Saturday, November 9, 2013

Slumberland: All Aboard for Dreamland

Adventures In Slumberland is the first script presented to Talespinner Children's Theatre which already included a few songs, chosen by the playwright.

All TCT productions include music and singing -- live music, produced with instruments played by the performers or using their voices. To date these songs have been discovered or created through the rehearsal process. And though I was prepared to yield to whatever fantastic and beautiful design ideas Ali and her crew would create, I wanted Slumberland to be in some way tied to the time-period of the comic strip itself.

Some of the dialogue includes period slang (though there are a few intentional anachronisms) and there is a certain turn of the 20th century "popular" music that I truly love. It's the kind of waltz-y, music box stuff you hear at the carnival, or on the Kimball organ before summer movies at the Palace.

All Aboard For Dreamland
Von Tilzer/Sterling (1904)
Performed by the "Adventures In Slumberland" company

Because this story is a dream, which takes place in a fantastic space, I was delighted to find so many Tin Pan Alley melodies of the early 20th century were themselves about remarkable places, or taking fantastic journeys in modern contraptions.

The first attempt to get Nemo to Slumberland is punctuated by a spirited rendition of All Aboard for Dreamland by Harry Von Tilzer (A Bird In a Gilded Cage) and Albert Sterling. The "Dreamland" of the song was in fact part of Coney Island, an attraction known for its wild animal acts and "freak" shows, a place where cartoonist Winsor McCay would no doubt have felt right at home, as he spent his early professional years creating posters for circuses and side shows.

Like many such travel songs (Come Take a Trip In My Airship is another, and in our performance sung by Santa Claus himself) the lyrics suggest a romantic adventure, replete with kissing and spooning and other indecent performances. I took the liberty of adapting such lines to reflect a more platonic experience, description of these intimate acts replaced with the enjoyment of candy.

Come Take a Trip in My Airship 
Ren Shields (1904)
Performed by the "Adventures In Slumberland" company


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