As Composer Chandler: 2 Staged Musicals So Far

CHAMELEON CHANDLER has many OLD REEL-TO-REEL RAW DEMO TAPES. Daily, I am finding more DRAFTS, too. This website has become a SONG REPOSITORY, of sorts. From tape to computer… another leg of a song’s journey. May it bring us… more EGGHEADS (read: musicians, singers, etc.) Wish me luck … with this tech stuff… it’s tough. Why? I am my own teacher. Signed, “Student Liz” aka “Mrs. Dennis”. May 2022

Will We Ever Catch Up With Tomorrow

And what will TOMORROW bring? Barbra? To explain… it was always a DREAM of Dennis’… and STILL is… to work with “The Great Streisand”. 

Dennis was working on one particular song… to be done as a duet… for the famed songbird to sing with a partner. He thought perhaps for her and her husband, James Brolin? Let me explain… Dennis was arranging HIS music for THEM… while sitting with HER… under a tree. BUT… IT WAS ALL IN A DREAM. When was that first vision? In 1987 when he began his first rounds of… then-newly-researched… fresh-out-of-FDA… chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Those and subsquente rounds brought his battle with LEUKEMIA-Type AML… to a VICTORIOUS end. Life began anew and so did Dennis’ dreams. 

“Let Me Be Your Song”: This song got a GOOD GRADE and RAVE REVIEW… from some other ICONIC creative-types. It was when the great GAMBLE & HUFF were holding SONGWRITING SEMINARS in NYC.  The LEGENDS from the label called THE SOUNDS OF PHILY… were conducting classes for composers. There they GAVE A RAVE REVIEW. We never did get to follow up with those fine folks from Philly. Why? Health hurdles. So albeit belatedly, I’m posting that CRITIQUE from PRODUCERS GAMBLE & HUFF. (By the way, these notes I only just found while de-cluttering Dennis’ files).

The lyrics were written by the two of us (LC & DC). Music by Composer Chandler. Instrumentation… arranged, produced and recorded by musician-composer DC. The melodious vocals are by Melissa Barber. Click on the title to hear the song. 

Let Me Be Your Song

Plus… she may relate to a song from the play “Just We Two”. It is a lament from daughter to father. (It is reprised down below).  

Maybe Someday  

Oh, would that Composer Chandler’s songs be heard by her. She would love them, I believe. Thus, I ask the Universe, ” From our lips to G_d’s ears!”… or… at the very least, Barbra Streisand’s ear. It could happen, no?

Now back to about two plays… that Chameleon Chandler wrote the music for. One was “Just We Two”… book and lyrics by playwright Larry Brenner. The other was “Ruling Passion – A Musical Comedy About Richard III”… book and lyrics by Deborah Osment Ryan, now of Blessed Memory. (There’s more info on a dedicated webpage listed UP above… with some mentions about it… WAY below.). 

(May 2022: I am awaiting our bandwith to be bumped up… to take the twenty-five minute track of DC doin’ his thing… STREAM-of-CONSCIOUSNESS-KEYBOARD-PLAYING.) 

But, for NOW… listen and look at “Just We Two” … below are a few of VOCALIZED songs. MANY OTHERS NEED VOCALS added. (Any volunteers?) Opening number is here as an INSTRUMENTAL (vocals will be added). 

Let’s Be Grownup

Just We Two

Cry, Cry, Cry

In Blessed Memory of Steven Sterlekar. Sadly, he did not live to see the play’s first staging. In our “GooGoo’s Maltshop”… one can see the writing on the wall (of the phone booth). Steven signed the following message … Some deem his writing is difficult to deciper… but he wrote:  “Dennis, don’t forget me! Because one day my name will be in lights!” Well, his name might not be in lights down here on Earth… but his beautiful tenor voice is Up there… in G_d’s Cyberspace.

Hear him now… doing a duet with the talented singer, Melissa Barber. Both were kind enough to do demos of several songs (and we thank them). One song is titled, “I Remember the Days (Time)”. In this time of pandemic… one may find the lyrics particularly poignant. They sing,“Time doesn’t heal… it just ticks away…” …“No one can tell me that I’ll laugh again… though I’ve stopped crying… I still think of then”…  “Chimes of what might have lived… till this day… If time would have stopped… that day”. In my head I hear, “Though I’ve stopped crying… I’ll still think of then”. See, we haven’t forgotten you, dear Steven.

I Remember The Days (Time)

Again this song is a lament sung by a daughter to her father. I dedicate the photo collage… to my late father. He made me believe… that wishes can come true.
Maybe Someday
The next photo collage is dedicated to my big brother… thanks for being there for us.  

Who Needs Boys, Who Need Girls

Marry Me 

Words

Uncle

Come Back to Me

Nothing’s Changed Since Then

Ya Gotta Get Better Grampa

Sandy

Different Drummer     

Will We Ever Catch Up With Tomorrow

I Wish I Knew

Let’s Be Children Again 

My Sign is You – Finale










                     
 

Dennis Chandler’s Dedication                 

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 coach and mentor Arlene Blank Rich. “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.

BTW: Berni Rich was the famed local photographer who was the first to take pictures of Barbra Streisand during her early days of performing!

Another photo of “The Great Streisand” that is on OUR VISION BOARD …

Speaking of inspiring musical mentors… the backstory of how Dennis met these two Marvin Mavens…  is fleshed out on the web page titled “Marvin Hamlisch, Mina Kulber and Me”. 

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. They loved it. By the way… for over 15 years Dennis had the pleasure of playing piano there and all around the Menorah Campus. But, the Covid pandemic caused numerous lockdowns… thus preventing live performances to continue… until recently. He says to return to a place he calls his “second home”… both delights and saddens him. Why? Many of whom he considered mispocha (extended family)… are gone. But, based on his most recent playing engagements there… he has been told he now has new mispocha… to make music for.  

Of course… as the “Ed-U-Tainer” he plans on doing his thing. What’s that? Dennis 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 those wonderfully patient teachers, (the ones mentioned above and many others, too numerous to list). For more info… along with some of the songs Pianist Dennis likes to do… are on this website’s page titled “Masters of Melody”.
 
Having the luxury of a vast library helps, too. (Can you spell: PACK RAT?) But, Dennis does enjoy doing a deep dive into the dozens of drawers. They 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 these beautiful credenzas. The type that one would associate with a professor’s office. We found them at our friend’s liquidation business. Since he was a devotee of Dennis’ “Masters of Melody” sessions… he cut Dennis a deal. (He had to play the debt off, so to speak!) Sifting through the really beautiful pieces of old sheet music… has made many a night… a musical treasure hunt. 
 

Composer Chandler as Pianist Dennis was again asked to do some of his own original music (from these two stage plays). What happened? It was mutually… musically… quite enjoyable, they said. Why? Those 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 right there on their “Campus”. They raved and gave good grades to Composer Chandler. Talk ’bout roadtesting the music… read: Road Show testing… get it?

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“.

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, dear Lord. Here, it is. And Steve Allen, hear you go!

Back to about the PREMIERE of “Just We Two – The New 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 a two camera setup at Tallmadge Theatre. Dennis says he’d love to enjoy the play from another perspective. 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 “A 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 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 “A 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. Dennis did stay hospitalized for 32 days. I brought him home from Huron Road Hospital the night before Christmas Eve… and found many prayer notes in our mailbox… including these for “our jogger in the hood”.


Lou shared how she gathered together others in our community to pray when she heard how deathly ill he was. What Lights lived ’round us and we didn’t even know it. We do now.
To read it in full… go to the webpage titled, “A Prophecy for Dennis”.

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.

Bears repeating … and a reprise …

Will We Ever Catch Up With Tomorrow

Will We Love Again

Liz Chandler, Website Writer  2022