Composer Chandler’s “Ruling Passion – A Musical Comedy About Richard III”

1591 … Richard III is a play by William Shakespeare, that many believe was written this year. It was following the rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. After Hamlet, it is the longest play in Shakespeare’s canon.

2023 … Here is THE SAGA OF “RULING PASSION – A MUSICAL COMEDY ABOUT RICHARD III”. Book & Lyrics by the late Playwright Deborah Osment Ryan with Music by Composer Dennis Chandler.

2015 … Media reports, “WORLD RENEWED INTEREST IN ALL THINGS, RICHARD III” Why? Because DNA tests CONFIRM that the bones found in an unmarked grave in England ARE the BONES of KING RICHARD III.HUMPTY DUMPTY CAST IRON BANK SHOT DC TOOK crop2023 … Hear Yea, Hear Yea: 

 Web Writer Liz

aka “Mrs. Dennis”  (as BB dubbed me)

aka “Archivist”  (as Deborah dubbed me).

Oh, we wish that … A MacARTHUR GENIUS GRANT  … would come our way. Then, perhaps this “Ruling Passion” play just might get mounted yet. Timing!  (Translation? Maybe in our lifetime! For dear Deborah is up in another already?) 

Before one reads the following … “Notes on Ruling Passion”by the late, lauded journalist and teacher Carol Bush … we post this excerpt from her obituary.

2006 … “Lauded Bay High School journalism teacher Carol Bush died Sept. 27, 2006 from complications of a rare blood cancer. She was 80. Bush taught for 22 years at Bay High and launched more than a few careers among graduates who have spread across the country. They include … Chris Willman, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, later a music critic at Entertainment Weekly and Chris Sinzinger, an editor at the Washington Post. Other students landed at the Chicago Tribune, Mother Jones magazine and of course, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

While at Bay High she steered the weekly student newspaper … which won a record-breaking 18 awards in one year (’75-’76) … including first place from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and numerous other awards. After retiring from Bay High in 1990, Bush taught English at Lorain Community College and was a journalist workshop presenter at Kent State University and Bowling Green University. She had been a director of annual statewide high school journalism competitions.

Carol Bush was also a president of the Women’s Committee of the Great Lakes Theatre Festival”.    Obituary written by Donna J. Miller of the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Now for Carol Bush’s Notes on

“Ruling Passion – A Musical Comedy About Richard III”

“First, let me say that I hold the highest respect for Dennis and Deborah. In fact, I am in awe of both of them for having combined their talents to bring forth this magnificent work.
Only today, I read a feature on the film, “Moulin Rouge”, described as “surreal” because, in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, it brings contemporary music into a period piece. That retro-cum-current slant is apparent in “Ruling Passion”, especially in the familiarity of the language of the 21st Century. The anachronistic humor of this device drew frequent smiles from this reader.

The Big Surprise was that Richard III is depicted as a Good Guy. What a switch!”

On all counts, of course, the music is superb. Bravo, Dennis!

Many thanks for letting me share these works. I feel honored!

Has this been submitted to the Playhouse? To Beck Center? (Known for experimentation)? Earlier when we spoke, you said it had never gone to Great Lakes Theatre Festival. Maybe the time is ripe to try.
Saga of How Deborah & Dennis Met –

How “Ruling Passion” Was Written –

How It Was Received at Its Staged Reading

1970s  … was when Deborah and Dennis first met. It happened via our mutual friend BB KING. It was after Dennis expressed aloud … that he wanted to compose music for the stage. Then his long-time mentor, dear friend and “second father” (as BB appointed himself) … said he knew the perfect person to introduce him to. The Blues legend told him, “It’s got to be … DEBORAH OSMENT RYAN. She’s a writer.” (DETROIT ENTERTAINMENT PROMOTER … REPORTER and CRITIC). He was excited as he told “Adopted son Dennis” about dear friend Deborah. “Timing seems right for you two creative-types … to finally meet”, was the way BB put it. So they did.

It happened when we were “running on the road” with him. That’s how BB called the way family and friends had to catch up with him … while he was working … on tour. It was when he was doing a lot of one night stands. Thus when he became more famous he was booked for more than one night in one place.

So it was wonderful when we got to spend two weeks in one place … with him. One particular MOTOR CITY playing engagement was just that. The then-new DEARBORN TOWN CENTER. Our little foursome … got to spend some quality time together … and in a quality place … (for people-watching, too). 

Although audience members sought him out … post his performances … they were polite. They respected his “Private Time” … and that we had with him. Priceless. 

One of the roles he oftentimes liked to play? Host. BB always loved to hold court. Hence his hosting was done in his hotel suite. Those were the days of BB being able to walk about freely in the Dearborn Center. Since it was so huge … he would say, “Let me walk you home” … meaning … to our adjoining suites … way down the hall. Whenever we would walk BB back to his suite … we’d stop, look over the balcony railing … and begin people-watching. He just loved doing that. (Imagine the scene. The four of us being so free … just to be! ) In addition, Deborah-the-music-reporter … managed to get other BLUES LEGENDS … to come ’round for conversations … of the MUSICAL kind.  (Read: JAM SESSIONS!) 

It was during those wonderful weeks in Detroit … that Deborah and Dennis spoke of collaborating … on a couple of future projects. One such project discussed … was her idea of a “Musical Comedy about Richard III”. That idea appealed to the Composer-in-Chandler. She said she would get back to Dennis … after she wrote the book and lyrics … so that he could write the music.

1974 ...  A few years later but BB had Deborah and Dennis discuss it again. This time it was in Windsor, Ontario where she was working to promote the “ANN ARBOR BLUES & JAZZ FESTIVAL IN EXILE”. Musician-Dennis was there playing on the bill with two of his musical mentors and teachers BB King and Robert Jr. Lockwood (later aka Robert Lockwood).

The great success of the landmark weekend … earned kudos all ’round. Here’s headliner BB getting  “Congrats” …  and a hug from promoter Deborah.   DEBORAH OSMENT BB KING AT ANN ARBOR BLUES FEST crop 12 28

1987 … Talk of writing the play … “Ruling Passion” continued. But it would be years later … that Deborah and Dennis got serious. This time it was in February of ’87. That’s when BB King flew us to New York City to join him and Deborah … as his guests for his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock Hall BB King award (2) a


The jam ended … Meet and Greet with autograph-signing ended. We went from the Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria … upstairs to breakfast with BB. Obviously we planned to be up late. But a forecast for a BIG snowstorm … forced BB to leave out early for the road. He beat the storm. But, the three of us did not. We left our luxurious Waldorf Astoria suite … to land on little City Island … where Deborah was living at the time. Then the blizzard began. We were snowed in her tiny abode. There was nothing to do. So Deborah and Dennis started to write. 

February 1987 Blizzard … Thus began the birth of the music for “Ruling Passion” during that “N’or Easter. It was a fitful start of the music. Progress on the play continued but then later that year … in November … Dennis was struck down by CANCER.

November 1987 …  The cancer was a blood cancer. LEUKEMIA – Type AML … (aka acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia). Dennis’ battle and eventual victory is detailed on the webpage titled, “The Journey”.

Dennis had a lengthy incredible battle with two near-death experiences. The first time … he heard the following … “Go back, my son, it is not yet your time. Your calling is on Earth, not in Heaven!” The second time … he heard … “I am the Lord, your God. I will heal you completely. You believe in me!”

That’s what started him … to try … to complete the play’s score. For Dennis, this play’s music is particularly meaningful and seemed fittingly titled “RULING PASSION”. Why? He began the music before he began the treatments for his leukemia. Rounds of ravaging chemotherapy left him listless physically … but not mentally. Desire to write the-music-in-his-mind gave Dennis a much-needed positive focus.
1988 … That’s Couch-Potato-Dennis watching over his “The Les Paul #1” … in the hands of another. Yes, it’s the one Les Paul dubbed, “That Lucky Les Paul”. The guitarist? Bill Gordon. He’s the one who introduced us to Les Paul. Bill “Smoochie” Gordon was a media pioneer and talkshow host … who knew Les Paul and Mary Ford from back in the day, as they say. Being BG’s musical director … DC became acquainted with many such mutual media types.

So how lucky is that “The Les Paul #1”? Gordon got this guitar out … to remind us that Les Paul played it and look what it did for him.  How so?

1980 … was when Les and Dennis … did … an impromptu concert at the Cleveland Clinic. It was just prior to Les’ open heart surgery. How it happened? Les Paul JR. called Gibson-Rep-Dennis. He asked DC to bring some LP model guitars (to the hospital). Rusty aka Les Paul JR. hoped his dear Dad aka Les Paul SR. would see them and want to play again.

To explain, Les SR. had NOT been playing … since learning he had to have heart surgery. He was depressed … but … when Les saw how downtrodden the other patients were? Les told Dennis, “Let’s try to cheer these folks up. Grab one of those guitars you brought. I’ll take this one … “THE” Les Paul. (Yes, that is how Les pronounced “THEE”, … it was a marketing thing)

As GIBSON-REP-CHANDLER …. DC did his due diligence. What does the dictionary define that as? “Reasonable care and caution or the proper actions that a situation calls for, especially those that help to avoid harm or risk”. With Les  … he lucked out … picking out … the right LP guitars. Les lifted everyone’s Spirits. 

Les said he wanted to cheer his fellow patients up? Boy, did they ever.

As MUSIC-THERAPIST-DENNIS … DC did his due diligence … accompanying LEAD-GUITARIST-LES.

For PATIENT-LES … the music they played worked wonders for him, too. Les made it through his surgery and hence he dubbed Dennis’ guitar … “That LUCKY Les Paul”.  Getting Gordon down to the clinic was something else! To learn more about what it took … go to this website page titled, “The Les Paul #1”. Unbelievable. But what a Blessing. 

1990s ...Back to about Deborah … for her the play took on a less favorable focus. To explain, after she moved from Detroit to L.A. her reasoning was that there would be more opportunity to do her creative writing.  She set what would have been for her … easily attainable goals. She wanted to become a screenwriter and make movies that made money. Then that money could be used to mount plays. Not just her own plays but those of other writers, too. Her dream lost its luster … when one of her sons was killed tragically in an accident caused by a drunken driver … (on a Hollywood freeway). “Ruling Passion” is dedicated to her son, DAVID RYAN.
1990 ... Thus, bittersweet were the rewards of a successful first reading of the play. It was held before an audience of Shakespearean actors at THE AMERICAN CENTER FOR MUSIC THEATRE (on Hollywood Boulevard.) Deborah called Dennis from L.A. to inform her then-convalescing collaborator that “the music was overwhelmingly received!”… “Incredible music, who is this composer?”… “What’s he doing in Cleveland?”… to quote the lamented, late NORM MAYBAUM. I was told he was then considered a premiere theatre figure and amongest the powers behind the famed Westwood Theatre. Plus, Norm Maybaum told Deborah … what Dennis was told earlier that year … by the great STEVE ALLEN, “Dennis you should be here in Hollywood … in L.A.”

Earlier that year we attended the telethon aka televent for the National Leukemia Society. It originated from the Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood, California.

The TV Pioneer was still hosting talkshows and Steve Allen along with his wife actress Joyce Meadows interviewed Dennis as that year’s ONLY ADULT LEUKEMIA SURVIVOR.

There the iconic Steve Allen addressed the issue of one being “Spoken to”. He was deeply spritual. As was his dear wife, Jayne Meadows. She and her sister the actress Audrey Meadows had a missonary father. I bring that up … because it was in her DNA … to be kind. And she was … to both of us. To explain … just as they began to discuss our ordeal … I started to tense up. (I should note that I’m was no shrinking violet … we were used to being on camera … onstage, etc.) But, not to worry … Jayne had me covered (in prayer, no doubt). I know she sure strong-armed me. Look at the one photo. I just relaxed and rolled with it, as they say. So then Steve says, “Dennis Chandler, God brought you back for a reason. I’d like to see what you are going to do next … what you are going to write!” … and … “Why, you should be here in L.A.” We found out later that it was NOT just a Joyful jest (pardon the pun). It was an invitation. To explain … apparently Steve Allen did that sort of thing … helping others to rise to their potential. This was according to an interview Jayne did on the Larry King Show (after Steve’s passing). Oh, the shoulda, woulda, couldas! We coulda got guidance from the great one. Well, maybe today … from Above … they could send down some pointers? BUT … back to those moments in 1990. It was fun from then on. Steve became enamored of Dennis’ piano improvising … and versatility. Chandler-the-Chameleon had captured his heart. They played off of one another. What a memory. What Angels.
The next move in mounting the play “would be a matter of money”, they were told. That is, a budget big enough to buy lots of stage armor and horses. Needless to say, for Dennis the rave reviews of the music was good news while at the same time frustrating news. It took a long, long “coming out of the woods” on a personal financial level, too. 

2001 … Time marched on. Then 9/11 happened. … and of course all was forever changed. (That included theatrical projects and their budgets. too).
HUMPTY DUMPTY CARTOON BASKETBALL GAME crop top2013 … The picture below shows Dennis taking his turn … to be enthralled as someone else plays his BELOVED 1904 Sohmer 9 Ft. Concert Grand. That someone else is childhood chum George Foster. Perhaps that piano is what piqued his interest in the play. George graciously offered to lend his voice to this project. This northerner turned southern gentleman was at the time … a member of the North Carolina Opera Company. Now if we could only find singers who lived a little closer to Cleveland (read: near the Chandlers’ Studio).
RULING PASSION COMPOSER HEARS GEORGE FOSTER PLAY HIS MUSIC2015 … The fabulous Adina Bloom might return to add her voice to a demo … that Dennis needs to make … to show what he can do.
The backstory of how they met? Picture this: The star of an Ethel Meman revue (for which she got rave reviews for those pipes of hers) … has a night off from singing. She takes her eighty-something mother to dinner in Little Italy. Pianist Dennis on a night off from playing … gets called to fill in playing … at that same restaurant. After her dinner and during his break … they meet … they talk … they sing. It was love at first note.

2023 … Perhaps Composer Dennis could call upon her to demo some of the songs from this stage play? Maybe if we ask nicely? Then when she says “Yes” … we can call her “Dame Dina”. (Dennis already dubbed her “Diva Dina” … she was that good … just jamin’ … imagine … )  

1987 ... Back to the past … 
2023 ... Back to the future …

One day the time will be ripe for “Richard’s Music”.
So, as we recap those above-mentioned 2015 Media reports … “WORLD RENEWED INTEREST IN ALL THINGS, RICHARD III”. And to paraphrase, “DNA tests CONFIRM that the bones found in an unmarked grave in England … ARE the BONES of KING RICHARD III”
We shall see what wonders may come our way. We give thanks to you here … for taking an interest in reading about … our Ruling Passion … making Music.

Liz Chandler

Web Writer  aka  “Mrs. Dennis” aka  Archivist