Happy Birthday, Francis from Gemini the Musical (Day 176)

Strictly speaking, this song should have been published on June 1, the day it “actually” takes place. The second of June is Francis Geminiani’s birthday – Albert Innaurato’s birthday too, if you are in need of any further confirmation this play is profoundly autobiographical – and his WASP-y friends Judith and Randy arrive for a surprise visit the day before. That means that Francis is a Gemini, astrologically speaking, hence the title of the play.

Spending your brithday without us? Honey, no way!
We arranged an escape from our place at the Cape yesterday
And we managed to hitch-hike here.
Aren’t you glad to see us, dear?

Happy birthday, Francis!
Open up your eyes!
We’re your happy birthday surprise!

At the beginning of a dull vacaion,
Inspiration came to me.
Riding in the back of a stanger’s Lincoln,
I kept thinkin’ how surprised you’d be.
I brought my twelve-string,
And Randy’s got some weed.
Let’s get this party started!
We’ve got everything we need!

[Dialog.]

All aboard! All aboard the birthday express!

Herschel: Is it someone’s birthday? Francis?

Judith: How’d you guess?

Herschel: Will I get an invitation
To the birthday celebration!
Him and me grew up together –
Tell me you’ll say yes!

[Dialog.]

Tomorrow is Francis’s birthday,
The big twenty-one!

Bunny: Tomorrow’s the day!
You’re kidding! Now way!
Happy birthday, hon!
We should order some beer and a cake.
It’s a big occasion, for heaven’s sake!
Why don’t we throw us a party
And have us some fun!

Happy birthday, Fracnis!

Francis: Wait a second, guys…

Bunny: Youse can make spaghetti.

Judith: We can get confetti!

What a happy birthday surprise!

[Lots and lots of dialog.]

Francis: You’re in mortal danger!
Time that you got wise!
Papa is a hit man.
This is heavy shit, man!
I suggest you split, man.
Run away before someone dies.
That would be a messy surprise.

[Enter Fran. Dialog continues.]

Fran: Being alone on his birthday seems like a shame.
I keep telling my son to relax and have fun,
Get in the game!
But he sits upstairs like a lump.
This’ll help him over the hump!
Make your self at home!
It’s great that you came.

Lucille: Just the other morning, Fran was saying he was full of pride.
I know he comes off kinda gruff,
But that’s a bluff.
He has a tender side.

Fran: Graz’, Lucille. But Francis…
He’s kinda lazy,
God knows he ain’t no stud.
Some days he drives me crazy,
But he’s still my flesh and blood.

Yo Bunny, yo Herschel! We’re having a party for Francis!

All: Tomorrow’s your twenty-first birthday.
Isn’t that great!
Francis, you need an excuse to cut loose and celebrate!
It’ll be your best birthday yet,
A special event you won’t forget.
The second of June is soon.

(Judith and Randy:) We hardly can wait.

Happy birthday, Francis!
Shout it to the skies!
Boil the minestrone!
Slice the pepperoni!
It’ll be a dilly,
Best in all South Philly!
What a happy birthday surprise!

Wow, listening to this track conjurs up all SORTS of thoughts and feelings. If you read this scene in the play, you can see that Albert and I (and director Doug Wager) hewed very faithfully to the beats in the text and included a great deal of the original dialog. (We also had several cast members who had done the play Gemini so there was a lot of push-back about keeping favorite lines of text in the show.) This track is edited to delete some of the dialog, but it still sounds choppy and talky to me in retrospect.

And can we talk about the time signature? Honestly, I like the “off-kilter” feeling that 7/4 creates, and I know it’s possible to groove in seven-to-the-bar, but clearly it hadn’t jelled by the time of the preview when this wa recorded. Is this a case of the composer being inappropriately tricky just to show off? I’ll have to listen to the 2007 recording and see if that cast was any more secure with it.

One final thought: after having lived in South Philly for more than a decade now, I realize how hard it is to get the dialects and rhythms of the speech to feel authentic. This is equal parts a writing issue and a performance issue. This song has a great quirky exuberance, but I’m not sure we nailed the particular milieu the show requires. Yo, leave me a comment if you have an opinion about that!

Favorite rhyme: spaghetti/confetti.

One thought on “Happy Birthday, Francis from Gemini the Musical (Day 176)

  1. Pingback: The Boy I Thought I Knew, from Gemini the Musical (2004) (Day 183) | Notes from a SAVI Savant

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