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U.S. Army "Blueprint Specials" and Other Soldier Shows

Musical revues created by the U.S. Army Special Services Division for soldiers to perform and published as a complete do-it-yourself kit containing script, orchestrations, set and costume designs, choreography, and program templates.

Introduction

About Face! A Soldier Musical

About Face! is available online in the UNT Digital Library Soldier Shows collection. 

About Face! was the first of the Soldier Show "Blueprint Specials." After three months of development, it premiered before an audience of soldiers and civilian newspaper critics at Camp Shanks, New York on May 26, 1944.

 

About Face! [cover image]

Contents

Prefatory Material

How to Use This Book

[Acknowledgements]

Introduction

What the Critics Say

Standard Operating Procedure

Sample Program

Libretto

Scene 1. Prologue

Scene 2. Life in the Barracks

Scene 3. Cooks’ Tour

Scene 4. First Class Private Mary Brown

Scene 5. Normal Reaction

Scene 6. PX Parade

Scene 7. Sex Lecture

Scene 8. Why Do They Call a Private a Private?

Scene 9. Civilian Selective Service

Scene 10. Finale

Production Hints

Scenery

[Costumes]

Orchestrations

There is no full score available, only individual instrumental parts and a very minimal "Violin-Conductor" score for the conductor to give cues from. The Vocal part (melody and lyrics) is incorporated into the Violin-Conductor score.

 

Violin-Conductor [Includes Vocal (melody and lyrics)]: 
OvertureFanfare — Dog Face Opening  — Gee! But It's Great to Be in the Army — First Class Private Mary Brown — First Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. Parade — Why Do They Call a Private a Private? — Dog Face Finale

 

Piano:
OvertureFanfareDog Face Opening — Gee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental] P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private? — Dog Face Finale

Guitar:
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

Bass
OvertureFanfareDog Face Opening Gee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

Drums
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental] P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

 

1st Trumpet: 
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

2nd Trumpet
Overture FanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the Army First Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

3rd Trumpet
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the Army First Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

 

1st Alto Sax
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

2nd Alto Sax
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

1st Tenor Sax
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the Army First Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental] P.X. Parade Why Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

2nd Tenor Sax
Overture FanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the Army First Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

 

1st Trombone
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary Brown First Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental] P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private?Dog Face Finale

2nd Trombone
OvertureFanfareDog Face OpeningGee! But It's Great to Be in the ArmyFirst Class Private Mary BrownFirst Class Private Mary Brown [Utility Instrumental]P.X. ParadeWhy Do They Call a Private a Private? Dog Face Finale

Creative Team

Civilian Contributors

There were several music theater professionals who made contributions to this first Blueprint Special but were not members of the Armed Forces at the time. Their names appear in an acknowledgement at the beginning of the published set of materials. Jerry Livingston also appears in the list, but he was a member of the Special Services division, not a civilian. 

Robert H. Gordon (direction) — Name is misspelled as "Robert S. Gordon" in the acknowledgements.

Howard Harris (comedy sketches; see more information below)

Al Hirschfeld (caricaturist)
The illustration for the cover of the published set of materials (see above) is illustrated by Al Hirschfeld, who was never a member of the Armed Forces, but was already well-known for his caricatures of Broadway and Hollywood performers. Don't bother looking for any NINAs hidden in this caricature—Hirschfeld's daughter was not born until 1945.

George S. Kaufman (consultant)
Broadway playwright, producer, and director George S. Kaufman—author of such hits as The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can't Take It with You—served as a consultant during the early stages of production, enabling the creators to benefit from his extensive professional theatrical experience. He also returned shortly before opening night to put the finishing touches on the show.

Mort Lewis (comedy sketches; see more information below)

Dave Schwartz (comedy sketches; see more information below)

Lou Singer (lyricist; see more information below)

Sid Zelinka (comedy sketches; see more information below)

Music and Lyrics

Pvt. Frank Loesser:
Before the war he was a lyricist with no success yet on Broadway, but a number of hit songs written for Hollywood. For the title song to the 1940 movie Seventeen, he composed both music and lyrics for the first time. After joining the Army he wrote music and lyrics to more songs, including "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," before being assigned to Special Services, where he collaborated on this series of "Blueprint Specials." After the war he went to great success on Broadway, where he wrote music and lyrics for the hit shows Where's CharleyGuys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying

Pvt. Hy Zaret:
Lyricist best known today for "Unchained Melody," written to Alex North's music. After the war he collaborated with Lou Singer on a series of PSA songs and a series of educational songs called "Songs for the Age of Science." 

T/Sgt. Peter Lind Hayes:
Vaudeville performer, songwriter, and actor in film and television as well as on stage. A member of the U.S. Army Air Force, he had performed earlier in the epic stage play (and the later film) Winged Victory, written by Broadway playwright Moss Hart to be performed as a fundraiser by members of the Air Force. 

Pvt. Jerry Livingston:
Composer known for his music to the novelty songs "Mairzy Doats" and "Fuzzy Wuzzy (Was a Bear), as well as for his score to the 1950 Walt Disney animated film Cinderella.

Lou Singer:
Composer and arranger who frequently collaborated with Hy Zaret. Together they wrote the "Song of the Army Nurse Corps" and many other songs. 

Comedy Sketches

Pvt. Arnold Auerbach:
Prolific comedy writer who wrote sketches for Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Al Jolson, and others. After the war he collaborated on the musical revues Call Me Mister and Inside U.S.A. Auerbach was the main sketch writer for this show and also contributed sketches to other Blueprint Specials. 

Mort Lewis
Comedy writer who started out writing gags and sketches for radio performances of Jimmy Durante, Jackie Gleason, and George Burns, as well as sketches for the minstrel-style show Pick and Pat. Lewis contributed two sketches..

Howard Harris:and Sid Zelinka:
These two worked as a team writing sketches for Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore on the Jimmy Durante Show, as well as contributing sketches to the Rudy Vallee Show. After the war they worked in film and television—Harris wrote scripts for Gilligan's Island and Petticoat Junction. and Zelinka wrote for Sergeant Bilko and The Honeymooners. They collaborated on two sketches to About Face!

Dave Schwartz
Comedy writer who contributed to scripts for the radio sitcom The Alan Young Show and wrote material for several hosts of the radio quiz show Take It Or Leave It, which later was renamed The $64 Question and was adapted for television in the 1950s. Contributed one sketch to About Face!

T/3 Bob Lieb and Pvt. Lester Lewis directed the sketches and also contributed "additional dialogue." Cpl. William Stein.also is credited with "additional dialogue."

Musical arrangements

Sgt. Walter Gross:
Pianist, conductor, and arranger who made his radio debut playing for Rudy Vallee. In 1941 he became conductor of the Columbia (CBS) Staff Dance Orchestra and also ran the Saturday Nite Swing Club, which featured such illustrious guests as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra. At Camp Shanks he played piano and played a leading role in the all-soldier musical shows.

Pvt. Sidney Green:
Arranger at Camp Shanks Entertainment Section.

Pvt. Wilbur Beitel:
Worked as a composer and arranger for radio shows and movies. Later in life he abandoned his music career and became a prominent horticulturalist in Santa Barbara.

Pvt. George Leeman:
Worked as a composer and arranger in radio and later in television productions. Founded the Ridgefield Symphonette, which grew into the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, and composed and arranged many works for the local elementary schools.

Recording

A 78-RPM demonstration recording of selections from this show was made so that Army units could listen to the material and decide if they would like to perform it. According to Jack Raymond's Show Music on Record, the demo recording used the following personnel:

MUSIC & WORDS: Sgt Peter Lind Hayes, Pvt Frank Loesser, Pvt Hyman "Hy" Zaret, Jerry Livingston, Lou Singer.
ORCHESTRATIONS: Pvt Mercer Ellington, Sgt Melvin "Sy" Oliver.
CONDUCTOR: Sgt Walter Gross.
GUITAR: Pvt Vincente Gomez.
VOCALS: Pvt Leon Gray, Pvy Lanny Kent. 

(Described in "ABOUT FACE [musical show]" in Show Music on Record, by Jack Raymond.)

Synopsis

Overture
 

Scene 1.  Prologue

Song: “Dog Face Opening” 

Three short vignettes satirically suggest that this show has been in continuous development since the American Revolution, but is finally opening tonight. JOE and a chorus of SOLDIERS from every period of Army history sing the opening number, “Dogface” (spelled in the score as "Dog Face," which epitomizes the harsh life soldiers have always endured. 


Scene 2.  Life in the Barracks

Song: “Gee! But It's Great to Be in the Army”

 


Scene 3.  Cooks’ Tour
 

Scene 4.  First Class Private Mary Brown

Song: “First Class Private Mary Brown”


Scene 5.  Normal Reaction


Scene 6.  PX Parade

Song: “PX Parade”


Scene 7.  Sex Lecture
 

Scene 8.  Why Do They Call a Private a Private?

Song: “Why Do They Call a Private a Private?”     


Scene 9.  Civilian Selective Service

In a comic reversal of the common situation of draftees attempting to challenge their draft notices, JOE appeals an attempt to have him drafted back into civilian life "in order to bolster morale on the home front." On the verge of caving, he submits to one final evaluation and fails to identify a civilian suit, a tray of dishes with a napkin, and a beautiful, scantily clad woman. 
 

Scene 10. Dog Face Finale

Song: “Dog Face” (reprise)
Song: “First Class Private Mary Brown” (reprise)
Song: “Dog Face” (reprise)

In a return to the framing scene at the beginning, the photographer is handed a draft notice and to his chagrin finds himself on his way to becoming another dog-faced soldier. The entire cast appears and dances a jitterbug, BOB reprises his paean to P.F.C. Mary Brown, and the cast welcomes the PHOTOGRAPHER into the Army as their latest recruit. 

Musical Numbers

The Blueprint Special score does not indicate individual responsibility for songs or even distinguish between lyricists and composers, but sometimes this information can be found in other sources, such as copyright registrations or program notes.

 

Overture

This is a typical Broadway medley-style overture consisting of an opening fanfare followed by the bugle call "To the Color," then instrumental arrangements of three numbers from the show: "Gee, But It's Great to Be in the Army," "First Class Private Mary Brown," and "Dogface."


“Dogface”
Words and music by Frank Loesser


“Gee, But It’s Great to Be in the Army”
Words by Hy Zaret, music by Jerry Livingston

This song is modeled after Irving Berlin's "Gee, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," but inverts its theme, ironically suggesting that life in the army is comfortable and luxurious.

Recording (with substantially different lyrics): "Gee, But It's Great to Be in the Army" on the album Strictly GI: Sgt. Hy Zaret Sounds Off with Soldier Songs and Parodies


“First Class Private Mary Brown”
Words and Music by Frank Loesser 

This song became a breakout hit from the show About Face! and later inspired the eponymous WAC musical P.F.C. Mary Brown.

"First Class Private Mary Brown" arranged for voice and 14 instruments (available in UNT Music Library WFAA Collection)

"First Class Private Mary Brown" sheet music for voice and piano arranged by George N. Terry (available in UNT Music Library WFAA Collection) 

"First Class Private Mary Brown" performed by Perry Como (YouTube)

"First Class Private Mary Brown" performed by Barry Wood (YouTube)

"First Class Private Mary Brown" performed by Clyde Lucas and His Orchestra; Vocal Refrain by Paul Steele (YouTube)

"First Class Private Mary Brown" performed by Roger Rittner on the album Goodbye, Dear, I'll Be Back in a Year (available at UNT Music Library)


“PX Parade”

This song was not used in the tryout, but was added in time to appear in the published set of materials. 

"PX Parade" performed by Brad Bong in the Waterwell production of Blueprint Specials at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in 2017.


“Why Do They Call a Private a Private?”
Words and music by Frank Loesser and Peter Lind Hayes.

Loesser bought out Hayes’ rights to this song in case he wanted to reuse the melody. Twenty years later he adapted it as “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm” in How to Succeed Without Really Trying.

Commercially published sheet music arranged for voice and piano by George N. Terry; available at UNT Libraries 

Recordings:

"Why Do They Call a Private a Private?" recorded by Ethel Merman; available online at History on the Net

"Why Do They Call a Private a Private?" recorded by Ethel Merman; video (with bouncing ball sing-along) available on YouTube

"Why Do They Call a Private a Private?" recorded by Ethel Merman; available at UNT Libraries on V-Disc: The Songs that Went to War (Track 4-9)  


“Finale”
The show’s Finale consists of reprises of “Dogface” and “First Class Private Mary Brown.”

 

Songs Cut from the Score

Two songs were used in the tryout, but were cut later and do not appear in the published set of materials:


“The Lass with the Delicate Air”
Words by Hy Zaret, music by Lou Singer

This song is adapted from Michael Arne's 1762 song "The Lass with the Delicate Air" (lyricist unknown) and given a military setting with a plot twist at the end. 

A great deal of confusion has resulted over the fact that at least three works use this title. There is an unrelated poem entitled "The Lass with the Delicate Air," by 19th century Romantic poet John Clare. The anonymous lyrics of Arne's song are sometimes incorrectly attributed to Clare (who was born over 30 years after the song was written), and the music is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Michael's father, Thomas Arne. The Zaret-Singer song is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Michael Arne. The two songs have some similarities, and Arne's song is obviously an inspiration and a model for the Zaret-Singer number, but for the most part the melody and lyrics are quite different.

Recordings:

"The Lass with the Delicate Air," performed by Josh White on the album Lonesome Road

"The Lass with the Delicate Air," performed by Josh White on the album The Remaining Titles, 1941–1947

"The Lass with the Delicate Air," performed by Evelyn Knight

 

“When He Comes Home”
Words and music by Frank Loesser

This song eventually ended up in the last published Blueprint Special, OK, U.S.A.! 

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