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re: Confidence Man?

Posted by:
Evan 09:28 am UTC 05/02/21
In reply to: re: Confidence Man? - rockfenris2005 09:18 am UTC 04/29/21

Wow lots of interesting information. First off, I sadly never purchased this Confidence Man revival cd although I wanted to. I can’t remember what was going on with myself at the time.

Interesting to hear that Mary Steenburgen has history with the show. I love stories like that. I love hearing the stories about Jim sleeping all day and hardly ever coming out in daylight.

I personally find the songs in the Confidence Man to be fantastic. It’s sad that they never received a proper recording treatment. Especially after Jim achieved such a level of success. I had no idea the roots to this show linked back to well before Jim had released Bat. I always assumed it was written in the late 80s.

> Here are Ray's liner notes for the 2003 album:
> I have always been a sucker for irony. That element, as
> much as any other, was wat attracted me to Herman
> Melville’s novel, “The Confidence Man,” as distinctive
> source material for a musical. So, I can’t help but be
> struck by the irony of today’s date, April 1, 2003, as I
> begin to write these notes. “The Confidence Man” takes
> place on April 1, 1861.
> The history of “The Confidence Man” is laden with irony.
> In 1973, Joe Papp’s office called me to ask if I would
> meet with an exciting young composer who was in production
> with an original musical at The Public Theatre. The
> composer was Jim Steinman, the musical was “More Than You
> Deserve,” and the call was a request for my services as
> lyricist—to contribute new lyrics and rewrite some of
> those in the existing score. The meeting never
> materialized. But the troubled show did, and on seeing it,
> I immediately recognized what the excitement regarding
> Steinman was about.
> As the result of another telephone call several months
> later, Jim and I met for the first time via an appointment
> at the Robert Stigwood Office. I don’t remember who
> arranged it, but recall that Clive Davis was one who
> encouraged it.
> That first day, Jim and I went to a grant piano outside
> Peter Brown’s office and wrote a song we were both very
> happy with: “Nocturnally Yours.” Jim loved the title of
> the song and the novelty of having a lyricist. We didn’t
> anticipate the song becoming a part of any score (much
> less this one). But we agreed that a musical was our next
> step.
> It was undoubtedly the enduring influence of the of the
> first musical I ever saw, a revival of “Showboat,” that
> led to my proposing that we collaborate on Melville’s “The
> Confidence Man,” for which I would write the libretto as
> well as the lyrics. Like Melville’s opus, the
> Kern-Hammerstein classic was set on a Mississippi
> riverboat.
> The work developed quickly. We discovered that our leading
> man, William Atherton, had a beautiful tenor voice he’d
> never had occasion to use, so we tailored the soaring
> notes of “Milady” to him. Our leading lady was radiant
> Andrea Marcovicci and our director was Leon Russom, an
> actor would have been brilliant at the helm. All three had
> worked with Joe Papp in the past, as had Steinman. And
> wasn’t Joe inadvertently responsible for this new
> collaboration? Before we had even finished the score, we
> presented it to him.
> Joe said he loved it and wanted to do it right away. He
> summoned Bernie Gersten to set a production date. I
> remember Bernie asking him, “Are you sure?” Joe was sure.
> We weren’t about to tell him how much work we still had to
> do. Bernie, I believe, wisely suspected it.
> Jim and I worked even faster, interrupted only by the
> initial casting sessions. The Public Theatre was also in
> casting for a much-publicized performance of “Julius
> Caesar.” When they couldn’t complete their targeted
> triumvirate of “hot” young actors for Brutus, Antony and
> Cassius, they “raided” us for Billy Atherton. When Leon
> and I confronted Joe about it, he merely said, “You lost
> your leading man; get another one.” Joe wasn't a man you
> could reason with. Every time we thought we had acquired
> another leading man—the list grew lengthy—Joe stripped him
> away from us, justifying it only by contending that he
> needed him for another production. Finally, when no viable
> candidates remained, he said, “Well, you have no leading
> man. I'm canceling production.” Joe could be chummy or
> churlish, Cap’n Andy or Captain Ahab.
> I sent script and score to Len Cariou, who was in
> residence at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Len not
> only wanted to star in it, but also came to see me,
> patting the script as he pronounced it the best musical
> he’d seen since “Sweeney Todd.” To my everlasting regret,
> we were never able to reconcile a production with his busy
> schedule.
> Howard Da Silva became interested in directing it.
> Maintaining that we should go to The Public Theatre first,
> he called Joe from my apartment. He hung up the phone
> uttering, in that inimitable deep, resonate voice of his,
> “He’s a naughty boy … he’s a very naughty boy, Joe Papp
> is.” Joe had told him he would do it if Howard would bring
> him a star. Joe Papp buying into the star system—Howard
> found that beyond reprehension.
> I took it to Lynne Meadow at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
> Lynne has always stood for what’s good for theatre; she
> and Barry Grove opted to do it. These were the days that
> MTC was on East 73rd Street and every available space was
> pressed into creative service. “The Confidence Man” was
> assigned to the Cabaret. We opened a capsule version of
> the show on April 6, 1976, for a one-month run. How’s this
> for irony?: no one from our production ever attained fame
> commensurate with our favourite waitress, whose name, I
> subsequently learned, was Mary Steenburgen.
> Steinman called me to work on several additional
> productions he was sporadically offered. Nothing came of
> any of them. Eventually, our divering work habits and
> career aspirations ended the collaboration. Steinman wrote
> all night and slept all day; I wrote all day and knocked
> off for the evening, more often than not bound for the
> theater. But for Jim occasionally rousing himself in
> daylight for an appointment at my apartment with a
> producer or a working session with me, we generally
> conferred by telephone in the middle of the night. It was
> during one of those calls that he poured out his
> frustration to me—he had just come from a Bruce
> Springsteen concert and he had “seen the light”; he wasn’t
> doing what he wanted to be doing. Enter Meat Loaf, into my
> apartment and into Jim’s incipient pop music career. And
> there went Jim, out of mine. Jim wanted to be the next
> Bruce Springsteen. I wanted to be the next Oscar
> Hammerstein. Neither of us got our wish.
> With Meat Loaf’s album, “Bat Out of Hell,” and the hits
> that followed, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
> and Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,”
> Steinman became a major pop songwriter and record
> producer. With the lyrics for the Broadway production of
> “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” and several
> off-Broadway revues behind me, I wrote for newspapers and
> magazines, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best
> Short Documentary, “Preserving the Past to Ensure the
> Future.”
> In 1986, “The Confidence Man” was given a full production,
> billed as a “world premiere,” at New York’s Queen’s
> College. Staged beautifully by director Susan Einhorn, the
> production, limited only by a student orchestra that
> struggled with Steve Margoshes’ elaborate orchestrations
> and by a talented-but-uneven student cast, brought
> Steinman and me back together, prompting and inspiring us
> to write several new songs for it.
> During a performance, Steinman turned to me to declare
> that “Milady” was a hit song and he was going to seek a
> major recording of it. He sent it to Clive Davis, who
> chose it for Barry Manilow’s next “big” record—and chose
> Jim to produce it. In the studio, the tracks for our
> elegant thirty-two bar love song ballooned into a
> nine-minute production. (Jim’s assistant began referring
> to it as “Steinman’s Ninth.” Jim told me he thought
> “Milady” was the most beautiful song he’d ever written.
> Clive called me to say he thought it was the next “Moon
> River” and that someday they’d be singing it at weddings
> everywhere. Barry briefly sang it in his act, but
> objecting, quite reasonably, to the leviathan production
> it had become, never recorded it, and I’ve yet to hear it
> at a wedding.
> Over the years, Bruce Yeko would periodically remind me
> that he’d always wanted to record the score. I never saw
> the point in it until, finally, he gave me a good reason
> to say yes: he offered to donate all profits to Broadway
> Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Given such a worthy cause, I
> suggested that rather than to cast each role, we “cast”
> the songs, inviting many of the most talented people in
> the theatre and cabaret to participate. The results do
> better than spark—they sing—for themselves. Wishing to
> perserve the original character of the full production, we
> adapted Steve Margoshes’ original orchestrations.
> My thanks to Bruce, to Jeffrey Olmsted, a producer who
> merited everyone’s utmost confidence, and to all the
> extraordinary performers who extended themselves for the
> making of this CD of “The Confidence Man.”
> > Reminiscing about Jim’s body of work brought me to the
> > Confidence Man. My question, how did Jim come to work on
> > this little seen project? What’s the origin story? What’s
> > your opinion on the songs?

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