“Sue Me” (from “Guys And Dolls”) – Amazon Advent Calendar Day 15

Album Art

Sue Me

Nathan Lane and Faith Prince

Guys And Dolls (New Broadway Cast Recording)

Genre: Soundtrack

Damn. This is the third Monday in a row that I’ve chosen a show tune as an Advent Calendar selection. We all have a little bit of OCD in us and something now compels me to simply designate Monday as permanent Show Tune Day.

Hey, no problem: I have dozens of favorites. But how will this affect my quarterly P&L? Does my usual Monday traffic respond to content of that type? Can I compensate for any dips in the metrics with some more finely-targeted SEO?

I really don’t know. I barely can explain what any of those terms mean. But writing a paragraph like that makes me feel like kind of a big shot and there’s every chance that paragraphs like that one will elevate me to the sort of speaking gigs where rich people hope to get even richer. The buffets at those kinds of conferences tend to be exceptionally good; in addition to my speaking fee, $5 for a box of store-brand Ziploc baggies can parlay itself into saving three weeks’ worth of grocery budget.

This track is from the early-Nineties revival of the classic. It’s also known as the show that made Nathan Lane, Peter Gallagher, and Faith Prince into stars who could get paid far, far more money for working way, way less hard. It’d definitely be one of my Desert Island Discs. Here they are, performing this number on TV:

It kind of breaks my heart a little. It’s such a damned shame that these legendary productions dry up and blow away after the original cast moves on and the show closes. You can buy “Riding The Bus With My Sister” on DVD. You can see “Family Guy” every hour of the day or night on multiple cable channels. It’s cheap, low-grade horsemeat but it’s on film and it’s on video, so it’s going to be preserved somewhere.

Live theater? It was made to be seen live. From both a creative and a legal point of view. I made this lament to one of the many people in this world who are smarter than I am and they explained that it’s not as simple as plonking a few cameras on tripods in the theater and hitting the “Record” button on them before the curtain goes up. Everyone on the stage, everyone in the orchestra, and everybody behind the scenes has a financial stake and the negotiations between all of the respective trades to make a video production happen generally aren’t thought to be worth the trouble. It’d be easier to move a suspension bridge a bit to the left.

So: if you want to see that episode of “Two And A Half Men” where one and a half of the men have a farting contest inside a closed car and the one man loses when he craps his pants, you’re in luck because it’s in a boxed set. If you want to see the 1992 revival of “Guys And Dolls,” well, that’s just insane.

I’m picking this specific song chiefly because I heard something absolutely wonderful about it last week, during a “Fresh Air” podcast in which Michael Feinstein talked about the career of Frank Loesser…the show’s composer. I already knew that Sam Levene, the show’s first Nathan Detroit, was hired for his skills as a character actor. He was an awful singer. What I didn’t know, and what was absolutely stupidly obvious when Feinstein mentioned it, was that Loesser baked a melodic support system into his one big song.

Not only are all of his notes in the same octave…but the melody “walks” him up to the right note. If Levene had to simply sing “Sue Me…” he’d have been completely off-key. “Hire-A-Law-Yer-And…” lets him dialing it up closer and closer to the “real” lyric.

Isn’t it neat? This kind of machinery was lurking inside this song all the time, unnoticed by me.

Stage music is full of tricks like that. Like Loesser, Mozart had to write music for “The Magic Flute” that would help a very weak Papageno get through his big aria. The orchestra plays his entire melody before he has to sing it…and it ends on the note that he has to start on. It’s a built-in cheat sheet!

Mozart’s first Queen Of The Night, on the other hand, was his sister-in-law and a renowned soprano. Listen and you’ll notice that she gets no help whatsoever from the orchestra. If anything, the orchestra has to keep up with her. Meanwhile, the composer is throwing everything at her he can to make sure that she dies a deathly death of dying.

Listen to “Sue Me” (From “Guys And Dolls”) on the Amazon MP3 Store.

When you click that link, any purchases you make during that Amazon session will result in my receiving a small kickback in the form of Amazon Gift Credits. I shall use them to buy silly, but manifestly wonderful, things.

3 thoughts on ““Sue Me” (from “Guys And Dolls”) – Amazon Advent Calendar Day 15”

  1. I remember seeing the Nathan Lane / Faith Prince / Peter Gallagher production of Guys and Dolls as a teenager on a family vacation in New York in 1992. It was the last night of previews. The show went off without a hitch, but I noticed something wrong that most people probably missed, except perhaps for any other nerdy teenagers in the audience: The artwork on the program (the same image you’ve posted at the top of the post) shows non-standard dice.

    On standard dice, the opposite sides always add up to 7. Both of the dice on the show’s program cover got it wrong.

    I didn’t know who to tell, so my dad said I should tell an usher. So I told an usher, but I’m sure he didn’t care or escalate the matter.

    At any rate, they never fixed it.

  2. Huh. I adore Guys and Dolls, and I never noticed this in particular about “Sue Me.” I have noticed, however, that Nathan Detroit is often cast with a not terribly strong singer in the role. (Nathan Lane and Frank Sinatra being terribly obvious exceptions.) Point of fact that in the original, the titular song doesn’t feature him. Enter Old Blue Eyes…

  3. Andy,

    There *is* a way to see video recordings of some fabulous Broadway performances: The Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the NY Public Library. It’s by appt only and they make you jump through some hoops but, in my opinion, it’s worth it.

    I saw that production of “Guys and Dolls” and loved it. :)

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