When I was a sophomore in high school, I appeared in the classic musical Mame, and in a high school which cranked out a musical every spring, it was a show-stopper. I will never know, objectively, just how high the level of talent and how rich the level of entertainment this production provided, but now, more than 30 years hence, I can say unequivocally that it was the best thing staged at Carroll County High School in April 1979.
Do you know the story? A young boy is orphaned in the 1920s and sent to live with his only living relative, a “spinster” in New York. What he finds in Auntie Mame is a bohemian free spirit. The show contains a number of barn-burner numbers including, of course, the venerable title song “Mame” itself, along with “Open a New Window” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” We sang and we danced our little hearts out.
As the 1920s draw to a close and the stock market inevitably crashes, Mame’s lifestyle is brought to a screeching halt. Penniless, but not friendless, she implores everyone to buck up. And though the calendar reads early fall, the chorus launches into a song that you’re bound to recognize, “We Need a Little Christmas.”
Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry!
OK see, it’s not Christmas, but she needs a little bit of holly to pull her out of the doldrums. Tinsel and light, singing happy songs. Everyone’s poor but hey! you can still have the Christmas spirit!
It is NOT a Christmas carol.
This rant falls upon deaf ears. Well, mostly the ears are non-existent, since the fuming generally occurs in my own head as I’m driving along in the car, or held captive in some office or store where holiday tunes are pouring forth into the atmosphere a mile a minute. “Damn it, that’s a show tune from Mame and I sang it when I was 15 years old on stage! Oh, sure, I was in the chorus, but I SANG and I DANCED and it was incredible and …”
All right, I might get a little carried away in daydreams of my show-business non-start, but the fact remains that this song has no business being played on the radio during Christmas as though it were some sort of legitimate Christmas song on the order of “Silent Night,” “White Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” or “O Come All Ye Faithful,” just to mention a few of my own personal favorites.
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
See? Not Christmas. It is evoking the Christmas spirit during the non-holiday time of the year.
Whew. I feel better.
That said, these past couple of weeks we’ve been hauling out the holly and trying to hang some tinsel on that evergreen bough, but funnily enough, life gets in the way a little too often. Light-stringer extraordinaire Claire, though augmented by BFF Aren several weeks ago, was felled by an early season bug of some sort, and our 12-foot tree remained sadly half-lit for more than a week. A few false starts at decorating left the tree somewhat bottom heavy as Trassie laid on the homemade decorations within his level of reach.
But wonderfully it all came to a conclusion this weekend when not one but two trees were assembled, decorated and lit, and candles were indeed placed in the windows, though, lacking a spinet, our carols were sung to the accompaniment of whatever was playing on satellite radio at any given moment.
But lo! how a rose e’re blooming! The Nativity scene is in place and we here at Chez Soileau are ready to welcome the celebration of the birth of Christ with all the solemnity and dignity you might expect from an outfit such as ours, where we
… need a little music,
Need a little laughter,
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter,
And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”
Need a little Christmas now.
OK, maybe it qualifies a little bit as a Christmas song, of sorts. I long ago admitted it into my heart, where show tunes dwell for all eternity, heavy on the George M. Cohan and edelweiss. There are a few things I upon which I insist on precision, and the properly turned out Christmas carol is one of them. So sing “We Need a Little Christmas” at Christmas, if you must, when the world is perfectly lousy with it — but remember, if you can, the message of the song, which I prefer to believe is that with a little imagination, you can evoke the season all year long.