I am well aware that all sorts of challenging — and often heart-breaking — situations continue to unfold here on planet earth.
However, I have decided in recent blog posts to accentuate the positive.
Part of the fun of re-vamping my website earlier this year was re-visiting my musical past.
When I first started working at the Cambridge Center For Adult Education in Harvard Square, we co-produced a lot of events — open mics, workshops, seminars, performances — with the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA).
BACA is a humble and surprisingly resilient non-profit group which a bunch of us helped to start over 25 years ago.
And it is still going strong — an ongoing labor of love — due to the efforts of a generous and ever-evolving group of singers, musicians, songwriters and music fans who serve on its board, bless them.
I do not remember exactly how I met singer/actor Lillian Rozin, who is now a psychotherapist, yoga instructor and author, too.
Maybe at a BACA open mic?
In any case, we hit it off and Lillian started creating lavish spreads of appetizers and desserts for our open mic nights.
I am not someone who follows recipes or considers himself to be much of a cook.
But Lillian is an inspired and inspiring goddess in the kitchen.
She learned to love food and cooking from — among other people — her mother, the much-published food writer, Elizabeth Rozin.
Eventually we started performing together as “The Will & Lil Show” — co-creating two different shows of music and ideas before she moved from the Boston area back to her homeland of Philadelphia.
Our first show focused on the subject of water — in rivers, clouds, oceans, harbors, showers, wading pools, and even our own metabolisms.
We followed that with a show called We Are What We Eat — A Potluck Cabaret which featured songs about eating, serving and preparing food such as Cole Porter’s “The Tale of the Oyster,” Bernstein, Comden and Green’s “I Can Cook, Too,” Stephen Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch,” the Sherman Brothers’ “Feed The Birds,” and Stephen Schwartz’s “It’s An Art.”
The show began with Lillian and me on stage chopping and slicing and preparing various finger-foods while audience members were finding their seats.
Once everyone had arrived, we began singing a song (in the player at the start of the blog post) from William Finn’s musical “March Of The Falsettos” while serving the audience what we had been preparing onstage.
It was a lot of fun.
The original lyrics for “Making A Home” included some references to food — to which we added a few more.
Recently I was happy to find a computer disk which contained some of our original PR photos as well as a script for our food show.
Here’s a list of food-related items that we used during the show:
Microwave pre-set with popcorn.
Little pots of strawberry jam.
Little jar of mustard.
Watercress or heavy duty parsley.
Brie, cheddar, harvarti dill, goat, and cream cheeses.
Pringles potato chips.
Count Chocula/Cocoa Puffs/Lucky Charms cereal boxes.
One pound of smoked fish.
Lots of crackers.
Bag of salad.
Packets of Sweet & Lo.
Peanut butter and peanuts.
Non-dairy whipped topping.
Two pie plates.
As you can probably extrapolate from this list of props, we covered a lot of ground in this show — from the processed food industry (for which Lillian’s mother had once consulted) to food norms in different cultures (Lillian has traveled a lot) to my past as a child actor doing commercials for various food products (such as Ring Ding Juniors, Lifesavers, Imperial margarine, and Oreo cookies).
Here’s an excerpt from what we said after we sang “Making A Home” while serving appetizers to the audience.
Lil: “Will and I love to cook.”
Will: “And we love to feed other people what we have cooked.”
Lil: “And we love to eat; so this show was a no-brainer.
Will: “Eating is something that is easy to take for granted.
Lil: “We do it several times a day, often out of habit or while we are focused on something else.”
Will: “But eating is really a magical process. Think about it… radiation from a nearby star is captured by plants who transform it into something that we can absorb into our bodies, which becomes… us.”
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
Over twenty years later I am still amazed by how life works here on planet earth!
Near the end of the show Lillian tied me to a chair while singing “Have An Eggroll Mr. Goldstein” from Gypsy and stuffing all sorts of delicious, cut-up fruit into my mouth.
Then we sang “You’re The Cream In My Coffee” while throwing pie plates full of non-dairy whipped topping in each other’s faces.
Our encore was “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries.”
This delightful anthem was written by Lew Brown (lyrics) and Ray Henderson (music) for Ethel Merman to sing in George White’s Scandals of 1931 after she had rejected another song they had wanted her to perform.
I am very thankful that Ms. Merman knew — when she was still in the early years of her extraordinary career the entertainment industry — what kind of song she could and couldn’t deliver to an audience.
Otherwise Ray and Lew might not have written this musical gem.
Thank you for reading and listening to this somewhat light-hearted blog post.
I will undoubtedly return to more serious topics in the future.
Today I have been inspired by a statement currently circulating (I hope accurately) on FaceBook from a Hopi Indian Chief named White Eagle.
“This moment humanity is experiencing can be seen as a door or a hole. The decision to fall in the hole or walk through the door is up to you.
“If you consume the news 24 hours a day, with negative energy, constantly nervous, with pessimism, you will fall into this hole. But if you take the opportunity to look at yourself, to rethink life and death, to take care of yourself and others, then you will walk through the portal…
“Don’t feel guilty for feeling blessed in these troubled times. Being sad or angry doesn’t help at all…
“Show resistance through art, joy, trust and love.”
Another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
Thank you to Lillian Rozin for being one of my favorite collaborators… and one of my favorite chefs, too!
Thank you to Doug Hammer for playing piano AND recording the rehearsal from which we recently selected and mixed these songs.
Thank you to Ray Brown and Lew Henderson for writing “LIfe Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries” — and to Ethel Merman for inspiring them to do so.
Thank you to William Finn for writing “Making A Home.”
You are always welcome to visit my website — where you can find more songs from The Will & Lil Show celebrating food.
Or you can find me singing — with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano — on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.
And if you are hungry for more music, you are welcome to listen to my latest release, “The Carter Family” by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman on a bunch of different digital music platforms.