Friday, March 01, 2024

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Jim Naughton Delights Lincoln Center Crowd With ‘Westport’

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James Naughton performing “Westport” Monday night.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Stephen Sorokoff photo

‘Cause he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport,
A game indigenous to suburban life,
Where you take a wife of whom you’re not the husband,
While someone else’s husband takes your wife.

—“Take Five,” a Julius Monk Review, ca. 1952-54, originally sung by Pearl Bailey

You have to be a certain age to recall the “Westport” song that memorializes the supposed key-swapping party days of yore. Or the cabaret version about it.

Tony Award-winning actor James Naughton delighted a Lincoln Center audience Monday night as he performed the cabaret version on opening night of the four-night  2019 Cabaret Convention at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. 

“I first sang ‘Westport’ in 2007 or 2008 at the 92nd Y in a show about Carolyn Leigh, I think,” Naughton told WestportNow today in an email. “And the show was curated by Deborah Grace Winer.

“I came upon it six months ago once again in a pile of music at home, and when Deb Winer asked what I’d like to do for last night’s show, that was maybe my first choice. I think it’s a lot of fun and maybe a little subversive, and that’s an appealing combination.”

For those curious about the full lyrics, here they are:

There’s a little ranch house in the vale,
Pretty little ranch house up for sale;
All the shutters drawn,
Tenants all gone
And thereby hangs a long, unhappy tale.

‘Cause he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport,
A game indigenous to suburban life,
Where you take a wife of whom you’re not the husband,
While someone else’s husband takes your wife.

Some people may claim that the name of the game is Scarsdale,
Or Beverly Hills, or even Shaker Heights,
But commuters from Manhattan call it Westport.
And it’s the game that some of our local leading lights
Play
To while away those cold Connecticut nights.

Now in that little ranch house used to dwell
An advertising feller and his Nell.
Two kids and a pup,
Living it up,
And everything was sounder than a bell—-

‘Til he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport
Between the washing machine and thermostat.
The husband thought it really was an outrage.
Said he, “You might at least remove your hat!”

Well, they may play it that way in Great Neck,
While in Levittown they’d never think it odd.
But there is not an architect in Westport
Who’ll ever forgive the cad that said, “My God!
Sir.
I must have got the wrong cape cod!”

Since they are no longer groom and bride,
Quoting from the Sunday classified:
“Are there any takers
For three lovely acres
Of peaceful old New England countryside?”

‘Cause he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport
Which would ordinarily be a cause for gloom;
But though the sanctity of wedlock’s on the downgrade,
Currently housing is enjoying quite a boom!
And while they defame the name of the game in Boston,
Where naturally they think it’s a dirty shame,
In the green and fertile pastures of suburbia
The local dealers in real estate acclaim
It
The best thing since the FHA, hey,
Westport is a grand old …
‘Midst pleasures and palaces …
Westport is a grand old game.

Source: Take Five, A Julius Monk Review, ca 1952-1954
Recorded: Original cast record
Pearl Bailey
Will Holt
Version somewhat doctored By R. Greenhaus
@love @adultery @house

(If you have Amazon Music, click HERE for Pearl Bailey’s version—first song.)

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