I’m always smiling

Those adoring and enchanted audiences at The Things We Do For Love in New York and Los Angeles were interested in knowing a little more. Were these songs written specifically for this show? No, none of them were. So, what were they from?

Fugue for Cell Phones and Need Somebody were the opening numbers of  revues I did with Second City in the early 2000s. Some of the lyrics were devised out of improvisations. When cell phones were new, it seemed to me people used them, most often, to give their locations. Yes, those are actual Manhattan streets. Computer hook-ups were new when Need Somebody was first heard and the entire cast held keyboards made of styrofoam.

Thoughts In Transit is the oldest of the bunch, written for Fear of Scaffolding (where it was called Subtexts in the Stacks), and revised for On the Brink. I set completely new lyrics to an obscure Sondheim duet, Two Fairy Tales, because I liked the format: near-constant eighth notes divided between two singers.

A half dozen tunes were, at some point, in The Company of Women, my only show that never got produced: Mount Paradiso, They’re Good in the Winter, Working Out, Breaking the Rules, Stuff (intended for On the Brink), and Marry Me. Yes, there’s a small quote from Hamlisch & Kleban’s The Music and the Mirror at the end of the gym number. It’s the sort of pounding ostinato I, with my limited knowledge of gyms, assumed gets played there.

A Song In My Pants was written for Tom Carrozza, who wrote the book to Area 51, from where Inside Of Me comes. In context, Inside of Me is a Vegas lounge act intended to seduce a scientist, which is why the chaste part of the double entendre involves seeing into somebody through a microscope.

Years ago, I was hired to write an industrial. A company had written a musical using famous show tunes and then hatched a plan to distribute a video version. To do that, they needed songs that weren’t under copyright, so I was tasked with replacing some of the greatest show tunes ever written. The Mushy Stuff and Why Do I Do What I Do come from this unusual project. The latter replaced You’re Just In Love/I Hear Singing and I think it’s kind of neat to hit upon a title with so many words ending in open vowels. The audience doesn’t have to wait until the final consonant to comprehend and I could put syllables on longer notes.

The one number making its debut in The Things We Do For Love is I Wouldn’t Wish That on a Dog, written on spec for a project I didn’t ultimately get. I have to keep the name of the show a secret but I’ll tell you another: Part of the fun I had in writing a song endorsing the wearing of animal fur was remembering my grandfather, who worked in the fur biz long before anybody objected to it.

She Smelled Like Chocolate was inspired by real life. A friend of mine took off her coat and started sniffing herself, unable to figure out why she smelled like a Cadbury Egg. “There’s gotta be a song in that,” I thought. I cringe at my own false rhyme on the strongest punch line. Once, I asked Stephen Schwartz what to do about this, and he pointed out that when an audience is laughing really hard, they don’t notice “mistakes.”

She Smelled Like Chocolate is probably my most famous song, and, of my shows, the one I’m most often asked about is Our Wedding. The Things We Do For Love includes two from that, How Could They Have Missed? and This Man Loves Me. It’s really nice to hear the former without concentrating on how to sing it.

Finally, there’s the odd journey of the title song. In The Christmas Bride, we knew we’d have a scene in which the two rivals, searching for the Victorian lass who’s lost somewhere in London, meet each other and don’t know that they’re both looking for the same girl. In early drafts, we tried various ways to milk the comedy of this situation. One of the men was a bit of a dolt, and we thought there’d be some comic mileage in his lack of appreciation for romance. So, I wrote him a song filled with – I thought – the most old-fashioned clichés. This was quickly discarded when we hit upon a better idea. The men would give physical descriptions of the lady in question, and it would be funny that the two of them see her entirely differently. The earlier song would languish in my trunk for many years.

In putting together Spilt Milk, the first cabaret revue made up of my songs, the producer asked whether there was anything from The Christmas Bride that might work. At first, I answered no, because everything in the score is so firmly grounded in its time and place, none could possibly work in a contemporary cabaret setting. Except…just maybe…the one that never worked in the Victorian setting. A new arrangement for an oohing and ahhing quartet brought out the silliness one associates with 60s pop. It was as if the influence of Burt Bacharach on me was magically unearthed.

When Brady Miller sings The Things Wed Do For Love in The Things We Do For Love, it’s quite touching. After singing Marry Me, he’s comically beleaguered, and now what was once a list of clichés comes off as a heart-felt reflection back on all the madness in the previous seventeen songs. The new context renders my old song sincere and a bit moving. And nobody could be more surprised than I.



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