The Film Music Society FMS FEATURE...

April 18, 2007
No Shame in Shaiman
ASCAP honors multi-talented score and songwriting extrovert of stage and screen by Jon Burlingame

HOLLYWOOD—Composer Marc Shaiman received the Henry Mancini Award for outstanding career achievement at last night's 22nd annual Film and Television Music Awards of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) at the Kodak Theatre.

(From left) Marissa Jaret Winokur, Rob Reiner, Marilyn Bergman, Marc Shaiman and Billy Crystal

(From left) Marissa Jaret Winokur, Rob Reiner, Marilyn Bergman, Marc Shaiman and Billy Crystal

In one of the most entertaining ASCAP awards nights in memory, Shaiman – a Tony and Grammy winner for Hairspray, an Emmy winner for his Oscar song medleys, and a five-time Oscar nominee for such scores as The American President – was joined onstage by two longtime collaborators, comedian-actor Billy Crystal and director Rob Reiner.

Reiner ribbed Shaiman, calling him "a funny little fat Jew... like me, except I'm a little taller and he's a little gayer," but added in a more serious moment that scores like the suspenseful Misery and the inspiring American President theme demonstrated that "there is nobody more versatile than Marc Shaiman."

In a five-minute standup routine, Crystal brought down the house with remarks like "if Oscar Levant and Edward G. Robinson had a baby..."

Crystal said he met Shaiman on Saturday Night Live in 1984, after Shaiman had been working for Bette Midler. They hit it off, and Shaiman began accompanying Crystal on the road; Shaiman's virtual encyclopedic recall of any song from any era led Crystal to dub him "Rainjew."

When Crystal starred in When Harry Met Sally..., he suggested Shaiman to director Reiner as music arranger and supervisor, and Shaiman's film-scoring career was launched. It has since encompassed such hits as The Addams Family, City Slickers, George of the Jungle, Sleepless in Seattle, Sister Act, The First Wives Club, Patch Adams and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

In accepting the award, Shaiman did a 20-minute set onstage in which he played "Moon River" at the piano while thanking friends and colleagues. "My name on the same line of a press release with Henry Mancini," he said. "It just doesn't seem right."

Shaiman – well-known inside the industry as one of the wittiest composers working, both musically and lyrically – made reference to his earlier career as an accompanist and quipped, "I've tinkled under the great, the near-great and the lame, but I've never tinkled under myself." Audience laughter drowned out Crystal's response.

The honoree serenaded ASCAP president Marilyn Bergman with one of her most famous songs as a lyricist, "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life." He also accompanied surprise guest Marissa Jaret Winokur (the original Tracy in the Broadway stage version of Shaiman's musical Hairspray) in the song "Good Morning, Baltimore," and introduced a new song, "Fifty Checks," from his (and partner Scott Wittman's) next Broadway-bound musical based on Steven Spielberg's film Catch Me If You Can.

Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner barely contain their laughter as Shaiman

Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner barely contain their laughter as Shaiman "tinkles" under himself.

A video tribute included appearances by actors Robin Williams, Martin Short, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Congratulatory video greetings were sent by Hairspray movie actors John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron, Ricki Lake and Alison Janney.

At the close of the evening, following Shaiman's third standing ovation, the audience stopped short of the exits in hysterical laughter to watch a clip from the 2006 documentary Finding Kraftland in which Shaiman performs his ode to his overzealous agent in "Yes!"

Earlier in the show, Sacha Baron Cohen made a rare out-of-character appearance to present an ASCAP award to his brother, Erran Baron Cohen, for composing the faux-Kazakhstan score for last year's Borat.

Other winners present to accept awards included, for television, Russ Landau and David Vanacore (Survivor), Sean Callery (24), Mark Snow (Smallville), Grant Geissman (Two and a Half Men), Jeff Cardoni (CSI: Miami), Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman (Heroes), John Keane (CSI), Reinhold Heil & Johnny Klimek (Without a Trace), Michael Levine (Cold Case) and Blake Neely (Brothers and Sisters).

Film winners attending included Ramin Djawadi (Open Season), Andrea Guerra (The Pursuit of Happyness), Douglas Pipes (Monster House) and John Powell (Happy Feet, Ice Age: The Meltdown, X-Men: The Last Stand).

Click here for a full list of award winners.

©2007 Jon Burlingame