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August 29, 2001

For the USA's Labor Day holiday, a program of music about working for a living.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
All the Live Long Day Working (OC 1978) Company Based on the book of the same name by Studs Terkel, Working has lyrics by several composers, including Mary Rogers and (for this number) Stephen Schwartz.
Chain Store Daisy American Musical Theatre V. 2 (1989) Ruth Rubenstein; Harold Rome and Baldwin Bergersen (pianos) Recorded February, 1938; from Pins and Needles (1937). The show was written for and performed by members of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, but soon attracted such large audiences that it ran for 1,108 performances. Like The Cradle Will Rock (which had its stormy opening a few months later), it was openly pro-Union, but had a sense of humor that the later show lacked.
Sounds While Selling She Loves Me (OC 1963) Daniel Massey, Nathaniel Frey, Jack Cassidy, Marion Brash, Peg Murray, Trude Adams Although it ran only 302 performances and was blown away by Hello, Dolly at Tony Award time, the show has remained something of a cult favorite. A production at the Rep a few years ago drew large audiences and rave reviews. The score is by Bock and Harnick, better known for Fiddler on the Roof (1964)
Nobody Tells Me How Working (OC 1978) Bobo Lewis Music by Mary Rogers, lyrics by Susan Brikenhead; an insightful song about how difficult it is to change.
Tamara, Queen of the Nile Lime Jello: An American Cabaret (1986) Joan Morris, William Bolcom By Peter Winkler, Ernst Muller and Fred Block, from Professionally Speaking (1986). This teacher seems to be just a little bit too adaptable.
Ten Cents a Dance The Rogers and Hart CD (1986) Joan Morris, William Bolcom (piano) By Rogers and Hart, from Simple Simon (1930), a Ziegfeld show. It was introduced and made famous by Ruth Etting
There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This Sweet Charity (OC 1966) Gwen Verdon, Helen Gallagher, Thelma Oliver Thirty-six years later, three other dance-hall hostesses sing a similar lament.
20 Fans The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Revival Cast 2001) Company A somewhat related profession to the dance-hall hostess and the oldest one of the planet (or so we’re told).
Lovely Ladies Les Miserables (OC 1987) Company Here’s a less rosy look at that profession.
The Old Dope Peddler Tom Lehrer Revisited (1959) Tom Lehrer Recorded at Tom's first "farewell" concert in Cambridge, Mass. in 1959.
The Lumberjack Song Monty Python Sings! (1989) Michael Palin, Chorus It's what he really wants to be!
The Company Way How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (OC 1961) Robert Morse, Sammy Smith Unswerving corporate loyalty. For a CEO, this is nostalgic.
Take Us Back to the Office Again Lime Jello - An American Cabaret (1986) Joan Morris, William Bolcom (piano) By Michael Sahl and Mel Mandel, from Junkyard (1986) - a reminder of a not-very-distant past when unemployment was much higher than it is today. More CEO nostalgia.
Oh, My Feet Most Happy Fella (OC 1956) Susan Johnson It’s quitting time at the restaurant, and Cleo welcomes the change to finally sit down.
It’s an Art Working (OC 1978) Lenora Nemetz and Company Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. This is somewhat more positive look at being a waitress: waiting tables as Performance Art.
Joe Worker The Cradle Will Rock (Revival cast 1964) Micki Grant This classic bit of agitprop has b ook, music and lyrics by Mark Blitzstein. For those of you who think this song about the hard life of workers isn’t relevant any more, I have only two words: “welfare reform”.
Nickel Under the Foot The Cradle Will Rock (Revival cast 1964) Lauri Peters The song that was the germ for the show. It's sung by a prostitute who, in Blitzstein's ironic libretto, is the only person who isn't selling out. Howard Da Silva directed this revival cast.
The Cradle Will Rock American Musical Theatre V. 2 (1989) Howard Da Silva, Mark Blitzstein (piano) Da Silva (not the poverty-stricken and fictitous Italian-American in Tim Robbins' film version of the story) was the original Larry Foreman in Mark Blitzstein's protest classic, which is being staged by New Line Theatre in September here in St. Louis. It should be noted that Da Silva left a better-paying and more secure job in radio to act in Cradle - a courageous act in the late 1930s.

Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.

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