Self-editing is overrated. Or is it?

Monday, January 30, 2006


Well, it’s been another crazy weekend of the now-world-famous Lindsay Jones “How To Be In 3 Cities In One Day” flight plan, and, amazingly enough, it worked out.

Left LA at the crack of dawn, got to Chicago to do a fast recording session, and then back on the plane to New York City, where I was able to catch Spamalot, the musical based on Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Let me start by saying that I am a HUGE Monty Python fan. The Life Of Brian is my favorite movie of all time. I’ve easily watched that movie 50 times, and I know all the jokes from it by heart. The true genius in its subversiveness rests on how funny it is while poking fun at much of what people hold sacred about the Biblical story. Some people find the movie sacrilegious, sure, but those people have no sense of humor anyway. I feel similarly about Monty Python And The Holy Grail, as it’s an endlessly funny film. But what is truly so great about that movie is that all of the jokes seem to come from absolutely nowhere. You just do not see those jokes coming, they’re that good. In a thousand years, you would not expect a killer rabbit, the Knights who say Ni!, or “I’m not quite dead yet”. These two movies have had a special place in my heart for a long time.

OK, so in May 2004, I was in New York designing a show Off-Broadway when a good friend suggested that I meet with a friend of hers named Nevin Steinberg of Acme Sound Partners. For those who don’t know, Acme is made up of 3 partners: Nevin Steinberg, Tom Clark, and Mark Menard. They also happen to be the top sound designers working on Broadway. Chances are that if you seen a show on Broadway in the last 5 years, Acme was involved in the sound for it. At the time, I was doing ok for myself, working in regional theatres around the country and Off-Broadway. I mean, no one was calling me to design a Broadway show, but that’s ok, things were going well and I figure if that’s gonna happen, it will happen. So I remember saying to my friend who set up this meeting ”Hey, what am I gonna say to this guy anyway?” and she said ”Don’t worry about that, just talk to him and ask what it’s like to be a big-time Broadway designer.”

So I meet with Nevin on a hot May afternoon in New York outside of Lincoln Center, and he could not have been nicer. Really great guy, wanted to talk about where things were with my career, and was telling me about projects that Acme had coming up. He asked me if I had ever thought about designing on Broadway, and I said, sure of course, but I had no idea when an opportunity like that would present itself. He explained that it’s extremely difficult to get a design job on Broadway without having worked on other shows before as an assistant designer. I’ve never been an assistant to anybody before, and I wasn’t sure if I was the right person for that kinda thing, but then he mentioned that Acme would soon be starting pre-production on a new musical based on Monty Python And The Holy Grail called Spamalot, and that they might need an assistant for the out-of-town tryout of the show in Chicago. Would I be interested in something like that?

Would I be interested? In working on a musical based on a film that I knew by heart? Hell yes, I would be interested.

Ultimately, the job did not come to be, which was a disappointment, but I’ve always kept it in the back of my mind that I would try to get back to see the show, and as it worked out, this weekend happened to be that time.

So we went and I have to say that I was a little disappointed. I mean, it was fine, but it really wasn’t all that I had hoped, and maybe some of that is my fault. Many of the same jokes from the film were there, but they just weren’t as funny as they had been on the screen. Maybe it’s because I knew they were coming, maybe its because the delivery wasn’t as good, who can say? It was just like “well, that’s the joke, all right” but it just didn’t knock me out. The other half of the show was a lot of very Vegas-y sort of medleys of Python hits from the past and a few new songs, but it really felt at times like I was watching some theme park’s version of Monty Python, rather than Monty Python themselves. Hank Azaria and David Hyde-Pierce were fine, but not amazing. Honestly, you wouldn’t have even known that they were stars by their roles in the show; they were really supporting players as far as I could tell. The true standout of the show was Lauren Kennedy, who is the replacement for Sara Ramirez in the role of Lady Of The Lake. Lemme tell you, people, this girl can SING. She was really incredible - very funny, very pretty and seriously, an incredible voice that was just like GOD DAMN, THAT GIRL CAN SING.

Acme made the show sound great, it was a first rate design, and it’s easy to see why they’re the first call on Broadway. People want something that is guaranteed to sound awesome and they deliver.

I can only hope to follow in their shoes someday.


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