Song and Dance (The Songs) – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1985
Song & Dance is an unconventional musical whose first act is told in song and whose second act is told in dance. The first act tells the story of Emma (Bernadette Peters), a young English girl who comes to New York full of ambitions to be a hat designer . . . I can’t quite believe it, I’m actually here, The one place on earth I want to be. New York is just short of perfection, they say, The one thing it lacks is me. . . . and who learns about America – and about herself – in encounters with four American men. Mum, I don’t know how to say this. But American men are different. They seem at first quite normal, But I really fear they’re not. Her story is told entirely in songs, and even more daring, Emma is the only character seen on stage. The others exist only in the actress’ ability to make us see them, and it is a considerable part of the stunning achievement of Bernadette Peters that when the curtain comes down at the end of Act I, the audience is absolutely convinced they have just seen a stage populated with supporting actors. Of the four men, it is Joe, a young man from Nebraska, with whom Emma really falls in love . . . I have never felt like this, For once I’m lost for words – Your smile has really thrown me. . . . but new to New York and not ready to make a “commitment,” Joe breaks off with her. If I’m not mistaken, I knew when it came, In fact I can name the very day: When we started to plan, the future and all, Joe started to pull away. Act II is the story of Joe’s (Christopher d’Amboise) subsequent life in New York – a journey that leads him to his own kind of maturity, to a realization of what he has lost in giving up Emma and to a determination to win her back. In contrast to Act I, Joe’s story includes no songs, no dialogue – no words at all. Act II is told entirely, and eloquently, in dance. This time, however, there are supporting characters played by eight superb dancers, including the amazing Gregg Burge. Here too it is a considerable part of the achievement of these nine dancers/actors – and the extraordinary choreography by Peter Martins – that when the curtain falls, the audience is as clear about the emotional complexities of Joe’s story as if the performers had used words. In a way then, Song & Dance tells a quintessential urban story: how one loses one’s innocence in a city like New York and how, having lost that innocence, one sometimes has to struggle to get back to human contact, real feelings and a sense of one’s own self. A love really hurt me, I hurt someone back, My work’s had a great successful bow, And that look of New York I wanted to have, Oh, Emma, I have it now. Take that look off your face. It isn’t a conventional plot; it’s an emotional travelogue – one that (to the great surprise of those of us who worked on the show) brings tears of recognition from the audience every night. People who clearly are not English girls from London or boys from Nebraska can be heard to say, “That’s my story up there!” All the songs of Song & Dance are included in this recording; there is even an extra one not in the Broadway production that fleshes out Emma’s relationship with Paul, the fourth (and married) man she encounters. Nothing like you’ve ever known – We can pour our hearts out in an afternoon, love, What we have is wonderful. Quick, it’s late; you have to go; I’ll see you soon, love. Since Song & Dance is about an English girl newly arrived in America, not surprisingly one of its major delights is the opportunity to take a satiric look at American men. Through Emma’s fresh eyes, what a confusing and contradictory lot we apparently are! First there’s Chuck, the charming but flaky New York drummer who, it turns out, can’t be counted on. Just what time of night do you call this? Well, it’s three a.m., it’s my first night here, where the hell were you? Let me finish, I said, let me finish. Of course! That’s the answer! You’re a musician. At the end of her scene “with” Chuck we hear for the first time the Song & Dance theme. The one thing Emma will not tolerate in a relationship, she says, is dishonesty: Please don’t start to make excuses, You won’t use a second chance. All this is is empty rubbish, Spare me, please, the song and dance. Next comes Sheldon Bloom, the dynamic, glamorous, “strangely handsome” film producer who sweeps Emma off to California . . . Sheldon’s got a house in Bel-Air, Well, it’s really a pink mansion; It’s got electric gates and armed guards, And he calls it “La Bohème.” . . . but who, in the end, wants his women as adornments – and there is no adornment with more cachet in Los Angeles than an English girl friend. English girls have got a head start, (Joan Collins? I ask you) That’s why English girls keep milking the part. Then there is Joe, to Emma the most exotic of them all. Joe is what they call “Midwestern” (How to tell you what that means?). He is open, optimistic And makes everything seem easy. And what he likes to wear Are bright red cowboy boots and jeans. Emma falls head over heels in love with this all-American boy, only to be startled when she senses an irresoluteness under the surface: We could never keep things from one another. We would be fools to let love Slip away. Everything’s so right, I’m scared that we might Lose it one day. And when it becomes clear that he is pulling away from their relationship, Emma is devastated -and we hear the Song & Dance theme for the second time. All the signs are showing up now: Nervous laugh and furtive glance. He has left but can’t admit it. Now it starts, the song and – Once again determined not to let such emotional dishonesty enter her life, Emma tries at least to orchestrate the inevitable ending: Don’t write a letter when you want to leave, Don’t call me at three a.m. from a friend’s apartment. I’d like to choose How I hear the news. Take me to a park that’s covered with trees, Tell me on a Sunday, please. So it is, on the rebound, that she meets Paul, another distinct type: Paul is the kind of man you might say has it all, Including a wife and four kids up in Westport. But married or not, somehow his eyes kept wandering towards me. Well, we’ll see. Finally taking her friend Vivian’s advice to be more self-protective in choosing among these quixotic American men, Emma embarks on a limited and emotionally “safe” relationship with Paul. Westport execs – Golfing in your Izod V-necks. Viv says you’re there like Kleenex, To be used, love. Desperate for sex, Meeting all those obligations – Families bring such deep frustrations. Oh, my confused love! Yes, I do have thoughts on curing your di-lemma. When your family ties need loosening, here’s Emma. I don’t have to love you, you see, And there is one more thing that I get to be: Not alone. All the emotion left over from Joe Emma pours into her few clandestine hours with Paul – and Paul not unnaturally believes it is all for him. He arrives at her door in the middle of one night and announces that he has left his wife and children. Emma panics, tells him she loves him, “but not in that way;’ and that he can’t stay with her. When Paul won’t leave, we hear the Song & Dance theme again, but this time it is Emma doing the song-and-dance: Listen, we both went into this with our eyes open. I never lied to you, I never promised you more. Paul leaves, and Emma realizes how much she has allowed herself to change. I set out to use Paul, And now look what I have done – What kind of a person have I turned into? In a cathartic climax, confronting herself in an imaginary mirror, Emma vows to find her way back: I’ll be Emma again! If it means being hurt, I’ll be hurt, But I’ll like myself then. Every word that I’m saying will happen, wait and see. If you think that it won’t, You don’t know me! You don’t know me! And the curtain falls.
Emma: Bernadette Peters Joe: Christopher d’Amboise The Women: Charlotte d’Amboise, Denise Faye, Cynthia Onrubia, Mary Ellen Stuart The Men: Gregg Burge, Gen Horiuchi, Gregory Mitchell, Scott Wise Man from the streets: Gregg Burge Woman in gold: Mary Ellen Stuart Her Escorts: Scott Wise, Gregory Mitchell Woman in blue: Charlotte d’Amboise Customer: Gen Horiuchi Two Singles: Cynthia Onrubia, Denise Faye Woman in grey flannel: Cynthia Onrubia