I am in rehearsals, as Assistant Director, for a new play at TheatreWorks, the World Premiere “Upright Grand”, written by Laura Schellhardt and directed by Meredith McDonough. The story involves two pianists, father and daughter, and a lot of music. The multi-talented Brett Ryback – actor, pianist, playwright, composer – plays the piano throughout the show while Renata Friedman and Dan Hiatt portray the father and daughter team.
Since much of the show is about piano music, we are inundated – in a good way – with sheet music of all kinds, new and old, classical and show tunes, anthologies and singles, all coming from the TheatreWorks prop stock. The sheets of music are spread on the floor, stacked in boxes, balancing on piano benches, pinned to a wall, and sticking out of a suitcase. As we rehearse, whenever a character needs to hold a piece of music in their hand, the actors pick up whatever sheet of music happens to be handy at the moment.
This is how we discovered this gem, with its hilariously inappropriate imagery, written, composed, and published by Chas K. Harris in the anciently looking year MCMIII (which is the still recent 1903), and first performed by the sepia beauty Rena Aubrey:
Please, Mister, take me in your car, I want to see Mamma,
They say she lives in Heaven, is it very, very far?
My new Mamma is very cross, and scolds me every day,
I guess she does not love me, for I’m always in the way.
Always in the way
So they always say,
I wonder why they don’t kiss me,
Just the same as sister May,
Always in the way,
I can never play,
My own Mamma would never say
I’m always in the way.
The ride it ended all too soon, she toddled off alone,
A light shone from a window, and she peeped into the room,
Please tell me is this Heave, Ma’am, and will they let me stay?
Forever, child, for this is home, and you’re not in the way.
Not surprisingly, this highly visual song inspired a 1915 silent film with the same title, directed by J. Searle Dawley. I love that the film poster credits the song for its existence: ”A picturization of the song classic”.
After this wonderful find in rehearsal, we couldn’t leave the rest of the discovery to chance. We went through all the boxes and the stacks looking for treasure. I leave you with the crème de la crème of all the titles we found:
- Any Little Girl, That’s A Nice Little Girl, Is The Right Little Girl For Me
- H-a-s-h, Dat Am De Word I Love
- Heaven Is Like Dixie After All
- Alas! Poor Yorick
- Aber Nit
- Blame It On Father And Mother
- Boilers To Mend
- Everything’s Funny To Me
- The Boy Who Stuttered And The Girl Who Lisped
- Don’t You Want A Pussy-Wussy Cat?
- Dr. Tinkle Tinker
- I’d Rather Have Folks Say, How He Did Run, Than There He Lies
- I Wasn’t Scared But I Thought I’d Better Go
- I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down
- I’ve Heard About The Knights Of Columbus But Where Did He Spend His Days
- McCarty (What Else Could You Expect From A Man Named McCarty)
- Mama, I Gave Away The Baby
- Ooh! Maybe It’s a Robber
- Plant a Watermelon On My Grave And Let The Juice Soak Through
- Please Don’t Call Me Honey, ‘Cause Honey Only Gathers Flies
- Since Ma Is Playing Mah Jong
- There Ought To Be Music In Every Home Except The One Next Door To Me
- We’ll All Go Home When There’s No Place Else To Go
- When Father Rode The Goat
- When He’s All Dolled Up He’s The Best Dressed Rube In Town
- He Looks At Her And Then He Goes Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha