Wednesday, February 29, 2012

DELICIOUS remembers our favorite Monkee: Davy Jones

Singer Davy Jones of The Monkees Dies in Fla at 66

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Davy Jones, the diminutive heartthrob who rocketed to the top of the 1960s music charts by beckoning millions of adoring fans while singing the catchy refrains of The Monkees, died Wednesday. He was 66.

His publicist, Helen Kensick, confirmed that Jones died of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown. Jones complained of breathing troubles early in the morning and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, said Rhonda Irons, spokeswoman of the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

In a 911 call released Wednesday night, an unidentified woman anxiously pleads "Ambulance, please, hurry!" His home was about 27 miles from the hospital and a fire rescue unit rushed him to the hospital.

Jones' moppish long hair, boyish good looks and his British accent endeared him to legions of screaming young fans after "The Monkees" premiered on NBC in 1966 as a made-for-TV band seeking to capitalize on Beatlemania sweeping the world.

Aspirations of Beatles-like fame were never fully achieved, with the TV show lasting just two years. But The Monkees made rock 'n roll history as the band garnered a wide American following with love-struck hits such as "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer" that endure to this day.

Born in Manchester, England, on Dec. 30, 1945, Jones became a child star in his native England who appeared on television and stage, including a heralded role as "The Artful Dodger" in the musical play Oliver.

He earned a Tony nomination at 16 when he reprised that role in the show's Broadway production, a success that brought him to the attention of Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, which created The Monkees. Hundreds turned out for auditions, but the young men who became the Monkees had no idea what ultimately awaited them.

"They had an ad in the newspaper," Jones recalled on NBC's "Today Show" last year, "and then we all showed up."

"The Monkees" was a band clearly patterned on the Beatle's film A Hard Days Night, chronicling the comic trials and tribulations of a rock group whose four members lived together and traveled to gigs in a tricked-out car called the Monkeemobile. Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz starred with him. Each part was loosely created to resemble one of the Beatles.

At 5-feet-3 inches, Jones was by far the shortest member of the group — a fact often made light of on the show. But he also was its dreamboat, mirroring Paul McCartney's role in the Beatles. And as the only Briton among the four, Jones was in some ways the Monkees' direct connection to the Beatlemania still strong in the U.S. when the TV show made its debut.

In August 1966, the Beatles performed in San Francisco, playing their last live set for a paying audience. The same month, the Monkees released their first album, introducing the group to the world.

The first single, "Last Train to Clarksville," became a No. 1 hit. And the TV show would caught on quickly with audiences, featuring fast-paced, helter-skelter comedy inspired as much by the Marx Brothers as the Beatles.

It was a shrewd case of cross-platform promotion. As David Bianculli noted in his "Dictionary of Teleliteracy," ''The show's self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled the group's first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes."

Yet after the show's launch, The Monkees came under fire from music critics when it was learned that session musicians — and not the group's members — had played the instruments on their recordings. They were derided as the "Prefab Four," an insulting comparison to the Beatles' nickname, the "Fab Four."

In reality, Jones could play the drums and guitar, and although Dolenz learned to play the drums after he joined the group, he also could play guitar, as could Nesmith.

Nesmith also wrote several of The Monkees' songs, as well as songs for others. Tork, who played bass and keyboards on the TV show, was a multi-instrumentalist.

The group eventually prevailed over the show's producers, including music director Don Kirchner, and began to play their own instruments. Regardless, the group was supported by enviable talent.

Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and Neil Diamond penned "I'm a Believer." Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston, who later played with the Beatles, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young.

Young tweeted Wednesday that he was saddened by Jones' death. "The Monkees were such a sensation that it was a thrill for me to have them record some of my early songs," he added.

The group also released the 1968 film Head, derided at the time as a psychedelic mishmash notable only for an appearance by Jack Nicholson. It has since come to be considered a cult classic by Monkees fans.

After two seasons, the TV series had flared out and was canceled after 58 episodes in the summer of 1968. But The Monkees remained a nostalgia act for decades. And Jones maintained that the stage was the only place he truly felt at home.

"Even today, I have an inferiority complex," he told the Daily Mail in an interview last year. "I always feel I'm there at the window, looking in. Except when I'm on stage, and then I really come alive."

After the TV show ended, Jones continued to tour with the other Monkees for a time, sometimes playing the drums at concerts when Dolenz came up front to sing.

Many also remember Jones from a widely seen episode of "The Brady Bunch" that aired in 1971, in which he makes an appearance at Marcia Brady's school dance. In the episode, Marcia Brady, president of her school's Davy Jones Fan Club, promised she could get him to appear before her classmates.

The group eventually broke up over creative differences, although it did reunite from time to time for brief tours over the years, usually without Nesmith.

In 1987, Jones, Tork, and Dolenz recorded a new album, "Pool It." And two years later, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On Wednesday, flowers were placed on Jones' own Hollywood star nearby as fans mourned.

All four of the Monkees came together for a 1996 album, "Justus," and a subsequent TV movie "Hey, Hey, It's The Monkees!" that saw them still living in the same house and still traveling in the Monkeemobile — just like old times.

Tork spoke of his former bandmate in an interview Wednesday night, saying "He was one of the funniest men and most talented I have ever known." Nesmith said in a statement "David's spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people," using a phrase from a Beatles song that seemed to again cement the two groups' ties.

Jones, who is survived by his wife Jessica Pacheco and four daughters from previous marriages, continued to make appearances on television and stage later. But it was the fame of The Monkees that pulled him back to that era time and time again. On his website, he recalled during auditions for the show when all four men finally were put together in a scene.

"That's it," he recalled everyone around him saying: "Magic."

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Frazier Moore and Hillel Italie in New York, Mike Gracia in Washington and John Rogers in Los Angeles.

Monday, February 13, 2012

DELICIOUS TV: NBC offers up a delicous new musical series smash with 'SMASH'

The reviews are in, chiclets! Anyone who's anyone is watching the latest must-see series offering - monday nights at 10 pm on NBC. Delicious says don't miss it! 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

CARRIE THE MUSICAL: a DELICIOUS look back at the closing of the legendary 1988 cult musical

“Surprise, Surprise! Terry Hands blood, sweat and tears staging of Carrie for his Royal Shakespeare Company works. ...a project that seemed unlikely from the outset, has unexpectedly emerged as a strong, effective and remarkably coherent piece of terrific total theatre.”   ~ Clive Barnes, New York Post

“...the fiercely concentrated Ms. [Betty] Buckley brings theatrical heat to every slap-happy bout of corporal punishment, every masturbatory hand gesture indicating her sexual repression, and every aria invoking Jesus and Satan.”   ~ Frank Rich, New York Times

“CARRIE MAKES A POWERFUL MUSICAL. ... [It] brings together all the forces that make live theatre so exciting: brilliant performances and an exciting story, reinforced by the physical production and fashions them into a truly unforgettable event.”      ~ Ernest Albrect, The Home News

“...compellingly written and overpoweringly performed...the scenes between Carrie and her mother crackle with longing. ...The conflict between the girl’s aching to be normal and the mother’s fear that she will go astray aspires to metaphysical tragedy.”    ~ William A. Henry III, Time Magazine

“I had a bloody good time. Carrie is edge-of-your-seat all-out entertainment.”   ~ Larry S. Ledford, The Monitor

These are some of the things written about the 1988 cult-flop musical CARRIE (I bet you heard there were no good reviews.) In honor of the newly rewritten off-Broadway revival opening in March 2012 (just 24 years after the originals disastrous 5 performance run) I thought we should go back in time to 1988 to revisit the drama behind the spectacular closing of one of Broadway’s most enduring legends. Enjoy!

Carrie’s $7 million close shows why musicals are like dinosaurs
by William A. Henry III, Time Magazine/ May 30, 1988

Just a few days earlier, Choreographer Debbie Allen had been counseling the young performers of Carrie about how to handle sudden stardom. But as the disheartening word spread backstage, the ensemble members realized that they might have to learn instead to handle sudden unemployment. Last week, less than 72 hours after it opened as the Broadway season’s most opulent American musical, Carrie closed. Stephen King’s 1974 novel about a tormented teenager with psychic powers became a best seller, then a multiple Oscar nominee as a 1976 movie. But onstage it set records of a different sort: losing more than $7 million made it Broadway’s biggest failure ever.* Said President Rocco Landesman of Jujamcyn Theaters, which invested $500,000 and provided a house for the show: “This is the biggest flop in the world history of theater, going all the way back to Aristophanes.”

Carrie is just one more example, if an especially lurid one, of the self-destructive expansion of the Broadway musical. The form has become as ungainly and vulnerable as the dinosaur. Although the season just past is regarded as the strongest for musicals in a decade, eight of its 15 musical productions have just closed, and two may soon join them.

Still, with Carrie the actors were not the only ones startled by the abruptness of the shutdown. The technical staff, the press agent, even the creators thought they had been assured of at least one more week by Producer Friedrich Kurz, 39, a West German impresario making his Broadway debut. Although most of the reviews had been scathing – particularly about the superannuated kick line of high school girls, cumbersomely elaborate sets and an inadvertently hilarious dance number about slaughtering a pig – a number of critics nonetheless expected the show to find an audience and thrive. That is what happened , despite savage reviews from the London critics, during a four-week British run at the Stratford-upon-Avon home of the co-producer, the Royal Shakespeare Company. And night after nighr during Broadway previews, while some audience members laughed derisively, others thundered applause for the pelvic dances, the pyrotechnic effects and the open-throttle singing of Stars Linzi Hateley and Betty Buckley.

But after surveying the prospects, Kurz, who has prospered by importing Cats into his home country, flew back to Europe without telling Landesman or many of his other collaborators that he had ordered a closing notice to be put up at the theater. According to investors, Kurz thereby saved an estimated $150,000 to $175,000, the difference between another week’s operating costs and the projected box-office income. He was really prompted, however, by what usually determines the fate of unfavorably reviewed shows: he had run out of money. To have any hope of turning things around, he needed an additional $2 million or more. That would pay for TV advertising and cover losses for up to two months until the ads and word-of-mouth might bring in a profitably large audience. “I made an economic decision to cut my losses,” said Kurz in his Hamburg office. “Broadway is Russian roulette, and I’m not a gambler.”

The advertising-and-word-of-mouth strategy worked for Evita (1979), which opened to unenthusiastic reviews yet ran for almost four years. But it is not infallible: an additional $1 million enabled the 1985 Singin’ in the Rain to survive almost a year, yet apparently did not recoup theshow’s $5 million-plus investment. Still, says Carrie’s composer Michael Gore, whose credits include the movie Fame, “you can’t produce a Broadway show without a reserve fund. That is my major dissatisfaction with the show.”

Carrie might have had just such a reserve if it held to its original $5 million budget. The show was eventually capitalized at $7 million, primarily by British and West German investors who had scant Broadway experience. But runaway costs reached, by some accounts, about $8 million, attributable partly to high-tech fashion in current musicals, partly to the complexity of multinational production, partly to old-fashioned indulgence. Says the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Terry Hands, who staged the show: “It started to be laded with lavish trappings, none of which I believe were necessary.” Sources involved in financing the project estimate that the show’s design elements alone cost nearly $4 million, including about $1 million each for costumes, sound and the elaborate hydraulically powered sets. About a third of Jujamcyn’s $500.000 investment was spent on repainting its Virginia Theater black, to suit Carrie’s somber theme, and on installing electrical wiring for the laser barrage at the climax, when Carrie burns down her school gym.

The Royal Shakespeare Company was paid for mounting Carrie as part of its season, and thus secured a profit fo roughly $500,000. As a result of the unusual transatlantic production, there was a hefty bill for transport and lodging of the creators and the Anglo-American cast. On Broadway, some 20% of each week’s box-office income was set aside for royalties to the creative team, including Novelist King, who otherwise had no role in the show. Another debated expenditure was $500,000 plus for a print, poster and TV ad campaign in New York City before the show opened, much of it teasingly mysterious rather than hard sell.
As a result of all these costs, Carrie barely had carfare home after its Broadway opening night. There was no contingency play, just a hope against hope for generosity form the critics. When that failed, Gore, Librettist Lawrence D. Cohen and Lyricist Dean Pitchford started shopping for emergency investors to create an instant reserve fund. Landesman pondered stepping in with more cash from Jujamcyn but in the end decided not to underwrite even one additional week’s losses so the search for investors could go on. Explains Landesman: “I would have put up $500.000, but I didn’t see the rest of the $2 million coming from anywhere.” After a last forlorn scramble, neither did anyone else.

And the rest is theater history. TTFN my darlings. See you all at the new CARRIE.

* This dubious honor has been handed over to many, many other Broadway flops since then.

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