19 March 2013

Hands on a Hard Bagel: The Musical

A scene from Hands on a Hardbody on Broadway.

It is a matter of factual record that songwriter Amanda Green, who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, has for years tried her durndest (as my Texan mother would say) to be more Texan than I am. The woman writes country songs. She wears boots. She has been known to use the word “y’all” in conversation. I could go on, but my mother is weeping.

The latest evidence of Amanda’s Lone Star affinities is Hands on a Hardbody, the new musical she’s written with Trey Anastasio and Doug Wright. Based on a documentary film about small-town Texans competing to win a truck, the show opens on Thursday at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, with a cast that includes Keith Carradine and Hunter Foster.

Amanda with Anastasio and Wright.

In celebration of Amanda’s triumph — two Broadway shows in one season, for mercy’s sake — and in observance of her mother’s birthday today, I’d like to present my response. I’ve written a new musical about New Yorkers, and while some might construe this as my attempt to be more an Upper West Sider than Amanda is, I prefer to view it as proof that Amanda taught me well.

Whether or not she was trying to.

The Musical

THE SCENE: The Deli. Located on Amsterdam Avenue somewhere in the 80s. Display cases full of bagels, cream cheese, pastrami, cold cuts, fish, etc.

THE TIME: When New York was still what it used to be.

As the curtain rises, the audience is treated to the heady aroma of appetizing. Don’t ask.

At the counter, MURRAY, a gruff older man, is taking the order of GENEVIEVE, an attractive but harried mother of two SCREAMING CHILDREN.

MURRAY: What’ll it be, lady? I don’t got all day!

Oh, I need the perfect bagel —
In fact, I really need two!
Give one each to both of my children —
Instead of screaming, maybe they’ll chew!
But the problem with my darlings
Is, they have really strange appetites,
And if I give them just the wrong things
They’ll be up and screaming all night!
Oh, I need the perfect bagel,
One without any cream cheese,
And lacking any whitefish,
Or anything else to which they have aller-gies!
Yes, I need the perfect bagel —
In fact, I really need two!
Make ’em tough and hard and plain,
Make ’em last the afternoon through!
Yes, I need the perfect bagel!
Make ’em last long as a young mother’s pain!
Oh, I need the perfect bagel!
Nothing less can possibly do!
’Cause I need the perfect bagel
And I’m running out of time!
And the worst part is that “bagel”
Doesn’t have a very good rhyme!
Oh ——

Good ol’ gal: Amanda Green.

MURRAY: I got it, I got it. Two plain bagels with a shmeer of butter. You want that toasted?

Behind GENEVIEVE, the line has grown longer. The OTHER CUSTOMERS begin to grumble: ESTELLE, an attractive woman in her mid-90s; SAM, an alte kaker; MIRIAM, an attractive woman in her mid-50s; and ELLIOT, an accountant in his 60s who looks remarkably like an accountant in his 60s.

Who is she to keep me waiting?
SAM: Does she think that I got all day?
MIRIAM: She’s got such undisciplined children!
ELLIOT: My kids never acted this way!

MIRIAM AND ELLIOT: Who was it who died
And made her Queen of the Upper West Side?

ESTELLE AND SAM: All I wanted was corned beef and tongue —
Could I get it while I’m still young?

ALL: Oh, the service here is terrible!
This place used to be so nice!
I don’t know what’s happening lately!
This whole neighborhood’s gone downhill!
Yes, the service here is terrible!
And now we agree on it twice!
This whole neighborhood once was so stately —
Personally, I blame Koch!

GENEVIEVE (to MURRAY): No butter — my children are allergic to dairy. Just a shmeer of jelly, please.

MURRAY: We’re out of jelly.

Seems like only yesterday
That I checked, out in the back,
And I saw the rows of jelly —
Not one flavor did we lack!
Now the jelly’s gone from the pantry
And the magic’s gone from my life!
You want I should tell you ’bout sorrow?
Lady — please take my wife!
It’s like the jelly up and left me!
Now I got nothing but woe!
She ran off with the man from deliv’ry
And I got nothing to show!
When your wife just up and leaves you,
It can wreck all of your plans!
Now I got no wife and no supplies,
Not even jelly … on my hands!
[Dance break]
My baby left me —
Now the jelly’s gone.

[To be continued… maybe.]

Happy birthday, Phyllis!
It’s not every mom who gets a Broadway premiere for her birthday.

No comments: