There's an old, time-honoured saying that states "no one man re-imagining of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is ever truly complete without a rendition of Willie's performance of Anything Goes at the start."
Wise words indeed, And who was I to ignore them? When I was putting the show together, I knew early on that I wanted to recreate - as best I could - the glamorous opening musical number from the second movie. As you'll remember, the original was an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza, in the Shanghai night spot 'Club Obi-Wan', with Kate Capshaw radiant as Willie Scott, flanked by dozens of tap dancing beauties.
In my show, I had just me.
No music (getting permission to use John Williams's original music was out of the question), no special effects, no sexy costume, no fellow cast members... and most certainly no tap-dancing talent.
I did it anyway.
I resolved to sing a verse, mimic some of the choreography - putting my own spin on it - and do my own very lo-fi version of the very impressively choreographed and shot dance routine.
The first step was watching the sequence again and getting my head around some of the choreography. Apparently, the moves originally devised for Kate Capshaw in the number were far more elaborate than what we see in the finished film. They had to be simplified and scaled back during the shooting of the sequence, because the dress that they'd made for the character of Willie Scott was too tight, and it restricted her movements! Or so the story goes. I was grateful for this - you'll see that most of Kate Capshaw's moves in the sequence are pretty basic, and therefore pretty easy to copy.
Learning the lyrics was tricky. According to various websites, Kate Capshaw is singing them in either
C) Some 1930s Shanghai dialect... or
D) Just plain gibberish.
Whichever one of these is correct, I was determined to imitate what we hear in the film as accurately as I could.
I played the mp3 of the song (from the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom soundtrack) on my computer, using the VLC Media Player to slow the playback right down. In this way, I was... eventually... able to transcribe it phonetically.
This is what I came up with:
Eewong zu-urr var a ekondar
Shing Lee binya la ching bownching
Ewung ee loo choocha koo-cha nayha
Chin su shoosha la fong yen
Won quon, zu zhesh-eh
Ee bin del tel
Pyen poh wei pah
Pyell wei bau
Mong wazong zu dah du
Zuzhu qway nu koo shah
Gootsoo woosway fay wahlong zhu-lau
Don motso hong sudassong yi ding wei booow
After I'd written it down, I drilled it and drilled it and drilled it, singing along with the original track - first in its slowed-down state, and then, as I gained confidence, working it up to full speed. Getting my mouth around these deeply unfamiliar collections of consonants and vowels proved to be not just a tongue twister, but a real brain teaser as well. Eventually, I got there, and these words (whether they were gibberish or not) became part of my muscle memory, and I was able to do them fairly easily.
The next question was how to tackle the tap dancing sequence. In the movie, it goes for a full minute, and it's spectacular to look at. I knew I wanted to do a parody version of it (just me doing crappy, cheesy, making-it-up-as-I-go tap "dancing" moves) but how long could I get away with it for? How much of... that... could I do, before I started outstaying my welcome?
I decided to risk 19 seconds. I found some audio of tap-dancing in my trusty BBC sound effects collection, and carved out a 19-second chunk of it, to be played into the show as one of the few audio cues. I must confess, there were times during the season when that 19 seconds of ridiculousness did feel pretty long from where I was standing (well, from where I was prancing), but I think generally the audience were on board for it. After all, by this stage in the show, we'd already got through all of Raiders together, and if they weren't on my side by now, they never would be...
As Russell and I worked on the sequence in rehearsal, we ended up dropping the second verse. The finished product comprised me just doing the first few lines, then the tap dance, and then the end of the number. All in all, this bit ended up going for 53 seconds.
And below is a link to the video of the end result. I apologise - as always - for the poor picture quality.
Enjoy, if you can.....
... and I'll see you next time!