve done,” he said, reaching out toward Tashkenian’s sheaf of papers.
“Let him play it,” Edgar insisted.
“I can read music,” Danny snapped.
“I would expect no less of a Harvard graduate, Daniel,” Edgar replied. “But, unfortunately, I am educationally deprived. Besides, I like Leon’s delivery. C’mon, Lee, give out with the material.” And then turning to Danny, he editorialized, “It’s fabulous! Fab-u-lous!”
Boom-barn, boom-boom-bam! Leon played like a mad woodman trying mightily to fell a Steinway.
Danny raised his hand. “Okay. I’ve heard enough.”
“Wait, wait,” Edgar protested, “he’s just warming up.”
Danny capitulated with a sigh and turned to refill his glass.
Gradually through the din a few sounds became intelligible. The tonic, the relative minor, the second, the dominant seventh. Could he have expected anything better than the most hackneyed, overused chord sequence in pop music?
There had been moments in Danny’s life when he had dreamed of becoming Beethoven. Now he merely longed to be deaf. For, among his many virtues, Leon Tashkenian had the voice of a ruptured hyena.
Now and then, Danny could discern a word or two of text. There was something about “Mars,” suggesting that the rhyme “stars” could not be far behind, And it arrived, just as surely as “crying” followed “flying.” At last, on the very brink of a vocal orgasm, Leon screeched “above,” harmonized by an E major seventh.
The end was near — and so damn predictable — that Danny had all he could do to keep from groaning the inevitable concluding wordlet, “love.”
By this point, Edgar was pirouetting around the room. He rushed over to Tashkenian, kissed him on the cheek, and announced, “He loves it, Danny loves it!”
Sweating and gasping for breath, Leon looked up at the Renaissance man of modern music.
“What do you think, Mr. Rossi?” he asked like a nervous neophyte.
“Leon, it gives the word crap a new dimension.”
“He’s kidding, he’s kidding.” Edgar laughed nervously.
“He’s not,” said the young man at the piano, quietly but with less diffidence. And then, turning to Danny, he inquired, “Could I have some more specific criticism?”
“Specifically, Leon, I object to the clichéd use of ‘one-six-four-five-one.’ ”
“A cliché is what you make of it, Mr. Rossi,” Leon replied. “Richard Rodgers used it beautifully in ‘Blue Moon.’ ”
“You’re not Richard Rodgers — and that mindless sequence of notes isn’t music.”
Tashkenian was young, but he was aware of his own worth, especially at this moment. After this latest barrage of insults, he owed the maestro no more deference.
“Look, Rossi, I’ve got better things to do than sit here and be abused by a pretentious, overrated asshole like you. I know damn well my chord progressions are familiar. But that’s the name of the game. The clichés make ’em think it’s something they’ve heard before. They’re half-remembering it even before they hear it. And that means they can hum it at intermission. And that, in the musical theater, spells success, You don’t have anything against success, do you?”
At this point, however, Edgar Waldorf felt impelled to defend the star who was providing his show with light if not heat.
“Mr. Rossi is one of the great composers of our time,” he said.
But Tashkenian had gone too far to back down.
“Of what?” he sneered. And then turned to Danny. “You’re not even that good at classical. I mean, at Juilliard we studied the last movement of your pseudo-Stravinsky Savanarola ballet — as an example of heavy-handed orchestration, You’re nothing but an Ivy League con man.”
As suddenly as he started, Leon stopped, gripped with fear at what he’d allowed himself to say.
Danny could say nothing. Because some pellets of truth in Leon’s wild shotgun rage had hit home.
They simply stood there, glaring at each other, both frightened at who might explode next.
Curiously, it was Leon Tashkenian. He began to cry. He reached into his pocket for a handkerchief, wiped his cheeks, and then said quietly, “I’m sorry , Mr. Rossi. I spoke out of turn.”
Danny did not know how to respond.
“Come on,” Edgar pleaded, “he said he was sorry.”
“I really didn’t mean what I said,” Tashkenian added meekly.
Danny concluded that magnanimity would be his only way of saving face. “Forget it, Leon, we’ve got a show to think about.”
Edgar Waldorf rose like a phoenix from his sofa of despair.
“Oh God, I love you both. You are two beautiful human beings.”
By some miracle, both men avoided his passionate lunges. He then took Leon’s lead sheets and handed them to Danny.
“Here, schmaltz ’em up with your classical virtuosity.”
“You gotta play these tunes to the cast tomorrow morning.”
What new humiliation was this? Was he to “schmaltz” up Leon’s musical guano as this cheap hack looked on gloating?
“Why do I have to play it?”
“Because it’s supposed to be your stuff, Dan.”
“They don’t know about Leon?”
Edgar shook his head emphatically. “And they never will.”
Danny was speechless. He turned to the young man, whose eyes were still red with tears, and asked, “You really don’t want any credit?”
Leon smiled shyly. “It’s part of the business, Mr. Rossi. I’m sure you’d do the same for me.”
“They’re humming! Do you hear me, Danny? They’re humming !”
Edgar Waldorf was phoning from the manager’s office of the Shubert Theatre. It was the first intermission after Leon’s numbers had gone into the show. They had even added a reprise of “The Stars Are Not Enough,” which Theora Hamilton would now sing just before the curtain fell (Sir John Chalcott, who had threatened to resign if this change were effected, was at that moment on a flight back to London).
Danny had not been able to bring himself to go to the theater for fear of — he knew not what. Hearing the new songs fail? Or, worse perhaps, hearing them succeed?
“And, Danny,” Edgar continued to enthuse, “I smell success. We’ve got a winner! Trust Edgar Waldorf, we’ve got a smasheroo!”
Toward the midnight hour, there was a sensuous tap-tap-tapping at his hotel door.
It was the distinguished — and heretofore coolly distant — leading lady. Miss Theora Hamilton was carrying a bottle of showbiz soda water, otherwise known as champagne.
“Mr. Rossi,” she cooed, “I’ve come to toast a genius. That new ballad you wrote for me is a classic. I could see tears in their eyes as the curtain fell.”
Danny had never taken much heed of her opinions, but he had always entertained some interest in her breasts. He was pleased to see that she had not neglected to bring them along.
“Well, may I enter, or do we have to drink this in the hallway?”
“Madame,” said Danny with a gallant bow, “je vous en prie .”
And so the legendary Theora wafted in. First bottle, then breasts, then the heart that lay passionately within, They all were his that night.
Yes, music hath charms. Even if it is by Leon Tashkenian.
On the night of the New York opening, Danny had his driver bring Maria from Philadelphia directly to the theater. While she went in to watch the performance, Danny and Edgar paced nervously in the empty lobby. Every time they perceived laughter or applause they exchanged glances and mumbled something like, “Do you think they liked it?”
During the ride to the party, Danny anxiously asked Maria what she thought.
“Well, frankly, the original version was a little more to my taste, But the audience seemed to like it and I guess that’s what’s important.”
“No, it’s only what the critics think that counts.”
“I looked everywhere,” she said, “but I didn’t see Stuart and Nina.”
“They were both too nervous,” Danny improvised. “In fact, I don’t think they’ll even come to the reception. They’ll probably just sit at home and watch the television critics.”
By eleven-thirty, almost all the important reviews were in. The networks had been unanimously favorable. All complimented Stuart Kingsley’s literate book (Edgar’s wife, who had stepped in when Neil Simon declined the rewriting task, went graciously unbilled). And all remarked on Danny Rossi’s “sinewy, melodic score” (CBS-TV). It now seemed a foregone conclusion that the Times would come through with a rave.
And it did. In fact, Edgar was on the bandstand at that very moment, tearfully reading the words that would make them all rich and famous forever.
“It’s a Valentine!” he shrieked, waving a yellow sheet of paper above his head, “an unadulterated Valentine! Listen to his goddamn headline — ‘Melody Makes a Mighty Return to Broadway.’ ”
The crowd of actors, investors, and Beautiful People broke into cheers, Edgar raised his hand to plead for silence. At last, they quieted down to hear more. Only the tinkle of glasses was audible, occasionally punctuated by melodramatic female sighs and appreciative whispers.
Meanwhile, Edgar read on from the sacred document.
“Tonight, at the Shubert Theatre, Daniel Rossi confirmed beyond doubt that he is master of every musical form. What better demonstration of the enormous range of a composer than the comparison of his complex, powerful, nearly atonal Savanarola ballet with the dulcet and unabashedly simple melodies from Manhattan Odyssey . Certain to become standards are gems like, ‘This Evening, Like All the Other Evenings,’ and, especially, ‘The Stars Are Not Enough.’
“Poet Stuart Kingsley has also shown that he has a magical gift for the theater.…”
Immediately after the definitive critic’s closing salvo (“I hope it runs forever”), the band broke into “The Stars Are Not Enough.” And everyone, young and old, drunk and sober, began to vocalize. Except Danny Rossi.
As the guests sang chorus after chorus, Maria leaned over and whispered in her husband’s ear.
“It’s really lovely, Danny.”
He kissed her on the cheek. Not to acknowledge what she had naively intended as a compliment, but because there were photographers watching.
The following March, at the Tony Award ceremonies, Manhattan Odyssey was chosen as Best Musical of the year. Not unexpectedly, Danny Rossi won for Best Score. Accepting the prize on behalf of Stuart Kingsley, who had won for Best Book, Edgar Waldorf gave a touching little speech about Stu’s teaching commitments making it impossible for him to attend.
In a frantic round of bidding, MGM carried away the screen rights for a record sum of nearly seven million dollars.
Not long thereafter, Danny Rossi’s picture appeared on the cover of Time .
For a long while Danny felt ashamed about the secret Manhattan Odyssey humiliation. Though only two other people in the world knew, he harbored an inner sense of failure.
Yet, the soul has remarkable powers of regeneration. As years passed, and the number of different recorded versions neared two hundred, Danny gradually began to believe that he actually had composed “The Stars Are Not Enough.”
And, what the hell, given half a chance, he probably could have.
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-08-05; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 12; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ