No lyrics today, just some raucous tenor sax playing from Ron Kerber on a track called “Funky Little Donkey” from the 2011 production of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble I scored for Enchantment Theater Company. Matt Gallagher, Kevin MacConnell and Lars Halle are also with me in the band.
The title is a little misleading, since this is a song I created for a comic dance routine for three squirrels (Miranda Libkin with Peter Smith and Zach Chiero, pictured above). The melody is actually re-purposed from a tune I wrote for a Sunoco industrial years ago called “Nothing Happens Til It’s Sold,” and the stage action gave Miranda, who plays the little sister squirrel, plenty of opportunity to make a fool of herself!
This portrait of Mae Desmond is from the New York Public LIbrary’s Theatre Collection
Seth Bauer and I have spent the past couple years working on a new musical called Leading Lady
, and we’ve had the wonderful opportunity to do two different workshops, the first at UArts in 2012 as part of the Brind School’s New Play Festival and the second at Drexel University, where our director, Bill Fennelly is a faculty member, in 2013. Over the course of those workshops, we’ve written enough material to fill two or three musicals, as we search for the right story to tell about Mae Desmond
, the remarkable actress and theater manager whose Mae Desmond Players was a popular stock company in Philadelphia 100 years ago. Today’s song got discarded after the 2012 workshop, but I woke up thinking about it, and decided it was too good to languish forever in obscurity. It’s sung by Maggie Fielder (played by Chanel Karimkhani), mother of Frank Fielder, Mae’s husband; Maggie owns a boarding house for actors and runs it like a tight ship. It’s an affectionate tribute to actors and their wayward ways: “There’s no folk like show folk!” is its refrain, and having spent my life around them, I speak the truth. More about Mae Desmond after the lyric…
I’m running with the weather theme, and that’s taken me way, way back to 1977 for today’s Project 194 song. This is Steel City Summer, for a revue called Prime Time, presented by the Pittsburgh Park Players. The sketches in that show were by Charlie Peters, a talented playwright who went on to a career as a screenwriter (“Paternity,” “Blame It On Rio,” “Three Men and a Little Lady”) and director. The singer on this track is Gela Jacobson, who is known nowadays as Gela Nash-Taylor, the co-founder of Juicy Couture; as this profile from the Carnegie-Mellon alumni newsletter attests, her career path has taken her away from the stage, but back in the day, she was in the cast of my graduate thesis project (Pinter’s The Birthday Party) in addition to being in the Park Players ensemble that summer. This glamorous dame was rocking a sort of Lotte Lenya sound back then, and we decided to “dwess it up” with some Dietrich-style baby “r” sounds. The song was part of a segment in the show that spoofed TV news broadcasts; there was also the “Bad News Blues” and a sportscaster song sung by peppy “Pom Pom Pam” – perhaps those will show up in future posts!
Winter Storm Juno let us off easy, as it turns out, and so instead of the “deepest snows” I was anticipating, we’ve got about an inch on the ground here in Philadelphia. Even so, today’s song is Whispering Trees from A Tiny Miracle, and it couldn’t be more appropriate to the season. The song speaks of the promise of rebirth at a time when the world seems frozen: a heart-warming thought on a January day! Joilet Harris is the soloist, and the chorus includes Mary Ellen Grant Kennedy, Scott Ward,
Things are getting a little meteorological on Project 194 this morning as I share a song with a text by one of my most cooperative collaborators, Willie the Shake. (When I add a syllable, he never complains!) This setting of The Wind and the Rain was created for the Arden Theater’s production of Twelfth Night, directed by the inimitable Whit Maclaughlin, in 2003. Whit’s idea was that Illyria was a Mediterranean resort with Sinatra platters in the jukebox at the bar, hence the ring-a-ding swing style of this track. Bev Appleton was great as Feste in this production, and not just because he gave a great rendition of this number.