July 30th, 2006


It’s Only Words

I got to do a fun bit of writing on Saturday. Got a phone call from my friend Nancy. She’s a very experienced and talented singer/actress/whatever-else-you-need, and she had a favor to ask. It seems that she has an audition coming up for a professional musical and she needed some very particular material for the audition. The show is a parody of musical theater song forms, and Nancy wondered if I could maybe come up with something appropriate. All she gave me in the way of instructions was the notion that the song should take an existing song from the musical theater catalog and take it over the top, and that it should ideally draw from the work of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

This business of creativity can be tricky. Inspiration is sometimes nowhere to be found when it is needed the most, so if I feel the call of the Muse, I try to answer her immediately since she may otherwise desert me for weeks at a time. I realized as soon as I hung up the phone that the Muse was on call waiting, so I immediately sat down and began to write.

The first song that came to mind was “As Long as He Needs Me” from Oliver! Since it is sung by the character Nancy (no relation to my friend) about her abusive, thieving, murderous boyfriend Bill Sykes, I thought that the way to take it over the top would be to have Nancy remain devoted to Bill even through a litany of dreadful abuses that would mount into absurdity. I quickly abandoned that plan, though, for a couple of reasons. First, though it is a popular musical, it was written by Lionel Bart, not R&H, and while it is fairly well known, I thought perhaps I should choose something even more well known. Secondly, it just wasn’t coming together lyrically, so I kept looking.

I then hit upon “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady. Once again, it’s not R&H; it’s Lerner & Lowe, but I felt good about the style of the song fitting into that genre. I’ve found that writing for a specific performer is an enormous aid to the writing process. In this case, I’ve known Nancy for 20 years and have a pretty good handle on her range and her stage persona, so things came together very quickly once I had the right song in mind. From when I first sat down to when I stood up with a finished song in hand, no more that 15 minutes went by. I mention that not to brag, but rather to remark upon what a good feeling it is to have these lyrics come suddenly into being out of a seeming void. Here’s the song:

Wouldn’t I Be Loverly

All I want is a brand new nose,
Brand new shoes on some brand new toes,
New hair, new face, new clothes,
Oh wouldn’t I be loverly!

Brand new boobs sitting way up high,
Brand new jewels from a brand new guy
Who stares as I stroll by
Oh wouldn’t I be loverly!

I’ll have my revenge on everyone who called me nerd.
They’ll hang on my every word
While I give them the bird.

While I’m basking in luxury,
They’ll all stew in their misery,
Depressed 'cause they’re not me.
Oh wouldn’t I be loverly!
Loverly! . . .

This just in – there’s been a new development in this story, and a new song! I’ll write more later.
  • Current Music
    Writing - Elton John

It’s Only Words – Act II

[A sequel to the post below this one]
Nancy called me again today. She’d found out more about the audition, and the first song I’d written lacked a key component – it wasn’t written by one of the composers from The List. She read off The List to me and when she got to Andrew Lloyd Webber, I felt the tap of the Muse upon my shoulder. Let me be clear about this – I LOVE Andrew’s work, but his stuff tends to be very ponderous and serious and not too complex intellectually, which makes it perfect fodder for the parodist. By comparison, I think Sondheim is a lot trickier to parody because so much of his work is lyrically satirical or ironic and it’s hard to parody a satire. Oh, it can certainly be done, but I’m looking for ways to make my job easier, not harder. I settled on “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera. Here it is:

The Same Music Every Night

This is serious, I’m not having fun here.
I will make you cry before we’re done here.
This is not a romp,
Not like “Spamalot” or “Stomp”
It’s a serious freaking musical as Art
So shut up and listen, don’t talk, belch, or fart.

Now surrender your dollars in the lobby shop,
Be amazed at the range of merchandise.
Buy the key chains, the socks, and fuzzy dice,
With a discount if you have seen it twice.

Slowly, gently, it may dawn upon you
How your good friend Andrew Lloyd has conned you.
Wait two scenes and then
I will sing this song again
Or I’ll change a note or two and add a chord
To keep you all from sensing that you’re bored.
  • Current Music
    The Sun Won't Set - from A Little Night Music