a show the night before last with Gary and his playwright friend Stan — Kenward Elmslie’s musical revue “Lingoland.” It was one of the New Yorkiest audiences I’ve ever been a part of.
I adore Kenward Elmslie. He’s got the rare quality, both in person and in poem, of being both dignified and effervescent. And I can relate to him and his sensibility more than I can to most poets’. I mean sure, when I was a child I read “The ABC of Reading” like all other incipient postmodernists, but what really gave me pleasure was to listen to the radio station that played show tunes. I recorded one Busby Berkeley number I especially loved with my crappy cassette recorder and listened to it over and over again. It’s still one of my favorite songs, and a couple of years ago I sang it on Jim Behrle’s blog. Those who know me know that I’m fond of saying I’m an older gay man trapped in a woman’s body. More accurately, I feel like there’s a mini-Kenward inside me trying to express himself, if only I had the skill.
You know, I never understood why it is that people say that musicals are unrealistic. If I had my way, why (harp intro) (maracas) it would be a musical all the time! The great thing is that Gary seems to feel this way, too, although he doesn’t like the kitschy American stuff I like, and we spend a lot of time making up goofy songs to sing to each other about very casual daily things, sort of like “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” or the guy pumping gas in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” Now that was a movie.
Given all these predilections, you’d think I would have loved “Lingoland.” But I didn’t. I mean, I loved some of it — all the songs and poems of Kenward’s, some of the interthreaded poems recited by the other actors, the visuals by Joe Brainard!, and several of the songs, notably the unforgettable “Who’ll Prop Me up in the Rain?” which reaches a new apex of black humor. And there is no doubt that the cast was impeccably and rigorously trained in voice and movement and other thespian skills, But in a way, that was the problem — this sort of polished modern Broadway interpretation of material that should have been nothing but retro. The slickness was just wrong, and the ballads, even if they did move me against my will, were slickly cheesy. There was too much drama school where there should have been more, I don’t know, Jack Smith. A weird feeling — to have such a divided response to a piece. Usually I’d feel a blander ambivalence.
One nice thing is that it made me want to sing. Does anyone feel like being in a musical? Shall we make a musical?