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!

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