Project 194, Day 6: I’m A Show!

This track is from my 1979 musical Assassins, the show whose idea inspired the Sondheim musical of the same name. The singer is Jed Harris, a fellow member of the ensemble at Theater Express back then and a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University now. Spoiler alert: it’s not a masterpiece, but that’s not for lack of a valiant effort on Jed’s part. More story after the lyric:

Jed Harris in I'm A ShowI’m a show.
I’m a sensation, the rage of the nation.
Don’t you know?
Most of the country is looking at me.
I’m a name.
I can be famous for my reputation.
Come on, fame,
Won’t you make me a celebrity?

On the front of the evening papers,
Millions of people will read what I’ve done.
I’ll be followed by flocks of reporters.
Who needs a press agent when I’ve got a gun?
Click, click, the trigger falls.
Quick, quick, my public calls.
No trick, it just takes balls.
(Are you getting this down?)

I’m a show,
Nothing slow and nothing so-so,
I’m a show.
Call it a crime,
People know I’m a show!
I get oh-so furioso.
And because of my act,
I’ll be more than a fact.
They will know
I’m a show!

Send out the troopers to seal off the town.
Bring on the cameras, turn on the TV.
You think I’m artless, you call me a clown.
Well, I’ll show you something you’re dying to see!

Everywhere I go, it’s a mob scene.
Flashbulbs burst, people flinch in the glare.
You can sneer and act like it’s obscene,
But I’m gonna give you a reason to stare.
Do you feel the fever rise?
Every gesture signifies,
Everything is oversize —
I’m bigger than life!

I’m a show,
Nothing slow and nothing so-so,
I’m a show.
Call it a crime,
People know I’m a show!
I get oh-so furioso.
I’m the living end, I’m a well-know face,
I’m the latest trend, I set the pace,
I’m a hit, no shit, I’m simply it,
I’m a pro!
I’m a foe!
I’m a show!

He’s a show!
Hotter than Elvis, as big as the Beatles.
Here we go!
You think I’m crazy, but I’ll be the craze.
He’s a star,
Better than Hollywood ever created.
It’s bizarre,
Criminal passion’s in fashion these days.

You can keep your Gary Gilmore,
I’m gonna “do it” like he never did!
Son of Sam is strictly from nowhere,
Lee Harvey Oswald will look like a kid.
Don’t let yourself relax!
I’m set to do the max!
Hey, brother, bring me my axe!
I’m gonna blow your minds!

He’s a show,
Nothing slow and nothing so-so,
He’s a show.
Down on your knees!
Don’t you know he’s a show?
He gets oh-so furioso.
And because of my act,
I’ll be more than a fact.
They will know
I’m a show!
He’s a show!

The character is called “The Rock Singer,” and there are places in my notes where he’s referred to as Charlie Manson. He’s in the musical to serve as an embodiment of raging id and violent exhibitionism, and he gets another big song just before the climax in Act Two called I Hear The Call. (I wish I had a recording of that one!)

I'm A Show script pageMy Assassins musical was a collection of weird bits and pieces like this. (A literal cut-and-paste job, a “pastiche,” as the pages of my script show.) Many of the moments were derived from historical research (like Charles Guiteau’s I Am Going To The Lordy, which made its way into Sondheim’s musical as The Ballad of Guiteau), but just as many, if not more, were the product of my overheated 25-year-old imagination, revved up by the desire to create something original and provocative and abetted by a steady intake of weed and room-temperature coffee.

Creating this show was my first taste of the process by which a new musical gets developed – the collaboration, the give-and-take, the fierce ambitions and the inevitable compromises. Theater Express had little in the way of resources (though there was a little dough from a Ford Foundation grant), but what we lacked in cash we made up for in youthful moxie.

Of course, sixty-year-old me can’t help smiling ruefully when I look back at all this. For all its tsuris and heartbreak, I loved that time of my life, and I loved the person I was back then. But sixty-year-old me also sees the delusions, the mistakes, the ludicrous miscalculations. The experience was enough of a success that I felt encouraged to keep going, and eventually, thank God, I got better and smarter about writing. And then one day, incredibly, the mail brought a note from Sondheim that began the next chapter in the life of my crazy brainchild.

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194: Let’s Go (Day 1), What Happened To The Song (Day 2), Have A Little Christmas On Me (Day 3), The Hunk With The Funk (Day 4), Hit Me! (Day 5).

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One thought on “Project 194, Day 6: I’m A Show!

  1. Pingback: Project 194, Day 7: The Chase | Notes from a SAVI Savant

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