Let The Sunshine In

Galt McDermott, composer of HAIR and Two Gentlemen of Verona, has passed away. As we like to do here on the blog, let’s take a moment to appreciate and celebrate the man’s contribution to Shakespeare.

Forget about the obvious for a minute. I mean, come on, the man wrote a musical Two Gentlemen of Verona that won the Tony for Best Musical in 1971 (beating out Grease).

If you’ve only ever known HAIR as a “tribal love rock musical,” then you haven’t been listening closely enough.  One song is entirely Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is man” speech:


(The song isn’t in the movie, you either need to know the soundtrack, or see the live show.)

My favorite, though, is the big finale number, typically known as “The Rest Is Silence / Let The Sunshine In”.  The Hamlet reference is right there for everybody to see … but if you listening very closely, the background singers are on a whole different play:

Eyes look your last
Arms take your last embrace
And lips oh you the doors
Of breath… seal with
A righteous kiss
Seal with a righteous kiss
The rest is silence

That’d be Romeo and Juliet.  The hippies are layering one Shakespeare tragedy on top of another.  Which then segues seamlessly into the big celebration that is Let The Sunshine In.

Ready for the best part of this story?  My middle daughter is really into her vinyl (album) collection right now.  She’s a huge fan of musicals, but she’s also into the classic rock that I’ve introduced her to.  I’d forgotten, until today, that for my birthday a number of years ago a friend had presented me with a framed HAIR album.  It’s been sitting in my office ever since.

So I called my daughter from work and said, “You want to go on an adventure? There’s treasure to be found.” She was up for the challenge. I texted her the bright orange and green picture of the cover and said, “Go find this picture.”  She found it.  I said, “Open it.”

“It’s a record!” she squealed.  “It’s HAIR.  Can I play it?”

“Of course,” I told her. “That’s the treasure.  It’s my favorite.”

“I know,” she replied.

“And it’s very special today, because Galt McDermott, the man who wrote it?  He died.”

“Oh.”

“So I want you to have that.  I want you to play it, loud, and when I get home tonight I want to listen to it with you.”

“I’ll do that right now. I’ll wake people up.”

“Perfect.”

Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Mr. McDermott.  For others I might say “The rest is silence” here, but you brought too much music into the world, so we’re going to play you out with much volume and celebration.

Let the sunshine in!

 

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Bringing Back The Jubilee

An argument can be made that were it not for David Garrick‘s Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769, none of us would be here today singing Mr. Shakespeare’s praises. Speaking of singing, much of the music from the celebration found its way into Garrick’s The Jubilee, staged later that year and running for 90 performances.

Have you ever heard it? Neither have I.  Retrospect Opera, a small UK charity that makes professional recordings of important musical theatre works from Britain’s past, would like to change that.

Although the Jubilee is a seminal moment in Shakespeare’s reception history, and marked the consecration of Stratford-upon-Avon as a centre for literary pilgrimages, most of the music – which is consistently fresh and delightful – has never been recorded before. We want to create something that is at once scholarly, with appropriate supporting documentation, and musically and theatrically done to the highest level, capturing how much fun it all was.
They are currently fundraising and looking for backers to help see them over the finish line. Stephen Greenblatt and Jonathan Bate have already endorsed the project.
If you would like to donate to this project, you can use this link.
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Palimpsest for Life

I know the search engine optimization (SEO) game is an ongoing battle for Google to stay one step ahead of everybody, but this is getting ridiculous.  This story only has a little Shakespeare but I couldn’t pass it up.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a book channel of sorts at my day job.  We have a book club that does the traditional “one book a month that we vote on” type of thing, but because of the amount I read, I have my own channel where I just brain dump book review after book review.  Last year I think I read 70 books? Something like that.

Anyway, just this morning I’d finished writing up Perdido Street Station by Chia Miéville, and made a comment about the author’s vocabulary:

I read a review that said “the author writes like he swallowed a thesaurus” and had a laugh because that’s quite true. Some words are just so out of the ordinary that they leap out of the page and yell “Remember when this word was on a vocabulary quiz back in high school!” I haven’t heard “palimpsest” in years, but over the last couple of weeks of reading this one he used it probably 4 or 5 times.

Later that day I was talking to Bardfilm about interpretations of Ophelia (doesn’t everybody do that?) and I learned something, so I had reason to google “olivier’s ophelia” – as in Sir Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of a particular scene with Ophelia.  Here’s what google gave back:

Note the third result returned, if you’re not getting it.

TELL ME THAT’S NOT WEIRD.

If it turns out that Google is actually ordering search results based on the fact that I searched “palimpsest” earlier that day (once, to confirm the dictionary definition), then I just give up trying to win the SEO game.  That’s crazy.

Somebody else search “olivier’s ophelia” for me and tell me if palimpsest shows up, or it was just for me?

 

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.

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Titus Andronicus : The Sequel (No, Seriously!)

We’ve often joked about which Shakespeare plays provide the best take-off point for a sequel.  There’s even a movie called Hamlet 2  which had some interesting ideas, when they got to the actual Shakespeare (think time machine … and sexy, rocking Jesus).

But what about Titus Andronicus?  Room for a sequel there?  A whole bunch of Tony Award winners think so.  Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin are set to headline Taylor Mac’s Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus this spring:

The play takes place just after the conclusion of William Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus Andronicus. Set during the fall of the Roman Empire, the years of bloody battles are over, the civil war has ended, and the country has been stolen by madmen. There are casualties everywhere and two very lowly servants (played by Lane and Martin) are charged with cleaning up the bodies.

It already makes me think it’s taking a cue from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”  Which is suitably ironic, because I can’t wait for the first people to make the connection that Nathan Lane played the voice for Pumbaa in Lion King, which is supposed to be Disney’s animated Hamlet, where they represent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, so in a way, Lane has already played the role!

Oh I will kill you.

 

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Ophelia In The Water

Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais

There’s a certain painting of Ophelia, by  Sir John Everett Millais, that you’ve almost certainly seen.  It’s that gorgeous green one that shows Ophelia in the water (and not much else). I’ve seen it on all kinds of merchandise, in fact. It was seeing it on a t-shirt today that inspired this question.

Here’s a link to the biggest version I could find.

When I saw the smaller merch version I thought, “Wait, who is that near the right edge of the painting? Is somebody there?  That can’t be a fairy, that’s the wrong play!”  So I went in search of a higher resolution image. Turns out it’s just flowers.

But that made me think.  What flowers are they, exactly? When you see the picture in its colorful glory you see just how many flowers there are – the red, yellow and blue with Ophelia in the water, the white in the center, the purple that I thought was a lurking fairy.

Can somebody identify all of these flowers for us? Are they representations of the flowers that Ophelia hands out in Hamlet IV.v?

Ophelia. There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you,
and here’s some for me. We may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays.
O, you must wear your rue with a difference! There’s a daisy. I
would give you some violets, but they wither’d all when my father
died. They say he made a good end.

I am assuming that they are, but then again, maybe not. After all, she’s already gone flower picking and already given them away – so has she gone back out to the river to pick more of the same?  Or something different? Or did the painter even get into that level of detail?

I’d love to appreciate this painting on a whole different level.  Somebody tell me that the different flowers are what I hope they are.

 

 

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