An ambitious quartet scene for the climax of Act II. The stage diretions describe a split stage, with Anna and Miles on one side, Alex at his computer with Alice on the other. The music is a reprise of “We’re Never Gonna Make It” and “Double Yellow Line” in the first section, followed by a heroic new theme for Alex, “I Have To Stand.” I love this composition, and have tried to rescue it from the trunk on several occasions; there’s even a couple of phrases of it that can be heard in the music for The Brave Little Tailor. The emotions in this music are keyed to the idea of “fac[ing] the thing I fear,” as the principal character faces a crisis of courage.
Miles Rushmore returns to the stage of The Cutting Edge to perform this song, singing and strutting his bad self while Anna dances and Alex acts as a kind of VR DJ. It’s the debut of Body, Mind and Soul, the collaboration that was dreamed up at the end of Act I, and a group of entertainment industry executives has come to check out the show.
Miles’s braggadocio is a little cartoonish, but there’s something enviable about his freedom from fear. So many of us – me included – are constrained by fear, and this song is an anthem of fearlessness. Forrest McClendon certainly goes all in on this one, cranking up the attitude to 11; he’s charismatic and a little bit repulsive all at once, evincing a very complex reaction. Hooray for ambivalence!
It’s funny to think about how the technology of virtual reality, which seemed so far-out when Steve and I wrote about in 1994, has quietly continued to develop. Twenty years later, it’s not exactly mainstream yet, but there’s plenty of buzz about the Oculus Rift and how VR is likely tro transform the entertainment industry. What do you think – was Realities ahead of its time? Is the world ready yet for a stage musical about a VR pioneer?
The curtain comes down on Act I of Realities at the end of an eventful night. Alex is reunited with his college roommate Miles; once upon a time, they were besties, but now Alex seems to regard his former pal as his nemesis. Sure enough, Miles manages to seduce Anna, the attractive physical therapist who’s been caring for Alex, not caring that Alex is clearly carrying a torch for the girl. The morning after is a time for plans for the future, plus a little remorse about the past.
Having posted the last of the music for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, I can’t help noticing that there’s only 30 more days remaining in Project 194. My sixtieth birthday is a month away, and somehow I’ve managed to post a song every day for the past 163 days!
I want to return to my 1994 musical Realities, which I began posting songs from months ago. If you want to refresh yourself on the story line, you can visit this page for a synopsis of the story. I left off posting back at the point where Anna had persuaded Alex to travel into the city to see a performance by Miles Rushmore at The Cutting Edge. Miles’s performance of his song “Smash N Grab” creates a sensation at The Edge, and afterward Miles seeks out Alex, his former college roommate, who he hasn’t seen since the accident that left him wheelchair bound. In What Happened To The Song, Miles expresses his fondness for his old friend and his dismay to see the bitter man he’s become. The first act ends with a quartet: Anna has put Alex to bed, and Miles begins to come on to her aggressively. Meanwhile, Alex seeks the companionship of Alice, the digital sprite he’s created in his computer.
Forrest McClendon plays Miles, Matthew Cloran is Alex, Deirdre Finnegan is Anna and Claudia Carlsson is Alice. All four of these remarkable performers are still going strong, making remarkable theater and having remarkable lives twenty years later!
Two songs today! If you’ve been following along, you can feel the action rising, and today we get to some big stuff!
Anna and Alex arrive at The Cutting Edge, a downtown venue that hosts the edgiest of alt-artists (think The Painted Bride, or The Bushwick Starr). They’ve come to see Miles Rushmore, who’s gotten quite a build-up in the previous scenes. We know that Cybil is a rabid fan of Rushmore’s, that the “suits” courting Alex are keenly interested in Miles, that he was Alex’s college roommate, and that there’s something in their shared past that gives Alex the heebie-jeebies. Now we meet the man himself, played by Forrest McClendon. Need I say more? He is charismatic, electrifying, inventive, manipulative, brazen – his presence casts a spell on everyone at The Edge. His “number” or “act” is one part stand-up, one part rap, one part spoken word, one part electronic gimmickry. The dude is out there, and he thrills the crowd. If you have a minute to read the full text of his act (not complete on the recording), you’ll get an idea of the crazy shit that Steve and I dreamed up for Forrest to do; he did it all full out, with expression.
Fun fact: my grandson is named Miles. His father, my son, is named Alex. Discuss.
It’s Day 4 of the Your Turn Challenge, and the prompt is, “Teach us something you do well.” I think both of today’s songs are well-done; I can point with pride to the craft in both. I created the 7/4 vamp for Smash N Grab on my Macintosh using Performer and a Korg 05-W sound module. (How’s that for quaint?) The Cutting Edge song was in the show starting with the first (1993) version, and I remain fond of its snarky attitude. The opening riff sounds especially nasty when played on a DX-7, and that’s why I included a BONUS track (yes! Omigod, 3 tracks today!) of D’Arcy, Gary and me singing the song as the opening number of a cabaret show we did. (See the attached postcard.) That version is longer, and the section beginning “Look sharp!” has a real Steely Dan aroma to it, but eventually I replaced it with the section starting, “That punk who ate the razors…” I have a good rewrite for the lyric about the “anti-war cantata” that refers to Rent – “That knockoff of Puccini with the synthesized score.” These tracks teach, I hope, the importance of details, which is something I do well.
In his collection “Finishing The Hat,” Steve Sondheim declares this as one of three principles “to be written in stone:”
GOD IS IN THE DETAILS.
That quote deserves a post of its own; luckily, I wrote it already.
BONUS: The cabaret version.