Mae Dear, from Leading Lady (Day 141)

Another big number from Leading Lady, this one opened the second act in all but the most recent version of the show. The main “Mae Dear” tune is another Kenneth Burton creation, written (like Land of Love) for the revue Whispers of 1924, but Seth and I had the notion of trying to craft a number that juxtaposed a performance onstage with the activity going on backstage. Mae’s relationship with the local merchants is described in Mari Fielder’s historical note, and it was her custom to address the audience directly from the stage, often using a script written in rhymed couplets, as she does at the end of this number.

The track I’ve posted is from the 2012 production at the UArts New Play Workshop, with Shannon Remley, Brian Black and a cast of students from the Musical Theater Program and pianist Tom Baust.

Continue reading

The Show Must Go On, from Leading Lady (Day 140)

This song from Leading Lady was heard in several different places in different drafts of the show. In each case, though, it served to show Mae facing the most difficult of choices. After a performance of The Daughter of Mother Machree, the show in which she plays a starring role, Mae gets news that her young son has fallen victim to influenza, which became a deadly epidemic in certain cities in American in 1918.

Continue reading

Leading Lady, from Leading Lady (Day 139)

This was the finale of Act I in the version of Leading Lady that was presented at the UArts New Play Festival in 2012. The setting for this number is Chicago, where Mae’s tour of The Daughter of Mother Machree is drawing disappointing crowds. Frank arrives unexpectedly for a visit and proposes that Mae quit the tour and return with him to Philadelphia, where they can start their own company. Mae finds herself caught in the middle between two bossy men, her husband and Poli, the producer.

MAE (to Poli)
You think
That I’m some kind of prize possession
You can trade for a friendly mention
In a slick magazine.
(POLI starts to protest but she silences him.)
You know what I mean!
I think
That you’ve gotten the wrong impression
You presume I’m a marionette
A girl on a string
But I’d never do
This unladylike thing!

It’s true
I’m not much of a leading lady
I let you make the big decisions
While I followed your lead,
Never disagreed.
(Turning on FRANK)
And you,
Barging in with your big suspicions!
You charge in and start picking a fight,
Saving the day,
But I want the right
To have some kind of say!

“Leading Lady?”
Trampled and tossed am I!
“Leading Lady?”
Bullied and bossed am I!
“Leading Lady?”
Utterly lost am I!
You made the choice
And just look where it led!

POLI
You forget who you are, little lady.
Look who made you a star, little lady
I know you’re angry, I see how you feel,
But you signed a contract! We have a deal!
(Pulls contract from his jacket and brandishes it.)

FRANK
He’s made you famous, you’ve made him rich
You don’t owe a thing to that son of a — (MAE: Frank!)
Now you’re a star and your name’s well known
We can start a company of our own!

POLI and FRANK (addressing each other)
Damn your interference!
I think I know what’s best for her!
Damn your interference!
Just look what you’ve done!
My friend, you’d better be wary!
You’d best stay out of my way.

FRANK
I only want what’s best for Mary.

POLI
I only want what’s best for Mae.

MAE
I think that’s up to ME to say!

FRANK (to MAE, pleading)
Listen, Mary,
There’s an alternative
Listen, Mary
Something has got to give
Sure, it’s scary
But it’s a chance to live!

MAE
I’m gonna live like Sally O’Brien!
This kitten’s gonna roar like a lion!
(QUOTING AN EARLIER THEME.)
Listen, me boys,
I’m a Callahan!
And a Callahan can do anything
She sets her mind to do!

MAE and WOMEN OF CHORUS
You men
Seem to think you’re the main event here
You’re so full of your self-importance
Always running the show
Well, you don’t, you know

MEN (placating)
We men
Come with only the best intent here

MAE and WOMEN
You assume that we’re simpering fools
But fellas, take note,
We’re changing the rules
Soon as we get the vote!

ALL (alternating with MAE SOLO):
Leading Lady
Done with my docile days!
Leading Lady
Through with my bashful ways
Leading Lady
I was a baby indeed,

FRANK and POLI: What’ll it be, Mae?
(She tears up contract.)

MAE: Philadelphia, Here we come!

ALL: It’s time for this lady to lead!

Your Place Is Here, from Leading Lady (Day 138)

Sylvester PoliIf you’ve been following the story of Leading Lady post by post, you’ll know that Mae is on the road in a tour of The Daughter of Mother Machree, produced by Sylvester Poli (pictured on the left). We’ve heard about her success and its impact on her family in a previous song, The Drinks Are On Miss Desmond, and experienced the yearning felt by a mother separated from her children in I’ll Be Near. Now Mae gets word that her child is grievously ill – we were thinking of the 1918 influenza epidemic – and she decides that she must return home, which means abandoning the tour. Poli uses this song and the scene preceding it to cajole and browbeat Mae until she agrees to stay. This performance is a composer’s demo of the song, with me doing a sort of Noel Coward imitation:

Continue reading

I’ll Be Near, from Leading Lady (Day 137)

Today’s song from Leading Lady is a tender tune, a lullaby called I’ll Be Near, and today’s post (May 17) is dedicated to Bill Fennelly, who is celebrating his birthday today! Bill is an uber-talented director of musicals and plays who teaches on the faculty at Drexel University; take a second and read his credits here and I know you’ll be impressed. Seth and I recruited him shortly after he arrived here in Philly as a collaborator on Leading Lady, and we feel lucky that he said yes!

I’ll Be Near appeared in different locations in the various versions of the show, but it’s always been there, and Seth and I are both very fond of it. Our idea was to write a lullaby that Mae could sing onstage playing the part of a mother; meanwhile, her mother-in-law sings a version of the same song to her real-life child (or children, depending on which draft you’re referring to). Hearing the same song sung as a duet in two different contexts (one real, one theatrical) is especially poignant and dramatically effective. The version I’ve posted is from the 2012 reading, which features Shannon Remley as Mae and Chanel Karimkhani as Maggie, with Tom Baust at the piano.


Continue reading