The Maternity Drag, from Watch the Birdie (Day 50)

StorkFifty days! That definitely feels like a milestone! Since launching Project 194, my “blessed event” has had nearly 700 visitors and 2000 page views – things are humming along, and I’m in the midst of a sort of musical “family album,” posting songs from my musical Watch the Birdie, a show which grew out of my own life experiences in all sorts of intriguing ways.

Posting The Maternity Drag means it’s time for me to write about John Mangano, who wrote the lyrics for this particular ditty. First, though, the song…

As you await the stork’s arrival
It’s time to think of your survival.
You’re in a delicate condition,
And soon you’ll be wishin’
You were not in this position.
Oh, what a state for man and missus!
You’d better get on with the kisses,
For you will wonder where the good times went
Very soon after the blessed event.

Varicose veins,
Labor pains,
Up all night,
Bills to write,
Weigh her in
As you begin
Doing the maternity drag!
Oversize clothes
Figure grows
When’s the last time you saw your toes?
Don’t you brag
It’s just a gag
Doin’ the maternity drag

You were relieved when you conceived
But you should have stopped to think!
Now you’ve got the blues
You’ve sworn off booze
And you could really use a drink

Medical claims
Books of names
Childbirth class, passing gas
To your sex life wave adieu
Morning sickness the whole day thru
Starts to nag
Doing the maternity drag!

In the first trimester… (dialog and dance)
Second trimester… (dialog and dance)
Third trimester… (dialog and dance)

First contraction’s on its way
One thing mother has got to say:
You can give me pats and hugs
But if you love me, you’ll give me drugs!
Smile and sag,
Doin’ the maternity drag.
Feels like an eternity
Doin’ the maternity
Doin’ the maternity drag!

John was a fellow student during my Carnegie Mellon days, a playwright and lyricist who had an idea for a campy musical called “Glitz!” that riffed on Hollywood musicals of the 30’s, the golden age of the Hays Code. I set his words to music and the show was produced by Scotch N Soda, the student dramatic society at CMU. It was a massive undertaking for me, composing and orchestrating the score for a full-length show, exhausting, rewarding and instructive. An album was recorded, as was the custom for SnS shows, and I still have a copy of the vinyl LP.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that my collaborator had a crush on me. Call me clueless, call me self-absorbed, but I was too excited about the work (and the female music major in the cast I had my eye on) to notice that John carried a torch for me. John graduated CMU and moved on to New York, where he worked at Theater for the New City as a stage manager and administrator. I didn’t hear from again until years later, when he got in touch to inform me that our mutual friend, Bill Turner, had died of AIDS. Bill was a huge presence in my life starting at CMU and continuing through the early 1980’s: not only did he direct Glitz!, but he hired me to be the staff music director at Theater Express, the company he co-founded after graduating, and green-lighted the development of my musical Assassins there. He also composed and directed A Lyrical Opera Made By Two, and my first encounter with my future wife was working together on that show. After Theater Express folded, I got Bill some adjunct teaching work at the University of Delaware, where I’d joined the faculty in 1979, and we tried (without success) to collaborate on a musical. Bill moved to NYC and we abandoned our collaboration, and our friendship.

But I digress. John called with the sad news of Bill’s death; he thought I’d want to know. It wasn’t long before the AIDS epidemic claimed John’s life as well. I wish I could say I was a good friend in their time of need, but that would be lying. I was afraid, and kept my distance. Years later, I reconstructed Bill’s opera Made By Two and produced it in Philly (twice) and Cardiff, Wales, a belated gesture of support for a talented friend. And years later, I thought about this song that John and I wrote for Glitz!, which featured three little musicals-within-a-musical. This particular song was written for a Hollywood remake of The Scarlet Letter that depicted Hester Prynne as a knocked-up coed in a Good News-style campus caper. The Maternity Drag is one part Varsity Drag and one part Vatican Rag, all filtered through John’s wicked camp sensibility and set to music by a clueless straight kid who didn’t know how to be a friend – me.

The track I’ve included is from the 2008 Philly Music Theater Works production. Jason Marquette performed it to great effect in the 1998 UArts production (dressed like Fosse in a black shirt and bowler hat) and Gary Pagano gave it a rousing rendition in the Don’t Tell Mama production. Those recordings will have to wait for their moment in the sun. Here’s the song as it appeared on the Glitz! LP, a curiosity for those willing to dive deep into the Chazzy past:

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194; the links on the right are songs chosen at random from previous posts. Want to contribute to my interactive composition, “Hear My Song?” Read more here. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

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