Saturday, November 9, 2019

Alas for the Man Without Brains

I'm happy to announce our new Vintage Broadway YouTube channel. More songs and videos will be added in the coming weeks, but you can watch and listen to our first selection right now—the Scarecrow's introductory number, which has two different titles. Theatre programs list the song as "Alas for the Man Without Brains," but the two sheet music publications name the song "The Scarecrow." Click the video below to watch:

Witmark sheet music design for The Wizard of Oz.

This was one of the earliest written songs for the Baum and Tietjens musical extravaganza The Wizard of Oz. The lyrics first appeared in Baum's 1901 first draft script. But there is some evidence that the music is from a song called "For I am a Great Promoter," written by Baum and Tietjens for their unproduced and uncompleted 1901 comic opera The Octopus.

The song "The Scarecrow" was initially published by M. Witmark & Sons as part of the 1902 sheet music release for the show, featuring the usual cover design seen at left, though these Witmark Wizard of Oz song sheets come in a variety of background colors.

But "The Scarecrow" sheet music is most commonly seen in its newspaper supplement form, issued shortly after the Broadway opening. The selection of this song as a giveaway, no doubt, was due to the popularity of Fred Stone and his portrayal of the Scarecrow.

There is a horrible lyric typo in both versions of the sheet music. The line "The farmer lack of skill displayed . . ." becomes "The farmer each of skill displayed . . . ," which makes no sense. The typographer probably just misread someone's handwritten lyrics and mistook the loop of a cursive l for an e and a hastily written k for an h. But it's a shame Witmark failed to correct the mistake, especially when they reset the music for the newspaper version.

Newspaper sheet music supplement version of "The Scarecrow" ca. early 1903.
Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

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