I mentioned the musical Fiorello! in my post on Tom Bosley, but I didn’t mention a couplet from one of the songs that always seems appropriate after (or before) an election, and one of the few quotes that genuinely applies sometimes no matter which side you’re on. It’s from the song “The Bum Won,” where political power brokers react in shock to Fiorello LaGuardia’s victory in a Congressional election (he only got the nomination because they needed somebody to run and lose). One member of the ensemble sings these lines, by lyricist Sheldon Harnick:
Who’d ever guess that the people would go to the polls and elect a fanatic?
People can do what they want to, but I got a feeling it ain’t democratic.
I think we can at least agree that we all feel that way after some elections.
Speaking of musicals, the writer Joseph Stein died recently at the age of 98. His name isn’t well-known — book writers, the guys who get all the blame and little of the credit in musical theatre, rarely are well-known — but he wrote the book for Fiddler On the Roof and many other musicals, including Zorbá, Take Me Along (which won a Tony award for Jackie Gleason), Plain and Fancy (the first hit musical about the Amish), Juno, the cult musical adaptation of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock, Stephen Schwartz’s out-of-town cult flop The Baker’s Wife, as well as Enter Laughing, the successful nonmusical play based on the book by Carl Reiner. Obviously Fiddler is his most important and enduring credit, a beautiful job of adaptation that stitches together Aleichem’s stories, the Chagall painting that inspired the title character, and many old Borscht-Belt Jewish jokes into one of the ultimate examples of the Serious Musical Comedy, a show that deals with serious topics in a non-frivolous way while still being funny nearly all the way through.