Month Upon a Time, Episode #4 (September): The last time she made a guest appearance on this podcast, Alysha Umphress was just getting her feet wet in the New York talent pool. Now, five years later, she is positively drenched!
First came her Off Broadway debut understudying the two female roles in the Bill Finn revue, Make Me a Song. Then followed a very happy run, first at Berkeley Rep and then on Broadway, in Green Day’s American Idiot (Check out her hot duet from the cast recording: “Too Much Too Soon”.)
Along the way, she’s performed in countless cabaret shows – here are youtube videos of her definitive performances of two of my songs “Celebrate” and “I Just Wanna Have Fun” in concert. Happily, one of her solo concerts was preserved with a live recording, which you can purchase from her outrageously not-up-to-date website: Alysha Umphress – Live at the Laurie Beechman.
September inspired a flurry of song ideas, 95% of which were rooted in back-to-school, which made Karen Buerkle’s idea stand out that much more: she wrote “That’s when the Bennys go home.” Not knowing what this cryptic sentence meant, I did a little research, which led me to this website and this Facebook page. (At the time of uploading this episode, the Benny Go Home website was experiencing technical difficulties. Hopefully, it will be live again soon, so you can see what I found.)
In a nutshell, a Benny is a summer tourist visiting the Monmouth or Ocean County Jersey shore. While there are several explanations for the origin of the name, the favored one is that it’s an acronym for the cities these tourists primarily came from back in the day, namely Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, and New York. The locals frown upon what they perceive to be disrespectful Benny behavior. A grass roots campaign called “Benny Go Home” has evolved, with logos, bumper stickers, and things like these three beach scenes…. Given that I grew up in Monmouth County (in fact, Karen Buerkle played the title role in our community theatre production of Annie Get Your Gun back in the early 80s), I couldn’t resist this subject matter for the September song. And since I’ve been making it a habit of sneaking musical quotes into several of these Month Upon a Time songs, this title offered up a no-brainer. Thanks, Karen!
For the record, I think the members of the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore would definitely be considered Bennys.
This episode was recorded September 12, 2011.