Which of these two fragments of cultural icons of Western civilization can you complete?
A) “Let us go then, you and I,/ when the evening is spread out against the sky/ like a ________________”
B) “Thank you for being a friend/ Traveled down the road and back again/ Your heart is true, you’re a __________________.”
It was B, right? (If you got A, kudos! Have a peach!) Maria Egler and Stephen Gregory Smith showcase the unforgettable boob-tube tunes that have invaded our hearts and living rooms with their production “Good Times: A TV Theme Song Cabaret,” a one-off show that’s part of Signature Theatre’s Sizzlin’ Summer Nights cabaret series, which wraps this weekend.
How on earth did you get this idea?
Egler: I’ve been kicking this around for five years. Stephen and I did a cabaret this winter, and we worked really well together, so I asked him if he wanted to do it.
Smith: I didn’t even flinch when she asked. [TV themes] are instant time machines; they can easily transport you back to childhood. They can make you feel really young.
Egler: Or really old.
How has putting this show together been different than a normal cabaret?
Egler: Well, I’m looking at this list and it’s 70 songs deep at the moment. You have to keep in mind they’re 45 seconds long.
Smith: We’re doing a lot of medleys. There’s a game show section, a children’s cartoon section — we’ll group them and then our music director, Bill Yanesh, will help us blend new medleys.
Egler: I’m pretty vain but I don’t need someone to clap for me every 45 seconds.
Do you approach the songs differently than you would a typical show tune?
Smith: Shows like “Green Acres,” you would have to deliver those with the sensibility of the time: “Everything is fine! Nothing to see here!” I think as you get into the ’80s it takes on qualities of the time period and you would approach them as serious songs. That’s not saying we’re going to sit there and make you cry with “Thank You for Being a Friend.”
Egler: We were very surprised that some of the songs we thought were instrumental had lyrics, like the theme song from “M*A*S*H.” When those words are in there, it’s a totally different song.
A lot of shows today don’t have theme songs with words, it seems.
Smith: It’s not necessarily a new trend; there were a lot of TV shows that had a [lyric-free] theme song: “Lassie,” “Bewitched,” “The Cosby Show.”
“Law & Order,” with that “CHUNG-CHUNG” thing.
Egler: Oooo. I wonder if we can create that sound.
Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington; Sat., 7 p.m., $25; 703-820-9771.
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