"As Long As Audiences Will Pay to See Me": A cabaret tribute to Broadway’s “feminist” past and present

Maegan Clearwood

To read a non-satirical takedown of Broadway’s sexist legacy, check out this column.

AS LONG AUDIENCES WILL PAY TO SEE ME
A cabaret tribute to Broadway’s “feminist” past and present

SKEEZY PIANIST tinkers at his piano as SEXY INGÉNUE ENTERS.

INGÉNUE (singing)

Song #1: “Somewhere that’s Green” and “The Worse He Treats Me” medley from Little Shop of Horrors

I know Seymour's the greatest,
but I'm dating a semi-sadist,
so I've got a black eye
and my arm's in a cast…

The worse he treats me,
the more he loves me.
It sounds unusual I know.
But when he hurts me,
that's how he tells me
that he would never let me go.

INGÉNUE (to applause)

Thank you, thank you for being here tonight. I’m so humbled to see so many beautiful faces together! It is lovely to be a woman, isn’t it? That last number is from one of my all-time feminist favorites: Little Shop of Horrors. What an empowering hoot!

I so appreciate everyone coming out tonight, especially the women in this audience who put down their pot roasts and babies to celebrate Broadway’s illustrious and ongoing history of Feminist Musicals! As I’m sure you all know, 2018 has been a difficult year for women, so my friend SKEEZY PIANIST here and I thought we should thank Broadway for stepping it up in the wake of the #MeToo movement by presenting a triad of envelope-pushing revivals.

I’m going to now perform a song from one of these upcoming beauties. Let’s see if you showtunes nerds can figure them out! Hit it, SKEEZY PIANIST!

INGÉNUE (singing)

Song#2: What’s the Use of Wond’rin’ from Carousel

When he wants your kisses,
you will give them to the lad,
and anywhere he leads you, you will walk.
And anytime he needs you,
you'll go running there like mad.
You're his girl and he's your feller,
and all the rest is talk….

Common sense may tell you
that the ending will be sad,
and now's the time to break and run away.
But what's the use of wond'ring
if the ending will be sad?
He's your feller and you love him –
There's nothing more to say

INGÉNUE

Talk about a Strong Female Character! Thank you, Will and Oscar: may we continue reviving your politically progressive musicals at regional theaters until your subscribers finally drop dead.

This next medley consists of songs that celebrate the female experience, sophisticatedly unpacking decades of misogynistic oppression and violence in just a few, simple verses.

INGÉNUE (singing):

Song #3: “How Lovely to be a Woman” from Bye Bye Birdie

How lovely to be a woman,
the wait was well worthwhile,
how lovely to wear mascara,
and smile a woman's smile.

How lovely to have a figure
that's round instead of flat,
whenever you hear boys whistle,
you're what they're whistling at!

Song #4: “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from Flower Drum Song

When I hear the compliment'ry whistle
that greets my bikini by the sea,
I turn and I glower and I bristle,
but I happy to know the whistle's meant for me!

I'm strictly a female female
and my future I hope will be
in the home of a brave and free male
who'll enjoy being a guy having a girl like me.

INGÉNUE

I’m so glad we had male composers and song-writers who finally put into song what we women want men to finally understand: That we LOVE street harassment! Three cheers for cat calling!

(wait for applause)

INGÉNUE (con’t)

Now men, don’t think we’ve forgotten you! #NotAllMen. My accompanist SKEEZY PIANIST here has a couple of ditties up his sleeve so that you won’t feel left out.

SKEEZY PIANIST

Sing backup for me, sweetie? (he pats the seat beside him)  That’s a good girl! Now, gentlemen, who’s ready for some sportsball?!?  Let’s man this show up!

SKEEZY PIANIST and INGÉNUE (singing):

Song #8: “The Game from Damn Yankees

The game, the game!
We've go to think about the game,
The game, the game!
Booze and broads may be great,
though they're great they'll have to wait,
while we think about the game!

There was that waitress back in Kansas City,
built for comfort, dumb but pretty!
Man, her perfume sure smelt sweet,
got her up to my hotel suite!
She killed a pint of gin more or less,
the lights were low and she slips of her dress!
But then I thought about the game!

INGÉNUE

Wasn’t that –

SKEEZY PIANIST

Wasn’t that amazing, folks! Women, am I right?

INGÉNUE

Next, we’ll hear –

SKEEZY PIANIST

Next we’ll hear another song from Broadway’s progressive season, as I take on the role of one of musical theater’s greatest feminist allies: Henry Higgins!

SKEEZY PIANIST (singing):

Song #9: “A Hymn to Him” from My Fair Lady

Women are irrational, that's all there is to that!
Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They're nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
maddening and infuriating hags!

INGÉNUE

Now it’s time to talk about the men in our lives. Ladies, your fellas can be awful sometimes, huh? Sometimes they ignore you, sometimes they treat you and your fellow wives like dirt, sometimes they slap you around and then brutally murder you on London Bridge… But remember, as mean and violent as these brutes can be, there’s one more quality that every man possesses: redeemability. Let’s hear it for projects!

INGENUE (singing)

Song #5: “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm” from How to Succeed

I'll be so happy to keep his dinner warm.
while he goes onward and upward;
Happy to keep his dinner warm
‘till he comes wearily home from down town.

I'll be there,
waiting until his mind is clear,
while he looks through me,
right through me.
Waiting to say,
“Good evening dear,
I'm pregnant,
what's new with you,
from down town?”

Song #6: “Something Wonderful” from The King and I

You'll always go along, defend him when he's wrong
and tell him when he's strong, he is wonderful.
He'll always needs your love and so he'll get your love:
A man who needs your love can be wonderful.

Song #7: “As Long as He Needs Me” from Oliver!

He doesn't say the things he should,
he acts the way he thinks he should,

but all the same,
I'll play this game his way.

As long as he needs me –
oh yes he does need me –
in spite of what you see,
I'm sure that he needs me.

I miss him so much when he's gone,
but when he's near me, I carry on!

INGÉNUE

Isn’t forgiving men for their abusive transgressions fun, ladies?! There’s so much agency in these musical numbers that I’d almost venture to tell the writers: tone it down a bit; you don’t want to be reverse sexist!

Before my final number, I’d like to point you all in the direction of the gift shop, where you can buy CDs from our last cabaret show, a tribute to Jason Robert Brown entitled, “B*****s, amiright?”

SKEEZY PIANIST

And join us next month for a cabaret celebration of Broadway’s long history of non-problematic leading roles for Not-Cis-Straight and Not-White-Women! We’ve got a great lineup, with songs from such empowering musicals as Miss Saigon, Porgy and Bess, and…and…

INGÉNUE

…well, it’s a work in progress.

Anyway. You’ve all been such a lovely audience that I hate to go, but I have a pot roast waiting for me at home. I’m sure you expect an encore from me, but I simply must get back to that kitchen of mine, so no luck tonight. Instead, I leave you with a tune from the third and final feminist Broadway revival of the season.

INGEUNIE (singing)

Song #11: “I’m Sorry that Women are so Simple” from Kiss Me Kate

I am ashamed the women a so simple,
to offer war where they should kneel for peace,
or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway
when they are bound to serve, love and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
but that our soft conditions and our hearts
should well agree with our external parts?
So, wife, hold your temper and meekly put
your hand 'neath the sole of your husband's foot,
in token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready, ready:
May it do him ease.

INGÉNUE and SKEEZY PIANIST bow to uproarious applause. They EXIT.

They wait an appropriate amount of time, then swoop back onstage.

INGÉNUE

Ladies and gentlemen: I thought I told you all that the show was done, and remember: No means No!

(Pause)

INGÉNUE (con’t)

Except when it means yes! (pause for laughter and murmurs of agreement) C’mon back, SKEEZY PIANIST, let’s give them a few more songs. You’re in for a real treat folks, because –

SKEEZY PIANIST

Because this one’s a medley of some of our all-time faves!

INGÉNUE and SKEEZY PIANIST (singing):

“Sobbin’ Women” from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Tell ya 'bout them sobbin' women
who lived in the Roman days.
It seems that they all went swimmin'
while their men was off to graze.
Well, a Roman troop was ridin' by
and saw them in their "me oh my's” –
So they took 'em all back home to dry.
Least that's what Plutarch says. Oh yes!
And the women was sobbin', sobbin', sobbin' fit to be tied.
Ev'ry muscle was throbbin', throbbin' from that riotous ride.
Seems they cried and kissed and kissed and cried
all over that Roman countryside.
So don't forget that when you're takin' a bride!

“When I find My Baby” from Sister Act

Well, let her play hard-to-get.
‘Cause if I know one thing,
I’m gettin’ her back!
…And when I find that girl,
I’m gonna kill that girl!
I’m gonna wham! Bam! Blam!
And drill that girl!
Won’t rest until that girl
is safe and sound six feet below – no!
When I find my baby,
I ain’t lettin’ her go!

“Summer Lovin’” from Grease

She swam by me, she got a cramp;
He ran by me, got my suit damp;
I saved her life, she nearly drowned;
He showed off, splashing around.
Summer sun, something's begun,
But ah, oh, those summer nights!

Tell me more, tell me more,
Was it love at first sight?
Tell me more, tell me more,
Did she put up a fight?

“Now” from A Little Night Music

Now, as the sweet imbecilities
tumble so lavishly onto her lap,
Now, there are two possibilities:
A, I could ravish her,
B, I could nap.
Say it's the ravishment, then we see
The option that follows, of course:
A, the deployment of charm,

Or B, the adoption of physical force.

 “Nothing Like a Dame” from South Pacific

We feel hungry as the wolf felt
when he met Red Hiding-hood.
What don't we feel?
We don't feel good!
Lots of things in life are beautiful, but brother,
there is one particular thing that is nothin' whatsoever
in any way, shape or form like any other.

INGENUE

Thanks for being so great tonight, everyone! And remember: sexism is over, so we can laugh about it now! Happy 2018!

EXIT

Photo: Far Corners Community Musical Theatre