Hilltop Diary, December 21, 2021

It is a most interesting life, being the spouse of a musical theater actor. People likely know or can guess that the personal preparation is intense at home after landing a role, before the first rehearsal. What people may not know, though, is that the same intense preparation can go into an audition that only lasts a few minutes, for a role that you may or may not get. Crystal has had some success landing roles precisely because of the many hours of work she puts into preparing a single audition, including expensive Zoom meetings with both her acting coach and vocal coach. This process has once again been happening since I last wrote, as an audition is coming up for her just before New Year’s Day. (I won’t say for what show.)

Staying for a bit longer on the subject of musical theater, if I may, we just saw the new West Side Story film. Since Leonard Bernstein was once a mentor of mine, listened to my music, gave me encouraging words when I needed to hear them (and even ate my food), and wrote a couple of letters to me (which I framed, but are now in a box somewhere), I have a very emotional spot in my heart for West Side and for his other works. I was prepared to dislike this new one, since I have been mostly disappointed by remakes, and especially by “re-imaginings.” I always picture the composer, perhaps someday myself, spinning in his grave.

However, the fundamentals of this show were well done and in the spirit of the original. The minor changes did make sense, and for once the actors could actually sing. So, for me, though it can never replace the original, this movie can certainly give us a second good version to enjoy instead of just one. While the larger orchestra sometimes lacks the punchiness of the first one’s more jazz-band kind of ensemble in the jazzy dance numbers, at other times it adds more of the lush richness that we have come to love in Lenny’s later orchestral suites of the show’s music for the concert hall.

Okay, so the “Regional Broadway World Awards” are still open for voting till the end of December! Please see more voting details in my previous Hilltop Diary post, but here again is the link:  CLICK HERE TO VOTE! before December ends – Thanks!  We appreciate it! My show, Dear Miss Barrett, is currently running tied for a close second place in the ongoing stats (it’s anybody’s to win), and your help could put it on top in the “Best Musical” category! Crystal is still holding the lead in the “Best Performer in a Musical” category, but please vote for her, too, while you are there. Please do try to vote now and don’t put it off, lest the deadline come and go. Thanks!

Fort Lauderdale 2We had a lovely bit of vacation with Crystal’s parents over Christmas in Fort Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida. For once, I actually managed to keep losing weight in the midst of all the restaurants and holiday meals, rather than gaining it. Among several nice restaurants with great seafood and other sites, we took a side trip to Hollywood, Florida, to the opulent splendor of the giant guitar-shaped Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. We saw their big light show on the side of the building, shown in the photo below.



On the way back we stopped in Atlanta to see the Downton Abbey Exhibition (see further photos below). It was much as expected, a combination of extravagant period costumes, sets, and video clips illuminating the era of the first two decades of the last century – worth seeing, perhaps a bit high priced.


Downton 2

Finally, two items on my humble side career as a prose writer. My article on Tchaikovsky’s first symphony, subtitled “Winter Dreams” is in The Epoch Times this week HERE. It is about all the opposition he endured from teachers and critics who did not like his now-beloved style, and how he believed in himself (in spite of some bouts of depression and self-doubt that plagued him all his life). He mustered heroic perseverance and saw the symphony through to its completion. It is a lesson for all of us to stick by our New Year’s resolutions, in spite of discouragements and oppositions. This is my wish for you, too, going into whatever craziness awaits us in 2022!

My novel, Tales from the Realm of Faerie, a companion to my upcoming symphony recording (with the same subtitle), has now enjoyed its rejection by a fourth publisher! Yet again, they say it is not a good match for their line of books, in terms of genre. (In this case, one of my magazine editors had sent it to them, not me.) If it is not meant to be published, then fine, but I do know that Harry Potter was rejected by twelve publishers! And one of the other biggest selling books of all time, The Godfather, was rejected by eight publishers before finally being accepted. The same editor is now kindly putting me in touch with a fifth publisher, and we move ahead. A problem may be that my novel is unique in topic and falls between the cracks of standard genres and not neatly within any of them, and most publishers market a line of books clearly in a genre. My book is part mystery, part music, part fantasy, part fairytale. 

We have decided this year to pose for our annual Valentine card as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald! If you have personally met either of us (not only on line) and want to be on the mailing list, please put a reply below with your address. (I won’t allow it to be posted publicly.) I’ve lost track but think we’ve done this for eight or nine years now. Sometimes, I have to dress up in a crazy outfit, while Crystal gets to be the beauty to my beast! That’s fine with me, but I’m glad I’ll get to wear a 1920’s tux this year. All best wishes to you for the remainder of the Christmas season and the New Year!

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