Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Sondheim of the Day - A Little Night Music

During the solstice in Scandinavia, the sun does not set for days at a time. Dating back to pagan tradition, Midsummer festivities are notoriously raucous social-more-thwarting revelry. Against this ripe backdrop in turn-of-the-century Sweden, A Little Night Music celebrates the romantic foibles of Desiree Armfeldt and friends over one eventful extended sunset.

Stephen Sondheim and the original director Harold Prince “always wanted to do a musical that dealt with love and lovers and mismatched partners...love and foolishness.” While looking for material to adapt into a romantic operetta, they found their own perfect match in the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. “Bergman achieves one of the few classics of carnal comedy,” wrote renowned film critic Pauline Kael, “a tragicomic chase and roundelay that raises boudoir farce to elegance and lyric poetry.” While Sondheim and book writer Hugh Wheeler retraced the romantic runarounds of the film’s story, they sweetened Bergman’s cynicism, allowing “the darkness to peep through a whipped-cream surface. Whipped cream with knives.”

- from The Huntingdon Theatre website

From its debut in 1973, A Little Night Music was warmly received by the critics and reviewers, and has been revived myriad times since - the show is often cited as one of Sondheim's finest works. Conceived as a sort of operetta, virtually all of the music is, unusually, written in waltz (three-quarter) time - and from its magnificent score, a legendary showbiz standard (and pop hit) was born. But first, on with the show...

[Other notable versions of this remarkable number include Elaine Stritch, Dame Cleo Laine, Dame Sian Phillips, and even Margaret Hamilton(!) - but my fave is the original by Hermione Gingold (no video for that, unfortunately)]

And finally... The number that gained a life all of its own - probably Sondheim's most recognised and famous song. It has been covered by just about everyone in the business, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Collins (whose version was a huge hit in 1975), MegaBabs, Sarah Vaughan, Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Lou Rawls, Shirley Bassey, Blossom Dearie, Jack Jones, Johnny Mathis, Cleo Laine, Rosemary Clooney, Maria Friedman, Ruthie Henshall, Michael Ball, Glenn Close, the Tiger Lilies and even Dame Edna Everage (and many, many more besides). However, this is the lady for whom it was written:

Other notable "Desirees" include Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Simmons, Sally Ann Howes, Dorothy Tutin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Juliet Stevenson, Bernadette Peters and Judi Dench]

We went to see it back in (gulp!) 2009 - at the "home" of many a successful Sondheim production the Menier Chocolate Factory - starring Maureen Lipman as Madame Armfeldt, Hannah Waddingham as Desiree and Alexander Hanson as Frederik, and loved it.

A Little Night Music is quite simply magnificent, and deservedly revered as a classic.

All you need to know about the show is on the Everything Sondheim site.

RIP, Stephen Joshua Sondheim (22nd March 1930 – 26th November 2021)

[One of a series of tributes I will be posting to Mr Sondheim this week.]
Previous "Sondheim of the Day" entries:

Monday, 29 November 2021

Sondheim of the Day - Gypsy

Probably one of my favorite musicals of all time, the semi-autobiographical tale of a timid Vaudeville-player-turned-stripping-superstar and her domineering mother, Gypsy was an extremely unlikely storyline for a musical way back in 1959 [hardly the most enlightened of times] - yet, with its book (loosely based on Gypsy Rose Lee's salacious memoirs) by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and the imperious presence of the musical sensation Ethel Merman as its "Mama Rose", it was a huge success.

In a mirror of the plot of overbearing stage mother trying to dominate her children and live her dreams of stardom vicariously through them, it was in fact Miss Merman who pushed the show to be produced in the first place - yet, however, to her eternal chagrin she lost out to Rosalind Russell when it came to casting the film adaptation!

I love Gypsy because of its brash campery, and its plethora of end-of-the-evening arm-stretch-gesturing belt-em-out numbers - and so, Curtain up! Light the lights! Let's start with an unbeatable one:

[Love this - but I'm also rather fond of the Angela Lansbury version]

Needless to say, "our gang" went along en masse to see the 2015 West End revival, starring Imelda Staunton - read more about that here.

Fab-u-lous!

RIP, Stephen Joshua Sondheim (22nd March 1930 – 26th November 2021)

[One of a series of tributes I will be posting to Mr Sondheim this week.]
Previous "Sondheim of the Day" entries:

Fiesta?


It could be worse - we could be in Yorkshire.

Winter has arrived here in North London - it was down to below zero degrees last night - and it really makes if difficult to haul the old bones out of the snuggly bed and start yet another working week! It's too dark, and I'm not ready for all this.

On this Tacky Music Monday, however, I have found the perfect cheesy (and somewhat bewildering) pick-me-up, courtesy of a German "national treasure" and sex symbol...

Like so many of his ilk, of course, Rex Gildo's media-savvy image was a charade. He sang songs about girls, sunshine and idyllic fun-filled lives, yet suffered with depression and alcoholism for years. He had a very public marriage to a "sweetheart" (his cousin), yet had hidden for years the truth that he was in fact in a long-term relationship with a man; his "secretary", several years his junior. It all came to rather tragic end in 1999.

Still, at least we have those teeth - and that bow tie - to remember him by.

Have a good week, dear reader. Keep warm.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Sondheim of the Day - West Side Story

Way back in 2009, I posted a tribute to the long-forgotten model-turned-society-hostess Ruth Ford, who hosted a famous theatrical [="gay"] salon at her home in the Dakota Building in New York:

...she hosted parties attended by such luminaries as Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Terrence McNally and Truman Capote - just imagine a single room that could possibly hold all those queens together!

But most exciting of all, it was in Ruth Ford's apartment that a young Stephen Sondheim was first introduced to Arthur Laurents and, later, to Leonard Bernstein. Together, these three remarkable men came up with one of the best musicals of all time - West Side Story! And it was all down to Miss Ford...

One of most lauded successes in musical theatre history, this updated version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was made even more popular when Mr Laurents and producer Robert Wise turned it into a blockbuster movie in 1961 - which went on to win 10 Academy Awards; the most ever for a musical film. [Its influence stretches even to the modern era, as Steven Spielberg's just (groan) remade it; I shan't be rushing to see that.]

For young Stephen Sondheim, this was a spectacular debut indeed!

Without further ado, on with the show. It's a familiar and well-trodden plot - but with a plethora of tight-trousered gorgeous (and indelibly camp) boys, pretending to be members of macho street gangs, cavorting in Technicolor, what's not to like..?

Of course, its score is timeless (with typically Bernstein staccato notes balanced by Mr Sondheim's clever and complex lyrics), and birthed a number of classics...

[NB this version, from Lenny Bernstein's studio production of the score (see below) spawned a famous French & Saunders skit]

It's no wonder, really, that West Side Story is still consistently voted among the best musicals of all time.

RIP, Stephen Joshua Sondheim (22nd March 1930 – 26th November 2021)

[One of a series of tributes I will be posting to Mr Sondheim this week. Yesterday's "Sondheim of the Day" was Company.]

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Sondheim of the Day - Company

The world of musical theatre is in mourning - as are we here at Dolores Delargo Towers - at the death of one of the greatest ever talents in that genre Mr Stephen Sondheim.

As any regular reader will be aware, I, Madam Arcati and indeed the rest of our "gang" are avid Sondheimites. It was, indeed, The Madam who really introduced me to the great man's incredible repertoire, courtesy of his cherished copy of the original West End cast recording of Ned Sherrin's hit revue Side By Side By Sondheim - and he even got Mr Sondheim's autograph back when he worked in the theatre, which I had framed for his 50th and takes pride of place on our wall:


click any pic to embiggen

By way of a fitting tribute, this week I plan to feature a musical per day from the Sondheim back-catalogue (which stretches back six decades!), for your delectation, starting with a masterpiece, Company...

The first successful musical for which the Maestro wrote both words and music, it was lauded at its launch in 1970 for its innovative adult-oriented themes. A synopsis of the plot from the Sondheim.com site:

Set firmly in, and often about, New York, Company follows five married, once married, or soon to be married couples and their mutual friend, Robert, a 35 year old bachelor who has been unable to connect in a long-term relationship. The relationships are presented in a series of vignettes, primarily through Bobby's eyes, so that we see the less than ideal aspects of commitment. However, it is obvious to the audience that the committed are happy. Eventually, Bobby learns that while relationships aren't perfect, they are a necessary part of "Being Alive."

Without further ado, let's have a selection of songs from the show's fabulous score:

[Note - there numerous versions out there of this number - including when Julie Andrews famously sang all three parts]

[Another song that has been covered dozens of times - notably, during lockdown last year, by a cast of divas in dressing-gowns!]

It is a stunning show - we went to see the amazing "gender-swapped" version back in 2018, starring Rosalie Craig and Patti LuPone, and believe me, the numbers still work with two boys Getting Married Today, a male "trolly-dolly" heading to Barcelona, and the "boop-boop-be-doos" of You Could Drive A Person Crazy performed by three men!

Everything you ever needed to know about Company at Simply Sondheim site.

RIP, Stephen Joshua Sondheim (22nd March 1930 – 26th November 2021)

Friday, 26 November 2021

Now this is how it started

It's cold and miserable today, and there is a risk of frost this weekend. Brrr!

Nevertheless, it is "Le Weekend", and (for me) it's pay day - so let's take ourselves off to Ibiza (I wish)!

...and by way of a memory jog, with its "no-expense-spent" video here is the (far superior) original from 1986, featuring what looks for all the world like "The Green Triangle" from a tin of Quality Street on legs...

Thank Disco House It's Friday!

Have a great weekend, dear reader! Keep warm...

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Gobbling and a prick

I may not be a turkey, but...

...I got my booster jab this week!

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Something fishy about it

I was "overjoyed" to discover that today was apparently "National Sardines Day", until I realised that like so very much content on the interwebs, this actually means "it's a marketing 'thing', and confined to America". Hey ho. Who gives a stuff, when - by way of a tribute to that silvery-health-food-from-the-sea [historically known here in the UK as "pilchards" - and, indeed, that is what they are still called if they grow over six inches] - I have the perfect excuse to exhume a (very) old favourite of ours here at Dolores Delargo Towers?

More than you ever need to know about this song, courtesy of the weird website Tedium.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Oops!

Oh, sorry. I just arrived at the office. Did I flick the wrong switch?

Monday, 22 November 2021

Ich werde meine Knie rouge auftragen und rolle meine Strümpfe runter


I love Mondays...

I must have blinked and missed the weekend, for here I am again, dear reader, dealing with the same old, same old work stuff again...

We need something jolly to wake us up!

It's been far too long since I have featured anything by old faves the Kessler Twins (still going; they hit their 85th birthday milestone in August!), so when I stumbled across this slice of cheesiness, where the girls are paired with the man who was once considered "Germany's answer to Elvis", I just knew it would be perfect for this a Tacky Music Monday ...

Have a good week, dear reader.

More Kessler Twins here, here, and - in one of our favourite camp videos/Scopitones of all time - here.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Come fly with me


click to embiggen

We had a lovely day with The Mother yesterday - just sat around at my sister Hils' place, eating, chatting and looking through photos and videos - and once we dropped her off at the station spent the rest of the evening in a down-to-earth pub in Southwark.

Today I am continuing that chilled-out mood - and, with a mere ten-and-a-bit weeks till we will be doing exactly that, on our way to Spain for the first time in two years - by taking a flight on the luxurious STL Airways!

We love Soft Tempo Lounge.

[Music: The Alan Tew Orchestra & Chorus - Let's Fly]

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Bizarre reality

It can be disorientating trying to recall a dream, but it’s worse when you realise that the dream was actually a real TV show. Here are the oddest:

Stars In Their Eyes
Witnessing a meek accountant from Swansea walk through a smoky doorway and magically become a shop-soiled Robbie Williams is definitely the sort of thing that only happens in a dream, right? Not if you were watching ITV in the 90s. That was our bizarre reality.

Dick & Dom in da Bungalow
You must have been asleep on the sofa. There’s no way you could have watched a programme where children are screamed at and covered in gunk by two grown men, and sometimes Ian Beale from Eastenders, broadcast live at 9am on a Saturday morning. It’s too weird to have been real.

Big Break
The horrible combination of snooker and Jim Davidson is something only your subconscious could throw up. Factor in the nonsensical but sinister phrase ‘I’m going to be snookering you tonight’ and you’ve got the makings of a very creepy dream. Except you were awake and it was on every Saturday night for a decade.

Naked Attraction
Clearly an anxiety dream and not a real show. Who in their right mind would go on TV, reveal their entire naked body apart from their head, and have their genitals forensically examined by a stranger, an overexcited host and a viewing audience of millions? Only a particularly deep REM cycle could create that freakish situation, surely?

You Are What You Eat
So there’s this woman who pretends to be a doctor, right, who makes people put every single item of food they eat during a week on a massive table while she shames them for it. And then she makes them poo in a Tupperware box and give it to her so she can sniff it. No one would put something that mental on TV, so it must have been a particularly fucked up nightmare.

The Daily Mash

Of course.

Friday, 19 November 2021

There's not a problem that I can't fix, 'cause I can do it in the mix


I could sit and watch this all day

Oh, thank fuck - another weekend is looming!

It's my mother's birthday, and she's coming up to London tomorrow for the day, so that's something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, let's get our best drag out of the wardrobe and start planning for our traditional Friday party - and, with Seamus Haji in charge of proceedings, it will be a blast!

However, it is (and always will be) the original version of this masterpiece that really, really gives me the shivers - from the mists of time, 38 years ago, when I was teetering on the edge of coming out - laydeez'n'gentlemen, Indeep!

Thank Disco It's Friday, indeed!

Have a great one, dear reader...

Thursday, 18 November 2021

And I cannot lie


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Today's great swathe of notable and ill-matched birthday celebrants include Amanda Lear, Johnny Mercer, Margaret Atwood, Kim Wilde, Linda Evans, Louis Daguerre [of the Daguerrotype fame], Susan Sullivan, Steven Moffat, Compay Segundo of Buena Vista Social Club, Chloë Sevigny, Brenda Vaccaro, Alec Issigonis [inventor of the Mini car], Nadia Sawalha, Owen Wilson, Ant McPartlin...

...and W. S. Gilbert, one half of that mot estimable of musical partnerships Gilbert and Sullivan! Any excuse, methinks, to re-visit a (very) old favourite of ours here at Dolores Delargo Towers...

Still love it!

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

In some secluded rendezvous, that overlooks the avenue...


click to embiggen

Gosh. Whoever would have thought that any member of the legendary Spike Jones and his City Slickers troupe - who entertained the world in the 1940s and 50s - might still have been alive?

Sadly - a mere few months short of his centenary - the last survivor Joe Siracusa bashed his last kettle drum and blew his last kazoo and departed for Fabulon last weekend, leaving behind a faboo legacy of inspired anarchic musical madness. Without the Spike Jones combo, where would the likes of The Goons or Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band have been?

Once the novelty began to wear off, however, Mr Siracusa turned his talents to something completely different (well maybe not quite so different): kids' cartoons. As editor (and of course, sound effects man), he was famous for his work on myriad shows including Popeye, The Cat in the Hat, Mr Magoo, Bugs Bunny and The Pink Panther, and a slew of Marvel cartoons including The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. En route, he counted among his friends Dr Seuss, Henry Mancini and Stan Lee!

Such was his repute, he was invited to become a member of the Oscars judging panel, a role he kept until his death.

A remarkable man! And here, for your delectation, are just two of the many crazy numbers in which he was involved...

RIP, Joseph James Siracusa (3rd February 1922 - 13th November 2021)

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Thought for the day

Mine needs a reboot.

Monday, 15 November 2021

You're still so fast and funky

Groan. Here we go again...

The start of any new week is a wrench, especially at this time of year when the daylight is scarce - but on this Tacky Music Monday, there's always the - ahem - super-talented ladies of Arabesque to cheer us up..!

Utterly bizarre - and a perfect example of "rehearsed-but-not-quite-enough"...

Have a good week, folks.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Totty of the Day

The very lovely out-gay actor Russell Tovey, who began his career on stage as one of The History Boys and went on to become a familar face on our screens (both sides of the pond) in shows such as Being Human, Him & Her, Looking and Years & Years, is 40 years old today!

I'd help him blow out that candle...

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Recipe time!


Dinahmow is tutting again at all this "new-fangled stuff"...

Take a large dollop of this:

...a pinch of this:

...mix together with a smattering of complete madness - and you get this!

This classic - a staple of house parties here at Dolores Delargo Towers - was the summer hit of 1990, and still sounds fresh today!

Friday, 12 November 2021

You never fail to satisfy


Does my bum look big in this..?

Another long, drawn out week of dealing with trivia and absolute idiots is almost over. To quote Malcolm Tucker from The Thick Of It, and dedicated to this week: “Yeah, yeah. Andy Murray, Andy Pandy, fucking Ghandi, have a hand-shandy, whatever, just FUCK OFF out of my life!”

Now, breathe...

It is, after all, the day we look forward to (or at least dream about) getting in a party mood - and what better way to do so than with a proper Funk-fest?!

Sharing the day with another wildly disparate assemblage of "names", such as Jo Stafford, Grace Kelly, Sun Yat-sen, Les McKeown, Anne Hathaway, Booker T, Lucia Popp, Mariella Frostrup, Neil Young, Megan Mullally, Brian Hyland, Ryan Gosling, Nadia Comăneci (who is 60), Alexander Borodin, Tonya Harding, and - erm - Charles Manson, it would have been one of the masters of Funking, my eternal "secret teenage crush", the late, great Errol Brown's birthday today!

To herald in the impending weekend, let's have a portion [I wish!] of the great man and his incredible performing trousers - and Thank Disco It's Friday!

I never tire of it...

Have a great weekend, dear reader!


Footnote:

If you need your party a bit more "ramped-up", however...

This week, we lost two great contributors to the rich tapestry of "party music" - founder-member of UB40 Astro and Andrew Barker of 808 State. So, by way of a tribute, how about the "meeting of true minds" that was this techno oddity?!

Wickid!

Thursday, 11 November 2021

A word from our sponsors...










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Wednesday, 10 November 2021

She would merengue and do the...

Five years ago today I posted a tribute to the ebullient bandleader Billy May on the occasion of his centenary. In his comment on it, my other half Madam Arcati said: "His Cha Cha Cha album is the campest thing ever pressed into vinyl."

So, to celebrate Mr May's 105th anniversary, I thought you might like to judge that bold claim for yourself, dear reader - by listening to the whole album!

Get your spangly frocks out of the wardrobe, and prepare to Cha-Cha...

Whew! I'm knackered now!

Edward William "Billy" May, Jr (10th November 1916 – 22nd January 2004)

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

You actually take this shit seriously

Do your workmates absolutely despise you? This is why:

You’re enthusiastic
You bounce in, bright-eyed, ready to really get cracking on another week of work. Why? You don’t get paid any more for it. Surely it can’t be genuine?

You schedule 9am meetings
It’s accepted that nine-to-five jobs really start at 10am. Maybe 9.30am in extreme circumstances, for example your distribution centre being on fire. To expect everyone to be fully functioning during your bollocks meeting at what’s virtually dawn? Inexcusable.

You chase up emails
No-one’s unaware you sent them an email. All we do is stare at emails for seven point five hours a day. We’re trying to muster strength to type a few words back so stop wildly chasing for the completion of a meaningless, mundane task and let us do the bare minimum in peace.

You make unsolicited suggestions
‘Sorry can I just interrupt to say...’ No, you can’t, you loathsome twat. Keep your advice to yourself and go back to chasing up pointless emails you sent 20 minutes ago. ‘Have you tried calling...’ Try f**king off.

You overshare
Monday is for discussing how much work sucks. Your delusion that anyone cares what you got up to in the garden this weekend or last night’s dream is unhinged. To keep going while everyone’s eyes glaze over in dead, resentful silence is a real achievement.

You arrange activities
The time for a mass email about some really fantastic organised fun is not now. Not ever, but definitely not now. Asked everyone to take part in a hilarious challenge? Come up with a brilliant team-building exercise? Do you know that every other employee is fantasising your demise?

You actually take this shit seriously
You’re sending concerned emails after 5pm. You devise new systems and expect people to use them. You shoot disparaging looks at anyone engaged in a quick 40-minute chat about Taskmaster. Don’t you realise? People are only here for money.

The Daily Mash

Of course.

I'm back in the office today...

Monday, 8 November 2021

Farewell to the Bimbo


My favourite brands of chocolate! [click to embiggen]

I hardly feel like I've had any time away at all (what with the rapidly-decreasing light; the sun sets here at 4.20pm, and it's still all downhill till midwinter), and here I am dragging the sodding laptop out of the cupboard once more...

It's sad to hear that one of the last of the "proud-medallion-wearers" in the business Georgie Dann has flapped his last pair of flares in the wind and ascended to the great Chiringuito in the sky - but at least we here at Dolores Delargo Towers have a perfect excuse for a tribute to the man's magnificent contribution to that beloved genre, the cheesy holiday hit! On this Tacky Music Monday, we have not one, but two treats in store, dear reader:

That's got me wide awake and ready to go! Oh, those safety gays...

Have a good week, folks.

[More Georgie Dann here]

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Bittersweet


click to embiggen

I braved the slings and arrows of the lovely Wood Green Shopping City today...

To ease my jangled nerves, I think another wallow in the glamorous lives of gorgeous people in exotic climes is just the thing, courtesy of the geniuses at Soft Tempo Lounge. Of course.

Ah, that's better!

[Music: Franco Micalizzi - Back Ground. Film: Hüzünlü Aşk (1969)]

Saturday, 6 November 2021

There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle


Dame Joan approves...

Time again, dear reader, for a selection of some of the "newer" choons that have caught my ear of late - and guess what? Most of them are by artists we love and cherish...

Let's open with a corker from a band who have been performing together as a unit for forty years, with a brilliant "spot-the-celebrity" video, to boot!

A "blast-from-the-past" here, in the form of the once-very-fanciable Dr Robert and chums - contemporaries of Duran Duran, yet disappeared without a murmur for several years:

Next, a man whose career began a whole decade later, yet has carved himself a niche in the public consciouness as an "eccentric treasure". Our "gang" is hoping to get to see the new Wes Anderson movie The French Dispatch some time soon, and Mr Cocker's contribution to the soundtrack is here accompanied by an animated video directed by none other than Mr Anderson himself!

Taking a little diversion from the "oldies-but-goodies", here's a beautiful little number from Italy that rather tickled my fancy, both in its original form...

...and in this remix by the omnipresent HiFi Sean:

Another band we've loved for decades is back on top form with this excellent choon:

And, finally, a world-beating team-up of Our Princess Kylie with a 21st century hit-maker - and a fab camp "Dynasty-meets-Taboo"-style video to go with it!

As ever, let me know your thoughts...

Friday, 5 November 2021

What goes around just comes around


Go, girl!

As the weekend looms on the horizon, it's an crisp autumn morning out there. Beautiful blue skies - but the heating's on, I still have my dressing-gown on even though I've logged into work, and the gloves and "big coats" are out of the wardrobe!

It could be worse - it could be windy... Thank Disco Techno(?) It's Friday!

[Scarily, this choon is twenty years old!]

Have a great weekend, folks!