In his brilliant analysis of the decline of the American imagination, social critic Robert Hughes, in The Culture of Complaint, writes: "Even its [America's] popular arts, once the wonder and delight of the world, have decayed; there was a time, within the memory of some of us, when American popular music was full of exaltation and pain and wit, and appealed to grown-ups. Today, instead of the raw intensity of Muddy Waters or the virile inventiveness of Duke Ellington, we have Michael Jackson, and from George Gerschwin and Cole Porter we are down to illiterate spectaculars about cats or the fall of Saigon."
Tom Jones, lyricist for The Fantasticks, the longest running musical (41 years and counting) in the history of the art form, in his book, Making Musicals, writes: "Of all the creations of the American musical, none is more important, in my opinion, than the American song form. I am talking here of good old a-a-b-a, of Verse-Intro, Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, with possibly a tag. In the age of [spectaculars such as] Cats and Miss Saigon . . . I have reason to believe there is a real hunger . . . for more personal interchange between performer and spectator."
Meet Me At The Mall aims to be just that sort of musical: human-sized, touching, with hummable tunes and characters you can relate to. In an age when the bulk of musicals are either revivals, adaptations, or plot-less revues, Meet Me At The Mall presents an original American story, using American themes, hopes, needs, strengths, weaknesses, humor, love and loss, in the tradition of great classics such as Showboat and Oklahoma, but with a theme that is unquestionably today: A Musical Love Story About Our Favorite Place. I don't claim to have the talent of a Jerome Kern, a Richard Rodgers or an Oscar Hammerstein, but I have the same serious purpose, and I hold to standards that are just as high.
As the writer of both the songs (music and lyrics) and the book for the play, I should give you an idea of some of my influences. As a lyricist, my ultimate debt is to the great genius who started it all, W.S. Gilbert, and his progeny, wordsmiths like Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, and Johnny Mercer. As a music composer, my influences are a bit more varied, and range from Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jobim to the Brits Joe Jackson and Ray Davies. My musical tastes are extremely broad.
Meet Me At The Mall is dedicated to Zeke Manners (1911-2000). If you don't know who Zeke was, he's the one who wrote the Pennsylvania Polka, which you can hear played eight times in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. Zeke helped me with a few of the first songs when I was just getting the idea, and I regret deeply that he will never hear the finished product.
Meet Me at the Mall
An Original Musical
Music, Lyrics and Book by Elliot Essman
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