Jul 1, 2014

Newman's Own

I'll be at tonight's one-night-only concert reading of Randy Newman's Faust with bells on. (How 'bout you, George Hunka?) I'd noted the possibility that the show would finally get a hearing in New York when I talked to Jeanine Tesori about her Encores! Off Center series last summer. I put my review of the La Jolla production up in this space a few months ago, but I had some more thoughts about what a missed opportunity Faust represented for the American musical, some of which I touched on here, but more of which I thought were worth sharing with the world, particularly a world that seems to need regular reminding that Newman was/is stone-cold songwriting genius, not just Pixar's grandfatherly piano man (I partly blame Seth McFarlane, not to mention Will Sass's resoundingly clueless parodies). I managed to hawk some of these thoughts to Slate, where I can preach it to a wider choir. Nut graf:
But for all the soft smiles and hard cash he’s generated with his latter career as the Irving Berlin of family films, the animated-movie racket has been its own kind of Faustian bargain for Newman. His studio-album output, for one, has slowed to a once-a-decade crawl, while his game stab at an old-fashioned Disney animated musical, The Princess and the Frog, was mostly a factory job. When Faust reappears on Tuesday for a one-night-only concert at New York's City Center, with Newman himself as the Devil, it is likely to be both a festive and a sad occasion, a New Orleans funeral march for a brilliant musical theater career that never was. Faust, which I was lucky to catch at La Jolla, was a jokey, imperfect vehicle, but what it carried was a fresh, fecund theatrical voice. Newman could’ve been a real presence on Broadway in the past 20 years.
You can read the rest here.

1 comment:

George Hunka said...

I only wish I could, Rob! Your write-up makes me sorry I'll miss it -- I'm still holding out hope for somebody to have a stab at Van Dyke Parks's "Jump!" though.