How to Succeed in Espionage Without Really Spying
The popular image of the MIT undergraduate as a totally uncultured nerd is undoubtedly true - except for a nearly infinite number of exceptions. Under it's tech-y surface MIT has nurtured through the years a hotbed of musical talent, with choirs, glee clubs, jazz bands, and a symphony orchestra. Through much of the twentieth century, the best-loved of the cultural events on campus was Tech Show, a musical comedy that featured each year a fresh script and musical score. Each new show was entirely written, directed, produced, sung, and acted by undergraduates, graduate students, and whatever friends and hangers-on from the Boston area they could wheedle into joining them. There was a new production every year between 1899 and 1969 with titles like 'Here's the Switch,' 'Honor of a Bum,' and 'Loch, Scotch, and Barrel.' The 1950 production, 'Stranger in Town,' was a brilliant send-off of a small Maine town, whose central character was the ghost of Leif Eriksson, while the 1963 version 'Sins and Needles' featured a comic Faust corrupting doctors and nurses in a famous nearby hospital. The 1964 production 'How to Succeed in Espionage without Really Spying' carried on this tradition by lampooning the Russian and Chinese Communists and their McCarthyite foes. The plot is too silly to summarize; suffice it to say that the action takes place in a Playboy-style key club run by foreign spies out to steal the secrets of their opening-night guest of honor, a famous professor from an unnamed scientific institute. Many hands created the show. The basic rule that any and all contributions had to be used somewhere in the show was followed rigorously, and the things that could be done with even dreadful material surprised everyone. The song 'QED,' whose lyrics on paper come off as ultimate nerd, became a brilliant showstopper after it was transformed into a sexy rumba by orchestrator/conductor Edward Madden. 'Don't Let 'Em Touch' is a bump-and-grind dance straight out of classic burlesque - except that in the sixties, we didn't talk dirty and we didn't do naked. 'Co-operate,' sung by the Russian spy character, is pure Marxist genius - Groucho, not Karl. This recording was made at a live performance in March, 1964, at Kresge Auditorium, Cambridge, Mass. It was originally recorded on an old reel-to-reel tape belonging to Steve Stellman, the show's principal composer. The tape surfaced one day in 1999, after lying buried unplayed and unheard for 35 years. It was processed into a CD by Taylor Studies of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.