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Falling and Tripping


You know, I just can't make it easy on myself when working on Andy's assignments. The easy way out would be songs like "Falling in Love," Henry Sullivan and Earle Crooker's song from The Third Little Show, or "Falling in Love With Love" that Rodgers and Hart wrote for The Boys From Syracuse, or "Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun," which you might know from Miss Liberty but more recently the Irving Berlin tune was interpolated into the Broadway version of White Christmas. Berlin wrote another "falling" song for Annie Get Your Gun: "They Say That Falling in Love Is Wonderful." Also Fats Waller, Harry Link, and Billy Rose wrote the song "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" for the revue Hot Chocolates. It's now a jazz standard. There's also Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson Young's "I'm Falling in Love With Someone" that was a hit from Naughty Marietta.

As for "tripping," the only show song I can think of is "Tripping the Light Fantastic." Harold Rome wrote that for Wish You Were Here.

But enough of that. I want to do something else. First I want to list some shows in which people are falling for a con.

In Flora the Red Menace, the title character falls for Harry Toukarian emotionally and with his Communist views.

Thomas Meehan's script for Annie has Daddy Warbucks and his assistant, Grace, fall for the lies of the evil Miss Hannigan who plots to get Warbucks' bucks.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has the protagonist J. Pierpont Finch wheeling and dealing up the corporate ladder with the bosses falling for his scheming.

Now, as for tripping, can you guess what I'm thinking of? Yes, it's marijuana. And interestingly, the late '60s and early '70s were the heyday of shows in which people smoked dope. The earliest show that I can think of that featured smoking dope is Murder at the Vanities by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow. The song was aptly named "Marahuana." And no, when Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach wrote "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" they were talking about even a cigarette.

The librettists of Hair, James Rado and Gerome Ragni along with composer Galt MacDermot concocted a truly revolutionary musical. Never meant for Broadway it had productions at the Public Theater and then at the nightclub Cheetah before arriving on the Great White Way and immediately became a sensation. If you think of the success of Hamilton Hair had more of an impact both at the box office and culturally. In addition to lots of drugs on stage and in the bodies of the cast during performances Hair celebrated black boys, white boys, anti-war demonstrations, the draft, drag, various incarnations of sexuality, the shock of "hippies" and their long hair (very shocking), pollution, the military/industrial complex, and the clueless older generation. And yes, the show has many, many drug references. There's even a long second act LSD trip in which George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, Buddhist monks, nuns, Native Americans, Clark Gable, etc. interpret American history. And finally the promise of "The Age of Aquarius."

Broadway inched slowly into some of the more radical themes introduced in Hair. In 1970 the Stephen Sondheim and George Furth musical Company explored the relationships of various couples amongst themselves and with their friend, the confirmed bachelor Robert. When he visits one couple, Jenny and David, they share a joint and demand that Robert tell them why he hasn't married. It might be the marijuana that brings to life Robert's depictions of the women that he's dated.

Speaking of couples, the 1977 musical I Love My Wife not only had pot smoking, but the whole idea of the show was two couples having a foursome. Of course, it being Broadway the whole thing was handled with humor and in the end not much happens at all. 

Since then, drugs and drug references have slowed on Broadway. Perhaps because smoking dope, or tripping, isn't controversial anymore. But folks are still falling and in the case of Hamilton, it leaves one character "Helpless."

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