The Dream of the Silver Coin

Magical things may happen if a silver coin appears to you in a dream…

It happened in 1988.

I had lived in Brooklyn, New York for about a year and liked to board the elevated subway at 20th Avenue Station.  It was a longer walk to that station than to the one closer to my house by about five minutes, but a nicer walk, too, past gorgeous little gardens and a beautiful church.

One night I had a dream.  I was walking up the subway steps at 20th Avenue Station, and in the middle of the staircase I found a silver coin.  A beautiful silver coin, like a dollar piece, glinting and waiting for me.

“What a great dream,” I thought as I woke up.  Then I got dressed and headed off to work as usual, walking to 20th Avenue station.

When I got there, halfway up the steps, what did I find?  A ten-dollar bill!  It wasn’t a silver coin, but it was right there, on the staircase, right where it was in the dream!

Well, no one else was on the staircase so whoever’s pocket it fell out of wasn’t there to retrieve it.  I put the ten in my wallet with a smile on my face and went to work.

Later that day, at my job at Orion Pictures, I checked my lottery ticket in the newsstand that was in the building.  I had four numbers out of six – and won $126!!!!

On the way home that night with my much-heavier winnings-enhanced wallet, walking along 18th Avenue in Brooklyn, right near the fire station, I found several coins on the street!  It was just a few cents worth, but they were coins.  They were on the street.  And they were waiting for me.  It was one of the luckiest days of my life.  Total take: about $136.07.

I’ve often wondered about the dream of the silver coin.   Where did it come from?  Does it even matter?  Look at the good fortune it foretold!

 

Stop Complaining! Take a Positive Action

Go for some positive action.

I could go on for hours about how ridiculous I think all the moaning, groaning, bitching, kvetching, whining and complaining that seems to be so many people’s “new normal” is these days, but don’t worry, I won’t.

Instead, I’d just like to make a suggestion: Stop complaining!  Pick just one cause you care about and DO SOMETHING about it instead!

Get off your butts, folks!  Do you think if you complain endlessly that somehow, by magic, you’re changing the world for the better?  Ha!  It’s more like you’re just driving your long-suffering friends, family members, and online contacts crazy with your negativity.  The smart ones will block you.  The masochists won’t, but do you really want a masochist to claim you as a friend?  I mean, one likes you, what does that say about you?

My favorite cause is Operation Smile.  That’s the wonderful organization that provides free, life-enhancing corrective surgery to impoverished children born with facial deformities all over the world.  The children’s entire lives are transformed for the better.  They go from being ridiculed outcasts to regular, adorable kids, all thanks to a quick medical procedure that changes their everything.

You can change a life with a surgery for $240.00, but if that’s above and beyond what you can give at the moment, you can also provide transportation for four families to get surgeries for their children for just $20.00.  Don’t wait for some other entity to help the poor around the world.  Get off your rumps.  Step up to the plate.

Here’s Operation Smile’s website: www.operationsmile.org.

Be the change you wish to see in the world!

What a difference a smile makes!

Broadway Musical Fans, Here’s a Book Recommendation for You!

SHOWSTOPPERS! by Gerald Nachman: one singular sensation of a Broadway book!

If you love musicals – and I’ve loved them my whole life – then have I got a book for you!  Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore, or better yet log onto your Amazon account, and check out SHOWSTOPPERS! by Gerald Nachman.

I’ve always enjoyed hearing about the back story of how theatrical works are put together.  In this book, Gerald Nachman presents a fascinating, detailed, beautifully researched account of Broadway hit songs and the legions of people who made them happen.

For example, have you ever heard of a 1964 Broadway show called A Damned Exasperating Woman?  Of course not.  That’s because, after Jerry Herman wrote a song that Louis Armstrong liked so much he recorded and released it before the show in question opened.  The song became such a hit it was decided that the show should be named for the song.  Its title?  Hello, Dolly!    The new revival that just opened, starring Bette Midler,  is breaking box office records right now, 53 years later, and while Louis Armstrong is long gone (and missed), we’re all still singing that song.

The back story of the music of Hello, Dolly! is just one of the dozens of fabulous behind-the-scenes-to-before-the-floodlights chapters in this book.  Ever wonder about the differences between the partnerships of Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, and Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein?  Curious about the real Annie Oakley, who inspired the Irving Berlin musical Annie, Get Your Gun, which was written with Ethel Merman in mind?  Want to find out more about another Annie, the one who was adopted by Daddy Warbucks?  Then this is the book for you.

The chapter that I personally found the most interesting is the one about the song “Wilkommen” in Cabaret.  But let me back up here.  I found the record one day when I was home sick from school as a kid, played the songs and adored them from that point on.  I’ve always particularly loved “Wilkommen,” where the Emcee of a Weimar Berlin cabaret, played by Joel Grey, welcomes the guests in German, English and French.  The song is at once a great show tune and a miniature language lesson in the bargain.  But keep in mind, the first time I played the song, I heard it.  I did not see it acted on a stage.  I didn’t know Joel Grey came out on the stage wearing bizarre make-up.  Until reading SHOWSTOPPERS!, I did not realize that the number, the first in the show, was staged to deliberately set a creepy tone for the audience and let them know what kind of theatrical evening they were in for.  Those who missed seeing many of these classics performed live  the first time around will surely welcome the chance to hear these stories.  They’re certainly giving me a new appreciation of many of my old cast albums.

This book is a treat.  Love Broadway?  Go for it!

 

IN ORDER TO LIVE by Yeonmi Park

IN ORDER TO LIVE by Yeonmi Park. Eye-opening on so many levels!

Want to know details on what’s going on in North Korea?  Read IN ORDER TO LIVE: A NORTH KOREAN GIRL’S JOURNEY TO FREEDOM by Yeonmi Park.

This is a horrifying book.  It begins in North Korea, where Yeonmi’s family cannot get ahead because they’re in the wrong political “caste,” and where their straits are increasingly  dire.  There’s a famine.  There’s the arrest of Yeonmi’s enterprising father, who was utilizing some unorthodox methods to make ends meet.  There are problems regarding the bribing of officials, medical staff, train conductors, and all sorts of people.  North Korea is a country where just about everybody who works anywhere has got their hands out in some direction, often, as in the case of the medical personnel little Yeonmi had to contend with when she was in the hospital, expecting a payoff simply for doing their jobs.

But just when you think the girl’s problems might be over after she crosses a frozen river on a cold winter night and escapes to China, they don’t!  It’s when she and her mother leave North Korea behind, and wind up in China as illegal aliens, that even more horrors begin…

As always, I don’t want to add any spoilers and reveal too much of the rest of the story.  I just want to recommend it, and add that it’s a “doozie.”  Read it if you’re not faint of heart and want to find out more about what the North Koreans go through.

God bless Yeonmi and her family, and the people they left behind in North Korea as well.

And P.S.: Shame on China for not doing a whole lot more to help North Korean economic refugees!  The horrors the illegal North Koreans were put through would not exist if China would have the balls to show them some mercy.  Come on, China – step up to the plate!

Movies: A QUIET PASSION and THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE

A QUIET PASSION tells the story of poet Emily Dickinson.

A QUIET PASSION tells the story of poet Emily Dickinson.  It’s a visually beautiful movie.  If you enjoy costume dramas, you’ll love it, set as it is in the time period before and after the Civil War.

But if you walked into the movie not knowing too much about Emily Dickinson, as I did, this film may very well leave you with more questions about her life than answers.  It seemed to leave some essential something about the story out.  Apparently Emily, played by Cynthia Nixon, lived in a college town, though that was never illustrated.  She said she was too devoted to her family to ever want to marry, yet while they got along well, at least most of the time, they didn’t seem to be so wonderful that a gal would want to stay with them forever.

Apparently, I just found out, Emily was increasingly reclusive, though I also didn’t fully realize that while watching the movie; in it she seemed to circulate, though not particularly widely, until she became ill, when it wasn’t practical to do so.  How many women in the 1800’s went all over the place, though?  If I was supposed to realize she had an aversion to leaving the house, all I can say is that I didn’t.

Emily also had a lot of doubts about religion, God, souls, and so on, and didn’t want to attend church – which in those days was considered scandalous – yet did an about-face about religion and propriety when her married brother had a flirtation with a married woman.

I was left sitting there, during several scenes, just wondering, “Huh?”

On the other hand, a friend who does know a lot about Emily Dickinson was with me at the theater, thought the movie was wonderful, informative, fantastic, and wanted to go back and see it again!

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE, on the other hand, makes a lot more sense.  Jessica Chastain has the title role in a movie based on the true story of a zookeeper and his wife who saved 300 Jews in Warsaw during the Holocaust.  And what a spread they had where they could hide them: an entire zoo!

This story follows the book of the same name very well, without too many Hollywood embellishments.  It mostly sticks to the facts, which are dramatic enough in themselves.  It was interesting on several levels: the animals, the rescuers, the hidden Jews, the bombings, the creepy Nazis and their menacing interactions with the Polish characters.  I especially enjoyed the llama who followed the zookeeper’s wife around the zoo when the animals were still in residence (before a Nazi removed most of them to his zoo in Munich) and a scene where Chastain assists in the birth of a baby elephant.

One problem with the movie: the English-speaking actors spoke their English lines with Polish accents.  At times, this made the dialogue hard to understand.  Having actors speak with heavy accents in Hollywood movies not set in America is a trend that I wish would lessen a bit: Hello, the audience can get it that the movie’s set in Poland without having to strain to decipher the words being said.

It’s still a good movie, and showcases a courageous couple.  THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE is worth seeing.

Jessica Chastain does a great job as THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE.

Splendiferous Movie Recommendation: HIDDEN FIGURES

Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer star in HIDDEN FIGURES.

Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer star in HIDDEN FIGURES.

Would you like to see a movie that will make you stand up and cheer, and not just once, but several times?  Then I can’t recommend a better one than HIDDEN FIGURES!

It’s 1961, and the United States is in a mad competition with the Soviet Union to win the “space race.”  Far behind the scenes, three gutsy and incredibly gifted African American women are working as human “computers” at NASA in Virginia.  Their talents are being well utilized by the powers that be…but the unenlightened time period is such that the ladies, and the rest of their friends in the Computing division, are being subjected to one segregated indignity after another…

I never like to include “spoilers” in blog posts about shows and movies so I don’t want to say too much more about the plot of this wonderful and layered film, except that the three lead actresses are terrific.  Katherine, played by Taraji P. Henson, is a mathematical genius and also a widow raising three lovely little girls; that Janelle Monae, as Mary Jackson, dreams of becoming an engineer; and Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, is already working as her unit’s unofficial supervisor but has yet to get officially promoted.  Oh, and in addition, they’re all part of the team at NASA that’s frantically trying to get a man on the moon…

I’m already planning  to see this movie again, I liked it so much.  HIDDEN FIGURES won the SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast.  It’s also rightfully been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, and so is Octavia Spencer, for Best Supporting Actress.  My only wish is that Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae  could have been nominated as well, because they were equally superb.  Kevin Costner is also fascinating to watch as Katherine’s initially-remote boss.

Meanwhile, get out of the house and go to see HIDDEN FIGURES.  These ladies will remind you that it’s always a good idea to reach for the stars!

Here’s the trailer: HIDDEN FIGURES

 

York Theater’s Fabulous Production of MILK & HONEY

MILK & HONEY at the York Theater's Musicals in Mufti Series: Mark Delavan, Anne Runolfsson, and the hilarious Alix Korey.

MILK & HONEY at the York Theater’s Musicals in Mufti Series: Mark Delavan, Anne Runolfsson, and the hilarious Alix Korey.

On Saturday night I got the treat of a lifetime: the chance, at long last, to see Jerry Herman’s musical about Israel, MILK & HONEY, performed in concert at York Theatre as part of their “Musicals in Mufti” series.  It’s a no-frills production without elaborate costumes or sets, but that only adds to the fun.

If you’ve read my blog this far, you already know what a fan I am of Jerry Herman’s wonderful, uplifting music.  MILK & HONEY was his very first Broadway score, and there’s songs in it that I have adored for years.  However, I never saw a production of the show before.  That’s because it was on Broadway the year I was born, and for some unfathomable reason, has never been revived since.

And that, my friends, fits my idea of nothing less than a crime, because this show needs to be seen, not relegated to the theatrical history books.

I was astounded by the show.  Jerry Herman’s work is always upbeat, and even in his first attempt he nailed it.  And how!

The plot revolves around a group of adorable American Jewish widows who land in Israel for a tour, circa 1961.  One, Clara Weiss, played by the hilarious Alix Korey at the York, is there specifically in the hopes of meeting a wonderful guy.  Another, Ruth Stein (played by Anne Runolfsson), is the first to actually meet one, a nice man named Phil Arkin (Mark Delavan).  But there’s a problem: Phil hasn’t quite managed to divorced his estranged wife…

Yet there’s an additional “character” in this show, and it’s the pioneering spirit of  Israel.  Phil has an equally nice daughter living on a collective farm, and the going there is tough, but as the characters sing in the title song:

“What if the earth is dry and barren?

What if the morning sun is mean to us?

For this is a state of mind we live in,

We want it green and…so!  It’s green TO US!

For when you have wonderful plans for tomorrow somehow even today looks fine

So what if it’s rocks and dust and sand?

This lovely land is mine!”

I sincerely hope the York Theater finds a way to record a cast album of this production.  I’d love to see them propel this show onto Broadway, too.  It’s hopeful and positive, with a heartbreaking aside, and should be seen by as many people as possible.

I didn’t know until I read the notes in the program on Saturday that the main character in the show, Ruth Stein, was named after Jerry Herman’s own mother.  I saw that and almost began to cry.  It was Mr. Herman’s mom’s positivity that inspired so many of his most uplifting songs later.  When he came home from school one day and asked his mother why she was throwing a party, she replied, “It’s today,” a line that became the inspiration for the party song he wrote for Mame.  Ruth’s philosophies have been enhancing people’s lives all over the world through the music and lyrics her son was inspired to write, and I for one have gotten so much joy from his work over the years that I wish I could have met her.  Unfortunately, the real Ruth Stein Herman died before she ever saw one of her son’s shows reach Broadway, but if there’s any order to the Universe at all, somewhere, whenever the curtain goes up on one of her son’s productions, she’s humming along – and bursting with pride in the way her son pays tribute to her through his work.

Here’s  a link to the York Theatre’s website.  Berlin to Broadway by Kurt Weill is up next, followed by Jerry Herman’s Dear World, starring Tyne Daly, is next up as a “Musical in Mufti,” so New Yorkers, you won’t want to miss it!  I’ll be at both – with bells on.  Tickets can be found right here: http://www.yorktheatre.org/buy-tickets.html

Jerry Herman when he was first starting out.

Jerry Herman, about the time he wrote MILK & HONEY.

The original cast album of MILK & HONEY. York Theater: please record your cast's version, too!

The original cast album of MILK & HONEY. York Theater: please record your cast’s version, too!