Tony winner Marc Shaiman might be best known to musical theater fans as the man to brought music to 1960’s Baltimore in Hairspray, or for his memorable score to Bombshell on NBC’s SMASH; but Shaiman has also been a long-time arts activist. On December 5th, after the ridiculous flurry of TSOM bashing (which we ALL witnessed), Shaiman spoke up after some of these hateful comments ended up on his personal Facebook page, he wrote this shortly after the broadcast on the East Coast:
I just had many great moments of pure church watching THE SOUND OF MUSIC, rejoicing in the religion of Rodgers & Hammerstein and in the accomplishment of that team broadcasting a live musical. And what a sad thing to come back online to view the wreckage of the live-snarking that took place and to see what’s become of this world. Speaking as someone who used to get great joy from the opportunities I’ve been given until recently, when the endless snark finally punctured my once thick skin, the bloodsport that the Internet has given birth to creating a crisis of faith and confidence in myself that I hope I can work through. I am shocked by the comments of the more adult folks out there tonight, I unfortunately expect it from the younger ones. Not to mention the hideous fact that no one can even stop “sharing” for three hours to take it in. No, performances now are only viewed through the peripheral vision that typing on your device allows, which means you aren’t really experiencing it in the first place. The expression “everyone’s a critic” has become a terrible fact and we are all the worse for it. I know I am. I’m gonna go read Nelson Mandela quotes now, so as to be reminded of qualities like grace, kindness and positivity. And sadly, even under THOSE quotes there will be “comments”. “Comments Disabled” are now my favorite two words. Sorry for the soapbox.
p.s. I really went back an forth on that Mandela comment, I just saw his glorious face smiling at me from my profile pic as I was writing. I just figured that it would be obvious I was not comparing a television show with Nelson Mandela but WAS wishing that, even for something as unimportant as a broadcast of a musical, that people could be kinder. And so, to those below who took offense at it, apologies. And oh, it was a pleasure blocking the broad and everyone who “liked” her comment! Ok, bedtime.
The next day, Shaiman continued his thoughts after a night’s reflection, writing:
I see that some people felt what I wrote last night meant I think that people aren’t entitled to their opinion. Here’s the thing: that used to mean something different. It used to mean you shared, AFTER a performance, your opinions with those around you who cared what you thought, and you knew exactly who you were talking to.
Nowadays, every single brilliant bon mot you put out there goes directly to tens of thousands (or more) other places. It is certainly pompous but only a slight exaggeration to say that most anything someone writes about show business that ends up on my timeline will also be viewed by someone directly involved – or the family of someone directly involved – with that project. What can I say, I have a lot of friends in show biz! Would you really say what you just wrote and hit send on to someone’s face? Their sister? Their son? Lately, I’m afraid the answer to that question is yes, you would. “I’m entitled to my opinion” seems to have overtaken all other considerations.
Listen, I’m no saint. I gossip, I have strong opinions, but I also try to have some restraint and manners. And this is coming from a guy who created a fart tap break in a song called “Unclefucka”.
No matter what the Internet has taught you, not everything you think needs to be typed and broadcast. And that is a lesson for myself as well (ask any of my friends and co-workers!)
This year I myself had to finally swear off almost all forms of an online life, because you never know where a booby-trap is hiding and I have the scars (and therapy bills) to prove it. Please, just be considerate.
And after all the pros and cons are discussed, all I know is I sobbed last night the moment Ms. Underwood sang “my heart will be blessed with the sound of music”. What a beautiful truth for us all. And I wept like a fool during “Climb Every Mountain” and not just because of that monumental song and Audra McDonald’s touched by God artistry, but equally due to the reaction of Ms. Underwood.
Those two moments (among many others) were enough to make me feel very content as I sat on my couch watching a live performance of a classic musical being broadcast by a major network. A show that started my own love affair with music and musicals. And that rekindled that love again last night.
p.s. I just got an Email from, yes, friends of the production, and the ratings were – and I quote – “boffo!” (like, REALLY boffo) and that is obviously due to the participation of Carrie Underwood. I can live with that, happily.
Bravo, Mr. Shaiman!! We couldn’t have said better. We, like you, greatly respect the successful efforts of producer Neil Meron, Ms. Underwood, and the entire cast and crew that put their hearts and souls into this very special event. There is simply NO reason to bash a project that was so beautifully executed, and introduced million of new viewers to our beloved craft of musical theater.
Mr. Shaiman is no stranger to speaking his mind. In 2008, a controversy erupted nationwide when California Musical Theatre’s then artistic director resigned over the revelation of his personal donation of $1000 to a political campaign to support California proposition 8. The proposition–which would amend the state constitution to limit marriage between a man and woman–passed, and donor information became public. Shaiman and other Broadway artists who had previously worked with the director became critical and called for a boycott of the theatre by all gay artists and performers ending in the directors resignation days later.
To protest the passage of California Proposition 8 in November 2008, Shaiman wrote a satiric mini-musical called “Prop 8 — The Musical”. The 3-minute video was distributed on the internet at FunnyOrDie.com beginning on December 3, 2008. It was written and produced in just a few days. The cast included Jack Black (who played Jesus), Neil Patrick Harris, John C. Reilly, Allison Janney, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, Margaret Cho, Rashida Jones and other celebrities. Shaiman plays the piano and appears briefly on the video. It received 1.2 million internet hits in its first day.
Shaiman penned the Broadway scores to both Hairspray, and Catch Me If You Can with partner Scott Wittman. He started his career as a theatre/cabaret musical director. He then became vocal arranger for Bette Midler, eventually becoming her musical director and co-producer of many of her recordings, including The Wind Beneath My Wings and From a Distance. He helped create the material for her iconic performance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. His work with both Bette Midler and Billy Crystal led to his involvement on their films.
His film credits include Broadcast News, Beaches, When Harry Met Sally…, City Slickers, The Addams Family, Sister Act, Sleepless in Seattle, A Few Good Men, The American President, The First Wives Club, George of the Jungle, In & Out, Patch Adams, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Team America: World Police, Flipped, and HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon, and 61*. He frequently works on films by Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner. He has also appeared in many of these films.
Shaiman has earned five Academy Award nominations, a Tony Award and a Grammy Award for his work on the musical Hairspray, and an Emmy Award for co-writing Billy Crystal’s Academy Award performances. He has also been Grammy nominated twice for his arrangements for Harry Connick Jr.’s recordings When Harry Met Sally… and We Are in Love and Emmy nominated for his work on Saturday Night Live.