“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the
I just came across a fascinating list of show titles pulled together by Nicolas Coburn, a theater professional with a flair for writing. The list gives the final title choices followed by the original titles — the also-rans that were canned. Here’s a sampling:
Crimes of the Heart (originally titled Crimes of Passion)
Fiddler on the Roof (originally titled Tevye)
Funny Girl (originally titled My Man)
Hello, Dolly! (originally titled Dolly: A Damned Exasperating Woman)
My Fair Lady (originally titled Lady Liza, then The Talk of London)
The Sound of Music (originally titled The Singing Heart)
A Streetcar Named Desire (originally titled The Poker Night)
West Side Story (originally titled East Side Story)
Just think of these choices and the title that ultimately won the day: The Talk of London or My Fair Lady; Crimes of Passion or Crimes of the Heart; Tevye or Fiddler on the Roof; and finally, my favorite, The Poker Night or A Streetcar Named Desire. What a difference a name makes!
Pondering this list made me think about how tricky it can be to come up with a final product: to lock down a work of art and send it out into the world. The polished versions of all these hit shows — the ones we enjoy today — are whole and complete: they entertain us in full bloom. And yet, the creative process that gave birth to each of them was made up of scores of failures, changes, missteps, and fateful decisions all along the way. At any point in time, just one different choice — West Side Story vs. East Side Story or going with The Poker Night over A Streetcar Named Desire — might have upset the delicate balance of factors that ultimately added up to success. What mysterious alchemy!