The Story of Lucy and Jessie Question

EgermanArmfelt
Stand-by
joined:7/25/12
Penny for your thoughts? In "The Story of Lucy X and Jessie Y" from Follies, is Phyllis referring to Sally as Lucy X and herself as Jessie Y, or her young self as Lucy X and her current self as Jessie Y?
RainbowJude
Stand-by
joined:11/14/09
Phyllis is referring to her younger and older selves.
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Jay Lerner-Z
Broadway Legend
joined:4/4/11
This is my belief, in brief - it's just about Phyllis, younger and older, and if she could combine aspects of the two she just might be content.
EgermanArmfelt
Stand-by
joined:7/25/12
OH I see. Makes sense. Thanks for the clarification!
SeanMartin
Broadway Legend
joined:9/4/06
I actually prefer the song they had in this spot earlier in the tryouts "Uptown, Downtown". "Jessie and Lucy" is nice (well, except for the slightly clumsy ending), but this one is a far more satisfying pastiche song.
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jayinchelsea
Broadway Star
joined:4/9/09
When they cast a non-dancer as Phyllis (Diana Rigg in London, Dee Hoty at Paper Mill), the more elegant but less jazzy "Ah, But Underneath" is probably the way to go in this spot ("Lucy and Jessie" did no favors to the otherwise splendid Blythe Danner and Jan Maxwell in the most recent Broadway revivals). But nothing has ever compared to watching Alexis Smith bring down the house with "Lucy and Jessie" in the original. Watch the clips of Alexis and company on YouTube to see what I mean.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
EA,

I would say don't even try to make sense of the song, since it has none.

It's just an egregious example of self-indulgent "cleverness."
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
EgermanArmfelt,

It's a fun to listen to all three versions of Phyllis' number back to back to back on the Papermill recording. I highly suggest it!
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
^^^ Yes, do this! Then watch this:

http://youtu.be/AmexU4Qd0HM
yr pal,
joey




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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
I love all three songs for that spot int he show, but feel "Ah, But Underneath" is not as much like a "Follies number" as "Lucy & Jessie" and "Uptown, Downtown" are. It's has a much more post-70s musical theatre feel.

Hearing Alexis do both "Uptown" and "Lucy/Jessie" on soundboards of Boston and Broadway performances, I think they're both perfect variations on the same idea.
Playbilly
Broadway Legend
joined:3/30/12
"Lucy/Jessie" seemed to be Sondheim's pastiche of "The Saga of Jenny" to me. And, I loved Maxwell's version.

But, I agree it doesn't make 100% sense if you analyze it as younger/older Phyllis. Still, it's a great song, so who cares?
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
Sondheim himself calls it a Cole Porter pastiche, but I agree that there's a lot of "Sage of Jenny" in there; funny, since SS claims little admiration for either Weill or Ira Gershwin.
goldenboy
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/05
Not Sondheim's best song by a long shot. For some reason this song reminds me of algebra class. If Lucy were x... than Jessie would be Y so how long would the train take to get to Canada? WTF??? You lose me with this redundancy and algebra. Very annoying song.

Talk about getting lost, I saw the Reprise Version in Los Angeles with Patti Duke as Phyllis. She couldn't get through this song and the male chorus had to help her through it. She said something "Oh ****.. what the **** is it?" and the male chorus came to the rescue. Ah show boys to the rescue. Now there is a song title.. "show boys to the rescue." I love Patti in the role in spite of this.
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
I think you are confused about Lucy Y and Jesse x because you've forgotten. Those are NOT their real names.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Patty Duke in LA was, alas, like somebody's grandmother who had a little too much to drunk, donned a lamp shade and decide to perform on the coffee table.

It was really embarrassing (because like everyone, I love Patty Duke!) and really, really sad. A friend who was in the ensemble says the company adored her and used to line up off-stage each night to see if she could get through the number.

What a shame and not really her fault. Duke is a "Sally", not a "Phyllis" anyway, though I doubt she could sing the former.

***

Otherwise, sorry, but I loved the "Ballad of Lucy and Jessie" in the original. Even if I didn't fully understand every line, my brain has rarely been so engaged while my eyes and ears were so satisfied.

Updated On: 4/8/13 at 06:19 PM
JBroadway
Leading Actor
joined:4/6/12
"I would say don't even try to make sense of the song, since it has none.
It's just an egregious example of self-indulgent "cleverness.""

If you actually think about the lyrics it's really not that hard to understand. The lyrics ARE written in a confusing way, but I personally believe that it is to emphasize the befuddling nature of Phyillis's inner conflict, which she doesn't really succeed in sorting out.

Updated On: 4/8/13 at 09:36 PM
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
"If you actually think about the lyrics it's really not that hard to understand."

In the theatre, does one have much time to "think about" the lyrics as they're being sung full steam ahead?

And if they need to be parsed after the fact like some hermetic poem to figure out what they mean, they have no business being sung in a musical.

And as we see in this thread, after forty years worth of "thinking about" them, there is still no unanimity of opinion about their meaning.

Frankly, it's not worth the effort.

Updated On: 4/8/13 at 09:57 PM
JBroadway
Leading Actor
joined:4/6/12
@After Eight

okay, that's a fair point, but I don't think it's necessarily a fair statement to say that they don't have meaning, nor that Mr. Sondheim only wrote it that way to be clever, when there is clearly an element of deliberate complexity to them, which totally fits into the themes of the song.
SeanMartin
Broadway Legend
joined:9/4/06
I'm not sure what anyone finds confusing about them. She's clearly talking about herself at two ages of life. What's so hard about that?
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JBroadway
Leading Actor
joined:4/6/12
"I'm not sure what anyone finds confusing about them. She's clearly talking about herself at two ages of life. What's so hard about that?"

I agree. It's phrased in a confusing way, but the concept behind the lyrics is really straightforward. It seems it's debatable whether or not the concept comes through with the confusingly phrased lyrics. I think that it does relatively easily, but clearly others don't agree.

Updated On: 4/8/13 at 10:12 PM
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
I never thought much about it either, until recently but I *have* encountered that a good number of people who first hear the song (especially in context) do immediately jump to the conclusion that its about Phylis and Sally. I suppose this is basically all down to the fact that it's not "Lucy X and Lucy Y" but different names...

Regardless, I love the song, although I agree with others who said that Uptown?Downtown works to carry that message over better.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
"I'm not sure what anyone finds confusing about them. "

"It seems it's debatable whether or not the concept comes through with the confusingly phrased lyrics"

I guess "the confusingly phrased lyrics" are what people find confusing about them.
SeanMartin
Broadway Legend
joined:9/4/06
Perhaps, but considering that the themes of youth vs age have been pounded into the audience all night long, I'm not sure how one could interpret this any other way.
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EgermanArmfelt
Stand-by
joined:7/25/12
Because Phyllis resents Sally because Ben is infatuated with her somewhat at some point in the evening. Sally is able to bring Ben back to the time in their youth when they were young and naive and full of love while Phyllis is only able to remind him of the present and the pain that entails the current state of their relationship.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
Well, Sean, the proof is in the pudding.

Oscar Hammerstein said that if an audience fails to get the authors' message, then the fault lies with the authors.
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Funny, Sondheim has said pretty much the same thing. Regardless, even if someone does hear it as being about her and Sally, I don't think it makes the song's intention at that point too different or confusing to take away from the show.

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