Project 194, Day 9: Who Wants To Be Married?

This portrait of Mae Desmond is from the New York Public LIbrary's Theatre Collection

This portrait of Mae Desmond is from the New York Public LIbrary’s Theatre Collection

After all this historic stuff, it’s time I shared something from my most recent musical, Leading Lady. Written in collaboration with playwright Seth Bauer, Leading Lady is the story of actress Mae Desmond, born Mary Callahan, a remarkable woman who, along with her husband Frank Fielder, ran one of Philadelphia’s most successful stock theater companies in the 1920’s. Today’s featured song is “Who Wants To Be Married?,” a flirtatious duet between Mae and Frank that follows them from the beginning of their courtship through their wedding day. The singers are Shannon Remley and Bryan Black, recorded in performance at a 2012 reading produced by the New Play Festival at the University of the Arts’ Ira Brind School of Theater Arts.

MARY
Who wants to be married?
I don’t!
Not me!
I want so much more from life
Than merely being someone’s wife.
There’s characters I can’t wait to meet,
Adventure waiting on ev’ry street,
Discoveries I must make somehow,
But a ring and a vow
Turns a girl to a frau

FRANK
Who wants to be married?
Not me!
I don’t!
Who needs the old ball-and-chain?
For me, an ice pick thru my brain!

BOTH
I’m better off single
And fancy free!
Who wants to be married?
Not me!

MARY
I’d hate being married,
I would!
I know
I live in a tidy state
And men are hard to domesticate

FRANK
I hear home cooking is not so hot
Some lads are hungry
But this lad’s not!

BOTH
The moment you go and tie the knot
It’s a constant restraint
A cause for complaint
Who wants to be married?

FRANK
Not me!

MARY
Nor I!

BOTH
I couldn’t abide the fights
The dreary days and the weary nights
I’m better off single —
How nice! We agree!
Who wants to be married?
Not me.

FRANK
Could I ever know the bliss
Of Titania’s kiss?

MARY
Not if you were married!
Could I have the appeal
Of the courtesan, Camille?

FRANK
Not if I was married!

BOTH
Could we dance the night away
While the balalaikas play
To a melody that’s gay and Romany
While our mate waits up
Thinking just one thought:
“(S)he never comes home any more!”?
Sounds like a dreadful bore!

(And they dance the nights away. Down a moonlit street, across Rittenhouse Square, by the river, by everywhere.)

MAE
I see that you’re charming
But sir,
Take heed!
I’m not the domestic type
Who’ll fetch your slippers and light your pipe

FRANK
Your chin has a truly fetching tilt
Your Irish brogue has a lovely lilt

BOTH
But once we’re hitched
Then it’s non-stop guilt
We’d snipe and bicker

MAE
He’d smell of liquor

BOTH
Who wants to be married?

MAE
Except…

FRANK
And yet…

MAE
You’re not so bad

FRANK
I suppose you’ll do

BOTH (harmonizing with romantic warmth)
There’s no one else I prefer to you…

(MUSIC SWELLS, SCENE CHANGES, CHORUS ENTERS DRESSED FOR A WEDDING. FRANK and MAE magically transformed into wedding attire. They stand before a PRIEST.)

CHORUS (majestic)
Who wants to be married??

FRANK AND MAE (harmonizing, simply)
I do!

PRIEST
You may kiss your bonnie bride!

You can read more about the story of Mae Desmond here. Seth and I were intrigued by the idea of a married couple who were also business partners, two strong-willed individuals with a common goal and different ideas about how to achieve it. We’ve developed several different versions of the musical over the past few years, and haven’t quite hit on the right narrative yet, but we’ve created a slew of great songs along the way, and eventually there’ll be a story that can serve as a home for them! I am heartened by a talk I heard composer Tom Kitt give today, talking about the extended span of time it took for him and collaborator Brian Yorkey to develop Next To Normal.

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

One thought on “Project 194, Day 9: Who Wants To Be Married?

  1. Pingback: Who Wants To Be Married, from Leading Lady (Day 42) | Notes from a SAVI Savant

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