I was in a production of "Jerry's Girls", an ensemble cabaret show with a cast of 16 women. The show is a showcase for some of the most well-known of Jerry Hermann's songs and a few of the not-so-well-known songs. All of his big successes ("Mame", "Hello Dolly", "La Cage Aux Folles") are represented as well as his lesser known shows ("Mack and Mabel", "A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine.) Each cast member was in several musical numbers, but several had their own moments too, where they were the featured soloist. Okay, you following me?? It was essentially all of Jerry Hermann's favorite songs, with lots of singing and dancing by a bunch of talented women in pretty costumes!
My song was an obscure little ditty that Hermann wrote for "A Day in Hollywood and A Night in the Ukraine", an even more obscure show. The song is called "Nelson".
In it Jeannete MacDonald (that would be me), wearing a bonnet over her blonde curls, sings of the difficulty of appearing opposite the completely untalented Mr. Eddy (“Nelson”). As we didn't have any men on hand, we substituted a free-standing, life-sized, black and white, cardboard cutout of Nelson Eddy, sporting his Mountie uniform complete with hat. It's a funny song, that practically no one had ever heard of! Here are some of the lyrics to give you the idea:
NELSON - by Jerry Hermann
My heart, my love, my life is his alone
But if, but if, but if the truth be known....
My hero must stand on a box in our love scenes
God, does he act like a lox in our love scenes
Nelson, what you're putting me through
And all of his notes above B flat, verbotten!
And all of his notes below B flat are rotten
Oh, Nelson, Don't call me, I'll call you
His love making casts such a pall
It's not hard to sleep through at all
His vocal chords carry insurance by Lloyd's
and so I might add, should his adenoids
The lights wilt his hairdo,
on camera he'll primp, and quite frankly,
his hair isn't all that goes limp.
A symbol of virtue and class
America's sweethearts, My ass!
"A pair made in heaven," the fans love to say
but each time we kiss I swear that he's gay.
In film after film after film I betrothed him,
we snuggled and smooched,
and oh God, how I loathed him.
oh so calming you'll never need embalming
Oh Nelson, what you're putting me through!
Not exactly a song about the love affair of the century is it? But it was great fun to sing and the audiences loved it!
So you get the picture?
We eventually came, as you always do, to the last performance of the run....and (because no one ever seems to learn NOT to do this!), the show was being filmed. Naturally, the gremlins appeared....during MY song.
Went through the first part of the song just fine, the audience was laughing and loving it! The interlude arrived, so I chucked him over my shoulder and marched him to the other side of the stage. I set him down, took a breath, ready to sing after the end of the interlude.
Suddenly, before we got any further, Nelson fell face first, about halfway off the front of the stage, falling on top of one of the floor mikes with a loud boom. There was a collective gasp from the audience, the band stopped completely, and I just stood there looking down in disbelief! "Oh crap! What do I do now???"
It's amazing how many possibilities run through your head at a time like this. I quickly considered and rejected several choices, when the perfect solution occurred to me.
I bent down, grabbed Nelson his "ankles" and pulled him back on stage. As I lifted him into a standing position, I leaned forward a bit toward the audience and said, "I told you he was a wuss!!" The audience exploded with laughter, giving me time to be sure he was actually settled where he belonged. The conductor looked at me, raised her eyebrow inquiringly, I nodded, the band and I came in together, at exactly the right spot and on we went.
The audience clapped for a looong time at the end of the song!!
The tricky little gremlins hung their evil little heads in defeat and exited, stage left!
It actually looks pretty good on the tape!