Fun on the Way to the Forum

DATELINE: Musical Farce

 Mythic Comic Competition: Zero & Phil Silvers

 Notable composer and writer Stephen Sondheim has always been of two worlds: his high-falutin’ musicals, and his low-brow musicals.  He started out writingTopperfor TV about ghosts in a sit-com—and he wound up as one of the most celebrated of American Broadway composers of A Little Night Music and Sunday in the Park with George.

We prefer low-brow this time.

We took a look again, years later, of his 1966 low-brow story: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Those who saw it on Broadway are a dying breed, thank heavens, because they always complained the stage version was longer, contained better songs, and was a work of genius.

 

The movie was directed by Richard Lester in a style that won converts after A Hard Day’s Night.His frenetic pace and visual burlesque moments are right out of slapstick in ancient Rome.

However, the film is monumental because Zero Mostel recreated his stage performance. Well, it is not exactly a performance. Mostel chews up scenery and  mugs in such a way that defies anything resembling acting. This is a happening. It is beyond, way beyond, perhaps the Twilight Zone goes to the Forum. He is matched by Sgt. Bilko, Phil Silvers in an equally stunning screen travesty.

They are marvelous and will certainly dismiss anyone thinking this could have occurred on Broadway. Throw in Jack Gilford and Patricia Jessel as the shrew harridan of all-time, and Michael Herndon’s seminal browbeat husband grows all the more impressive.

The four stars dance along the aqueduct. Buster Keaton only shows up for cameos and the surprise ending.

 

The leering sexuality is of another age, but that is burlesque, friends.

If ever Broadway musicals were to be staged with perfect segues between action and music, this film accomplishes it.

We recalled it was a show and a half, but it has lost nothing and gained mythic proportions. If you have never seen it, you must stream it now. A comedy tonight indeed.

Springtime for Trump

DATELINE:  Trump Sings & Dances!

springtime for trump

In the classic Ponzi comedy The Producers, the big Broadway musical number that did in the crooks was called “Springtime for Hitler”. They oversold the show, hoping it would flop and they’d walk away with tons of money. Manafort and Cohen are the new producers. They oversold Trump to the gullible public.

In Springtime for Trump, his investors (all Russian mobster types) expected him to lose—and make a big profit. Alas, he won—and the undoing of these producers is now unfolding. May they all wind up in federal prison where they can put on a show.

In Mel Brooks’ original version of The Producers, Zero Mostel was the overweight man with the appalling comb-over. In the White House today is an overweight man with an appalling comb-over. He is a bigger crook than Zero’s character.

Mostel’s producer would sleep with dozens of women to procure their investments in his musical. In Trump’s world, he pays off dozens of women with campaign funds and a crooked lawyer to guarantee his tenure in office.

The big musical number was meant to shock people: goose-stepping showgirls in formation, a la Busby Berkley, dancing in a swastika conga lines. Trump’s conga lines include words like “dog”, “lowlife”, and “rat.”

Alas, they all apply to the biggest shyster ever to sully the white White House where Nixon claimed there would never be a white wash.

After Trump is impeached, we may need to fumigate the place.

We laughed uproariously at Zero’s crook, and we fumed at Nixon’s crook. Trump’s crook is still lining up the chorus.

Cue the dancing girls: we are about to sing the refrain from Springtime for Trump.