So there I was, in an airport lounge, sitting next to a couple of guys who were playing cards. Not just ordinary cards. In the middle of each was the picture of a naked woman.
That started me thinking: May we stagestruck have a deck of cards that features logos and sheet music covers of musicals? Can we find an appropriate card for each number and face card in the four suits -- 13 clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades?
Well, for the clubs, we could have "Two a Day" from Jerry Herman's Nightcap, "Three Coins in the Fountain" from Forever Plaid, "Ten Percent Banlon" from Julius Monk's Dime a Dozen, and the logos from the other Monk shows: Four Below, Take Five, Demi-Dozen (it means six), Seven Come Eleven, Pieces of Eight, and Dressed to the Nines. Why should all these be clubs? Well, clubs are where these shows played, instead of in genuine theatres.
To fill out the suit, let's put pictures of Jack Fletcher and Jane Connell, the best of the Monk players, respectively on the Jack and Queen of Clubs, and Monk himself, of course, on the King of Clubs. The Ace of Clubs? Thank you, Noel Coward, for writing a 1950 musical by that name. Its logo will do.
Diamonds, as we know, are a Girl's Best Friends, so pictures of women singing the songs they originated should make up our suit -- such as "Two's Company" (Cheryl Barnes and Annie McGreevey; The Magic Show). For our three, should we use "Three Little Queens from the Silver Screen," sung by Carol Channing, Yvonne Adair, and Nancy Franklin in 1948's Lend an Ear? No, because every player will be confused on whether he's got a three or a queen in his hand. Let's opt instead for "Three Ships," which Tessie O'Shea sang in A Time for Singing. Then there's "Four" (Alice Playten; Promenade), "Five Growing Boys" (Shelley Winters; Minnie's Boys), "Six Lilies of the Valley" (Florence Henderson; The Girl Who Came to Supper), "Seven Million Crumbs" (Susan Johnson; The Most Happy Fella), "Eight-Horse Parley" (Marcia Lewis; God Bless Coney), "About a Quarter to Nine" (Tammy Grimes; 42nd Street), and (ahem) "A Ten-der Spot" (Sally Ann Howes; What Makes Sammy Run?).
For the Jack, let's instead commemorate Jack Diamond, who was so memorable in Kiss Me, Kate in the role of Second Man. The King of Diamonds should be represented by "The Diamond King" from the 1896 Ziegfeld presentation, A Parlor Match. We'll return to the ladies, though for the Ace; Mary Jane Walsh, Sunnie O'Dea, and Nanette Fabray sang "Ace in the Hole" in Let's Face It.
And the Queen of Diamonds? Why, the logo from Evita, natch. As Tim Rice said about Ms. Peron, she is a diamond.
For our hearts, we can use songs by Lorenz Hart: "Two a Day for Keith" and "The Three B's" from On Your Toes; "Four Little Song Pluggers" and "Queen Elizabeth" from The Garrick Gaieties of 1926. Maybe Hart and his collaborators dropped "Six Little Kitzels" from Betsy and "Nine Young Girls and Nine Young Men" from I'd Rather Be Right, but we can sure use them to enhance our deck. Add in "Ten Cents a Dance" from Simple Simon, and "Jack and Jill" from Say Mama (a 1921 amateur show), and we find that Hart has solved eight of our 13 hearts.
One of the remainders is easy: The King of Hearts can sport the logo for King of Hearts, that noble 1977 failure. For the Ace of Hearts -- which is, after all, the most powerful card in the suit -- let's replicate the sheet music cover from "The Heart Has Won the Game" from First Impressions.
But what of five, seven, and eight of hearts? That's where composer H.L. Heartz comes in. The composer of many turn-of-the-century shows gave us the melodies for "Five Little Flirty Girls" in 1907's Hurdy-Gurdy Girl, "Seven Is Lucky for Me" from 1901's My Lady, and, in 1902's Miss Simplicity, "And So You Were Eight-teen." (If we put that last syllable in smaller type, we might just get away with it.)
Now the Spades. Considering that in bridge the spade is the highest-level suit, we should have only the highest representatives here. Hence, the logos from a couple of Tony-winning musicals, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Nine, and one nominee, Five Guys Named Moe. "Three Letters" from that underrated masterpiece, She Loves Me, "Four Little Angels of Peace" from Pins and Needles (which closed as the longest-runner of its era), "Five A.M." from The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, "Six Months out of Every Year" from Damn Yankees, "The Seven Deadly Virtues" from Camelot, and "Tonight at Eight" from She Loves Me.
The Queen of Spades should sport the logo for the 1926 smash-hit, Queen High. (Hey, back then, 367 performances was a smash.) The King of Spades can show the sheet music for "King of the World," the euphemized title song from the 1962 musical, King of the Whole Damn World. (It's a good song, as is evidenced by Jerry Orbach's rendition on his 1962 MGM album of Off Broadway tunes.) And the Ace of Spades? That's the name of a song from the 1929 musical, Bamboola.
But what can we do with the Ten of Spades? Wait! I know! "Dime a Dozen" from Snoopy! The dime, of course, sits in for "ten." As for the spade: Well, I assume, don't you, that Snoopy was spayed? I mean, in nearly 50 years of Peanuts, have you ever once seen a baby beagle arrive on the scene and say, "Daddy!"
Add in "The Joker" from The Roar of the Greasepaint -- the Smell of the Crowd, and we're finally playing with a full deck. Shall we have, as they sang in Saratoga, a game of poker? Before we begin -- just remember that a truly stagestruck person doesn't urge that anyone "Cut the cards." Instead, he says, "Hit the deck."
Peter Filichia is the New Jersey theater critic for the Star-Ledger. You may E-mail him at Pfilichia@aol.com