Barrymore Blues

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So, it’s time to work on the Play Playlist List for I Hate Hamlet.

Yeah, I’m still doing ’em. Tempting to just give red apples—John Barrymore’s uncle, John Drew, started (I believe) a tradition by giving a red apple to his niece Ethel Barrymore on her first opening night, which led to the whole Barrymore-Drew family giving first-night apples, and thus to a larger American tradition. I’ve received a couple of apples myself. But buying a sack of apples, while a pleasantly traditional and additionally healthy gift—doesn’t have the personal touch that I like with my playlists. And while they have quickly become outdated (unlike apples) the director of the last production seemed touched and pleased by the gift. So that’s all right.

Unfortunately, I used my good idea for this production in the last one—I played a funeral director and I jumped at the chance to make a playlist of songs that relate the death of the singer-character from his or her viewpoint. I had been wanting an excuse to make that list for years, and it was a pretty good playlist, but it would have been even more appropriate for this show. What with my character being dead. Ah, well.

I fooled around with a few ideas for themes, including Shakespeare songs, songs about Hate, and songs about theater, and eventually decided to go a different way entirely, and make a playlist of songs that were popular or first recorded around the time of John Barrymore’s first Broadway run as Hamlet, which opened on the 16th of November, 1922. I am thinking of it as the 1922 mix. I suppose I’ll want to come up with a snappier name.

I’m still working on the actual playlist, of course. I have something like thirty songs to sort through, which is certainly too many. CDs now fit something close to 80 minutes, which is something like 25 songs, particularly since many of the songs are short. Still too long. I think of a playlist as being around twenty songs, or around an hour. I do feel like a 55-minute playlist is too short, and I’d likely add a not-terrific song or two as filler, despite there really being no actual point to that. And an 80-minute playlist would be too long, and I’d cut a couple of really good songs to make it closer to an hour. Is that a remnant of my misspent youth with TDK D60s? Probably. Yeah. Hard to really grok that the whole cassette-tape thing existed for only fifteen years or so. Sigh.

Anyway, what I’m doing—and I hope this makes sense to the cast and crew—is not the 1922 recordings themselves (not all of which actually exist) but a variety of different takes on the original songs. Some fairly recent, some from the Big Band era, some from in between, and a couple of early recordings, too. Phish, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra. Bessie, of course, but also Imelda May. That sort of thing. I haven’t settled on the exact list yet. I’m having trouble choosing a version of “I’m Just Wild About Harry” that doesn’t feature the explodaphone.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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