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February 26 2005

Joss Whedon and Stephen Sondheim on the same stage together! Say it ain't so? But it's true! He'll appearing at "Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim" in New York on March 19th to discuss "Sondheim and American Popular Culture".

Which probably explains why his Wizard Con appearance was shifted to March 20th.

So he's going to be in New York on the 19th and LA on the 20th - the man gets around :)
I'll bet Joss is tickled witless.
There are some many appearances this Spring and Summer I'd have to take months off work to see them all. Alas, I've yet to pick the right numbers for the lotto.
Did anyone mention for the most part this is a free event. There are very few reserved seats will be availible for donations of $250 or more.

Also can I just say this is way to freaky for me cause just yesterday I was talking to someone about Joss doing something in the threatre like creating a reading or a play of some sort. To offer him a new challenge to create some original material in a different medium. And now here he is discussing pop culture on Broadway with one of the great playwrights - spooky.

[ edited by RavenU on 2005-02-26 03:59 ]
Wow, what a wonderful event! Joss and Sondheim. Curse living on the other side of the world!
So this is a free event? If I schlepped into NYC that day and participated in this event (I am a musical playwright, so it would make sense for me to go and pal around with friends), would there be breathing room? And why with Sondheim? Sondheim is like the personification of evil! (Sorry... I've seen him rip new playwrights apart before...)
Go Joss!!! I'm so glad he is on the agenda. I wouldn't be surprised if he has some pieces of a musical score up his sleeve. He'll be around all those crazy artsy performers(I can say this, I'm one of them), and he'll be collaborating/networking with them. Mark my word! I know how these things work.
I think I can hear the wheels of Buffy the Vampire Mime Slayer creaking into motion as we speak.... Or perhaps a contemporary adaptation of some favorite Shakespeare play is more likely? Something with a perfect balance of creeps and laughs, just the way we like it.

Joss lighting up the Great White Way would be a dream come true... I saw a play there once (Gary Sinise in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), and at the time I swore I'd never do the typical, touristy B'way musical thing, but for dear ol' JW I'd happily break that vow in a New York minute.

[ edited by Wiseblood on 2005-02-26 10:46 ]
Looks like I may be going to NYC March 19th - this is the first time I've heard that Joss will be in my neighborhood!
As I was posting this night, I thought it was about time the East Coasters got a look in. Joss should really do a lecture tour round the States.
FYI, the theatre it's in only seats 128. Sondheim's followers alone would fill that. They have no idea what they're getting into with Joss. They need a much bigger room...
Nebula1400 - Where do you get 128 seats - looking at the seating chart there are over 800 seats in that theatre.
I'd rather an evening devoted to the songs of Joss Whedon.
Oh to be in New York. Steven Sondheim is a genius, and my favorite composer of musicals, ever.

Since Joss is an admirer of Sondheim's work, and of musicals in general, his presence on the panel, and his comments regarding the work should be very interesting. I think a few people will be surprised.

One benefit I'm hoping comes out of this panel is that Joss' work will now be on the radar of folks that may have never seen his shows, or even heard of him - yes they do exist.

And Joss, if you read this, I have two questions:

1) Favorite Sondheim work?

2) Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire?
Ah, Znachki, I'm guessing Joss would go for Gene Kelly. I believe he's referred to Singing in the Rain in awed tones before, and may even have name-checked GK in an interview at some point. As for me, it's gotta be Fred. Just a style thing: his apparent effortless (masking hours upon hours of practice) just makes me melt.
Fred for me as well. Gene Kelly, as wonderful as he was, was just too muscular a dancer for me.
Joss on a lecture tour. Can't you just see it? Similar to the way Dickens visited America. Except that Joss could make jokes, do pratfalls, read from some of his scripts or comics, sing a little, answer a million questions always a little differently - have I missed anything?
You're not wrong, Lioness. Dickens mixed with Oscar Wilde's and the Beatles' first tours of the States . . .
Fred and Gene are completely different dancers. It's like apples and oranges. Fred's style was very balls of the feet, flowy (huh...I said balls), and Gene had a style that had much plie and used more torso. Ahhh, those 2 semesters of dance history are paying off! Anyway, like I said before....Go Joss!!!
SNT - I think it would be hard to argue with "Singing in the Rain" being the best movie musical ever. But even so, I'm an Astaire fan. My sister and I agree to disagree on this. She is a huge Kelly fan, even has an autographed pic that she sent for when she was like 12! (BTW - she does a wicked 15min SitR)

As for Astaire, that man could not make a move that wasn't graceful - when he walked it looked like dancing.

About the time "That's Enertainment" came out, Astaire and Kelly were on the Mike Douglas show. I must have been home sick that day. Also on that day - Ben Vereen - who at that time was starring in Pippin. At one point, Vereen asked them to stand next to each other, with a space of about 2 feet between them. He stepped between them, and very carefully placed his feet so that one touched Kelly's foot and the other touched Astaire's. He got this amazing expression on his face and just let out this big sigh. I've obviously never forgotten (must've been 30 years ago)
Heh, just you guys wait till you see the Vauxhall Golf GTI ad. Your memories of Singing in the Rain will be forever sullied. Personally, I love the ad (well it's like the best TV ad ever) but then I'm like that.

Me I'm more a Fred man. Dad always loved his musicals and I grew up watching them. And Fred on screen is very funny, he had superb comedy timing. Still have to see On The Beach, I hear that's his best serious role.
Gene woman here, but I like Astaire as well. Gene was easier on the eyes, though. American in Paris ranks high on my list of favourite musicals.
I'm obviously P0'd I don't live in NYC (Sondheim's a freaking genius -- if you guys haven't seen "Sweeny Todd", the fantastic video of it has recently been put out on DVD for the first time. It's really and truly something else.) So I'll distract myself by indulging in the great debate -- First, just to get this out of the way: the Beatles over the Stones (and perhaps Elvis P.), Lincoln over Washington, Superman over the Mighty Thor, and astronauts, 'cause their suits are chromy.

But seriously, Gene and Fred were obviously both pretty freaking awesome. I solve the problem by saying that Fred was pretty obviously the best caucasian male dancer who ever walked the earth -- the effortless and grace of his dancing is unparralled -- but that Gene appeared in better movies. Aside from being a prodigious dancer and choreographer, Gene was, in collaboration with young Stanley Donen, a truly awesome filmmaker. "Singin' in the Rain" was as a high a point as they get, but check out "It's Always Fair Weather" when it finally comes out on DVD for something that's more ambitious and almost as amazing. Even on films Kelly didn't direct, he tended towards somewhat riskier fare that has lasted even if bombed on its initial release ("The Pirate" directed by Vincente Minelli, for example.)

Fred concentrated on dancing and didn't get too involved in the other aspects of filmmaking, and, perhaps consequently, a lot of his later movies border on insipid in their non-musical sequences ("The Royal Wedding" and "Easter Parade" come to mind). Aside from Vincente Minelli's masterpiece, "The Bandwagon", Astaire's best movies were in his early period at RKO and while they were all really fun and contained a big percentage of the best dancing ever caught on film, they weren't remarkable in the same way that Gene Kelly's films were. And, they didn't have those great scripts by Betty Comden and Adolph Green either.

(The one Astaire film from this period that is may match the Kelly canon is the little seen "Damsel in Distress" directed by George Stevens and written by P.G. Wodehouse, which paired Fred not with Ginger Rogers but with Joan Fontaine, George Burns and Gracie Allen.)

[ edited by bobster on 2005-02-27 01:56 ]

[ edited by bobster on 2005-02-27 01:57 ]
Nebula1400 - Where do you get 128 seats - looking at the seating chart there are over 800 seats in that theatre.

RavenU: You are correct. There are two Peter Jay Sharp Theatres, one holds 800 (on Broadway), the other hold 128 (on W. 42nd St.). When I looked it up online to get the exact location, I found the smaller one. Sorry about that!
Insightful words, bobster. GK's movies were richer; but I personally prefer, marginally, The Bandwagon to Singing in the Rain, American in Paris et al, all of which I love (so many great numbers, great self-referential twist on the movie musical, Cyd Charisse, and "Dancing in the Dark," naturally. Even after Steve Martin and Gilda Radner's brilliant piss-take . . . ). Yeah, Simon, I've downloaded the ad you speak of. Wonderful stuff. And try to see On the Beach; I think it has remarkably *not* dated, despite its chief subject being imminent nuclear apocalypse.

I adore Gene Kelly too. And I had the delight of discovering that a woman I worked with for a year in San Francisco was his granddaughter; just the thought of my vicarious closeness to the man made me tingle.

Lincoln over Washington? I'm a James Madison man myself.
Bobster - I'd agree that Gene, by and large, was in better movies than Fred, but I also think that was in large part due to when the movies were made. Fred had already made those RKO films (mid 1930's to early 40's) when Gene starred in "For Me and My Gal". It took a couple more years, and movies for Gene to get to "Cover Girl" and "Anchors Aweigh". Different movies for different times.

I think you could practically draw a straight line from Vernon and Irene Castle, to Adele and Fred, to Fred and Ginger. That was what the public wanted then.

Love every single one of the movies everyone has mentioned - and hey - and don't diss "Easter Parade", I'm very fond of that movie. Kinda makes you wonder what it would've been like if Gene had't broken his ankle though.

As for Sondheim, I agree entirely. I've got most of the stuff he's done, in whatever form I can get it. What I really want is a video recording of "Pacific Overtures".

SNT is right about "On the Beach" still a powerful movie. And I haven't seen the Vauxhall Golf GTI ad - is that in the UK? Can't be any worse than the dead yet still dancing Fred Astaire "Dust Buster" commercial.
I'm afraid I'm not as familiar with Sondheim's work as many here. To me, far too few musicals understand the art of letting a story continue during a song, as opposed to pausing the story for it.

To me, one of the reasons Singing in the Rain is great is because it's also this sharply funny and dark satirical look at Hollywood history. And the songs are highly entertaining.

(Btw, Gene Kelly all the way.)

(And Thomas Jefferson as well.)

(But when it comes down to it, Abe over George with ease)
If forced to choose, I would lean towards Astaire for making it look so easy, but I like both dancers. Sadly, though, we tend to forget the women who kept up with them. (There's a good bit of truth to the overused and abused "Ginger did everything Fred did, but backwards and in high heels.") So, cheers to the ladies, too.

And the comments above about "On the Beach" are absolutely correct. A powerful film that, sadly, has not lost its relevance.

And -- wonder of wonders -- I'm going to be in NYC for business on the 19th! Guess where I'll be if I can get in!!!
Znachi -- Great point about the timing. Those early movies didn't have the benefit of the postwar sensibility, the fact that they'd been make musicals for a couple of decades, and the rising specter of TV to motivate experimention.

And you and my mom both love "Easter Parade", perhaps I'm still rebelling in some embarassingly small way. However, I also failed to mention one early Astaire film that made my jaw drop a bit because my post was already too long: "A Damsel in Distress" which was directed by George Stevens and co-written by P.G. Wodehouse from one of his novels. It paired Fred not with Ginger R., but with Joan Fontaine and Burns & Allen. Maybe it's the Wodehouse, but it's just a hair wittier than the other early Astaire films, and Stevens did a great job -- there's one particularly striking sequence with Fred, George and Gracie in a fun house that was pretty darn ahead of its time.

And, SNT, you can definitely make a case for "The Bandwagon" besting "Singin'." Great movie (showing up on TCM again sometime this week, btw). As a self-proclaimed expert on film musicals, I often feel a might embarrased to admit that my favorite musical of the classic era is "Singin'" -- it's just so been done. And "Singin'" isn't perfect. (It has what I think is one of the worst scene endings in the history of great films -- a no prize to anyone who guesses which scene I'm thinking of!) Still, I think I have to give it to "Singin'" mainly because Cyd Charisse, though a wonderful dancer, wasn't much of a presense when it was time to just talk.

I also definitely need to see "On the Beach." Sort of embarrassing to admit I haven't seen it since I was an antinuker back in the eighties (which isn't to say I'm exactly pro-A-Bomb now).

Both Gene and Fred were nearly always great as straight actors. Like great comic actors, I think a lot of song-and-dance guys tend to shine as dramatic actors because they redirect a lot of that left over energy into their performance. I particularly enjoy Gene as the too-handsome HL Mencken-ish reporter in "Inherit the Wind." And I have this indelible image of Fred as Robert Wagner's urbane-to-the-max dad in "It Takes a Thief" (my older sister was addicted to this long forgotten TV show and I barely understood it, but even as a five year old, I suppose I could sense extreme suavity.)

And I just realize we've gone completely off topic. So, here it is...Spuffy...Bangel...Zillow....Binara (that's "Book and Inara"...I'm I'm going to be a shipper, then dang if I won't be an unlikely shipper!)
And I have this indelible image of Fred as Robert Wagner's urbane-to-the-max dad in "It Takes a Thief" (my older sister was addicted to this long forgotten TV show and I barely understood it, but even as a five year old, I suppose I could sense extreme suavity.)

bobster - Just had to reply to this. As a 12 year-old I was so in crush with Robert Wagner, even though he's the same age as my mom, and this is one of my all time favorite shows.

The first time we see Fred IIRC - he is "walking" down the stairs. Yeah, walking, dancing more like.

Alistair - "Son, I taught you everything you know. I didn't teach you everything I know."

[ edited by Znachki on 2005-02-27 22:31 ]
Woohoo! An NYC area event! Joss! Sondheim! I'm going to gather all of my fellow Joss-maniacs in the area and wallow in the magic!
Znachi -- My sister definitely went through a big Robert Wagner "phase." I think it was between her Glen Campbell and Bobby Sherman phases.

For myself, I'm still in my Alyson Hannigan phase.

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