You Can't Take It With You is a beautifully written play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. I have had the pleasure of playing the part of Ed Carmichael on two different occasions (Smith-Cotton High School, 1995 and Central Missouri Repertory Theatre, 2004). Ed is a jack of all trades that plays the xylophone and as a pianist/percussionist myself, the part suited me well. I also had the pleasure of serving as the music director for The Barn Players production in Parkville, MO - 2010. Click here to read my article "The Dream Role" published in the July 2010 issue of KC Stage magazine.
The script calls for several music cues to be performed onstage on the xylophone. These cues are listed below. Some of them call for something specific and some do not. On the ones that do not call for a specific piece, I have put a few options. In some cases I also have basic and intermediate options that can be selected according to the skill of the player. In my personal opinion, a good performance on the xylophone (regardless of whether the basic or intermediate versions are used) can add a wonderful layer of musical humor to the show. My personal view of the character is that he is multi-talented, therefore I think taking the practice time to make the music cues sharp does the greatest justice for the character. I do not think portraying Ed as a bumbling hack at the xylophone does any justice for the character.
I make these available in the hopes that it will facilitate more productions of this wonderful show. You are free to use these under the condition that you inform me of when and where your production will take place by e-mailing me at email@example.com and including my name in the program as the music arranger.
Notes about Instrument Selection
These arrangements have been written with a 3.5 octave xylophone in mind (written range of F3-C7, sounding 1 octave higher). Note that a xylophone has wooden keys, NOT metal keys (as does a glockenspiel, or bell set). A period xylophone for the show should have rosewood keys. Acoustalon xylophones, which are made of woven layers of fiberglass and plastic, were not yet invented. However, Acoustalon instruments are now fairly common in schools because they are durable and less expensive than rosewood. There is a definite difference in sound between Acoustalon and the more mellow sounding rosewood.
Though not ideal for the music arrangements, other sizes of xylophone may be substituted. The most common sizes other than the standard 3.5 octave xylophone are 3 octave (written C4-C7) and 2.5 octave (written C4-G6). All of the arrangements are also playable on the other sizes of xylophones, although some of them will have to be played an octave higher to fit the instrument.
Also, for purposes of keeping a period appearance, brand names such as the common brand "Musser" should be covered. Although Clair Omar Musser was designing instruments during the time of the play's setting, he was doing it for the Deagan company at that time. Also, mallets of the period should have wood shafts, not plastic. For period appearance, it is better to use more generic looking mallets. Certain mallets will be immediately recognizable to the percussionists in the audience as being the particular size, shape, and color of popular modern mallets, however plain hard rubber tip mallets with wood shafts will look fairly generic. For the purpose of certain scenes where the xylophonist plays under dialogue, yarn mallets are preferable. Avoid brightly colored yarn mallets, as they draw more attention and may be more easily recognized by a percussionist at a distance.
Original 1936 Broadway cast of You Can't Take it With You. A part of the xylophone is visible on the left side of the photo.
2014 Broadway Cast of You Can't Take it With You. The xylophone is visible in the loft. It is difficult to see much detail, but the instrument appears to have a retractable metal frame. A few of the keys are visible over the railing, and the resonator pipes are visible between the posts. Also, Ed appears to have a lyre style music stand and what appears to be a rubber-tipped mallet with a wood shaft in his left hand.
p. 10 and p. 16 - "Beethoven"
I have two options for this cue. Both of them include a "Shave and a Haircut" ending, which can be played after Ed says, "All right . . . . Now, here's the finish. This is me."
No song is specified in the stage directions, so I have provided options. I think the best option is Mexican Hat Dance because it is the most disruptive, but all three are adequate for drowning out Mr. Henderson's attempts to speak.
This is a popular song from 1936 played by the Benny Goodman Orchestra with vocalist Helen Ward. It is not yet in the public domain so I can not publicly post it. However, if you have secured the proper permissions to perform the song I will be glad to provide you with my xylophone/vocal arrangement, if you e-mail me the request at firstname.lastname@example.org. The song rights are administered by The Johnny Mercer Foundation and Malneck Music. The ASCAP record for the song can be looked up in the ACE Title Search with Work ID number 370046183 or ISWC T0702641142.
"There Was a Young Lady from Wheeling"
At the beginning of Act 2, the character of Gay Wellington sings "There Was a Young Lady from Wheeling." I have located the dirty limerick that this is based on, but have never been able to locate a song of this title. I have composed this one in the style of an Irish jig.
Having been involved in several productions of this show, there are two lines that seem to leave most casts scratching their heads. They both seem to be an attempt at humor and yet the references seem to be lost on current audiences. For that reason, I offer the following explanations.
Penny (making a joke): Believe it or not, I was waiting for an orchid!
The stage directions specifically state this is a joke and yet it seemingly makes no sense whatsoever. As far as I have been able to gather, this is an allusion to an old joke, with the punchline "Believe it or not, I was waiting for a train!" Alternate versions of the joke use the punchline, "Believe it or not, I was waiting for a streetcar!" or "Would you believe I was waiting for a train?" Unfortunately, I don't think there's any good way to deliver this line and make it funny without the audience's knowledge of the original joke. Oh well...
DePinna: Tell me, Grand Duchess, is it true what they say about Rasputin?
From what I can tell, this open-ended question is a sly reference to the legend of Rasputin having a certain very large body part.
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