Excerpts from PIANO LOVER: THE MUSICAL

Excerpted from Chapter 6: Be Careful What You Wish For

David entered Ling's office to find Alex and Dimitri seated before Ling's desk, all three with somber expressions. "What's this emergency meeting all about? I was just about to get on a plane to New Orleans, and I thought we had ironed out all the tweaks raised by the first week of the opening."

Ling pulled up a straight chair from the corner to the front of her desk and gestured for David to sit in it. "Obviously you weren't at the theater last night, and haven't read the entertainment section of the Times this morning."

David sat and looked concerned. "My God, ticket sales couldn't have dropped drastically enough to cancel the show. You look like the theater's burned down, or something."

Ling sat in her high backed executive chair and rolled up close to her desk. "No, but some of the right wingers in those picket lines may be crazy enough to burn it down."

David looked surprised. "Picket lines?"

Alex tossed the entertainment section of the paper in his lap and David read, "Religious Right Resents Gay Musical." Dimitri tossed the entertainment section of another paper at him which read, "Pentecostals Picket Piano Lover," with a sub-title that read, "Baptists Bash Gays And Girl God."

David looked at the other three and sounded amazed as he said, "They've got to be kidding."

Ling shook her head sideways. "I'm afraid not. The Knights of Columbus purports to represent the Catholic Church's views, and the Conservative Baptist Association of America claims to represent Protestant Christians, and they've got a double edged axe to grind, homosexuality and the concept of a female God."

Alex snorted. "I'm amazed they didn't complain about a black angel in the cast." Ling picked up one of the papers on her desk. "Oh, but they did. Listen to this, 'Reverend Nathan of The Church of The Nazarene in Connecticutt stated that, as if claiming that God was a woman wasn't blasphemous enough, the musical claims that the angel Gabriel was a black man who had the power to impregnate women and men equally at will.'"

Dimitri laughed as he read one of the papers, then looked up and said, "Oh, this is choice. Listen to this would be Catholic spokesman, 'The most disgusting aspect of the show is that the white leading man has sex with both an innocent heterosexual girl and a transvestite played by a Russian actress who is probably a Communist.'" He spoke through his laughter. "Princess is going to explode when she discovers they still think her Choctaw Indian name is Russian."

Ling frowned at Dimitri. "I told you Communist affiliation would be an issue."

Dimitri threw the paper on Ling's desk. "I'm with Nietzsche. Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. After all, it's all publicity. As long as they spell the name of the show right, who cares?"

Ling looked at Dimitri sternly. "For one, the backers care, at least some of them." David shook his head sideways. "Don't tell me The Goddess Consortium has registered any complaints."

Ling looked at Alex. "No, but Henrietta, Angus, Harry, and Angelo have all called Alex and me in a panic. Henrietta is a member of The Daughters of the American Revolution, an ultra conservative group, and, while she doesn't give a damn about what most people think of her, she does value the social and financial advantages of that membership."

David rolled his eyes. "The Daughters of the American Revolution, now there's a Goddess Consortium, if ever there was one. You'd think they'd champion the idea that God is a woman."

Ling cocked her head at an angle. "Well, they don't. They condemn the musical on both religious and social grounds."

Alex addressed Ling. "Didn't Eleanor Roosevelt resign her membership with them when they refused to let Marian Anderson sing at Constitution Hall because she was black."

David looked at Alex. "Yes, and Eleanor arranged for Anderson to sing an Easter Concert at The Lincoln Memorial to publicize her protest."

Ling leaned forward in her chair. "Yes, but everyone has a right to protest, including those picketing the theater. The question is, what are we going to do about it?"

Dimitri raised his eyebrows. "Isn't that YOUR job, to figure out what we're going to do about it?"

Ling narrowed her eyes at Dimitri. "Yes, and I'm very good at my job. That's why I'm calling upon the three most creative people I know who have the most at stake to defend this musical, to offer me suggestions and options."

Alex looked hopeful. "Maybe the N.A.A.C.P. would come to our aid."

Dimitri nodded affirmatively. "Maybe the Jewish Anti-Defamation League."

Ling closed her eyes and shook her head negatively. "Those organizations have not joined the picket lines against us, but I think they're too conservative to defend us."

David sighed. "What about the American Civil Liberties Union? They have a long precedent of defending free speech and performer's rights."

Ling hesitated, inhaled deeply, then said, "They usually don't do anything outside of court battles, but, you're right. They'd be our go-to people. I'll contact them and see if they'd provide a spokesman to attend a press conference in which we respond to the protests." She looked at each of the three men in turn. "Now, who's going to represent the production company at this press conference?"

The three men all looked at each other, then David spoke. "I guess that I, as the less reactive of the two authors of the production, should at least volunteer."

Ling looked at the other two men. "Okay, now I'm going to say it, because I need to know if the two of you agree with me. I would recommend David as the spokesman to talk to conservative religious political bigots because he has blonde hair, blue eyes, and white skin, and because he is not black, Russian, or gay. If that offends the two of you in any way, or if you can offer me a better alternative spokesman, please give me the benefit of your wisdom now."

David wrinkled his nose like he smelled something bad as he looked at the other two men. "Jeez, I never thought of it like that."

Alex shrugged. "I hate to have to think of it like that, too, but I'm afraid she's right." He looked at Dimitri. "Okay, Dimitri, give us your angry sarcastic reasons why it shouldn't be David."

Dimitri glared at Ling. "My anger is inspired as much by my resentment of her as it's inspired by the reality of her logic." He shook his head sideways. "I would so dearly love to shred all that apart with an avalanche of sarcasm and words, but the only words I can think of are, 'she's right.'"

Ling put her elbows on the desk top and linked her fingers together beneath her chin. "David, I'll call the A.C.L.U. and ask their advice and the possibility of a spokesman from them. Then I'll call you to let you know of their response, if they have any materials that would help you compose a statement, and a tentative time for a press conference later today or tomorrow. In the meantime, start composing your statement." She looked at the other two men. "If you two have any suggestions for David that will help him compose his statement, give that to him as quick as you can, face to face or on the phone." She unlinked her fingers and reached for a stack of papers on her desk. "That's all. Unless any of you have anything further you need to discuss with me."

The three men rose, mumbled their goodbyes, and exited the office.

**********

Ling stepped up to the podium as the photographers in the front row of the banquet room full of reporters rested their big press cameras, not wanting to waste their flashbulbs on an irrelevant subject. "Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am Ling Park, Public Relations Representative for the company producing the musical titled The Piano Lover. I am here to introduce Mr. David Wales, one of the co-authors of the musical, who wishes to make a statement regarding that production, after which he will entertain a few questions. Please remember this is merely a statement, not a debate or an open forum, and limit your questions to the subject of the statement." Ling stepped aside and addressed David. "Mr. Wales?"

David stepped up to the podium, blinking as a flurry of flashbulbs popped in his face. "Good afternoon, gentlemen. I would like to preface my remarks by saying, I do not know if critics of our production have read The Constitution of the United States, but I have, and, unless Congress made a decision last night that I don't know about, it still supports the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I respect our critic's rights to those freedoms, and only ask that they respect ours. From some of the misinformation Ive read, I question whether it came from anyone who even saw our musical. I suggest each individual make their own informed decision, see the play, then decide if it exceeds any First Amendment Rights. Compared to many films and plays, The Piano Lover is totally devoid of any vulgar language or nudity, pretty tame stuff by today's standards. If theologians have concerns, let me remind them that the church incarcerated Galileo for claiming the earth was round instead of flat, and early in this century American courts tried to put a schoolteacher in jail for teaching the theories of Charles Darwin. America is great because our freedoms allow us to think outside the box. The Piano Lover simply thinks outside the box. Don't try to put us in a box." David paused, looked down, then up. "Any questions?"

A bald man with black rimmed glasses stood up. "Mr. Wales, Reverend James Jackson of the Foursquare Gospel Church has said that a character in your play representing the angel Gabriel as an ignorant black man is an affront to the black community. What do you say to that?"

David chuckled. "Oh really? Actually, that character is the farthest from being ignorant, he has the most profound dialogue of any character in the musical. Again, I question whether we both saw the same show."

The bald man continued. "Another religious critic, Deacon Hicks of Calvary Baptist Church, finds it offensive that the angel Gabriel is represented as a black man who impregnates both men and women. What say you?"

David shook his head sideways. "I'm sure the good Deacon did not imply there was anything offensive about being black, and I'm sure our character does not identify himself as a specific angel from the Christian Bible. Technically speaking, the character does not impregnate anyone, he simply accelerates the pregnancies of other female characters." David gestured with both hands. "And really, folks, I'm not going to indulge any more questions that amount to spoilers. If you want the whole story line, go see the show."

A tall skinny man in a loose fitting suit stood up abruptly. "Mr. Wales, where is Mr. Lebedov? Was he afraid to come here to defend your musical?"

David sighed. "First, I am here to make a statement. I do not feel I or Mr. Lebedov or The Piano Lover have done anything that needs 'defending.' Second, I came alone because Mr. Lebedov and I didn't want to unfairly 'gang up' on you guys." There was a tittering of laughter. "And last, Mr. Lebedov is unavailable because he is out of town."

The skinny man persisted. "Where out of town?"

David blinked. "I am not Mr. Lebedov's secretary. He mentioned that he might tour Europe."

The skinny man was relentless. "Where in Europe? Russia?"

David stared at the skinny man. "As the word tour implies, he is in motion, on a plane, on a train, riding a bicycle. He could be anywhere."

Two rows further back, a portly man stood up barked his question. "Is Mr. Lebedov a Communist?"

David sighed again. "Mr. Lebedov came to the United States to escape persecution under Communism. I seriously doubt that he could harbor any affection for Communism."

The portly man held a notebook on one hand and pointed to David with the pencil in his other hand. "But he is Russian, right?"

David raised his eyebrows. "Mr.Lebedov came to this country as a child and has been a naturalized citizen for over twenty years. His parents were born in Russia. My parents were born in Wales. Where were your parents or grandparents born, sir?"

The portly man looked at his fellow reporters to either side who stared at him with smirks, then looked back at David and said sheepishly, "Italy."

David smiled. "Well, good for them for choosing freedom, and, if you like opera, you might enjoy our musical, The Piano Lover."

A chubby person in a back row wearing a business suit, glasses, and a short haircut rose. "If you'd indulge me with one more question about the show's content, were you surprised by the religious push back against the theory that God is a woman?"

David frowned. "Boy, you really know how to slide those spoilers in there. I was no more surprised about the push back than were most American males when the Nineteenth Amendment prohibited the denial of the right to vote based on sex. We all know it's right, it's just that some don't want to share the power." David spread his arms out. "Look around you. Do you see any women here?"

The standing reporter spoke calmly. "I am a woman." David looked stunned. The reporter continued. "But I appreciate your point. I am the only woman here, and I was seated in the back row."

David smiled. "Then make me a promise that, at our next press conference, you'll sit in the front row and brighten up the place."

The reporter smiled sarcastically. "Okay. I promise I'll sit in the front row, but, as for me brightening up the place, you gotta promise you'll get some glasses."

As the laughter swelled, Ling gestured for David to step back as she stepped forward. "That concludes the questions. Please enjoy the open bar we've provided at the rear of the room, and remember, tone down those spoilers, and keep an open mind. Thank you."


Excerpted from Chapter 9: Evolution

As David and Alex entered Aladdin's Lamp, many of the male patrons began to stare at them and David was disturbed at overhearing a plethora of mis-information. "That's the couple that created The Piano Lover."

"Oh really! I thought the blonde was Dimitri's husband."

"No! Dimitri wrote the script and score, Alex was the Director/Producer, and the blonde owns a Swiss bank and financed the whole thing."

As David slowed down with growing panic on his face, Alex pushed him forward to the center ringside booth. "Don't worry, David. Gays think that any two men seen together are a couple. They want the whole world to be gay so they don't have to feel like a freak."

David slid into the pink and purple naugahyde upholstered seat. "It's not that I'm offended at the assumption that we're a couple, but it makes me wonder what I'm doing that makes me look gay. I dress conservatively, I don't wear makeup, and I don't think I swish. Do I?"

Alex repressed a laugh. "No, David. You're as butch as butch can be. It's just that gays look at you and are overwhelmed with wishful thinking."

David inhaled deeply. "Okay. Lemme focus on why the hell you wanted us to be here tonight?"

Alex raised his eyebrows. "To see Dimitri's show."

David blinked. "I've seen Dimitri's show."

Alex shook his head sideways. "Not this one."

David looked surprised at Alex's answer, then surprised as the house lights dimmed and the marionette stage rolled onto the small dance floor noisily, stopped, and a spot illuminated the Jester character wearing his Harlequin costume and whistling as he walked in front of the curtain. Suddenly the curtain opened rapidly to reveal a menacing looking female doll who resembled the club owner character of Velma from The Piano Lover, looking more like a scarey witch than like a Vampira character. She loudly said, "Boo!"

The frightened Jester collapsed and cringed from her. "Who are you?"

In a loud demonic voice, the female doll said, "God!"

The Jester's eyes bulged in surprise. "You're God?"

The God doll sneered at him. "Yeah! Why does that surprise you? Didn't you see my musical?"

The Jester touched his cheek. "Were you in South Pacific? Cause if you were in South Pacific, I'd expect you to be played by Enzio Pinza."

God glared at him. "No, stupid. I'm really God, and my musical is called The Piano Lover."

The Jester's face lit up with a smile. "Oh, I know him."

God shaked her head sideways. "No you don't."

The Jester wiggled his eyebrows. "He's hot!."

God continued shaking her head. "No he's not. He sucks!"

The Jester looked perplexed. "Wait a minute. Is that a good thing..... or a bad thing?"

God narrowed her eyes. "He's a thief and a liar. He claims an angel empowered him to save the world. Well, I'm God, and I'm empowering you to tell the truth and set things straight."

The Jester looked in both directions. "Hold on. I didn't volunteer for anything."

The stage shakes from the anger in God's voice. "Listen, idiot, I'm God and you'll do as you are told."

The Jester cringed from God's anger, then shruggd. "Oh, I see. So...," his brow furrowed as he tried to remember. "What is it I'm supposed to do again?"

God emphasized each word. "Tell....the....truth!"

The Jester looked confused. "How do I do that?"

God folded her arms and looked at him smugly. "I've already put the correct words for the song in your mind, now all you have to do is sing them."

To the Jester's surprise, he suddenly adopted the pose of an opera singer and sang with a voice like Enzio Pinza:

"Here we stand holding swords in the night,
Looking for one sweet hell of a fight
If you think you can steal all my plays
Then you have left not too many days"

"For I will fight for my art to the end
For I am right and that means I will win
And you will lose and go to hell
And I'll survive with truth that I tell."

The Jester relaxed from his singing pose and placed both hands on his chest in surprise. "Wow! That was weird. I hope I don't have to do that again."

God raised her eyebrows. "Well, there's one other thing you've got to do."

The Jester looked fearful. "Oh please, don't make me sing like that again."

She extended a sword, hilt first, toward the Jester. "You've gotta take this sword and find the Piano Lover, but you must know this. His real name is Priapus."

The Jester's face lit up with a smile of recognition. "Priapus. I know him. He's the guy with the giant...."

She nodded in agreement. "Yeah, that's him." She shakes the sword. "Now take this." There was an awkward moment when the sword hilt had to lock into the magnetized slot in the Jester marionette's hand. He looked up at her. "What do I do with this?"

Her eyes bulged. "Find Priapus and his thing, and whack it off!"

His face lit up with a smile. "Oh, I can do that!"

Her eyes narrowed. "With the sword."

His smile dropped. "Oh." He looked shocked. "You mean...like....surgically?"

Her eyes bulged again as she spread her hands. "Yeeeeeeeesssssssssss! And here he comes!"

The curtains closed on the God doll as Priapus entered from the side in front of the curtain. It was the same marionette caricature of David used in Dimitri's show featuring David's parody of Some Enchanted Evening. The doll was dressed in khaki shorts and shirt, had a body builder's muscular body, and round plastic rag doll eyes with black discs inside that move freely as the doll moves. The doll had a giant penis extending from his pants, which he carried in a wheelbarrow. He was singing the melody to Springtime of Life using only one syllable.

"La de dah, la de dah dah dah dah,
La de dah, la de dah dah dah dah."

The Jester frowned and held the sword pointed down. Then the voice of God rumbled from backstage. "Do as you are told, or the sword will be used on you.....and yours....instead."

The Jester summoned his courage, raised the sword, and chased the frightened Priapus in circles in front of and behind the curtain. On the third circuit when Priapus was in front of and the Jester was behind the curtain, there was a crash, and then the Jester said, "Ohhhhhhh shit!"

Priapus stoppd. "What happened?"

From backstage the Jester answered, "I tripped over my sword."

Priapus asked, "Did you hurt yourself?"

There was a three second pause before the Jester answered, "I think I castrated myself."

Priapus shrugged. "Okay, now you have nothing to lose. Drop the sword and we'll go have a beer together."

There is another three second pause before the Jester asked, "Can I touch it?"

Priapus looked at the audience for three seconds, then turned to the curtain and said, "We'll see." Then he pushes his wheelbarrow around the end of the curtain singing the Springtime of Life theme using only one syllable while his singing volume fades along with the stage and house lights.

As the audience applause increased, David and Alex looked at the patrons on either side who were staring at them curiously, then they looked at each other. They spoke in subdued voices, David asked, "When did he start this show?"

Alex shook his head. "I don't know. I just got back in town yesterday and Princess said I should see it because she had declined to be in it. So I saw it last night. I thought you should know before I did anything."

David closed his eyes and shook his head negatively. "I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do." He sighed and looked at Alex. "I guess the best thing to do is ignore it."

Alex's eyes bulged. "Are you kidding! What he's doing is illegal on several levels. Plagiarism of the score, defamation of the show, libel of you!"

David frowned. "He's our friend. He's crazy, but he's our friend."

Alex looked serious. "I don't think the show's lawyers are gonna look at it that way."

David shook his head. "We don't have to tell them."

Then Alex shook his head. "I'm sorry, David, but he agreed to the project, he signed contracts, and he cashed the original work check and every last one of the many sizeable royalty checks he's received."

A waiter approached their table and spoke cooly. "Mr. Lebedov would like to see you on the sidewalk in front of the club."

Dimitri stood on the sidewalk with a stoic expression as they approached. He spoke rapidly with repressed anger. "The two of you are not welcome here. Stay away from this club and stay out of my life."

Alex frowned. "Dimitri, this is a free country. You can't bar us from any place."

Dimitri spoke with repressed rage. "There's a sign behind the bar that says we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

Alex began to get angry. "You're speaking for this management which is benefitting from the exposure our show has created for it?"

Dimitri's temples throbbed as he spoke. "I have requested the management do so, and the two of you are personna non grata here."

David's brow furrowed. "Why?"

Dimitri glared at him. "As if you didn't know. Princess talked to Gwen Verdon who told her about Hal Prince's offer and that it excluded me. She also told me that she's been invited to the Hamptons several times and I was never invited."

Alex wrinkled his nose. "So what! You hate those people."

Dimitri looked from one to the other. "You've poisoned everyone against me, now Princess wont even appear in my show."

Alex rolled his eyes. "I think that's because the content of your show is untrue, ungrateful, and illegal."

David raised one hand with his palm up. "Dimitri, we only wanted to..."

Dimitri impulsively punched David in the nose, resulting in an immediate flow of blood and David's exclamation, "Jesus, Dimitri, what the hell!"

As David pulled a handkerchief from the coat breast pocket to stem the flow, Dimitri pulled his fist back for a second blow, but Alex caught his fist and pushed it backwards, causing Dimitri to land painfully on the sidewalk clutching his arm. Dimitri screamed, "You bastard, you broke my arm! You're both bastards!"

As patrons leaving the club started to help Dimitri and look at David and Alex angrily, Alex put his arm around David and quickly ushered him down Bourbon Street toward the Voodoo Room, saying, "I think Marvin can get an injunction to stop the show before tomorrow night."

David spoke with a nasal twang as he clutched the handkerchief to his upraised nose. "I wish there were some other way." David put his fingers on the bridge of his nose and pinched. "Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, owwwwww, shit!"

Alex repressed a smile. "How's your nose feel, David? Did he break it?"

David blinked. "I don't think there are any broken bones. I just reset the cartilage with my own fingers."

A chuckle escaped Alex. "That must've been fun."

David looked at him painfully. "It was excruciating." Then he sighed deeply. "There are no winners here. I guess we've gotta do what we've gotta do. Tell Marvin I'll sign whatever papers he needs after my lawyer reviews them."

FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

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