A Tribute to Show Tunes

Mar 24, 2023

During a recent weekend lunch in Montreal with some (very) long-standing friends of ours, Anne, the wife of my buddy Peter (he and I have been friends for over 60 years!) happened to mention just how much she loved classic old show tunes.

She referred, with an almost toxic degree of enthusiasm, to musical extravaganzas such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Camelot and several others, performing tidbits of musical reminiscence that very much appealed to me but filled our respective spouses with horror.

Peter stuck his fingers in both ears when his wife started singing The Simple Joys of Maidenhood from Camelot, while I beamed and applauded. My wife, Allyson, thought I’d taken leave of my senses and began to cringe. She clapped her hands over her ears and then mimed being sick while Anne (Peter’s wife) sang on.

“Getting to Know You…”

I came back with a few provocative musical lines from My Fair Lady, notably ‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’—a song I offered up because, following the amiable example of Rex Harrison who played the original Professor Higgins, the words can be effectively spoken not warbled:

Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can’t a woman be like that?

At this point, Peter poured Allyson another glass of wine and topped up his own glass before declaring to Anne and myself: “If this continues, you’re both cut off!”

Conversation ran on briefly, when all of a sudden Anne made the momentous suggestion that we (she meant the two of us) throw a special musical evening together consuming discrete quantities of white wine while playing all the tunes we so admired. “I’ll prepare the play list while you, Geoffrey, show up prepared to sing and dance.”

“Great idea!” I replied. “When?”

At this point both Peter and Allyson exclaimed in no uncertain terms that they wanted no part in this degenerate, sentimental charade and would take themselves off for dinner à deux at a nearby French restaurant while we embarrassed ourselves. “Well out of earshot!” as Peter put it.

Shall We Dance?

The evening arrived. My date was ready, dressed to kill, both show tune vinyl and CDs primed for playing. Our respective spouses said brief “hellos” and took themselves off post haste for their quiet dinner à deux, while Anne and I both in our stocking feet to facilitate smooth manoeuvring across her ample, polished hardwood kitchen floor began to swan about, like a couple of bedazzled teenagers on a first date.

We started with Oklahoma!The Surrey with the Fringe on Top – and moved successively through such gems as June Is Bustin’ Out All Over (Carousel), Getting To Know You (The King and I) well…. you get the picture.

The copious quantities of wine we drank during this magnificent frolic were easily oxidised away by the ingenuity of our dancing, the subtlety of our moves and the extravagance of our vocal delivery, so our eventual collapse onto the living room sofa was due more to exhaustion rather than alcohol.

Peter and Allyson returned after about three hours, creeping in quietly in case we were still at it, primed to another fast escape…only to find us both sound asleep, snuggled up cosily on the sofa.

“And a good time was had by all,” Allyson reputedly observed of us both.

Peter’s response was to add, “I’d call that a narrow escape”.

He might well have been right. Though neither Anne nor I—nor you, for that matter, should you decide to replicate our escapade—would likely agree.



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