Frishberg Branches Out

Frishberg.jpgDave Frishberg lives very much in the present but makes no bones about his fascination with the past. After all, his last CD was titled Retromania. So it’s no wonder that the producers of a new piece of musical theater sought out Frishberg to write the words and music. Anyone familiar with “I’m Hip,” “My Attorney Bernie,” “Peel Me a Grape,” “Listen Here” or his dozens of other songs knows that he’s prepared to capture irony, whimsy and tenderness. 

The show, Vitriol & Violets, is about the Algonquin Round Table, the group of writers and their cronies who gathered nearly every day at New York’s Algonquin Hotel through the 1920s to exercise their wit. One of them later called it “the ten-year lunch.” Among the verbal fencers were Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Robert Benchley, Harold Ross, George S. Kaufman, Edna Ferber, Heywood Broun and Harpo Marx. You may recognize the celebrated Al Hirschfeld drawing of a typical meeting. 
The dialogue in the show is fashioned by writers Shelly Lipkin, Louanne Moldovan, and Sherry Lamoreaux from published works or frequently quoted sayings of the Round Table members. The show opened off Broadway – 3000 miles off Broadway – last weekend in Portland, Oregon, Frishberg’s base of operations for many years. It continues next weekend, Friday through Sunday. The top ticket price, 25 dollars, is definitely off-Broadway. Here’s a brief review by Marty Hughley in,the Portland Oregonian‘s online edition. 

…a dimly lit room in the Scottish Rite Center provided a fitting atmosphere for “Vitriol & Violets,” which tracks the careers and friendships of the 1920s Algonquin Round Table. The story presents a lot of characters to follow, but the witticisms flow freely, the songs by Dave Frishberg are alternately hilarious and deeply poignant, and a cast featuring Adair Chappell (charmingly acerbic as Dorothy Parker), Joe Theissen, Isaac Lamb and others pulls it off with appropriate panache.

For more information, go here
Those of us who can’t make it to Portland for the show can hope for a New York run, a road version or – at the very least – an original cast recording.
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  1. Ken Dryden says

    Thanks for letting us know about Frishberg’s new project. I’ve enjoyed the many Algonquin Round Table stories I’ve read over the years. I’m sure you know the one about Benchley leaving the hotel and asking a man in uniform to get him a cab. He responded, “Sir, I’ll have you know that I’m a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy!” Benchley replied, “Okay, then get me a battleship.”