Gettin’ Underfoot, from Leading Lady (Day 149)

Today’s song showed up in several different places in the various versions of Leading Lady. It was always intended to be a diegetic, “performed” number, and is written intentionally as a pastiche. (I think I was inspired by Gershwin’s Fidgety Feet from Oh Kay, in which a similar sort of hemiola figures prominently in the rhythm of the melody.) Like many of the songs in Follies, however, it was always meant to have some relationship to the stage action.

In the earliest iteration of the show, the song was performed by Nancy, the leading lady of the Chestnut Street troupe where Mae is a minor player with her first theater job. My (lame-brained) idea was that Mae would somehow get accidentally pulled into the number while helping Geoffrey, the handsome leading man, with a quick costume change. Somehow, she manages to turn this gaffe to her advantage, stealing the scene and getting a bigger hand than Nancy. I know, like I said, lame-brained. And we needed to get into our story quicker. I thought that audiences might get a smile when they made the connection that Mae had “gotten underfoot” by unintentionally stealing the spotlight.

In a later iteration, we gave the number to Jamie, Mae’s son, and it was inserted into the “Get In Step With The Times” number to make a sort of montage of Preparing-The-Big-Musical-For-The-Metropolitan. In that version, Bernice took the “guy’s” part (“Hey, you mug…”) while young Jamie flitted his way through the “girl’s” part, with Frank and Mae trying to decide if the kid deserved a number in the show. The lyric of Gettin’ Underfoot was meant to serve as an ironic reflection of the fact that Jamie was an intrusive presence backstage whose high-spirited hi-jinks (egged on by his scalawag grandpappy, Michael) led to undesired complications.

The audio below is Danielle Lovier and Alex Bechtel as Nancy and Geoffrey in 2011, the first reading of Act I. Alas, there is no recording of the version that Josh Selden and Emily Kleimo did in 2013, and the Get In Step montage got axed for the version we presented and recorded at the end of the workshop in September. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it was cute as pigs!

NANCY
Am I gettin’ underfoot? (Gettin’ underfoot, gettin’ underfoot?)
Am I gettin’ in your way? (Gettin’ in your way, gettin’ in your way?)
I hear you’re steppin’ out with somebody new
You’ve been untrue
Makin’ time with a ragtime baby!
Guess I better step aside (Better step aside, better step aside)
Guess you’re never gonna stay (Always gonna stray, never gonna stay)
Hey!
You better watch your step
Or you’ll be alone
Once I start steppin’ out on my own!

GEOFFREY
Hey, you mug,
Give a guy a hug!
Why you gotta be contrary
When it isn’t necessary?
I’m not a cheater!
I couldn’t be sweeter on you!
What’s a fella to do?
(Crocodile tears.) Boo hoo!

You’re not gettin’ underfoot! (Gettin’ underfoot, gettin’ underfoot!)
You’re not gettin’ in the way! (Gettin’ in the way, gettin’ in the way!)
They say I’m steppin’ out with somebody new,
But it’s untrue!
You’re my only ragtime baby!
Don’t you ever step aside (Ever step aside, ever step aside)
‘Cause you’re always gonna stay (Never gonna stray, always gonna stay)
Hey!

BOTH
We’d better watch your step
Or we’ll be alone
Once we start steppin’ out on our own!

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