THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE TO THANK
by Carol Hall
I guess I won't be giving any Tony acceptance speeches this year, since the Broadway show for which I was composer-lyricist opened May 10th, closed May 22nd, got only one nomination and still has bad reviews coming in. It's a shame though, because there are a lot of people I'd like to thank, many more people in fact than if the show had been a hit. The thing about a hit is (and, yes, I've had one of those, too), you get from it a sense of pride, some cash in the bank, a lot of invitations to parties with famous people, and your calls returned. But the thing about a flop is, you find out who your friends are.
So if I could make a speech, I would thank all the people who, after the reviews were in, called to make contact. They didn't hesitate because they "didn't know what to say." They didn't think it necessary to declare that the critics had "no sense of humor," nor did they feel compelled to share their ideas on how I might've improved the second act. They just wrote or phoned to say really simple things: how are you, are you all right, let's have lunch, do you want to come out for the weekend, we're thinking about you.
If I could make a speech, I would want to thank the director-producer-legend Harold Prince. Mainly because I heard once that he always says he hasn't had failures, he's had flops. That thought was a great solace to me during the first week after opening, when I had a constant and recurring nightmare that all the critics in the world were marching single-file into my house every night, ripping from my walls every prize I'd ever garnered Emmy nomination, Drama Desk plaques, Peabody Award, gold records, silver cheerleader megaphone, Best Camper Certificate.
If I could make a speech, I'd thank Sheldon Harnick, the brilliant lyricist of Fiddler On The Roof and She Loves Me, who had the kindness and generosity to remind me recently that he was also the lyricist of Rex, a short lived musical which he wrote with Richard Rodgers (not a failure, just a flop). And when I asked Sheldon, "What do I do now?" he said, "You take long walks, you have endless imaginary conversations with yourself about what went wrong, you drive your family crazy and, after that, you write another show."
If I could make a speech, I'd thank Stephen Sondheim for his opening night message to me. When Passion opened, I had written him a note that said, "...I stand in awe of your talent, your grit, your gumption and your ability to survive both the praise and the punches of the media vampires..." The next night, when my show opened, his telegram to me said, "Ditto."
Most of all, though, if I could make a speech, I'd thank my cast and crew. After the terrible reviews were in, they all still gathered every night in a circle onstage just before curtain, and there they smiled, joked, cheered each other on (especially the night our leading lady Dee Hoty was nominated for a Tony) and said the 8:00 o'clock mantra: "May we be the best we can be!" And then, god bless 'em, they walked out on that stage and went to work.
So now it's two weeks after the show has closed, and even so, every Thursday morning about half the cast and crew meet in Central Park wearing the show's baseball uniforms, and they play in the Broadway Softball League. And every Thursday night the other half does the same in the Broadway Bowling League. Do you know how unusual that is? I know of hit shows where people in the cast aren't speaking to each other.
And if I could make a speech I'd be thankful for all that, and I'd tell the world. Since I can't, though, maybe I'll just call everybody up and ask them over to my house. We can all watch the Tonys together.
Carol Hall is the composer-lyricist of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, which opened in April, 1978 and ran at the 46th Street Theatre for almost five years , and of The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, which opened May 10, 1994 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and ran for 15 performances.