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Measure Cabaret Song #1: Measure out the Measure


Cameron Folmar as Lucio and Ensemble members Gracie Terzian and Amber Mayberry in the Shakespeare Theatre Company production of 'Measure for Measure.' Photo by Scott Suchman.

Measure for Measure composer Adam Wernick discusses the creation of the cabaret preshow. Read the introductory post.

“This was the first song that clicked,” says Wernick. The racy number features Lucio dressed as a Wilhelminian schoolmaster—complete with phallic ruler—and two dancers dressed as Bavarian schoolgirls, who alternate between flirting with the teacher and remaining aloof. “It was difficult at first to find the right musical tone to express the mix of schoolgirl innocence, sexiness and lust that the number needed. And then one day I hit upon the melodic and rhythmic motif of the verse—buh DAH duh, buh DAH duh—and all at once I could see the whole shape of it.

“The chorus is a tango, which was a hugely popular form in the ’20s and ’30s, used by Weill and other composers. Tangos are also generally associated with sex and desire, and I liked the image of the frustrated schoolmaster tangoing with his naughty, libidinous young students.”

Of the piece as a whole, which is accompanied by ingeniously smutty lyrics, Wernick says, “It was difficult to find the right dramatic register, which is somewhere in between a striptease and a piece of theatre. It couldn’t be musical theatre, it wasn’t Cabaret, which is much more mid-century in feel musically. We had to find the push-pull dynamic of the song, going from lust and desire to repression and politeness and back again.

Lyrics to Song #1: Measure out the Measure (Mass für Mass)

MC: She’s Liza
She’s Lisa
Girls: And he’s our German teacher
MC: And every day
I discipline this pair.
MC: Siehst Sara
Siehst Sarah
Girls: Er ist unser Deutschlehrer
MC: Und er straft
Die Mädchen jeden Tag.
Lisa: You tease her
Liza: You please her
MC: I try to teach her Nietzsche
The more I use the ruler, though
The less they care.
Sara: Sie necken
Sarah: Und schmecken
MC: Ich kann die Lippen lecken.
Je mehr ich Despot spiele
sind sie unnahbar.
Lisa: Our pleasure
Liza: At leisure
Girls: (As) you measure out the measure.
Our own Marquis de Sade.
Sara: Vergnügen!
Sarah: Und schmerzen!
Girls: Das Mass für Mass im Leben
Wie ein Marquis de Sade.
Lisa: You rank me
Liza: Then spank me
MC: You turn around and thank me.
It’s meant to be a hardship
But it only makes me hard.
Sara: Sie strafen
Sarah: Und schlagen
MC: Ich schmatze eure Ärsche.
Eine Strafe soll es sein,
Aber es macht mich nur hart!
MC: You’ve gotten so behind.
Girls: We’ve got a lot behind.
MC: I don’t know how you’ll pass.
Girls: We know you’ll make a pass.
MC: Ihr seid so hintennach!
Girls: Wir haben geiler Backen!
MC: Die Prüfung wird schlecht sein!
Girls: Unser Reiz wird gross sein!
MC: You’re bottom of the class.
Girls: Bottom of the class.
MC: Ihr seid im untersten Rang.
Girls: Untersten Rang.
MC: You’re best at being bad.
Girls: We’re very very bad.
MC: Ihr seid am besten wenn schlimm
Girls: Wir haven geiler Backen
MC: You both have too much cheek
(rhythmic slapping)
As if you just don’t care.
(rhythmic slapping)
All: While we break all the rules
(rhythmic slapping)
Across our derrière.
(rhythmic slapping)
MC: Diese Ärsche sind breit
(rhythmic slapping)
Und Verhalten vulgar.
(rhythmic slapping)
All: Alle Regeln sind entzwei
(rhythmic slapping)
Auf diesen derrières.
(rhythmic slapping)
Lisa: Oh please, Sir!
Liza: Oh please, Sir!
Girls: Oh Nietzsche preaching teacher!
We both agree your
Classes are the best!
Sara: Oh bitte!
Sarah: Oh bitte!
Girls: Der Lehrer predict Nietzsche!
Und das ist wahr,
Ihre Klassen sind die besten!
MC: Now Lisa!
Now Liza!
Oh, please I do beseech you!
Stop being so excitable
And please get dressed!
MC: Nun Sara!
Nun Sarah!
Ich bitte Sie, Euch beide!
Hört auf mit Eurer Neckerei
Und last Euch Testen!
MC: (If) you lessen
(Your) undressing
And just listen to your lesson.
I’ll send you to the head!
MC: Aufhören!
Meine Geduld ist am platzen!
Mein Unterricht beginnt.
Lisa: Oh Jesus!
Liza: Don’t tease us.
Girls: His sessions give us seizures.
He doesn’t use a foot-long
But a meter rule instead!
Sara: Mein Gott!
Sarah: Oh Scheisse!
Girls: Ihr Klassen macht uns schwitzen!
Sein Maßstab ist zu stark und schwer,
Für eine Schülerin!

Learn about the other songs in the cabaret:

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