Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Barney's Back...and better than ever!!!!

It has been a long time since I have written something ... anything... for this website. Too long. Maybe it is because folks refer to it as a "blog." It is such an off-putting noun. I digress. I will not attempt to update since my last effort, but will give out with a sort of current event(s) update in the hope that someone out there will find it interesting. Feedback is what is required, and I'll tell you why.

Several years ago I made a television series for the then-fledgling Paxton Network here in the USA. Jeff Sagansky  was the head of the thing and he asked me to get off the beach at Fisher Island and do him this "favor."  I felt fondly enough about this one time CBS chief (who had ordered The Trials of Rosie O'Neill based on a 45 minute breakfast-pitch session I had with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel) to be willing to break my rule about no more work. I plunged right in.

We made a pretty decent series called Twice in a Lifetime and it featured former Cagney precinct boss Al Waxman. We filmed it in Canada, our budgets were tiny and the crew was all new to me, but... as stated... we made a "pretty decent" show. I remember being asked by a member of the press how it felt to now be making a show that had an audience in the hundreds of thousands instead of the tens of millions who faithfully watched Cagney & Lacey? "It doesn't matter," I said at the time, "I am making the show for me and for Jeff Sagansky." I was wrong. It did matter. It mattered a lot. Paxton had no outlet in Palm Springs where I spent that winter. I couldn't watch it on my own TV. My mother had recently died and so there was no call from her after each show, plus the station was not altogether ready for prime time in LA either, meaning my kids never saw it.

That statement of bravado was wrong  because I quickly came to learn I missed the feedback from an audience. It is probably why I have not been all that constant a (God help me) blogger. The C&L website is small by my standards, but not, I have been told, too tiny for what it is. I have trouble making the adjustment to the tinier audience. I don't Link, Tweet, or Face. Sometimes, something I write gets tossed over to some Facebook page by either Ms. Danson or the tenacious Carole R. Smith, but I have nothing to do with that. So... point made (I hope). Feedback is essential.

Sharon and I have just returned from a week of theatre in NY and I will give you all some news about that. New York, however, was only part of the story. For nearly three weeks before that Sharon was in Bali... on a sort of spiritual quest... in the company of her niece, Bridget Gless Keller. Bridget does Facebook and would be a better reporter than I on that trip. Sharon, who already possesses more spirituality than her husband ever will, mostly enjoyed the time of re-bonding with her favorite (and let's face it,) only niece. She flew over 25 hours to rendezvous with me in NY so that we could attend the annual Ball celebrating a most erudite publication, The Latham Quarterly. Tyne Daly and Ralph Nader were at our table as well. It was great fun.The rest of the week was filled with theatre. Reviews/commentary follows in the order we saw the shows:

On the 20th Century starring Kristin Chenoweth who very well may be the finest comedienne anywhere near the Broadway stage or in America today. The show is nicely mounted, has a decent supporting cast, but the only reason for seeing this chestnut is Ms. Chenoweth. She sings beautifully, looks great and is simply too funny in this part for me to properly describe. Do not bother to see this show after she leaves.

The Audience starring Helen Mirren. Ms. Mirren is a great actress. No one disputes that, but I would guess there are others who could replicate what was accomplished here by her. What was quite impressive to me was the extraordinary job of staging and direction along with the miracle of costume and wig changes right on stage in full view of the audience into which Ms. Mirren would mold her body into the age of the Queen she was portraying always in sync with the author's concept of presenting Elizabeth, the Queen, out of any sort of chronological order. The end of act one, the coronation of Elizabeth, was stunning and surprisingly (to me) moving. I couldn't wait for act two to begin which brings to mind the cliché of being careful what you wish for. If only I had left the theatre at Intermission and not gone back for that long and repetitive second act, I would have/could have held The Audience in so much higher regard.

It Shoulda Been You stars Tyne Daly and a very good supporting cast. Sharon had seen it once before in rehearsals giving support to her "partner" pre-opening.  I had seen it over a year ago in an out of town tryout somewhere. Was it in New Jersey? Tyne, as the mother of the bride is, as always,  terrific. The show is charming. An old-fashioned solid evening's entertainment in the theatre. Both times I saw the show I have to confess to longing to see Sharon Gless as the mother of the groom, the nemesis to Daly's Mother of the Bride. I easily imagined (as perhaps only I can) how much more fun it would be to see those 30 years of history bouncing off each other, but this time live on stage. I mean no disrespect to the very competent Harriet Harris who plays the part beautifully... there is just noone, anywhere, who could bring more to this dueling duo as written than the re-teaming of Gless and Daly. Oh yes, Chip Zein, who plays Tyne's husband in the piece was our Assistant DA for a time in Cagney & Lacey.

Fun Home won the Tony for best musical. It is very smart and dark, very original, and if you can't make it to Broadway, buy the CD which has it all.... dialogue and songs...with nothing (that I could figure) left out. I am an old guy. This piece merits a lot of praise and a lot of awards, but if it's a musical then... well, I just don't know. It is almost more of an opera... and might actually be one if there were truly an aria rather than just recitative. Of course it could be a musical if there were truly a song... which there is not. I have a good ear for music. As a three year old child I could sing the entire score of The Mikado. I can still hang in there, over the past 50-60 years,  on a battle of the hit tunes from Broadway with Tyne or any number of other musical mavens. I have seen Fun House and I have listened to the CD. It is powerful, it is good, I cannot remember three notes of any of the "songs." I think that is a problem. Obviously the Tony voters disagree.

The King and I at Lincoln Center. Bartlett Sher, the director and the Center leaders and staff deserve the billing right there next to the title. The King and I is (arguably) the best musical ever...EVER... written. Lincoln Center does it proud. Instead of the 10 to 15 piece pit band prevalent all over the Great White Way, the not-for-profit Lincoln Center presents us with a veritable orchestra of over 30 pieces. The curtain is not your standard-use-for-every-show asbestos thing, but rather a massive silk screen in cardinal and gold depicting a Siamese-like scene. The cast, the sets, the costuming are all perfection. Kudos to the Lincoln Center. I did not think they could top what they accomplished (by the same director by the way) on South Pacific, They have, surpassing even themselves. Kelli O'Hara soars as the English tutor and the remainder of the cast hangs in there with her. I am not ashamed to say that I had my handkerchief in hand through the entire show and it was very damp with tears at the final curtain. Bravo to all ... and Brava Ms. O'Hara.

An American in Paris. We saw it the very next afternoon and it is probably most unfair to see anything after The King and I. The matinee was before a packed house at The Palace, the largest theatre on Broadway. The sets were imaginative in design and for the most part in execution, the Gershwin score includes some of the best American music and song ever composed. What then is wrong? Well, you have to begin with the script. The story is certainly solid so to what do I refer? In The King and I, the characters break into song because there is nothing left for them to say. They simply must sing... to evoke their emotions, to explain themselves, for... well, for whatever reason. It is organic. It is necessary, an essential part of the whole. In An American in Paris, people sing because there is a vast library of good Gershwin material that should be presented. It just doesn't come out of any real feeling or anything organic. It is, what they call in the trade, a juke box musical. Doesn't matter how good the juke box is, it is hard to get past this flaw in the play itself... especially when one has just seen perfection at the Lincoln Center. Later,  the same evening, we saw On The Town. Now this is interesting... vintage Leonard Bernstein. Not his best (West Side Story would have to take that bow), but damn good nonetheless. Unlike An American in Paris it is not a collection of song book hits, but rather a musical play with dialogue that leads the actors... oft times compelling them... to sing. And sing they do... and dance.... and act... and they accomplish all of that in a matter superior to what we had seen in the afternoon. I found myself wishing that An American in Paris had waited for On The Town to close so that they could take that cast on the rebound. Better yet... Give it to Bartlett Sher to stage it all at Lincoln Center.

Let me summarize Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. First was Rogers and Hammerstein at their best, next was Gershwin cannibalized by lesser talents and not at his best in any event, for that would have to go to Porgy & Bess, and then there was Bernstein. As stated, very good, but no West Side Story (although some of the rifts in this earlier work sound somewhat West Side familiar).  

Exhausted Sharon and I limped out of town the next morning, catching the Jitney to Bridgehampton and a few days with friends before hightailing it back to Miami and Fisher Island. Home sweet home.

Barney Rosenzweig, June 14, 2015





Lifebeginsat50 said...

P.s seeing Tyne has prompted me too revisit all the C&L shows. Luckily being repeated on BBC2 in the UK. your masterpiece. Xx

Frank Florie said...

Barney, thank you for FINALLY returning to this site. I still check it out regularly but there is almost never anything going on. Thank you for writing! Im glad you and Sharon are well and the only thing i wish was to have you return to television SOMEWHERE and produce a new show for Sharon to star in. I've been a fan of hers for over 30 years now and want her back starring in a new vehicle. With SO many channels is this a possibility? Also, is there ANY way to have 'The trials of Rosie O'neill' on DVD??? Stay well to both of you.

Judy said...

I always enjoy reading a Walter Kerr mean, a BR column. I have one correction, though: the show's title is Fun Home. I guess it must have been a Freudian slip because although you gave it a thumbs up in general, it seems that for you this house was not entirely a home. :-) Great hearing from you in such detail. Love your theatre reviews. All best, Judy

CagneyandLaceysWebSquad said...

From Barney Rosenzweig:

Frank, taking your last question first, the answer would be "maybe." Maybe... and almost yes. Negotiations drag on, but so much time has passed that most of the rights are reverting to me without too much more effort (other than just remaining on the planet). There is, I have discovered, not a lot of business to be had in the vintage DVD marketplace and "frontage" on those retailers' shelves is tough to come by, but that said, I believe we will have something available... at least through this website... in the very near future. Stay tuned.

Next point: I cannot imagine anything that would get me back to producing another television show... even if it gave me the chance to re-unite with Sharon and Tyne. Well.... that I could imagine. Personally, I am sure... and I certainly hope... that Sharon not being in front of a camera for the past year is merely an aberration that will cure itself while giving her some time to compose her autobiography. She is as beautiful and talented as it is possible for anyone near her age group to be, but right now I wish her more discipline than beauty so that she can sit down and face that formidable blank page. Finally... Thank you for the feedback. You are right. If I don't write stuff for this page then people won't have a reason to check in. I plan to do that more often from now on plus answering queries as fully as possible as now demonstrated. Thanks for checking in.

Barney Rosenzweig

CagneyandLaceysWebSquad said...

Frank - just to let you know, the C&L Websquad post alerts on the official C&L facebook page whenever a new blog is available. So you can always add us to your feed to be alerted! Hope that helps.

Frank Florie said...

Barney, Carol Smith and the whole ¨C&L squad,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to me. I really appreciate you taking the time and for sharing some very exciting news about Sharon writing her autobiography and the probable release of ¨The Trial's of Rosie O'Neill! I still have the episodes on VHS tapes but would love a DVD package of some sort. I'm sure many fans of this site would welcome that too and would help support your effort in any way we could. I'm still enjoying the C&L DVDs. I had to privilege of meeting you, Barney and Sharon & Tyne in New York back in 2007 at Barnes & Nobles and in a way, you feel like family to me since I started watching C&L back in 1982. You're interaction with us fans back then through the newsletters you would mail us throughout the series run made a lasting connection, hence my coming to this site often to read about any news. I guess you deserve to enjoy your retirement now and don't blame you for not wanting to come back to the cut throat business of television, but please let Sharon know I and we all miss seeing her beautiful face and talent on television at the present time. Stay well!!!

zero2aries said...

Rosie O'Neill might possibly be on dvd?? *does happy dance*. That would be fantastic, hope you can do it.

*also does happy dance at the thought of Sharon's autobiography*

PS - good to see you back blogging

Lifebeginsat50 said...

Hi Barney
Just found out that It shoulda been you is closing! Surely therefore it's time for Sharon to come to the rescue and play mother of the groom? Who could resist the chemistry of Tyne & Sharon once more? Please bring it to London? P.s relish the thought of Sharon's autobiography !

Unknown said...

It will be such a good idea and it will be so great to get Rosie o'Neil on DVD as it has been also wonderful to have the "cagney and Lacey" on dvd.
You have all my support.
Thank you for this blog that let us update and hope to read from news soon.
I am impatient to read about sharon's autobiography.

Stéphanie from France.

CagneyandLaceysWebSquad said...

From Barney Rosenzweig


Happy Dancers always welcome. The road to bringing something out on DVD (especially in the vintage TV area) is never easy, but I am determined to do this one for the readers of this website if nothing else. Hopefully it will happen soon, but for me this legal process has been a little like watching paint dry. As to Sharon's book... no one is looking forward to that more than me... even though she says she has never read my book (Cagney & Lacey... and me for those who have forgotten). Sharon's stated reason is that she wants to stay married. Think I should adopt the same attitude about her tome?

Barney Rosenzweig

CagneyandLaceysWebSquad said...

From Barney Rosenzweig


I am sure the producers of the show are considering any number of possibilities for the continued life of this audience pleaser and London should be high on that list. One of the things that too few such producers know (but they will now if they read this website) is that Cagney & Lacey was a much bigger success (and ran far longer) in the UK than in the US, and therefore a pairing of Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless should have a whole lot more success there than anywhere. As to me bringing the show... A)I have no connection to the production other than as a fan, and B) I have been involved with one Broadway show and that was one too many. Perhaps one day I will write a blog about what has to be one of the most arcane business models in the universe, but not today... or anytime soon.

Barney Rosenzweig

CagneyandLaceysWebSquad said...

In response to a comment from Ann Wilson below, Barney Rosenzweig writes:

...and thank you Ann, not only for this response, but for all the loyalty and hard work for Sharon over these many years. I remember meeting you... I think it was when Sharon and I were in London for the CLASS (Cagney & Lacey Appreciation of the Series Society). I'm pretty sure I can lay my hands on some of those celebratory photos from back in the day when I was so much thinner and if I can... and I can get Carole R. Smith to figure out how to do it, we'll post some of them from time to time on the site. Good memories. Barney Rosenzweig

Ann Wilson, president of the Sharon Gless Fan Club (UK) wrote:

Wow no wonder you were exhausted !! It reminds me of when our daughter was small (from age 6) we used to go to London every October. We could only afford to go once so would fit in as many musicals and plays as we could. Linda is now, shall we say, quite a bit older and the theatre is her first love. It's very interesting to hear your feelings about these shows- hopefully we may get to see some of them. If Sharon HAD been in the show I would have remortgaged the house to see it !!. We did go to NYC a few years ago and saw some shows including '42nd Street' and I do want to return. The last show I saw in London's West End was 'Gypsy' and I saw it with my daughter and the lovely Deb Mosk, who became my friend for life during Sharon's fabulous run in 'Round Heeled Woman'. I was also delighted to meet Carole Smith in person after years of e mail contact. In fact those 6 months made up one of the best periods of my life
Thank you so much for sharing your views with us all,it was so interesting to read. Warmest wishes to you and Sharon

KTFJR said...

Feedback? Why, certainly! Where to begin....I watched C&L with my single-parent mother when she would return home from night school on Monday evenings. It was toward the end of the series that she'd let me stay up to watch it with her. I was 12 years old. Later, I watched it with her on cable and grew to appreciate the context of working, urban and opposite partners who grew to be such great friends; what an incredible gift to television C&L was. Fast forward to 2015 and for Christmas, my wife bought be the entire series on DVD. We binge-watched all 6 seasons, Meg Foster, and the Menopause episodes over the course of about two months this winter. My wife, who had never before seen the series, said, "There is nothing like this show on television." An obvious observation. My reply: "There wasn't a more incredible series before and there hasn't been one since. These actresses are the most talented of our time and their pairing was incredible." So, feedback...Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Rosenzweig, for fighting to keep the series alive for as long as you did. For publishing the memoir that articulates just how difficult that fight was. Thank you for bringing the show to DVD so that when my 7 year old daughter and 5 year old son are of appropriate age, we can share with them the masterpiece you called Cagney & Lacey. The brilliance of Sharon, Tyne and you will be felt for generations.

New Hampshire, USA

Barney Rosenzweig said...

Well (or rather WOW)...Thank you, Ken, for making my day. Most appreciated.

Remembering William T. Freeman said...

Hey Barney! Renee Eland here...Billy Freeman's daughter...there is something warm and familiar when I read your blog! My daddy always loved you and thought so much of you...he is gone now, as I hope your daughter told you, but still lives on in so many ways!! Sounds like life continues to be treating you and your family well!! Warm Regards Barney! Renee

Barney Rosenzweig said...


Barney would like to respond privately to your blog. Please send us your email address to the site and it will be forwarded to him. Thank you.

Paul K. Bisson said...

A week of theatre! How wonderful! I just stopped by to leave a short note but I was happy to read your recap as well. I'll be reading a lot of you in the coming weeks as I just received Cagney & Lacey...and Me as a birthday gift. I love 'inside Hollywood' stories. I love reading about producing entertainment. And I love Cagney & Lacey (and Sharon and Tyne!). I'm hooked. So perhaps "weeks" is an overestimation. Thanks so much for writing it. Now, if you'll excuse me...Chapter 8 awaits!