This morning I finally re-read Mike Funt’s A Day in the Moonlight and took my first steps towards turning it into a play with music. That’s not the same as a musical, and we’ll discuss that in a moment.
Mike wrote this play in his junior year of college, and it was produced his senior year as part of Valdosta State’s regular season. It’s a resetting of Rostand’s The Romancers as a Marx Brothers vehicle, and quite clever and silly it is, too. Groucho is one of the parents on one side of the wall, and Margaret Dumont is on the other side. Their children are in love with each other, and as in the original the parents have built the wall and pretended to feud in order to provoke just that. The added twist is that Groucho and Margaret are themselves a couple, hiding that fact from their children.
Harpo and Chico are the two actors that Groucho hires to adbuct the girl so that the boy can be a hero and the wall can come down, as it does right on schedule at the end of Act I. Etc., etc.
So a couple or three or four years ago Mike asked me to write some songs to insert into the action, since he had a couple of theatres waiting for the show if it were a musical. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten around to it. But now, with William Blake on hiatus for an indefinite period, I’ll be tackling this project.
It will not a be a musical. It will be a play with music, i.e., the songs are just sort of inserted into the action rather than swelling from the action itself and moving the plot along. This is partly because the original Marx Brothers movies were themselves structured like this, and partly because the action is so slight that we would have to rewrite a lot of the script in order to make it a true musical.
So step one was to re-read the entire script this morning and decide where might be good places to stop the play cold in its tracks and stick in a song.
Preliminary research indicates twelve such songs:
“Sheer Poetry,” wherein Garrison, our hero, sings one of “his” poems to Elizabeth, our heroine. It is in fact made up of snippets of famous verse: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/Let me count the ways.” That kind of thing. Bouncy 1930s leading man flirting song.
“Rationale for a Wall,” sung sequentially by both Thurgood/Groucho and Alexandra/Dumont, explaining to their respective children why they hate each other. Needless to say, the reasons are completely bogus and completely different.
“The Love Song of Thurgood [whatever whatever],” the slightly creepy/loony wooing song from Thurgood to Dumont.
“We’ll Run Away,” in which the children sing of their plan to elope and how beautiful their married life will be away from home.
“Catalog,” in which Fedallini/Chico catalogs all the ways that Pinke/Harpo can actually play a death scene. This is in response to Thurgood’s query. Think the Player’s catalog from Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead set to music. Fake saltarello.
“What Could Go Wrong?,” maybe, in which Thurgood and Fedallini plan the abduction. If we can work it right, maybe the plan in each verse can end in disaster and they have to start all over.
“Tear Down That Wall!,” Act I finale.
I think the obvious opener for Act II is a song about the party, but the script specifically refers to how no one is there and how dead it is. Maybe that’s our song.
“Novelty Song I” and “Novelty Song II,” the inevitable Chico-plays-piano song. The first one is the Kitty Carlisle song, i.e., Elizabeth sings a cute song about nothing. The second one is our “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady” for Thurgood.
“Florida!,” in which Fedallini convinces Garrison, who’s leaving for adventure, to go with him to Florida for excitement. That’s the idea; what they’re actually singing about, I have no clue.
“Where Did We Go Wrong?,” for Thurgood and Alexandra. Maybe a reprise of “What Could Go Wrong?”
“P-I-N-K-E,” in which Elizabeth sings about how much fun Pinke is, who’s stayed behind as part of Fedallini’s plan to keep her from marrying in Garrison’s absence.
“Back With You,” or something like that: the lovers’ reunion song. We can throw in Thurgood & Alexandra and Fedallini & Pinke for good measure.
“Act III,” the finale, in which the cast sings of what the audience will be missing in the mythical Act III. I’m thinking falling chandeliers and helicopters, myself.
75 days to go.