The beat continues… you really had to be there, but you couldn’t be – just lonesome writer me again.
The lyrics for my very first “show tunes,” Sunspots on the Moon, have just been added to my gumbo website as https://georgecomeauxliterarygumbo.com/scripts/musicals/sunspots-on-the-moon/ .
“They” all say “Write what you know,” and from the evidence I’m presenting, it’s clear I didn’t know much.
I have recounted in earlier posts the pivotal points in my meandering into this musical forest. From third grade choir experience, when Sister was conducting fifty-nine glorious voices at Benediction and me, and tapped me on the hands to quiesce my attempts at note making, freezing sensitive me in self-consciousness for the next forty years; to scoring near zero in musical interests in my high school Kuder Preference Test; to becoming aware of Broadway when Camelot hit the scene in senior year, plus hearing the girls’ drum and bugle corps in an assembly sing several South Pacific standards and being lofted up to fantasy land; to the intensely homesick first semester freshman year in college, spending weekends and $2.49 per album, absorbing Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe, and reading a history of American musical theatre; to scoring near one hundred in musical interests in ye old Kuder in college as my advisor was re-directing my future (even though I failed the Kuder consistency test); to thinking I could cook up a script with lyrics, discovering an affinity for and the joy of rhythmic versifying, and scribbling up Sunspots on the Moon.
Would that I had had the nerve to submit it to my junior year Creative Writing professor, instead of just following his assignments to create short stories. I did share the script with my college advisor – he seemed impressed with the lyrics, but thought the story should involve college students and more grown-up “conflict.” I never got past sketching an upgrade to college level for the story.
To leap forward into a metaphoric analysis of the project, in later and recent years I realized that what I had written was a cross between a “Leave It to Beaver” and a “Little Rascals” script. It was a pre-teen romance/anti-romance treatment of interactions between the genders at the pre-pubescent stage.
The specific trigger for this drama was my being dumbstruck (“they do what?”) on reading a magazine article on high society parents in Darien, Connecticut, scheduling social dates for their pre-teen offspring. Not “play dates,” but big time social engagements. That didn’t track well with my southern attitudes. It wasn’t hard to morph into my pre-teen persona (a constant companion) and construct the resulting scenario. I’m not sure whether my antagonistic attitude toward the opposite sex derived from juvenile nervousness, secret longings, or sibling rivalry with my sisters, but somewhere along the way the point/counterpoint line, “The only good girl is your Mother!” / “The only bad boy is your brother!” pretty much defined the trajectory of the drama.
By then I was Broadway literate enough to include several standard Broadway conventions: dreamy ballads, duets, a lament, a nightmare dance scene, a drinking song, and (in homage to the emerging Hootenanny scene) an acoustic guitar-out-of-nowhere number.
(Revisiting this script fifty years after its inception has me realizing I was probably exorcising one of my sensitive experiences and its aftermath. I was invited to escort an eighth-grade classmate to an end-of-junior-high party. I declined with the excuse that at thirteen I did not go out with girls. That was probably a “true lie.” It was the factual truth, but what if the girl I was interested in had asked? I can’t say. The unfortunate aftermath was that, for the sake of “honesty” (or was it stubbornness? or stupidity?) I adhered to that “declaration” until high school senior prom. If I had told my Mother about the invitation, I probably would have been signed, sealed, and delivered, just as is depicted in the script.)
(Also note that the names Richard and Elizabeth were very newsworthy at that time, something about Rome.)
Synopsis and Lyrics
Richard Berkeley, ten years old, leader of the Mighty Monsters, chief girl-resister
Betty Turnstile, ten years old classmate, chief boy-chaser
Mr. and Mrs. Berkeley
Lou Berkeley, Richard’s seventeen-year-old brother
Sally then Carol, Lou’s girl friends
THE MIGHTY MONSTERS – Teddy, Henry, Joe, Albert, Bobby, Larry
THE GIRLS – Jane, Julie, Margie, Susie, Debbie
One Old Man
Mr. and Mrs. Berkeley leave Lou in charge of Richard as they head out into three high society engagements. The lovelorn GIRLS gather outside the MIGHTY MONSTERS clubhouse, singing their aspirations, “Promise Me Anything,” and conspire to break the boys’ “no girls allowed” attitudes. The boys leave the clubhouse to find Larry, who is rumored to be about to break the pledge, expressing their grandiose plans in “Ten and a Half!” Betty taunts Richard about her date with Larry, the sixth Monster she has extricated from the club. The two groups confront with “Girls and Boys.” Larry wanders off and contemplates “Love at Eleven.” Lou finds out about the parents arranging the young dating scene and appears at the clubhouse to coach the Monsters, “You Gotta Watch out for the Adults.” Larry defends himself in the clubhouse – his parents made him do it – and is declared guilty, but answers follow up curiosity questions about the experience, describing “Sunspots on the Moon.” Betty taunts Richard again, asks him to sing a love song, and he sarcastically counterpoints her “My Sweetest Song.” Lou heads out for a date with Sally, soliloquizing the game of “Perfection.” Larry asks Betty out to dinner at Jackie’s Malt Shop, but Betty demands the Glass Slipper Restaurant. Julie and Margie surprise Henry and Joe with attack kisses, leaving them bewildered, then bemoan their rejection with “What Can a Girl Do?” Larry bursts into the clubhouse to report being “SHOT DOWN!” by Betty, and hearing she has declared another target. Back at the Berkeley house, Lou is upset at learning Sally has found someone else; the phone rings; and Mrs. Berkeley tells Richard that she just told Mrs. Turnstile that Richard would love to take Betty to the Fourth of July Ball at the Country Club.
(Leaving “Little Rascals” territory, entering “Leave It to Beaver” land.)
Richard has a nightmare scene, the Mighty Monsters playing baseball against the girls. He wakes up yelling “Mother! Mother!” but answers “Nothing” to her response. Richard is confronted at the clubhouse about a rumor, confesses the date with Betty, but is saved from eviction when the other Monsters confess the same arrangement, all Mother generated. They memorialize their inevitable extinction with “DRINK! DRINK! TO BROTHERHOOD.” Alone, Richard soliloquizes his innermost fears then dreams, asking ‘Where Can a Little Guy Turn?’ as prelude to a dreamy romantic “Wherever You Are.” As the Ball looms, the girls lament the boys’ resistance with a reprise of “What Can a Girl Do?” Mr. Berkeley has a dreaded Father/Son chat with Lou about his breakup with Sally and re-connecting with Carol, bringing his guitar into play for “The One That Got Away.” Richard (“Beaver”) nervously dresses for the event, backs down the staircase when Betty arrives, then yields to inevitability. Lou and Carol skip the dance for dinner and express their more advanced appreciation of “Sunspots on the Moon.” In the ballroom, to an instrumental “Love at Eleven,” the boys huddle and decide to step on the girls’ toes, the girls huddle then kick the boys in the shins, and dancing proceeds, the couples attempting to converse. Outside the ballroom, Julie ambles by and sees Henry. He announces he’s now President of the Mighty Monsters, the last Monster standing. Julie announces she was left out also. They commiserate and bond with “Let’s Be Lonely Together.” After the dance at Betty’s house, the kids are spinning the bottle to Richard’s declarations of ‘Fink!’, then Mrs. Berkeley’s and Mrs. Turnstile’s startled reactions. Lou arrives excitedly to announce his engagement, eventually coaxing a congratulation from his Mother. The partying resumes, the lights darken, and Richard sneaks away, wondering “How Long Can You Dream?” and re-musing “Wherever You Are.”
I will always regret not submitting this to my short story professor, risking an ‘F’ but asserting my individual creativity. I could have been doing assigned homework, but instead I was doing “my work,” similarly to my professional career, far less lucrative, but far more intrinsically rewarding.
N.B. In wandering through my archives, two other lyrics, probably discarded from my final script, showed up, so I added them to the web page: “Song of a Lost Love” – a more grown-up “Shot Down!”; and “It’s Only Love” – a play on other love songs, borrowing and blending many romantic phrases from popular standards, just for fun.