Monday, August 12, 2013

The Question... Melanie Gall on The $50-A-Night Girl (Fringe: Edmonton)

The Thousands of Forgotten Songs
by Estelle Rosen

Melanie Gall is an internationally-acclaimed vocalist.  She has travelled to Africa, South America and the Caribbean to sing at events for the Semaine de la Francophonie, and she is a regular performer at the American Spring Festival in the Czech Republic.  Ms Gall's opera roles have included Gilda, La Fée, The Queen of the Night and Lima Energelly in the North American premiere of the Hebrew Opera ‘And the Rat Laughs’. Ms Gall is based in New York City, and has sung at both Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Ms Gall has written and toured several solo shows throughout Canada and the USA. These include: ‘My Pal Izzy’, based on the early life of Irving Berlin, ‘The Sparrow and The Mouse: Creating the Music of Edith Piaf’, about French chanteuse Edith Piaf and her half-sister Simone, and 'More Power to Your Knitting, Nell!', featuring ‘lost’ knitting music from WWI and WWII. Last spring, Ms Gall recorded More Power to Your Knitting, Nell!  a CD containing WWI-era knitting music. 

CHARPO: Your play The $50-A-Night Girl is about women Tin Pan Alley composers. Why this subject for your play?

GALL: My Edmonton Fringe show, "The $50-A-Night Girl", is about female Tin Pan Alley composers.  Sort of.
You see, I love music.  I sing opera somewhat regularly and French Cabaret music quite regularly, and Knitting Music (yes, KNITTING music!) even more regularly than that.  But even though that is all wonderful music, I absolutely adore the popular songs of the early 20th century.  

Some of this music is still in the public consciousness:  'Shine On Harvest Moon', 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame', and so forth, but there are thousands - thousands - of songs that were written, achieved some measure of success (or, in some cases, were wildly popular), and have been forgotten.  There are some wonderful songs out there that not one person alive today has ever heard.

I'm trying to save that music.  And this show, 'The $50-A-Night Girl', is one of the ways in which I'm trying to do it.

The show is a sort of cabaret.  It melds well-known American Songbook pieces such as 'The Sunny Side of the Street' and 'I Won't Dance' with several of these lost songs, such as 'You Forgot Your Gloves' and 'I Haven't Been in New York Very Long', using as a thematic thread the fact that women wrote the lyrics or the music (or the ukelele chords) to all of these songs. 

In the show, I tell the story of how female Tin Pan Alley musicians and lyricists such as Kay Swift or Dorothy Fields achieved their success, and I mix that with anecdotes from my similar New York experiences, from over a century later.

And what about the title?  Well, Dorothy Fields used to call herself the $50-A-Night Girl, because it would take her an evening to write lyrics to a song, and she was paid $50 a song.  Also, it sounds naughty.  And as a purveyor of generally wholesome Fringe fare, I thought that this once it would be fun to have a show title that would make people blush.  ...also, it will make postcarding a lot more fun....!

The $50-A-Night Girl is at the Edmonton Fringe

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