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re: Confidence Man?

Posted by:
rockfenris2005 05:52 pm UTC 05/02/21
In reply to: re: Confidence Man? - Evan 09:28 am UTC 05/02/21

Yep. This all started at the New York Shakespeare Festival, in the time Jim was doing "More Than You Deserve" and "Kid Champion". This was supposed to happen there, and "Rhinegold" and "Neverland" were pitched to them I recently found out but these were rejected. Not "Confidence Man" though, but as Ray explains in his notes, Joe shut the production down when they couldn't find any more leads to do it. And then he wanted a star.

It would be a hard musical to produce these days, without a few scenes getting a rewrite, like in the original novel and the musical the Con-Man puts on black face to become Black Guinea, one of the Con-Man's disguises, which is where he sings "Pitch Penny".

This could be rewritten though, similar to early material from the musical "Show Boat", and it would be worth doing because this is a story with a powerful message about trust, faith and confidence. Plus I think it's really cool that Herman Melville himself appears in the story, complaining that everything's been changed from his original book.

> 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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