Saturday, August 13, 2005

Al Carmines R.I.P.

Very sad to read the New York Times (phenominally lengthy) obit for the Reverand Al Carmines in yesterday's edition. Here's an appreciation I wrote about him a couple of years ago on another web page.

AL CARMINES Playing the original cast recording of composer Al Carmines' 1967 Gertrude Stein musical, "In Circles," recently brought back all those extraordinary musicals and oratorios I saw in the 1960s at Greenwich Village's Judson Memorial Church. "Peace," "Faggot," "Wanted," "A Look at the Fifties," "About Time," etc. Among the greatest live productions I have ever witnessed, yet nearly all done on a budget of, to invoke the memory of Norma Desmond, spit and chewing gum. Several of them went on to have an Off-Broadway life of their own. Carmines wrote the music for at least two bigger budgeted productions that I know of: "Promenade," which opened uptown in New York, and another, a W.C. Fields musical starring Mickey Rooney, which went tilt out of town. My god, that stuff was great. I especially loved Carmines and Roslyn Drexler's "Home Movies" and went to see it over and over and over again. It even had a brief run Off-Bway. I never understood why "Home Movies" didn't become a classic of the American Musical Theater. Or for that matter any one of a half-dozen other Carmines/Judson shows. I wonder if there's a bootleg recordings of "Home Movies?" It doesn't really matter, though. I can still hear all the songs word for word in my head: "I Know You Sell It But Do You Eat It," "The Peanut Butter Song," etc. And who can ever forget the wonderful Drexler epigram spoken by one of the characters?: "Her fine points are as unrealized as tadpoles." I just looked Carmines up on the net and he is still with us as the associate pastor of NY's Trinity Presbyterian Church. . .instead of becoming the great white hope of the American Musical Theater as was predicted for him by some. If someone today wanted to mount a revival of "Home Movies," and did a good job of it, I'd wager they'd make a fortune. So would I, not investing in it, but making a killing on my bet.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Dear Bill-- Snatches of "In Circles" persist in dancing through my brain, lo these 40-some years. I've not been able to find a CD for sale. Do you have a copyable one? I had the album, but of course, & it warped, & it's...where? Thanks! --Nancy Weber
nancywriternyc@gmail.com