Project 194, Day 13: What Did You Expect?

The opening number of Goosefeathers, a commedia musical I wrote in 1992 with a book by Steve Seyfried. The idea of the number bears a marked resemblance to Comedy Tonight from Forum, but though it is derivative, it has considerable charm, if I do say so myself. The singers are Steve Seyfried, the playwright, and Tom Reiff.

A song, a dance,
A pair of baggy pants –
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
A sticky situation,
A ridiculous romance –
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
Some fun, some farce…
(Some what?)
That’s F-A-R-C-E.
An evening of hilarity,
On that you have our guarantee,
And if the jokes are frivolous,
We hope you won’t object.
It’s the commedia,
What did you expect?

Some puns, some jokes,
Some very funny folks.
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
Some bogus hocus-pocus
As the focus of a hoax.
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
We’re going to make you giggle
And we’re going to make you groan.
You’re going to get your nickel’s worth
Of tickles to the funny bone,
And if we lack decorum,
Well, we mean no disrespect.
It’s the commedia,
What did you expect?

No gag too low,
No joke too old.
No story so hoary
It can’t be told.
A little mirth is worth its weight in gold!

We’re weird, we’re wise,
We’re masters of disguise,
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
With multiple identities,
We change before your eyes.
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
In case you may be wondering,
We’ll tell you where we’re from:
The National Endowment
For the Art of Pandemonium!
And by the time we’re finished,
If the theater is wrecked,
It’s the commedia,
What did you expect?

Signorini and signori,
We’ve a story here to tell,
And our setting is an ordinary square.
Over here’s the house of Zanni
And his servant, Arlecchino,
And my master, Pedrolino’s over there.
Here you have the village fountain.
Don’t you think it’s rather quaint?
Don’t try to drink the water, though,
I fear it’s merely paint.
With some artificial greenery,
Our scenery’s complete,
Now it’s time to meet the people living there.

[A scene introduces Arlecchino.]

That was trusty Arlecchino,
Just in case you hadn’t guessed.
You could never find a better friend than he.
Though he tends to be a bumbler,
There’s no humbler guy I know,
And I’m always glad to have his company.
When he tries to do his magic, though,
The trick is not to laugh.
You should have seen the time he tried
To saw himself in half!
Though he always goes for broke,
His hocus-pocus is a joke!
He’s got ravioli where his brains should be!

[A scene introduces Zanni and Pantalone.]

There you have the masters of our play
They’re always on our backs,
I wish they’d just relax!
They think that they’re the boss,
But little do they know:
The servants are the ones who run the show!

Perhaps to you
We seem a motley crew
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
But when it comes to comedy
We know just what to do
That’s what you expect from the commedia.
It’s a trick we’ve had the knack of
Ever since the Renaissance:
You’ve got to give the audience
Exactly what it wants!
And when we’re through, we know that you
Will cheer for all you’re worth.
Viva la commedia,
The greatest show on earth!

Later, when Steve retitled the musical “The Holiday Goose” and tweaked the play to provide some holiday humor, the “Renaissance” quatrain was rewritten thus:

It’s useless to resist
A pack of loonies on the loose.
We’re here to give your holiday
A little Christmas goose!

Steve SeyfriedSteve Seyfried approached me in the early 1990’s with the idea of adapting his play Goosefeathers into a musical. It’s usually done as a three-actor show, with the ensemble doubling up on various parts, though we’ve flirted with doing it with two actors, Greater Tuna-style. Steve retooled the piece a few years later as the holiday show for his company; he called it The Holiday Goose. His son Sheridan Seyfried accompanied from the piano, after painstakingly making piano manuscripts of all the songs. You see, it was composed in the computer – some really spiffy early 1990’s MIDI technology, like Cakewalk on my IBM PC and a Yamaha DX-7 – and I never got around to notating much more than the lead sheets.

Steve and Tom Reiff recorded the songs for me in a demo that we maid when my office at UArts was in the rear of the first floor of 313 South Broad, a building that was replaced years ago with a glamorous vacant lot. It was an amazingly low-tech recording: I played the instrumentals back from a cassette that they used for accompaniments in performance, and they stood at mics on the other side of my desk and sang their parts. We had to turn the air conditioner off during takes, so the room got stinking hot as we worked. The songs sound surprisingly fresh, which is surprising when I think how wilted we all were.

Steve is an amazing entrepreneur: a writer, actor, producer of plays and father of five. His Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theater and Family Stages present weeks of performances year after year. I want to salute his resilience and persistence along with his gift for making people laugh. Goosefeathers is a very funny play for two or three virtuosic performers that deserves to be better known!

By the way, this is Day 13 of my 194-day song-sharing initiative, and exactly six months until my sixtieth birthday, which I’m planning to celebrate with a concert featuring a selection of these songs. Thus far, I’ve had several hundred visitors on the site – the equivalent of a full house at the Arts Bank – and heartwarming comments from friends and strangers alike. Please leave me a comment after this or any of my songs!

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 13: What Did You Expect?

  1. Pingback: Love Duet, from Goosefeathers (Day 38) | Notes from a SAVI Savant

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