As Composer Chandler: 2 Staged Musicals So Far
Summer 2023: 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? Because I am my own teacher. Signed, “Student Liz” … aka “Mrs. Dennis” … aka … Archivist.
The first song below … is just one of the 22 songs … from the stage play titled, “Just We Two”. (Book & Lyrics by Playwright Larry Brenner with Music by Composer Dennis Chandler).
And what will TOMORROW bring? Maybe BARBRA? Maybe Spike Lee? To explain … it was always a DREAM of Dennis’ … and STILL is … to work with “THE GREAT STREISAND” … and the ICONIC Director, too. (Why? I write about A. Grace Lee Mims’ nephew elsewhere … but … first about “Babs” …)
SCROLL … way down … below … for … the LINK to hear … “Let Me Be Your Song”.
It was inspired by the ICONIC Barbra Streisand … with whom we have yet to make a connection. I say “yet” because … we can always hope, no? How so? A FAN of PIANIST-DENNIS … said she might have a way … via a relative of hers … to connect DC to BS! But first I was asked … by that fan of DC’s … “What has been written about DC that I could share?” Hence all this info here … and on Face Book. BTW: Back in the day … we told BB King about DC’s admiration for her talents. Her voice, in particular. It plays in Dennis’ mind, (so to speak). Poppa BB implied that BS would be easy to talk to. Why? BB said when the two of them met … she was warm and gracious. He offered to help with a hookup, (so to speak) … from one artist to another, he said. But, it wasn’t meant to be … sadly, BB passed (in 2015).
BB is gone … but Barbra is still here. That’s why … we say, “we have yet to meet her”. It seems like a long way to go … however … there is the-all-politics-is-local syndrome. The someone who proferred that info … about a relative of hers … having done a Broadway project with the songbird? Well, that-fan-of-Pianist-Dennis … she moved not too far from us. (Three miles away… “close enough for rock and roll”, as the saying goes). See, all politics is local. BTW she’s one of the many fine folks who asked for info (on DC). That’s why I decided to data-enter all this stuff … the songs … the stories. Hence me signing as web writer Liz Chandler aka Mrs. Dennis aka Archivist.
Wish us well. That we get to hook up again with that-fan-of-Pianist-Dennis … that he gets to play for resident-fan-Marcie. And that … Archivist-Me … gets more of what’s needed, networking-wise. Why? Well… to quote another song … that Composer-Chandler did for playwright Larry Brenner’s stage play, “Just We Two” … “Maybe Someday” … we will get to those on … The Great White Way … even if it’s via Zoom.
Until then we will … to paraphrase Barbra … “Keep chasing … dreams” … (Barbra, can you hear me?”) …
Speaking of DREAMS … 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 subsequent rounds brought his battle with LEUKEMIA-Type AML … to a VICTORIOUS end. Life began anew and so did Dennis’ dreams.
BTW: The link below is not the demo that won … way back in the day … this song’s first GOOD GRADE and RAVE REVIEW. There was no demo for then. Fortunately for us the judges were real creative-types. The song was presented with just sheet music … and sung by an unknown. None-the-less … they loved the song so much … they used it as an example to others at their event. What was the event? Who were the judges? The great GAMBLE & HUFF. How it happened was … way back in the day … they held several series of SONGWRITING SEMINARS. The LEGENDS from the label called THE SOUNDS OF PHILY … were in NYC … this time. There they conducted classes for composers. My brother Phil took it upon himself to travel to Manhattan to pitch some of our songs. Upon hearing this song … Gamble & Huff … gave it A RAVE REVIEW. Plus the producers offered a contract … a “360 Degree” one … as the industry labels call some contracts … (go to Google on this stuff).
In any case … we never did get to follow up with those fine folks from Philly. Why? Health hurdles here at home for us. For them … tax hurdles from the powers-that-were … at the time. So albeit belatedly, I’m posting that CRITIQUE from PRODUCERS GAMBLE & HUFF.
By the way, these notes I only recently found while de-cluttering Dennis’ files. Seems Spring has come a little early this year … Spring cleaning, that is. But blossoms do bloom … and they sometimes bloom late … and I hear a songbird. Yes, Babs is buzzin’ in my brain.
More Back Story about … “Let Me Be Your Song”. The lyrics were written by my brother Phil Smoluk and me … aka Liz Smoluk Chandler. Music was written by my hubby and Soulmate … aka … Composer Chandler. Instrumentation … arranged, produced and recorded by musician-composer-Dennis. The melodious vocals for this demo are by Tom Schuck. (ERROR … FILE NOT FOUND … TO BE ADDED 8/10/2023)
Oh, would that these 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 the two plays … that Chameleon Chandler wrote the music for.
Briefly I must mention “Ruling Passion – A Musical Comedy About Richard III”. The book and lyrics were written by Deborah Osment Ryan, now of Blessed Memory. The music by Composer Chandler. Speaking of Deborah, Dennis and BB King being on my mind. There’s more ’bout BB insisting the two eggheads … Dennis and Deborah … become collaborators. They did. This particular project was began during a BLIZZARD of a NOR’ EASTER! We left BB’s large luxurious suite at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan … just in time … to get to Deborah’s tiny domacide on City Island. There while snowed in Dennis and Deborah started doin’ their thing. Their “ruling passion” … writing. Go to webpage titled, “Ruling Passion” listed UP above. Plus there’s more WAY DOWN BELOW. Scroll on.
(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.)
2023 Spring has sprung … and … Hope Springs Eternal? Perhaps we will get “our” plays produced yet! For now SOME of the ORIGINAL STAGE MUSIC Composer Chandler has done is on THIS website page you are reading … https://dennischandler.com/index.php/just-we-two-the-musical/
The REST of the original stage music … resides in reel-to-reel tapes and cds … waiting to be launched. Maybe go VIRAL … via CYBERSPACE? I’m teaching myself how to do that. Any help would be appreciated. Some of the ORIGINAL MUSIC … MISC. MUSIC, DRAFTS & DEMOS, etc. … go to … website page … https://dennischandler.com/index.php/original-compositions/
2023: The Back Story Behind the Stage Music Timing.
In 1982, PLAYWRIGHT LARRY BRENNER & COMPOSER DENNIS CHANDLER met. It was at a writing seminar in Cleveland.
It was held under the auspices of the SONGWRITERS GUILD of AMERICA. SGA was headquartered in NYC. Its President … was a REKNOWN songwriter himself … GEORGE DAVID WEISS. He needed help here in our hometown. We said “Yes!”. (Who would say no to the man who wrote “What a Wonderful World” … that favorite of mutual friend, the famous Louis “Satchmo” Louis Armstrong).
The great GDW … that’s how we met … homeboy Brenner. Thus began Brenner & Chandler as collaborators. (Plus Larry’s idea for a MUSICAL titled, “JUST WE TWO”). Then Life placed some big HEALTH HURDLES in the way. Eventually the two of them got through … their respective ordeals. They BOTH OVERCAME CANCER. They continued their collaboration and completed the stage play.
THE PREMISE OF THIS PLAY: Everyone can relate to having a loved one lying in a bed in a hospital room. The play begins when family comes to visit. They are 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 … 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. He delivers his dialogue … in short sing-song syllables. He acts out in lyrical laments … singing all his own “SHOULDA-WOULDA-COULDAS”. Then family members take their turn. 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”.
In 2011 … it was given its WORLD PREMIERE at the beautiful … then-new … state-of-the-art … “Theatre at Tallmadge High”, here in Ohio. Both nights drew STANDING OVATIONS and SOARING HOPES … to take the show to BROADWAY (in NYC). But without the right backing … meaning without funding … it was not meant to be.
In 2015 … Again … TIMING was off … to take “our” play … to the GREAT WHITE WAY. … FUNDING was lost … to take “our” play … to the GREAT WHITE WAY. Why? Perhaps because there was another production … with the same premise … that DID make it to Broadway. It was a smash, too. Perhaps because it had … producers with deep pockets … and … in the cast was Larry David? Yes, that famed Larry … of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Cheers” & “Seinfeld”, etc. See told ya, it’s all about timing … (and money).
2011 …This Thank-U-Gram bears repeating here … for that WORLD PREMIERE of The Musical – “Just We Two”
A shout out of “Thanks” goes 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.
2023 … Now what “our” Musical could use … are angels of the New York theatre-type … or … grants as in those … Genius-type grants … (can you say … MacArthur Grant?)
We are awaiting a DVD copy of what was filmed at the Tallmadge Theatre. Dennis says he would love to enjoy the play from another perspective … on a BIG screen. Why? Dennis was too busy being in the moment(s) … as Conductor and bandmember. So, hopefully they locate a copy … and the film comes back OK from the Drugstore, (as old timers used to put it). I jest … but it was 2011. A two-camera setup was used … and film has to be edited … old school. See … I said, it’s all about … timing … (and money).
RAVE REVIEW about the MUSIC … NORTH CAROLINA OPERA CRITIC’S REVIEW … “The music of “Just We Two” is magnificent! The music is great on its own, so it is inevitable that someone will rise up to the top of this show! BRAVO, composer Dennis Chandler and playwright Larry Brenner!” George Foster, NCO.
HOW GOOD ARE THE SONGS? We were told by the playwright that ANOTHER CRITIC said if we could not get enough actors 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.
LET’S GO FARTHER BACK IN TIME … ABOUT REACTIONS AT THE AUDITIONS When the 2011 show was being cast … the SONGS ELICITED TEARS … and … then SPONTANEOUS APPLAUSE. All 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 … and 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?”
About the feelings of these two collaborators … When PLAYWRIGHT BRENNER came back into our life … he told Dennis he had finally finished … what they both started so long ago. But he said it wasn’t until after … overcoming his own health hurdles. That’s when he came to understand more fully … what the words were saying. For COMPOSER CHANDLER? Dennis said he thinks he’s just really beginning … to understand the DEEP MEANING of THIS PLAY … for himself. (Talk about mental blocks!) Well, they made it.
Out of TRAGEDY … comes ART. These two survivors “Know from whence they speak!” ———————————————————
1988: About “A Prophecy for Dennis” authored by Lou Kassouf
Maybe it just might come about … yet. It seems so long ago when Lou Kassouf told us … that the words were … “given from above and “written down” by her … (after she saw Dennis back jogging in the neighborhood). But, first about Lou. She was a neighbor here in our community of sixty-some houses. We only knew her from when she invited Dennis play piano … for a “gathering” at her North Hill home.
That was previous to Dennis’ battle with Leukemia – type AML. After his lengthy hospitalization of 32 days … I brought him home from Huron Road Hospital. It was the night before Christmas Eve … and in our mailbox … I found many notes wishing us well. They were addressed to “Our Jogger” and most were signed, “From your North Hill Neighbors”. Although they could have easily dropped them in our box … they chose to mail them. That was the-night-before-Christmas Eve (of 1987).
It was a long string of seasons.Then in 1989 … Lou’s “Prophecy for Dennis” was mailed. The postmark? Valentine’s Day. A special Holi-day, in deed. Much later that year … Lou shared how she gathered together others in this community to pray when she heard how deathly ill Dennis was. What Lights lived ’round us and we didn’t even know it. We do now. 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. Read about it here … go to … https://dennischandler.com/index.php/prophecy-for-dc/
Now … Back to about … “our” musical – “Just We Two”
Below is the opening number “Let’s Be Grownups” … for now it is here as an INSTRUMENTAL … (vocals will be added).
Below … are a FEW of the VOCALIZED songs. MANY OTHERS NEED to have the VOCALS ADDED. (Any volunteers?)
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.
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.
The next photo collage is dedicated to my big brother … thanks for being there for us.
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 also gives credit to … Arlene’s husband Berni Rich. He helped out in those above-mentioned parking lots … giving the group a strong foundation, (pardon the pun). They are why … 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 a famed local photographer. Also he was one of 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.
Fridays with Dennis … Weekly at Wiggins … What a Blessing
By the way … for over 30 years Dennis had the pleasure of playing piano all around the Menorah Campus. But, the Covid pandemic caused numerous lockdowns … thus preventing live performances to continue … until recently. Today 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.
Thus Pianist Dennis gets to have that feeling of family … whenever … he is called to do musical duty … and … wherever … on the Menorah Campus. By popular request … he has returned to RH Myers. By popular invitation … Dennis performs in the Piazza at the Main Building at Menorah. It’s a Blessing.
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?