Just We Two – The Musical
Recently while Dennis was making music… I was asked many questions about him, his background and his original music… and ABOUT HIS STAGE MUSIC. Sooo… Here’s a MISH MASH OF INFO… hopefully this will answer some questions, until I learn how to do all of this stuff. Signed… Sincerely, Liz Chandler aka “Mrs. Dennis”.
About “Just We Two”
Although he did not live to see the premiere of this play… we remember the late singer Steven Sterlekar… in song. He can be heard doing a duet with another talented singer, Melissa Barber. Both were kind enough to do demos of several songs. But, with this one, “I Remember the Days (Time)”… they sing lyrics that I find particularly poignant today… “Time doesn’t heal… it just ticks away…”… “No one can tell me that I’ll laugh again… though I stopped crying… I still think of then” … “Chimes of what might have lived… till this day… If time would have stopped… that day”. (Thank you for sharing your talents, Melissa and Steven)… “Though I’ve stopped crying… I’ll still think of then”.
Dennis Chandler’s Dedication
As the composer of this musical and the other mentioned below (more about that later)… Dennis dedicates all to the wonderfully generous teachers he has had. Here is his BACK STORY….
Musician Chandler has had a crazy quilt of life experiences. But, it is why he feels blessed to be able to make ALL the music he loves and in the VARIOUS styles that he loves. That’s due, in no small part, to the following folks he met along his way in the world.
First, as a very young performer in the schoolyards of Cleveland… Dennis was taught stage presence, blocking and entertaining-in-general by his first show business coach and mentor Arlene Blank Rich. She was the director of “KYW Road Show” back when student-Dennis joined that youthful troupe. Being it was his formative years Dennis Chandler aka “The Ed-U-Tainer”… feels he owes it all to her… this enjoyment of “Educating While Entertaining”.
Bandleader Chandler gives credit also to Arlene’s husband Berni Rich for the strong foundation he helped provide. Early on, Dennis learned how to sense what a crowd might want to hear… and if it turned its interest in another direction… how to get that audience’s attention back… to about the music. The Teachers Rich. What Lights.
(By the way, Berni Rich was the famed local photographer who was the first to take pictures of Barbra Streisand during her early days of performing!)
But, back to ’bout the stage play’s music: Talk ‘ bout hearing things, “I’ll try it out on my audiences”, Dennis thought. So he did… at one of his “Masters of Melody” performances at Wiggins Place. For over the past 15 years Dennis has had the pleasure of playing piano all around the campus where Wiggins is (on the Menorah campus in Beachwood, Ohio). As the “Ed-U-Tainer” he espouses a philosophy of “entertaining while educating”. He does it via a combination concert / community-lecture-learning-format in which he engages all in his audience. He likes to make each and every performance different, he says. And he does. Researching songs is made easier since he can read music… with a trained ear and mind… thanks to some wonderfully patient teachers in his past. Having the luxury of a vast library helps, too. (Can you spell: pack rat?) But, he enjoys doing a deep dive into the dozens of drawers that contain some gems from the Golden Age of American Music. So something old suddenly becomes new, for him… and by extension… for audiences, too. We organized the songbooks in some neat law-office-type furniture found for us by… a devotee of “Masters of Melody”. Sifting through the really beautiful pieces of old sheet music… has made many a night… a musical treasure hunt.
And so Composer Chandler as Pianist Dennis… did his own original music (from these two stage plays). What happened? It was mutually… musically… quite enjoyable, they said. Why? The residents in attendance at the time he tried out his theatrical numbers… were real theatergoers (to the Umpteenth power). How so?
Back in their day… the time when there still was melodic stage music being written… they were the typical audience. They experienced the excitement of hearing good melodic stage music. Yes, the kind one can sing long after the play is over… not just walking up the aisle. Many of those playgoers saw the shows in NYC. They shared some interesting stories of being invited to go “Meet and Greet”… the original composers! Only in the good old days of Broadway, eh?
So “The Ed-U-Tainer” aka Pianist Dennis played some of his songs from “Just We Two”… right there on their “Campus”. They raved and gave good grades to Composer Chandler. Talk ’bout road–testing the music… read: Road Show testing… get it?
Speaking of good grades and rave reviews… “Let Me Be Your Song” got Kudos back in the day when the great Gamble & Huff were holding songwriting seminars. The legends from the label called the Sounds of Philly were in NYC conducting classes for composers. There they gave their critique of this song. We never did get to follow up with the folks from Philly (Life happened). Speaking of finding favor… I’ll post that rave review by Gamble & Huff (notes that I only just found while de-cluttering Dennis’ files).
Composer Chandler wrote some of his stage music from “the top-of-his-head”… while… healing his body-below. It was thanks to being laid up recovering from side effects of the then-new chemo treatments for LEUKEMIA – TYPE AML. Dennis was able to finish music he was working on before his battle with Cancer (’87,’88,’89,’90 ). The webpage about his battle and victory over Cancer is titled, “The Journey“.
But, below here… is where you will find “his song for Streisand”… titled, “Let Me Be Your Song”. Dennis was working on this particular song to be done as a duet… for the famed songbird and a partner of her choice (James Brolin). I mean to say he actually was arranging it for her… while sitting with her… under a tree… BUT… it was all in a dream!
It was always a dream of Dennis’… and still is… to work with “THE GREAT STREISAND”.
Another song for her… is from the play, “Just We Two”. The wishful lament is is sung by a daughter to her father. The title is “Maybe Someday”.
Would that Composer Chandler’s songs be heard by her. She would love them, I believe. Oh, from our lips to G_d’s ears!”… or… at the very least, Barbra Streisand’s ear. It could happen, no?
Back to About the Stage Plays Composer Chandler Did the Music For
Composer Dennis still does believe the above mentioned play (“Just We Two”) and another musical (“Ruling Passion – A Musical Comedy about Richard III”) might just get mounted, yet.
In memory of playwright Deborah Osment Ryan… allow me to ask you to read about her play… (the second play Dennis did the music for). Scroll down on this webpage for the little bit written. We do have a much more fully fleshed out story about “Richard’s music”, (as I and playwright DOR liked to call it). That back story can be found on the webpage titled, “Ruling Passion – A Musical Comedy about Richard III”. Get the kettle out. Brew some tea. Then read on… as we remember dearly, departed Deborah Osment Ryan (who died December 24, 2016… home alone). May her memory be a Blessing… (and her play mounted).
Composer Chandler also asked to dedicate this to another special group of talent. These folks coached him, but in a different way. To explain, in 1990 we were invited to appear on the National Leukemia Telethon. We met the following stars of stage, screen, television and the written word … the late, great Steve Allen, his wife, Jayne Meadows, Florence Henderson, Shirley Jones and her husband, Marty Ingels. They were some of the telethon hosts who were helping to raise funds for cancer research.
(Note: Since this writing sadly, of this group of stars… only Shirley Jones survives. It is my hope that I might be able to share with Shirley some of these songs, by way of thanks.)
Back to being interviewed by Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows…
Dennis, who had battled and beat AML – ACUTE MYELOID LEUKEMIA… was THE TELETHON’S ONLY FEATURED ADULT SURVIVOR and was being interviewed about his NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE… when he was told to “Go back… it is not yet your time… your calling is on Earth”. And after playing piano… the iconic Steve Allen told Dennis… he must do more with what he was given. “God brought you back for a reason. I would love to hear what you are going to write!” Thank you, God. Here, it is. And Steve Allen, hear you go!
Back to about the PREMIERE of “Just We Two – The Musical”
By the way, why playwright Brenner chose to call it “new” escapes us for it was started so long ago. And now its premiere in 2011 seems so long ago, too. But, the memory lingers of that wonderful reception by the audiences at Tallmadge Theatre. Standing ovations and soaring hopes to take the show to THE GREAT WHITE WAY in NYC… also memories. For alas without the right backing (read: funding and connections)… it remains here in Cyberspace… in bits and pieces… (until I learn how to make the music go viral).
A shout out of “Thanks” to director Frank Chaff Iv, the talented cast of grade schoolers, high schoolers, young college and community actors who helped present this musical. Finally, for their spot-on accompaniment, Bandleader / Composer Chandler gives Kudos to the following professional musicians: drummer John Mosconi, bassist Dan Horswell and guitarist Michael Dragas, Jr. Your time, talent and tenaciousness are appreciated, still.
So what’s needed next? Angels of the New York theater-type (can you say Tom Hanks, Oprah, Whoopie or Harvey as in Fierstein?) … OR… Grants as in the Genius-type grants (can you say MacArthur Grant?)
We are still waiting on Director Frank Chaff IV to locate a DVD copy of the stageplay. It was filmed with three cameras at Tallmadge Theatre. Film doesn’t lie. Put another way, “the proof is in the pudding”. Dennis says he’d gladly take a dose… for he would love to see it. Says, he was too busy being in the moment(s)… as Conductor and bandmember.
What will be the next big project for Composer Chandler to write music for? He awaits direction… confident as a composer waiting in the wings… or is it the pit? (Read the webpage titled “Prophecy for Dennis”)
BUT… LET’S TALK ABOUT CRITICS … as in ANOTHER CRITIC’S REVIEW:
“The music of ‘JUST WE TWO’ is MAGNIFICENT! Its MUSIC IS GREAT ON ITS OWN, SO IT IS INEVITABLE THAT SOMEONE WILL RISE UP TO THE TOP OF THIS SHOW! BRAVO, composer Chandler and playwright Brenner!” George Foster, NORTH CAROLINA OPERA.
Back to about “Just We Two”…
Going back in time… HOW GOOD ARE THE SONGS? We were told by the playwright that one critic said if not enough actors were found to do it as a stage play, it should still be done. Perhaps as a musical revue with all 22 songs? This was said after the critic heard only just a few of the songs. The critic and the director both feel this FAMILY piece with its message is sorely needed today.
Going farther back in time… ABOUT AUDITION REACTIONS: When the show was being finally cast, THE SONGS ELICITED TEARS and THEN SPONTANEOUS APPLAUSE from those auditioning and from THOSE ATTENDING THE AUDITIONS. That boded well for the music. For example, Composer Chandler was delighted when a six year old IMMEDIATELY PICKED UP the melody of one particularly (he thought) difficult song. She got the melody IN SECONDS. Sang it straightaway; full out. It wasn’t even her song. It was always his intention to make this play’s music MEMORABLE. He thought, “Out of the mouths of babes”?
Currently… STILL A GOOD PREMISE: THIS PLAY is based on a situation EVERYONE CAN RELATE TO. A loved one lying in a bed in a hospital room. The play begins with family members coming into the room to visit. They are then seen one by one, pondering and reflecting upon their life together with the patient. Emotions come back in flashbacks, emotions come in the moment. They lament. They cajole. They sing their hearts out with their respective “SHOUDA-WOULDA-COUDAS”. Again, everyone will relate to this play.
FYI & Bears Repeating… Book & Lyrics were written with humor and pathos by former syndicated cartoonist-turned playwright, Larry Brenner. It is semi-autobiographical for both lyricist and composer. First, the lead character as a writer working with words… wants to be taken seriously… delivers his dialogue in short sing-song syllables. Then, he acts out in lyrical laments… singing all his own “SHOULDA-WOULDA-COULDAS”.
The music was written by Composer Dennis Chandler who wanted all 22 songs to be MELODIC. Even the few rock ‘n’ roll songs are in an older more traditional “MELODIC BROADWAY STYLE”.
For all time… OUT OF TRAGEDY COMES ART (Again) (?) FIRST time for Dennis was when playwright DEBORAH OSMENT RYAN sent her script titled “RULING PASSION – A MUSICAL COMEDY ABOUT RICHARD III”. The music was first written in his head, while he was bed-bound.
Wanting to return to life before cancer (how could one ever do that, one may ask). But, Dennis did go on to do business but not as usual. Prejudice for people whom they whispered as “having the C word”… was strong. For the financial devastation alone, he had to put “the Day Job” first and “his music” second. So that is how Dennis took to being low profile and low key, so to speak.
Referring now to “Just We Two”… When playwright Brenner came back into our life he told Dennis he had finished what they both started so long ago. But, he said it wasn’t until after overcoming his own health hurdles (LB had testicular cancer) that he came to understand more fully what the words were saying (when he first wrote them). And Dennis said, he thinks he’s just really beginning to understand the DEEP MEANING OF THIS PLAY FOR HIM. (Talk about mental blocks!)
Well, they made it. Out of tragedy comes art. These two survivors “Know from whence they speak!”
About that above-mentioned “Prophecy for Dennis” that Mrs. Lou Kassouf was “given from above” and “written down” so long ago… might just come about. Who is Lou, one may wonder? She was a neighbor here in our community. We only knew her from when she had Dennis play piano for a “gathering” at her North Hill home. Along with the “Prophecy”, her note shared how she gathered together others to pray when she heard he was deathly ill. Dennis did stay for 32 days and when I brought him home from Huron Road Hospital… it was the night before Christmas Eve… and we found “Prayer notes from Neighbor Lou”! What a Light.
So perhaps the power of her Prophecy will transcend Time. Better late then never. The power of prayer… and the power of music… remains to be seen… and heard.
Liz Chandler, Website Writer