Transcript: Garth Drabinsky | Nov 26, 1996

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a dance performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of an assistant setting up the guest’s microphone: Garth Drabinsky, Impresario.

Richard Ouzounian appears facing the screen as a caption shows his name. He’s in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He’s wearing oversized glasses, a black suit, and a striped black shirt.

He says WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
IF YOU'VE BEEN TO
A PLAY RECENTLY,
THE CHANCES ARE THE MAN YOU
ARE ABOUT TO MEET PRODUCED IT.
PHANTOM OF THE
OPERA, SHOWBOAT,
SUNSET BOULEVARD, KISS
OF THE SPIDER WOMAN,
AND SOON TO COME, AND
PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY,
RAGTIME.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE MAN WHO
IS BEHIND ALL THESE SHOWS?
I HOPE WE'LL FIND OUT
IN THE NEXT HALF HOUR.
BECAUSE THIS DIALOGUE IS
WITH GARTH DRABINSKY.

Garth appears on screen smiling. He’s sitting in a room decorated with mock-ups of buildings and a glass vase with flowers.
Garth is in his late forties, clean-shaven, with longish wavy brown hair. He’s wearing rimless rounded glasses, a white suit, striped shirt and wide silver tie.

Richard continues GARTH, I WANT TO BEGIN BY
GOING BACK AN EVENING,
JUST ABOUT SEVEN YEARS
AGO, I WON'T FORGET,
I WAS WORKING FOR
YOU AT THAT TIME,
TOTAL DISCLOSURE HERE, AND
YOU GATHERED A BUNCH OF US
TOGETHER ON THE STAGE OF
THE PANTAGES THEATRE
TO TALK ABOUT THE
BIRTH OF LIVENT.
OBVIOUSLY, YOU
REMEMBER THAT EVENING.
WHAT WERE YOU
FEELING THAT NIGHT?

Garth says WELL, IT WAS A TRANSITION.
I WAS OBVIOUSLY DEPRESSED
AND RATHER DOWN FROM HAVING
FOUGHT FOR ALMOST A YEAR,
A MAJOR CORPORATE BATTLE
TO CHANGE MY DESTINY
AT CINEPLEX ODEON.
THAT BATTLE WAS RESOLVED
BY ME BUYING MY DREAM,
IF YOU WILL.
AND THAT DREAM WAS TO SPEND
HOPEFULLY THE REST
OF MY BUSINESS CREATIVE DAYS
IN A MILIEU I HAVE LONG
HAD A PASSION FOR,
WHICH WAS LIVE THEATRE.
AND I NEEDED TO TALK TO
THE FAMILY OF ACTORS
AND TECHNICIANS AND PEOPLE
WHO WERE GOING TO NURTURE
MY FUTURE, IF YOU WILL,
AND IN WHOSE TRUST
I WAS REALLY
PLACING MYSELF.
AND I NEEDED THAT
FULFILLMENT,
AND THAT RECIPROCITY
COMING BACK TO ME,
IN ORDER TO FEEL CONFIDENT,
AT LEAST FOR THAT MOMENT,
THAT I MADE THE RIGHT
DECISION IN RECOMMENDING
TO MY PARTNER, MYRON GOTTLIEB,
THAT WE SPEND 85 MILLION dollars
BUYING A THEATRE AND A SHOW CALLED
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA,
AND THEREBY GIVING
RISE OR BIRTH TO LIVENT,
AS WE NOW KNOW IT.
IT HAD TO HAVE
GONE DOWN AS ONE
OF THE GREAT EMOTIONAL
EVENINGS OF MY LIFE.
BUT IT WAS, FROM
THAT MOMENT ON,
THAT I NEVER
LOOKED BACK.
I NEVER HAVE FELT A
REGRET OF LEAVING
THE MOTION
PICTURE BUSINESS.
AND I CERTAINLY WALK AROUND
THE CITIES OF NORTH AMERICA
AND SEE MY
IMPRIMATUR ALL OVER
BECAUSE THERE WERE
SO MANY THEATRES BUILT,
AND SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE
ACCUMULATED ABOUT
THOSE CITIES IN CANADA,
AND THE UNITED STATES,
BUT IN EVERY OTHER RESPECT,
ALL I HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT
AND CARED ABOUT,
SINCE THAT EVENING,
IS THE CONTINUING
GROWTH OF LIVENT,
AND WHAT IMPACT WE COULD
HAVE ON THE FUTURE
OF MUSICAL THEATRE
IN THE WORLD.

Richard says AND IN SEVEN YEARS, THERE'S
BEEN AN AMAZING IMPACT.
I MEAN, YOU HAVE NEW
THEATRES EVERYWHERE,
NEW WORKS IN DEVELOPMENT,
NEW WORKS GETTING ON,
TREMENDOUS SUCCESS
ON EVERY LEVEL.
AND ALTHOUGH YOU SAID YOU
HAVE NO DESIRE TO GO BACK
TO THE MOVIES, DO YOU
THINK PART OF THE REASON
WHAT YOU'VE DONE IS
SO DIFFERENT,
AND HAS BEEN SO
SUCCESSFUL SO QUICK,
ARE THE LESSONS YOU LEARNED
FROM THE MOVIE BUSINESS?

Garth says I DON'T LIKE THE
MOVIE BUSINESS TODAY.
I DON'T LIKE THE
FUNDAMENTALS
OF THE MOVIE BUSINESS.
I THINK IT'S A BADLY
STRUCTURED INDUSTRIAL FORCE
BUILT ON INCREDIBLY
BAD ECONOMICS TODAY.
WHEN YOU APPRECIATE THAT I
CAN PRODUCE A NEW MUSICAL
LIKE
RAGTIME
FOR
AROUND, IN U.S. DOLLARS,
7 or 8 MILLION dollars, AND THE
AVERAGE NEGATIVE COST
OF A NEW MOTION
PICTURE TODAY,
INCLUDING ALL OF ITS
PRE-ADVERTISING RELEASE
COSTS, APPROACHES
55 MILLION dollars.
SO THE RATIO IS 7:1.
SEVEN NEW MUSICALS FOR ONE
MOTION PICTURE NEGATIVE.
I LIKE MY ODDS
INFINITELY MORE
THAN THE MOTION
PICTURE BUSINESS.
MORE IMPORTANTLY,
OR AS IMPORTANTLY,
I CAN CONTROL
MY OWN DESTINY.
I'M NOT HELD AT THE WHIM OF
THE DISTRIBUTION FORCE
IN MOTION PICTURES.
THAT OLIGOPOLY OF FIVE OR
SIX COMPANIES THAT TRULY,
NOW MORE THAN EVER,
CONTROL THE DESTINY
OF MOTION PICTURE
AS AN ART FORM,
AND THE ULTIMATE EXPLOITATION
OF THESE CREATIONS.
TODAY, OUR COMPANY
REPRESENTS, IN A GOOD WEEK,
ONE-FOURTH OF ALL TICKET
SALES IN NORTH AMERICA.
AND THAT'S AN INCREDIBLE
POSITION TO HAVE
OVER SEVEN YEARS.
AND I THINK WHEN WE OPEN OUR
NEW THEATRES ON BROADWAY,
AND IN CHICAGO, AND
OUR NEW THEATRE
SOUTH OF THE PANTAGES
THEATRE IN TORONTO,
THAT NUMBER COULD APPROACH
AT LEAST 30 PERCENT.
THEN, WHEN YOU ADD WHAT WE
ARE DOING INTERNATIONALLY,
AND THE FACT I JUST CAME
BACK FROM AUSTRALIA
WHERE WE CLOSED A DEAL TO
OPEN
SHOWBOAT
IN 1998,
JANUARY IN MELBOURNE, AND
THEN TAKE THE PRODUCTION
TO SYDNEY, AND THEN EVENTUALLY
TO BRISBANE AND ADELAIDE,
AND THAT PRODUCTION WILL
PLAY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA,
AND SINGAPORE, AND
HONG KONG, HOPEFULLY.
I JUST RETURNED FROM ISRAEL
WHERE WE WILL OPEN
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
AT THE NEW -
THE TEL AVIV OPERA
HOUSE, IN 1998.
AND TO SEE THAT THE
TENTACLES OF THE COMPANY
ARE NOW SPREADING, NOT
JUST WITHIN NORTH AMERICA,
BUT INTERNATIONALLY IN
A VERY RESPECTED WAY,
IN A CAREFULLY DESIGNED
WAY NOT, YOU KNOW,
A MAD RUSH TO TAKE
OVER MARKETS TOMORROW,
BUT TO ENSURE THAT WHAT
WE DO ESTABLISHES
THE COMPANY'S REPUTATION IN
EACH OF THESE FOREIGN VENUES
IN THE SAME WAY AS WE NOW
HAVE TREMENDOUS GOODWILL
FLOWING FROM OUR
ACTIVITIES IN CANADA
AND THE UNITED STATES.

Richard says NOW, WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT
YOUR WORK AS A PRODUCER.
AND I THINK MOST PEOPLE
ARE VERY AWARE OF GARTH
THE ENTREPRENEUR.
YOU KNOW, THERE ARE
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES,
MAGAZINE ARTICLES, TV
PROFILES, ALL OF THAT.

Garth says IT'S GETTING
BORING, ACTUALLY.

Richard chuckles and says NO, IT'S NOT.
BUT I'M INTERESTED
IN THE OTHER SIDE.
THE GARTH DRABINSKY
WHO DECIDED
TO MAKE RAGTIME
A MUSICAL.
I WANT TO GO BACK TO -
LIKE, AT WHAT MOMENT -
WHY DID YOU DECIDE
TO TAKE THAT BOOK,
WHICH HAD FAILED
TERRIBLY AS A MOVIE,
AND PUT IT ONTO THE
MUSICAL THEATRE STAGE?

Richard says WELL, THE MOVIE
FAILED ARTISTICALLY.
IT DIDN'T FAIL
COMMERCIALLY.
AND IT DIDN'T FAIL IN TERMS
OF ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS.
BUT FOR ME, ARTISTICALLY,
IT WAS A FAILURE.
ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO, I
HIRED A GENTLEMAN WHOSE
NAME IS MARTY BELL TO
BE THE CREATIVE AFFAIRS
LIAISON WITH ME AND THE
COMPANY IN OUR ACTIVITIES
WITH THE CREATIVE
COMMUNITY, BOTH IN NEW YORK
AND IN TORONTO,
PRIMARILY.
AND WHEN I HIRED
MARTY, I SAID, LOOK,
GIVE ME A LIST OF ALL OF
THE IDEAS YOU'VE HAD
OVER THE YEARS IN TERMS
OF NEW MUSICALS.
DON'T GIVE ME YOUR
PREFERENCES OR PRIORITIES,
LET ME TAKE A LOOK
AT THE LIST AND SEE
WHETHER ANYTHING REALLY
GETS ME EXCITED.
RAGTIME WAS ON THE LIST.
AND I MADE A CONSCIOUS
DECISION TO RE-READ
THAT BOOK VERY CAREFULLY.
BECAUSE I KNEW FIRST OF ALL,
THE TITLE SPELLED MUSICAL
MORE THAN ANY OTHER
TITLES OF ANY MAJOR NOVELS
IN THE LAST THREE
OR FOUR DECADES.
AND I WANTED TO REREAD
THE BOOK TO SEE WHETHER
THERE WAS THE ESSENCE OF
A GREAT MUSICAL THERE.
AND I WAS JUST CAPTIVATED
ABOUT ITS POSSIBILITIES
UPON A VERY CAREFUL
REREADING.
AND I SAID, LOOK,
THIS ONE FOR SURE
WE ARE PUTTING
ON THE LIST.
NOW, THE KEY WAS WHETHER I
COULD CONVINCE EDGAR DOCTOROW
TO LET GO OF HIS
MOST CHERISHED WORK
FOR THE MUSICAL STAGE AFTER
HIS RATHER UNPLEASANT
EXPERIENCE IN THE
FILM ADAPTATION.
AND THAT BEGAN A VERY,
VERY PROLONGED SERIES
OF MEETINGS AND NEGOTIATIONS,
WITH EDGAR FINALLY SAYING,
I BELIEVE IN YOU.
I THINK YOU UNDERSTAND
THIS WORK VERY WELL.
AND I'M GOING
TO GO WITH YOU.
AND THAT TOOK ABOUT
SIX MONTHS OF TIME.
THEN, THE QUESTION
WAS, OKAY,
YOU NOW HAVE CONTROL OF
ONE OF THE GREAT NOVELS
OF THE 20TH CENTURY, WHO
MAKES IT A MUSICAL REALITY?
WHO IS GOING TO
GIVE IT BIRTH,
AND NOT JUST INJECTING
CAPITAL, BUT WHO CAN ALSO
SHARE YOUR CREATIVE
VISION FOR THIS PIECE?
AND FUNDAMENTAL TO ME,
FROM THE VERY BEGINNING,
WAS THE BOOK WRITER.
AND I KNEW I HAD TO
HAVE TERRENCE McNALLY
COMMIT TO THIS WORK.

Richard says NOW, WHY DID YOU FEEL
SO STRONGLY ABOUT HIM?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Garth Drabinsky. Impresario."

Garth says WELL, THE RELATIONSHIP
I HAD ESTABLISHED
WITH TERRENCE IN
KISS OF THE
SPIDER WOMAN
WAS VERY SPECIAL.
I'VE SEEN TERRENCE'S WORK
CONTINUE TO MATURE TO HIM
NOW BEING PROBABLY THE
MOST RESPECTED AMERICAN
PLAYWRIGHT TODAY,
AND IF NOT THE MOST,
CERTAINLY IN THE
TOP THREE OR FOUR.
BUT HE HAS A SPECIAL FEEL
FOR MUSICAL THEATRE.
AND I ALSO SAW THAT HE WAS
ABLE TO PROJECT HIS MIND
INTO WHAT HOW PRINCE TERMS,
THE THEATRICAL FANTASTICAL.
IN OTHER WORDS, TO BE ABLE
TO TAKE IN
RAGTIME,
THE FIGURES OF HISTORY AND
MAKE THEM COME ALIVE
IN THEIR INTERFACING
WITH THE REAL CHARACTERS
OF THE PIECE, AND MAKE THEM
APPEAR AND DISAPPEAR AT THE
MOST UNUSUAL TIMES TO ALWAYS
KEEP THE AUDIENCE ON EDGE,
TO GIVE THEM SOMETHING
THEY NEVER EXPECTED.
AND SO I SAID
LOOK, TERRENCE,
I DON'T KNOW IF I'M
RIGHT, I DON'T KNOW
IF YOU'RE PERFECT, BUT
I BELIEVE YOU ARE.
WILL YOU WRITE A
TREATMENT OF THE WORK?
AND HE FINALLY
AGREED TO DO SO.
AND IT WAS ABOUT
60 PAGES IN LENGTH.
AND SOON AS I READ
THE TREATMENT,
I KNEW THAT THIS MAN COULD
COMMAND THE RESPECT
OF DOCTOROW, AND I KNOW THAT
I CAN COLLABORATE WITH HIM
FROM INCEPTION AND
FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT.
AND IT WAS HIS TREATMENT
THAT I WAS ABLE TO THEN
DISSEMINATE TO ABOUT EIGHT
DIFFERENT COMPOSING TEAMS
AND INDIVIDUALS, WHO I
THOUGHT MAY BE RIGHT
TO WRITE THE MUSIC
OF
RAGTIME.
HERE WAS THE TRICK.
THE TRICK WAS I GAVE
THE TREATMENT TO THESE
EIGHT GROUPS, AND I
SAID, LOOK, READ IT,
AND IF YOU'RE INSPIRED,
AND IF YOU'RE PASSIONATE,
WRITE ME THREE
OR FOUR SONGS.
HERE'S 1,500 dollars EACH.
GO INTO A RECORDING
FACILITY,
PUT THEM ON TAPE
WITH A PIANIST,
HIRE A COUPLE OF ACTORS
WHO CAN HELP YOU OUT,
AND LET ME SEE A SAMPLE OF
HOW YOU WOULD TRANSLATE
THIS TREATMENT INTO THE
MUSIC OF
RAGTIME.
AND WHEN I HAD ALL OF
THE MATERIAL SUBMITTED,
AND ONE EVENING, I WAS
AT THE FOUR SEASONS
IN NEW YORK, AND I HAD A SONY
SET SENT UP TO THE ROOM,
AND I PLAYED ALL OF THE
MUSIC FROM ALL OF THE
COMPOSING TEAMS, AND AHRENS
AND FLAHERTY WERE SO FAR
AHEAD OF ANYBODY ELSE WHO
WAS WRITING FOR THE WORK,
THAT I KNEW THAT THIS
WAS THE WAY TO GO.
IT WAS JUST THERE.
AS IT TURNED OUT,
TERRENCE WAS THRILLED.
BECAUSE TERRENCE HAD
WANTED TO WORK
WITH THESE TWO PEOPLE
FOR QUITE A LONG TIME.
AND SO WAS BORN A
NEW CREATIVE TEAM
TO WRITE MUSICAL
THEATRE.

Richard says AND THE NEXT
STEP, A DIRECTOR.

Garth says I KNEW THAT I HAD TO
FIND SOME NEW TALENT
TO BRING IN TO THE DIRECTING
PROCESS OF MUSICAL THEATRE,
OR I WAS GOING TO BE
ULTIMATELY DEPENDENT
UPON THE AVAILABILITY
OF ONE MAN, AND HIS LOVE
AND EXCITEMENT FOR EVERYTHING
I DELIVERED TO HIM,
OR I'D BE OUT OF LUCK.
AS IT TURNED OUT, GALATI,
FRANK GALATI FROM STEPPENWOLF
FAME, AND BRILLIANTLY THE
ADAPTOR OF
GRAPES OF WRATH,
THAT WENT ON TO HUGE
SUCCESS BOTH ARTISTICALLY
AND COMMERCIALLY IN
NEW YORK AND LONDON
AND SO FORTH, WAS VERY
PASSIONATE ABOUT THE WORK.
AND VERY MUCH WANTED
TO MAKE THE LEAP
TO MUSICAL THEATRE.
HE HAS DIRECTED A NUMBER OF
OPERAS OVER THE YEARS
AT THE LYRIC IN CHICAGO,
BUT THIS WAS HIS FIRST
OPPORTUNITY TO BE INVOLVED
IN THE HIGH STAKES
OF MAJOR COMMERCIAL
MUSICAL THEATRE.
FRANK READ THE TREATMENT,
HEARD THE MUSIC,
FELL IN LOVE WITH THE
TEAM AND THE IDEA
IMMEDIATELY AND AGREED.
BUT I WAS ONLY EXCITED
ABOUT BRINGING FRANK
ON THE PROJECT IF I COULD
COUNTERBALANCE HIM WITH
A SUPERB CHOREOGRAPHER WHO
GREW OUT OF THE TRADITIONS
OF MUSICAL THEATRE
STAGING, AS WELL.
I NEEDED THAT
COUNTERBALANCING EFFECT
BECAUSE I KNEW FRANK
WOULD BE BRILLIANT
WITH THE ACTORS, BRILLIANT
ON BOOK AND STRUCTURE,
AND BRILLIANT ON
MISE-EN-SCENE.
I HAD NO DOUBT
ABOUT THAT.
WHERE I WAS CONCERNED WAS
THE LACK OF EXPERIENCE,
IF YOU WILL, IN THE
MUSICAL STAGING PROCESS;
HENCE, AGAIN, THE SAME
SCRUTINIZING, RIGID REVIEW
OF TALENT ENDING UP IN
GRACIELA DANIELE
BECOMING THE
MATCH WITH FRANK.

Richard says ALSO, IT KIND OF MAKES
SENSE BECAUSE SHE,
OF COURSE, HAD WORKED
CLOSELY WITH AHRENS AND
FLAHERTY, AND HAD DIRECTED
AND CHOREOGRAPHED
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, WHICH
WAS THEIR BIG HIT.

Garth says THAT'S RIGHT.
HAD NOT REALLY WORKED WITH
TERRENCE BEFORE, ALSO.
BUT THAT SEEMED TO GIVE ME
THE PERFECT CONSTITUENCY.
AFTER THAT, OF COURSE,
IT WAS EASY, EASIER,
IN TERMS OF EXCITING JULES
FISHER AND JEAN LEE
IN SETS, AND ULTIMATELY
SANTO LOQUASTO IN COSTUMES,
TO JOIN THE TEAM.
BUT THAT WAS A VERY
UNUSUAL WAY OF PROCEEDING
TO PUT TOGETHER A
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL
COLLABORATIVE TEAM.

Richard says THE WHOLE PROBLEM WITH
TACKLING
RAGTIME,
I GUESS IS THAT THERE IS SO
MUCH HAPPENS IN IT, OBVIOUSLY.
THERE'S A STORY ABOUT
AN IMMIGRANT FAMILY.
THERE'S A STORY ABOUT
COALHOUSE WALKER WHO BECOMES,
I GUESS, ONE OF THE FIRST
BLACK ANARCHISTS IN AMERICA,
THEN THERE ARE ALL
THESE HISTORICAL FIGURES,
HENRY FORD, BOOKER T.
WASHINGTON, EMMA GOLDMAN.
AND INTELLECTUALLY, YOU
REALIZE EACH OF THE HISTORICAL
CHARACTERS FITS WITH ONE
OF THE NOVEL CHARACTERS,
IN THEIR KIND OF ARCHETYPES,
AND THEY PARALLEL ALONG,
BUT HOW DO YOU
SIMULTANEOUSLY TELL
TWO DEEP AND COMPLICATED
FAMILY STORIES,
AND BRING IN ALL THE
WEALTH OF HISTORY?
AND THESE PEOPLE
FROM HISTORY HAVE
THEIR OWN LIVES, AS WELL.

Garth says THREE STORIES, REALLY,
IF YOU LOOK AT IT.
THE GOOD NEWS IS THEY
FINALLY ALL MERGE.

Richard says RIGHT.

Garth says AND I THINK THAT'S THE
KEY TO HOW DOCTOROW
WAS SO BRILLIANT
IN HIS STRUCTURE.
FIRST OF ALL, DOCTOROW
REALLY SET IT ALL UP
FOR US IN HOW HE
STRUCTURED THE BOOK.
THE MISTAKE OF THE MOVIE WAS
THAT FORMAN AND HIS SCREENWRITER
ENGAGED IN WHAT EDGAR
LIKES TO TERM DRIFT.
AND THE PROBLEM WAS THE FILM
DECIDED TO SKEW TOTALLY,
REALLY, IN THE DIRECTION OF
THE COALHOUSE WALKER STORY,
LEAVING OUT THE FUNDAMENTAL
PARTS OF THE STORY
THAT ARE SO POIGNANT
IN THEIR OWN RIGHT,
BEING THE MARRIAGE OF THE
MOTHER AND THE FATHER,
AND ITS ULTIMATE BREAKDOWN.
THE PASSION AND THE
INCREDIBLE HUMANISM
OF YOUNGER BROTHER, THE
YOUNGER BROTHER OF THE
MOTHER IN THE STORY,
AND OF COURSE,
THAT REALLY VERY DEEPLY
EMOTIONALLY DISTURBING,
AND YET ELEVATING -
ULTIMATELY ELEVATING - STORY
OF THE TATA, WHO LEAVES LATVIA,
AND COMES THROUGH THE GATES
OF ELLIS ISLAND, AND
IS INITIALLY EXPOSED
TO THE HARSHNESS OF THE REALITY
OF AMERICA CIRCA 1906, 1908,
AND THEN RECONSTITUTES
HIMSELF IN THE IMAGE
OF THIS WONDERFUL,
WONDERFUL CHARACTER,
THE BARON ASHKENAZY,
THE FILM DIRECTOR.
AND WHAT I SAID TO EDGAR
FROM THE VERY BEGINNING,
I SAID, I WILL FAIL IN
BRINGING THIS MUSICAL
TO THE STAGE FAITHFULLY,
IF ALL OF THE STORIES
ARE NOT PROTECTED.
AND IF ALL OF THE CHARACTERS
DO NOT INTERTWINE,
AND ULTIMATELY MERGE AND
CRYSTALLIZE IN ACT II
TO GIVE YOU THAT FULL
EMOTIONAL IMPACT
AT THE END OF
THE STORY.
AND IT WAS MY COMMITMENT TO
BEING FAITHFUL TO THE BOOK
STRUCTURE THAT ULTIMATELY
WAS THE REASON THAT EDGAR,
YOU KNOW, GRANTED
THE RIGHTS TO ME.

Richard says GARTH, ONE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN
RAGTIME
THE BOOK,
AND RAGTIME
THE MUSICAL,
REREADING THE BOOK AGAIN,
IT REMAINS BRILLIANT,
AND LOOKING AT IT
IT'S WONDERFUL AND
THOUGHT PROVOKING.
BUT I CAN'T TELL YOU I EVER
CRIED READING THE BOOK
OF RAGTIME
WHEREAS,
HEARING THE SONGS,
AND HEARING THE PEOPLE
PRESENT THEM, I MEAN,
YOU GET THE CHILLS
UP THE BACK,
THE TEARS WELL IN YOUR
EYES, YOU CAN'T STOP IT.
THIS IS POWERFUL, EMOTIONAL
MUSIC AND POWERFUL,
REALLY TUG AT THE HEART.
IS THAT DIFFERENCE GOING
TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
IN THE END TO
RAGTIME?

Garth says YOU KNOW, WHEN
I READ THE BOOK,
AT LEAST I READ IT THREE OR
FOUR TIMES AFTER MAKING
THE DECISION TO PROCEED WITH
IT, I WAS ON A SAILBOAT
FOR A WEEK, AND DID
A COMPLETE BREAKDOWN
OF THE NOVEL
SCENE BY SCENE.
AND OF COURSE, THERE IS NO
DIALOGUE IN THE ENTIRE BOOK.
THERE'S THE SKETCH, AND
DOCTOROW LETS YOU USE
YOUR IMAGINATION
IN MOMENTS.
BUT I WAS ABLE, FOR MY OWN
CLARIFICATION AND CERTAINTY,
TO FIND SO MANY IDEAL
MUSICAL MOMENTS IN THE WORK.
IT'S ALL THERE IN
DOCTOROW'S WRITING.
THE KEY WAS JUST TO GO INTO
THOSE PARAGRAPHS AND FIND IT,
WHICH WAS, BY THE WAY,
A LESSON I LEARNED
A LONG TIME AGO.
AND THAT IS, IF I WAS
GOING TO DO ANY WORK
IN MUSICAL THEATRE, IT WAS
TO ADAPT LITERARY WORKS.
I NEEDED TO HAVE A LITERARY
WORK AS THE UNDERLYING
PROPERTY FROM
WHICH TO MOVE FROM.
BECAUSE IT'S FOR THAT VERY
REASON THAT YOU CAN DELVE
DEEPER AND DEEPER AND DEEPER
INTO THE RICHNESS
OF THE MATERIAL THAT ALLOWS
YOU TO FIND THAT SONG
AND THAT
EMOTIONAL MOMENT.
WHEREAS, IF YOU'RE JUST
ADAPTING A SCREENPLAY,
AN ORIGINAL
SCREENPLAY, A MOVIE,
IN OTHER WORDS, THAT WAS
BASED ONLY ON AN ORIGINAL
SCREENPLAY, IT'S A MUCH
MORE COMPLICATED PROCESS,
AND QUESTIONABLE IN TERMS OF
THE FINAL RESULT AND EFFECT.

Richard says HEARING YOU
TALK ABOUT THIS,
YOU WERE EMOTIONALLY
ENGAGED.
THIS OBVIOUSLY TOUCHED
SOMETHING IN YOU.
I WAS LOOKING BACK AT THE
MUSICALS YOU PRODUCED.
I DON'T THINK YOU'VE
EVER THOUGHT OF THIS.
BUT EVEN WHEN YOU WEREN'T
THE CREATIVE FORCE
BEHIND THEM, THE
LEADING CHARACTERS,
LIKE THE PHANTOM AND NORMA
AND MOLINA IN SPIDER WOMAN,
PEOPLE LIKE JULIE
IN SHOWBOAT,
THE TATEH AND THE OTHER
PEOPLE IN
RAGTIME,
THEY'RE ALL DREAMERS; THEY
ALL BELIEVE IN THINGS,
BUT THEY'RE ALL ALSO SOMEHOW
MADE TO STAND OUTSIDE.
THE WORLD HAS GOTTEN
IN BETWEEN THEM.
IS THAT HOW YOU FEEL?

Garth says I FEEL THAT I CAN'T GET
AS EXCITED ABOUT A STORY,
A NEW MUSICAL, ESPECIALLY,
UNLESS THERE IS
A COUPLE OF THINGS
GOING FOR IT:
ONE, A MAJOR SOCIAL
STATEMENT TO MAKE.
IN RAGTIME, THERE
ARE NUMEROUS
SOCIAL STATEMENTS
TO MAKE.
STATEMENTS AGAIN DECRYING
STATEMENTS ABOUT THE
DREAM OF ENTREPRENEURIAL
ACCOMPLISHMENT.
STATEMENTS AGAINST THE
PLIGHT OF THE WORKER,
AND THE ORIGINS OF
UNIONISM IN NORTH AMERICA,
AND ITS EFFECT ON THE
ECONOMIC DESTINY
OF THIS CONTINENT,
FOR EXAMPLE.
SO THE SOCIAL STATEMENTS
ARE FUNDAMENTAL.
BUT THE OTHER THING
THAT HAS BECOME CLEAR
IS I NEED TO RELATE, IN
A VERY SYMPATHETIC WAY,
TO A NUMBER OF THE
CHARACTERS IN THE PIECE.
THAT'S THE HUMANISM OF WHAT
IT'S ALL ABOUT FOR ME.
IN PHANTOM OF THE OPERA,
YOU KNOW IT WAS THAT
DISTORTED INDIVIDUAL WHO WAS
BORN WITH A DISFIGUREMENT,
MAJOR PHYSICAL PROBLEM.
AND YET HE HAD A SOUL THAT
WAS STIRRING AND MEMORABLE.
AND I WAS ABLE TO
RELATE TO THAT.
MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE OF
MY PHYSICAL HISTORY.
I HAD POLIO WHEN
I WAS VERY YOUNG,
SO I KNOW WHAT IT IS TO
BE LOOKED AT A LITTLE BIT
DIFFERENTLY BY SOMEONE.
AND WHETHER OR NOT YOU
ARE GOING TO BE ACCEPTED
AS A RESULT OF THAT.
IN THE CASE OF
THE SPIDER WOMAN,
IT WAS THAT OPPRESSED
TWOSOME IN THAT PRISON.
AND I CARED ABOUT THOSE
TWO PEOPLE VERY MUCH.
IN
SHOWBOAT
AGAIN,
GOING BACK TO
THE POST-EMANCIPATION
ERA OF AMERICA,
AND HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS FOR
THE BLACK MAN AND WOMAN
TO FIND A PLACE IN SOCIETY
OF RESPECT, AND STATURE,
AND TO ALLOW THEM TO LIVE
AS HUMAN BEINGS, TO ENJOY
THE BEST OF WHAT THE
COUNTRY CAN GIVE,
AND NOT TO BE EXPLOITED.
AS I SAID, SO I THINK
THAT'S BECOMING, NOW,
A CLEAR TREND IN
THE WORK THAT I DO.
AND IF I DON'T HAVE THAT
COMBINATION OF SYMPATHETIC
CHARACTERS AND MAJOR
SOCIAL STATEMENTS TO MAKE,
THEN I DON'T THINK IT'S
NECESSARILY THE STUFF
OF GREAT MUSICAL THEATRE.
OBVIOUSLY, THERE ARE ESCAPE
TYPE OF EXPERIENCES IN MUSICALS.
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING
TECHNICAL DREAMCOAT.

Richard says BUT EVEN JOSEPH.

Garth says JOSEPH HAS A BIG STATEMENT
TO MAKE ABOUT FAMILY DISCORD,
AND TAKING FOR
GRANTED, YOU KNOW,
THE FACT YOU WERE BORN
WITH BROTHERS AND SISTERS
AND A CARING FATHER,
AND ALL OF THAT,
AND TO LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND
FOR WEALTH AND POWER
AND STATUS, AND THEN THE
REALIZATION COMES BACK,
MAYBE I DID
MAKE A MISTAKE.
MAYBE THERE ARE
OTHER FUNDAMENTALS
THAT ARE MUCH MORE
IMPORTANT IN LIFE.
WE'RE WORKING ON A NEW
MUSICAL NOW BASED ON
THE LIFE OF BOB FOSSE AND
HIS CHOREOGRAPHIC GENIUS.
THAT WILL BE A DIFFERENT
TYPE OF MUSICAL.
ULTIMATELY, WE'RE REALLY
JUST GOING TO EXPLORE
THE QUALITY OF HIS
CONTRIBUTION TO THE THEATRE
OVER A BRILLIANT CAREER THAT
ENDED ALL TOO ABRUPTLY.
THAT'S A DIFFERENT
EXPERIENCE.
BUT I KNOW THAT I AM VERY
MUCH FOCUSSED ON HISTORY,
ON THE INDICTMENTS OF
SOCIETY, ON PEOPLE,
AND FINDING THOSE STORIES
THAT REALLY TUG
AT THE HEART STRINGS.

Richard says YOU TALKED ABOUT HISTORY,
AND I TIE IT INTO
YOUR OWN PERSONAL
HISTORY.
YOU'VE BEEN VERY CANDID
ABOUT YOUR LIFE,
AND YOUR WRITING AND STUFF,
AND I THINK YOU ONCE SAID
THE TWO TIMES PEOPLE TOOK
THINGS AWAY FROM YOU
WAS WHEN YOUR POLIO TOOK
AWAY YOUR YOUTH AND THAT,
AND WHEN THE PEOPLE IN THE
FILM BUSINESS GANGED UP
AGAINST YOU AND TOOK AWAY
SOMETHING YOU'D WORKED ON.
IN RAGTIME,
THERE IS A
LYRIC I JUST HEARD RECENTLY
WHERE THE MOTHER SAYS, “YOU
CAN NEVER GO BACK TO BEFORE.”
DO YOU THINK YOU PUT
THAT “BEFORE” BEHIND YOU?
OR IS THAT STUFF
STILL WITH YOU,
THAT YOU THINK OF THAT
WHEN YOU WORK TODAY?

Garth says YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO
ELIMINATE YOUR HISTORY.
BUT THE GOOD NEWS, WHAT
HAS KEPT ME FUELLED,
AND ABLE TO REACH
FOR BETTER THINGS,
MORE IMPORTANT
THINGS ONGOINGLY,
HAS BEEN THE FACT THAT I
LOOK AHEAD A HELL OF A LOT
MORE THAN I'VE
EVER LOOKED BACK.
I THINK IT'S A
MISTAKE TO LIVE,
OR RELIVE PAINFUL EXPERIENCES
OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
YET, ONE HAS TO BE
COGNIZANT OF WHY YOU ARE
WHERE YOU ARE TODAY.

Richard says ONE LAST QUESTION,
GARTH, IN LIGHT OF WHAT
WE'VE ALL JUST
SAID ABOUT THIS.
YOU LIKE DEALS; IF THEY
CAME ALONG AND SAID TO YOU,
OKAY, WE WOULD TAKE AWAY
THE POWER AND THE MONEY
AND THE INFLUENCE AND
THE MUSICAL STUFF,
BUT YOU WOULD HAVE HAD
A TOTALLY BLOTLESS,
BLAMELESS CHILDHOOD, AND
COULD HAVE GONE ON FOREVER
AND EVER, IF YOU HAD
TO MAKE THAT CHOICE,
WHAT WOULD YOU TAKE?

Garth says THAT'S TOUGH.
THAT'S A TOUGH QUESTION.
I'VE ASKED MYSELF
THAT OFTEN.
THERE ARE TIMES WHEN
I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE
GIVEN IT ALL UP FOR A MORE
NORMAL PHYSICAL LIFE.
BUT OBVIOUSLY, I'VE HAD A
VERY SATISFYING, CREATIVE
BUSINESS CAREER SO FAR, AND
I THINK I FOUND A NICHE NOW.
I THINK I CAN CONTINUE TO
BRING A LOT OF ENCHANTMENT
AND HAPPINESS AND THRILLS TO
A VAST SEGMENT OF THE PUBLIC.
AND THAT IS PRETTY
GRATIFYING.
SO ON BALANCE, I
LIKE WHERE I AM.
I WOULD HAVE HAD LIKED
TO HAVE BOTH,
BUT THAT'S NOT THE WAY
IT ALWAYS WORKS IN LIFE.

Richard says GARTH, THANK YOU
VERY MUCH.

He faces the screen and says
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN
FOR DIALOGUE.
GOODBYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1996, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Garth Drabinsky