Happy Birthday To William, Stephen And Andrew!
By Myrna Blyth
At ThirdAge, we track the birthdays of well-known people who are 50+, and sometimes weeks go by when nobody much is celebrating a birthday. Once in a while, though, we have a bonanza of birthdays. Like today! Three guys who have affected our lives in very different ways all share a March 22nd birthday. One’s a television legend, while the other two are giants of Broadway.
Yes, the legendary Captain Kirk is turning 81. One of my sons was a devoted Trekkie, and I remember having to wait dinner while Kirk and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) steered the Starship Enterprise through the universe. My son never missed the subsequent “Star Trek” movies, in which Shatner headed the cast. And after that, besides writing books about Star Trek and being feted at Trekkie conventions, Shatner seemed to always be on at least one TV channel. He played the resourceful cop T.J. Hooker in the show of the same name and then in more recent years as the impossible, adorable attorney Denny Crane on “Boston Legal.” As my now grown-up son noted about the character of Denny, “What is more entertaining than watching a total narcissist?”
Now Shatner appears in one-man shows, had an interview program on the Biography channel, and did Priceline commercials as the Denny Crane-ish“Negotiator.” David E. Kelley, the writer of “Boston Legal,” said essentially "William Shatner the man [was] playing William Shatner the character playing the character Denny Crane, who was playing the character William Shatner." We can only say Happy Birthday to all those Shatners. Click through for the other two birthday guys:
Stephen Sondheim Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber are the greatest modern composers on Broadway. Sondheim is turning 82 while Andrew Lloyd Webber, the kid of today’s birthday trio, is a mere 64. Now there are people who love Sondheim, sneer at Webber and vice versa. Sondheim is the most honored with more Tony awards but Webber writes the musicals that run and run and run. Webber’s”Phantom of the Opera” just celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Sondheim, who after a lonely and unhappy childhood, was mentored by the great lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, started as a lyricist. He worked on the hugely successful “West Side” Story with Leonard Bernstein, and “Gypsy,” which many think may be the best musical ever. I saw "West Side Story" in the original production and at least a couple of revivals of “Gypsy.”
Then he started writing both the words and the music. I think I grew to appreciate Sondheim in his more recent revivals of “Company,” “Follies” and “A Little Night Music.” I saw “Company” with my daughter-in-law, and we got last-minute, absolutely terrific seats. Just a few months ago, my husband and I loved “Follies,” a musical about the realities of middle age. And how can one not love “Send In the Clowns,” just one of the songs from “A Little Night Music.” As for his more adventurous creations, like “Sweeney Todd” and “Passion,” you can admire them a lot more than you can actually enjoy them.
Andrew Lloyd Webber Andrew Lloyd Webber writes both hit musicals and hit songs that are in general more hummable than much of Sondheim’s work. My iPod is full of "I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from “Evita,” “Any Dream Will Do” from “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” “Memories ” from “Cats,” and “Music Of The Night” from “Phantom.” And, hey, I loved all those shows. I saw “Phantom,” which has a spectacular New Year’s Eve scene, on a New Year’s Eve. I took my granddaughte to a teenagers’ revival of “Joseph,” where most of the cast were girls, so Joseph had mean girl sisters instead of mean boy brothers, and I seem to remember I sat practically on the stage with my sons in the very early days of “ Cats.” They are cat-lovers and were totally enchanted. And I just saw the revival of “Evita,” my very favorite show of all, even before its official opening. Why? Well it was a birthday present to myself because, you see, my birthday is March 22nd, too.
Happy Birthday to all of us!
Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge.