"Someone in a Tree" from 1976 Broadway Show, "Pacific Overtures"
April 28, 2007 1:33 PM   Subscribe

"Someone in a Tree" -- an incedibly rare video from the original, 1976 production of "Pacific Overtures." I grew up listening to an L.P. of these same people perform this same song, but I've never before seen them perform it. I grew up in Southern Indiana, so actually seeing a Broadway show was out of the question. But I loved this song, and -- years later -- I read that it was Stephen Sondheim's favorite of all the songs he ever wrote. Today, I found this video on YouTube and it was like finally seeing someone after being blind for years. I still have chills running up and down my spine. Also: Sondheim forum, online journal, and various gems (and bombs) on youtube -- including the man himself teaching a master class and this 12-year-old's spirited performance!
posted by grumblebee (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Cool find grumblebee! My dad had records like that playing all the time too. If you haven't seen this documentary on Richard Rodgers I can't recommend it enough. Really superb with all the great perfomances included.
posted by vronsky at 1:48 PM on April 28, 2007

Musical theater gives me an urge to break things.
posted by stenseng at 2:16 PM on April 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

That's not my favorite SS show, but intriguing.

I was just recounting for someone else my youthful fan letter to Sondheim. In it I had enthused about the rhyme scheme in one of his songs.

He wrote back explaining how what I was calling a rhyme wasn't really a rhyme, and went on to illustrate the actual pattern of the song ...

I call it my songwriting lesson from Stephen Sondheim.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:32 PM on April 28, 2007

What memories this evoked; thanks so much for this find, grumblebee. To set the stage a bit (from Wikipedia):
The title of the play is ironic, nodding toward "overture" as a musical form, and archly noting that the initiatives of the Western powers for commercial exploitation of the Pacific nation were anything but pacific overtures....

The play was presented in Kabuki style, with men playing women's parts and set changes made in full view of the audience by men dressed in black. "Pacific Overtures" opened to mixed reviews and closed after six months, yet today the score is widely considered to be one of Sondheim's finest. Built around a quasi-Japanese pentatonic scale, the music contrasts Japanese contemplation ("There is No Other Way") with Western ingeniousness ("Please Hello," "Pretty Lady").... [John] Weidman wrote an underrated libretto, telling the massive story from the points of view of two Japanese men, a samurai and a fisherman.
I was one of the lucky ones to see "Overtures." I managed to score a center front-row mezzanine seat at the TKTS booth — what an introduction to Sondheim!
posted by rob511 at 3:51 PM on April 28, 2007

Nice find, g-bee--
You brightened up a rainy Saturday night.
posted by Dizzy at 5:16 PM on April 28, 2007

As I was yet to be conceived I missed this show. This song is Sondheim's favorite he wrote and it is amazing to actually see it. Thank you for digging.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:17 PM on April 28, 2007

Starring Long Duck Dong?
posted by chococat at 8:11 PM on April 28, 2007

Thanks for posting that - I love that song and it was great to see it performed (I've only ever heard it).
posted by pombe at 10:31 PM on April 28, 2007

mako! i recognised him from conan the barbarian, but apparently he "Was nominated for Broadway's 1976 Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical) for 'Pacific Overtures.' " :D
posted by kliuless at 3:14 AM on April 29, 2007

I ... *gulps, squares shoulders to bear his own philistinism* ... don't get it.

I mean, someone was in a tree. He was younger then. And in a tree. And someone was under a house, who presumably was younger then, as well. And they had very little to say about what happened, but they horned in anyway and took seven and a half minutes to say it. From a tree. And from under a house. (Heaven only knows how long they'd have taken to say it if they'd been even younger then. Like, too young to get into a tree. Or under a house.) Is this, like, an extended allegory on reader response? Or a subtle satire on 'Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?' (Proposed answer: I was younger then.) Or what?
posted by eritain at 4:03 AM on April 30, 2007

So I guess it's ironic that Gedde Watanabe's most memorable scene in Sixteen Candles (as Long Duk Dong) has him falling drunk out of a tree.
posted by metaplectic at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2007

I've always thought that it's about how people view history as wide swaths of change cut by powerful, destiny-bound men, when really it's just the actions of regular people in difficult situations that could really go either way. "It's the pebble not the stream, not the garden but the stone." It's a correlary to the "little people make history" idea which is sort of true, but also let's not go crazy here. I think it's more about the David Halberstam principle of history, that things didn't have to be this way, but for a few small decisions. I think it's also about just the concept that one can never really fully write about history without leaving something out and one can never really know the importance of the choices you make. Please note that I majored in history and have a Hirschfeld lithograph of Sondheim hanging in my living room, so I could just be projecting.
posted by pokeydonut at 10:18 PM on May 1, 2007

Or a subtle satire on 'Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?'

That would be 'Something Just Broke,' a song Sondheim added to Assassins for the 1992 London revival. Well, except that it's not satire. Or subtle. In fact, it's shoehorned into the climax of the show and has 'afterthought' written all over it. But, anyway, if you want a Sondheim song about the JFK assassination, that's the one.
posted by pokeydonut at 8:30 AM on May 2, 2007

Well, I caught and appreciated the pebble/stream line, and I don't believe that the Great Men view is all there is to history either, but did the someones in their respective tree and crawlspace actually affect that history in any way?

I guess I'm asking if there's something in the context of this song that makes it fascinating, the way it presents what it presents, or if it's just one of those 'if you gotta ask, you'll never know' things.
posted by eritain at 5:39 AM on May 3, 2007

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