The Family That Sings Together
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The Family That Sings Together

A star takes his seven rowdy kids into vaudeville with him. This exuberant family musical by award-winner Chip Deffaa includes irresistible songs.

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The Family That Sings Together

A star takes his seven rowdy kids into vaudeville with him. This exuberant family musical by award-winner Chip Deffaa includes such irresistible songs as “I Love a Piano” and ‘Harrigan.”

Author/Composer:    Chip Deffaa



Inspired by actual events, “The Family that Sings Together” tells the story of a famous entertainer who took his seven rambunctious kids into vaudeville with him. They became the most popular family act of the day. And-more important-while touring the country, they learned the real meaning of family.

Written by ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award-winner Chip Deffaa, “The Family that Sings Together” is a full-length musical with plenty of laughs and a good deal of heart. Based on the story of song-and-dance man Eddie Foy and his family, the score includes such infectious, enduringly popular songs as Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano” and “I Want to Go Back to Michigan (Down on the Farm)” and George M. Cohan’s ‘Harrigan” and “Mary,” along with such patriotic favorites as “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” plus a high-spirited original by Deffaa with a Gospel feel, “Faith.”

This two-hour musical comedy is designed for 22 actors. There are 22 roles (10 male, 12 female), although some flexibility is possible. If you want a smaller cast, the show can be performed by as few as 16 actors, with some “doubling”; if you want to add a few more extra singers to the finale, that is possible, too.

The Family That Sings Together




A Musical Play by 


Libretto, New Music, New Lyrics, 

and all Arrangements 

Copyright © 2009 by Chip Deffaa

Whenever this play is produced, the author’s name must be included in all programs and advertising.   Performance rights are strictly reserved.  Both amateurs and professionals considering a  production are strongly advised to apply to the publisher for written permission before starting rehearsals, announcing a production, or securing a theater. 

 Amateur and stock theatrical performance rights may be licensed from the publisher: Drama Source, 1588 E. 361 N., St. Anthony, Idaho 83445, tel.  (208) 624-4726;

 For all rights other than those named above, please apply to the playwright’s representative, The  Fifi Oscard Agency (attention: Peter Sawyer), 110 W. 40th St., Suite #2100, NY, NY 10018, tel. (212) 764-1100. 


For Casey and Janell…

Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives…


With songs from the era of Eddie Foy and family, plus an original by Chip Deffaa



#1. “I LOVE A PIANO” (words and music by Irving Berlin).

#2. “STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER” (words and music by John Philip Sousa).

#3.  “AND THEY SAY HE WENT TO COLLEGE” (words by E. P. Moran, music by Seymour Furth).

#4. “ALL ABOARD FOR BROADWAY” (words and music by George M. Cohan, with additional lyrics by Chip Deffaa).  

#5. “WILL YOU LOVE ME IN DECEMBER AS YOU DO IN MAY?” (words by James J. Walker, music by Ernest R. Ball).  

#6. “EVERY NIGHT I DREAM OF IRELAND” (words and music by George M. Cohan).

#7. “INTRODUCTORY MUSIC FOR THE BENEFIT-SHOW SCENE” (an instrumental  medley of “The Yankee Doodle Boy”/”Give My Regards to Broadway,” music by George M. Cohan).


      #8. “BEDELIA” (words by William Jerome, music by Jean Schwartz).

     #8a. “HAS ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY?” (words and music by C. W. Murphy, Will Letters, and William J. McKenna).

     #8b. “NELLIE KELLY, I LOVE YOU” (words and music by George M. Cohan). 

     #8c. “THAT OLD IRISH MOTHER OF MINE” (words by William Jerome, music by Harry Von Tilzer).   

     #8 d. “IRELAND MUST BE HEAVEN BECAUSE MY MOTHER CAME FROM       THERE” (words by Joseph McCarthy and Howard Johnson, music by Fred Fisher).  

#9.  “MARY’S A GRAND OLD NAME” (Instrumental, arranged for soft-shoe dance, music by George M. Cohan).

#10.  “NOTHING NEW BENEATH THE SUN” (words and music by George M. Cohan).

#11. “EVERY NIGHT I DREAM OF IRELAND”–Reprise (words and music by George M. Cohan).

#12.  “FAITH!” (words and music by Chip Deffaa).

* * * 


 #13.  “I’M GOING BACK TO DIXIE” (words and music by Irving Berlin).

#14..  “I WANT TO GO BACK TO MICHIGAN (DOWN ON THE FARM)” (words and music by Irving Berlin).

#15.  “HOME AGAIN BLUES” (words and music by Irving Berlin).

#16.  “HARRIGAN” (words and music by George M. Cohan).

#16a. Sequence-closer 

#17. “MARY’S A GRAND OLD NAME” (words and music by George M. Cohan).

 #18. “MR. GALLAGHER AND MR. SHEAN”  (words and music by Bryan Foy, Ed Gallagher and Al Shean)

#19.  “IF WASHINGTON SHOULD COME TO LIFE TODAY” (words and music by George M. Cohan).

#20. “MR. GALLAGHER AND MR. SHEAN”-Reprise  (words and music by Bryan Foy, Ed Gallagher and Al Shean)

#21. “WHO WILL BE WITH YOU WHEN I’M FAR AWAY?” (words and music by William H. Farrell, with revisions by Chip Deffaa)

#22. “DADDY, YOU’VE BEEN A MOTHER TO ME”  (words and music by Fred Fisher, with revisions by Chip Deffaa)


#23. “I WANT TO HEAR A YANKEE DOODLE TUNE” (words and music by George M. Cohan).

#24. “COLUMBIA THE GEM OF THE OCEAN” (words and music by David T. Shaw)

#25.  “I WANT TO HEAR A YANKEE DOODLE TUNE”-Reprise (words and music by George M. Cohan).

#26. “WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME” (words and music by Louis Lambert)

#27.  “WE’RE ON OUR WAY TO FRANCE” (words and music by Irving Berlin)

#28.  “”I LOVE A PIANO”–Finale reprise, and Bows  (words and music by Irving Berlin).

#29. EXIT MUSIC–“HOME AGAIN BLUES.” (music by Irving  Berlin).


The Family That Sings Together… is inspired by actual events.  This  musical play tells how entertainer Eddie Foy, after the passing of his wife,  took his seven children into vaudeville with him.  It was the only way he could think of to keep his family together.  And, against all odds,  “Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys” became the best-known, most popular  family act of their era–a national institution

This play spans the years 1912-1918.  Scenes take place in the Foy family home in New Rochelle, New York; in various  theaters across the U.S.; in a hotel room, on the road; and in a courtroom.

There are 22 characters in this play, 10 of whom are male and 12 of whom are female.    The play can be performed by as many as 22 singing actors (and you may even  add some additional ensemble members for the finale, if you wish).  However, the play  can also be performed by as few as 16  actors, with some actors “doubling”–that is, playing more than one role. 


Here are the characters of the play: Eddie Foy is an endearing  song-and-dance comedian who for years has headlined musical comedies, revues, and vaudeville bills. To the public, he is simply a beloved, long-established  star.  Offstage, he often seems to be  running late, isn’t always reliable, and has a bit of the blarney in him.  His loyal and loving wife,  Mrs. Foy, gave up her career as a performer to devote herself to raising their  family; nothing is more important to her than family.  She is now in declining health; but she has done a good job of masking just how seriously  ill she is, so as not to worry the children. At the start of the play, in July of 1912, Eddie Foy is 56;  Mrs. Foy,  44.


The Foys have seven children.   At the start of the play,  Bryan is supposed to be about 15; Charlie, 13; Richard, 12; Mary,  11; Madeline, eight, Eddie Jr., seven; and Irving, five. It is perfectly fine, however,  to cast actors who might actually be a bit older or younger  to portray the various Foy children, so long as they suggest a family with lively kids of assorted ages, heights, and personalities. The script states that all of the Foy children, at the start of the play, are under 16 years of age, but does not specify the exact age of every child in the family.  The actors playing the Foy children should be able to sing and move well; at least a couple of them–ideally, all of them–should be able to tap dance. If your actors cannot tap dance, the play can still work just fine, with some simple group choreography in key musical numbers.  Marching, strutting, high-stepping–these sorts of simple steps can go far. 


Likeable, lanky Bryan,  the oldest and tallest of the Foy kids,  can be a pretty good big brother to the brood, when needed; he’s more mature than the other boys.  Charlie is an extroverted adolescent with a good bit of mischief in him. From time to time in this play, Charlie steps forward to speak directly to the audience, while everyone else on stage freezes; Charlie is serving as our narrator; the events we are seeing on stage are his recollections of his childhood.


Richard, who is close to Charlie in age, makes a good younger side-kick to Charlie; Richard also happens to be the quietest of the Foy kids, more of an amiable follower than a leader.  The two Foy sisters, Mary and Madeline, are  closer to each other than to the boys.  Madeline, the younger of the two sisters, is feistier than Mary (who is more reserved), and she has a decided  flair for the dramatic. The two youngest Foy kids, Eddie Jr. and Irving, are also close to each other.  Irving is precocious, and has lots of personality.   In dance routines, Irving–the littlest of the Foy children–is also  the child most likely to be out of step.


In family groupings, Charlie and Richard would often be sitting or standing next to one another; Mary and Madeline would often be sitting or standing next to one another; and Eddie Jr. and Irving would often be sitting or standing next to one another.  If the family is supposed to be singing around the piano in the parlor at home, Bryan would be the family member who is supposedly playing the piano for everyone  (although the actual music that the audience hears would be provided by the music director/pianist for your production).  

The Foys have various friends from the world of entertainment.  In the play, we get to meet the dapper, dashing entertainer George M. Cohan and his wife, Mrs. Cohan, longtime friends of the Foys.   The cast of characters also includes (in briefer appearances):    Nurse Moore; Doctor O’Reilly; newspaper writer Lynda Barry; a young performer named Ginger; a policeman (or two policemen, if the director prefers); a judge;   three women from the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Children (Miss Elvera, Miss Wendy, Miss Julia); Miss McNibby (the Foy children’s governess) and Miss Hoffman (the Foy children’s tutor).

Smaller roles can, if desired,  be “doubled”–that is, played by actors who are also playing other small roles in the production.   For example, the roles of Mrs. Cohan, Nurse Moore and Lynda Barry can, if desired, be played by the same actresses (donning different dresses, wigs, and perhaps eyeglasses) who play the three Women from the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Children.  The same actor playing Doctor O’Reilly, for example, could also “double” if desired, as the policeman or the judge.  

The script indicates that the newspaper writer and the three members of the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Children are female characters.  However, if you want to make one or more of these characters male (rather than female), you may do so.  If you change a supporting character from female to male (or vice versa), you may modify the character’s name, if desired.  In the courtroom  scene, Eddie Foy comes before a  judge.  You can have an actor, on stage, playing the judge.  Or, if you prefer,   the voice of the judge can simply be heard (with an actor offstage speaking the judge’s lines into a mike), without the judge actually ever being seen on stage; if you choose that approach, Eddie Foy would simply speak his lines directly out to the audience, as if he is facing a judge we never actually see.

At various times in the show, we hear the voice of an unseen  theater announcer; introducing an act; these announcements could be  performed “live” (perhaps by your music director/pianist, or by any actor or actors of your choice)  or these lines could be pre-recorded, if you prefer.  In workshopping this project, we found it convenient to have the music/director pianist provide the voice of the theater announcer; but you may do it any way you like. If you have a limited supply of actors, some of the very small roles can be merged or eliminated (although the show works best if performed as written).   If you need to perform the show with the smallest possible cast, for example,  the lines spoken by the three different women from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (Miss Elvera, Miss Wendy, and Miss Julia)  can be spoken instead by just two women (or even by just one woman) from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.  And the lines spoken by Miss McNibby (the governess) and Miss Hoffman (the tutor) can all be assigned instead to just one of the two characters.  

The Foy children  also make reference in the show to having pet dogs and cats–and even a pet mouse. You have the option of using some actual animals  in your  production, if you wish.  There is no need, of course, to use any actual animals; but using some real animals is an option, if you so desire. It is left to the discretion of the director as how any animal or animals may be integrated into a production.  A child might hold a pet in his or her arms during a scene at home or in court, or possibly even have  a pet with him or her during a vaudeville-theater musical number.  Audiences enjoy seeing actual animals.  If a child on stage is seen holding  an actual pet mouse or an actual pet puppy, for example, rather than simply speaking of having such pets, the audience will  respond positively; pets are cute.

* * *   The Family That Sings Together… is a full-length, two-act musical play.  The opening scene which takes place on July fourth, 1912, is set  in the parlor of the Foys’ big old home in New Rochelle.  The scenes that follow, which span the years 1912-1918, are set  in various theaters, a hotel room, and a courtroom.  

Sets can be as minimalistic or as realistic as you prefer. The show will work  fine even if you use  just  a few set pieces on a bare stage  to suggest a scene. A sofa, some chairs, a table, and an upright piano can suggest the parlor of the Foy home; some simple benches can suggest a courtroom; a few trunks and suitcases can suggest a hotel room.  The show is written so that it can be performed very simply, with scenes at home, in the hotel room, and the court room taking place on the full stage (with the curtain open); scenes set in vaudeville theaters can be played in front of the curtain (with an optional vaudeville-style placard on an easel, off to one side, if desired). 

If you wish to make trims or edits to shorten the running time of your production, you may do so. (Certain numbers can easily  be dropped or shortened, if desired,  without affecting the basic storyline.)   If you wish to extend some musical numbers, adding extra choruses or dance breaks to provide greater opportunities for singing or dancing, you may do so.  If you wish to transpose songs into different keys for the convenience of actors in your production, you may do so. (The score is written with the assumption that the two youngest Foy boys, Irving and Eddie Jr., will be played by boys with unchanged voices, while the older adolescent boys will  have changed voices.)  If you wish to add a few  extra ensemble members to the finale, you may do so.   You may not, however, add new lines or songs to the show.

This is a copyrighted work.   If you are contemplating possible modifications  and are unsure if they would be permissible, please write to the publishers of this play for guidance.  

* * * 

This musical comedy The Family That Sings Together…  is inspired by the story of entertainer Eddie Foy (1856-1928) and his family. (As with most biographical shows,  some artistic liberties have been taken.)  For more information on Eddie Foy and his family, you might enjoy reading Foy’s autobiography, Clowning Through Life (by Eddie Foy and Alvin F. Harlow; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1928), and Eddie Foy: A Biography of the Early Popular Stage Comedian (by Armond Fields; Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999).   

For additional information on Foy and his era, you might also want to check out The Vaudevillians (by Anthony Slide; Westport, Connecticut: Arlington House, 1981); Show Biz: From Vaude to Video (by Abel Green and Joe Laurie, Jr.; New York:  Henry Holt & Co., 1951); The Laugh Makers (by William Cahn; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1957);  and  American Vaudeville: Its Life and Times (by Douglas Gilbert;  New York:  Dover Publications Inc., 1963). 

Eddie Foy’s career spanned six decades.  What did the theater mean to him?  He once responded: “You have to want to entertain people.  It is hard work…. Please the audience.  Make people laugh.  Make sure no one gets hurt in the process.  Give 200 per cent to your acting.  Always leave your audience wanting you again.  Respect the theater.”   He told a reporter: “If I had all the money I’ve spent making my children happy, I’d be a millionaire today.  But I wouldn’t want a dollar of I back.  Not a dime.  Not a cent… Every one of them [his children] is wonderful.”

As for my own interest in the Foys… I was born in New Rochelle, New York, and lived there as a young boy–not far from where the Foys used to live.  I saw the statue of Eddie Foy, in the New Rochelle park  that bears his name.   In my youth I was befriended by a former vaudevillian, Todd Fisher, who in his younger days had worked on bills with the Foys; his stories from those bygone days fascinated me. And he passed down to me old time song-and-dance routines that enriched my life.  Fisher helped give me a strong sense of connection to the vaudeville era.   In time I saw the film The Seven Little Foys (in which Bob Hope portrayed Eddie Foy), as well as the later TV special (in which Eddie Foy Jr.–a performer I always greatly appreciated–portrayed his father). I also enjoyed Eddie Foy Jr.’s portrayal of his father in such films as Yankee Doodle Dandy and Wilson.   It was only natural for me  to eventually seek out Eddie Foy sheet music, and the like.  My desire to deal, as a playwright, to deal with the story of the Foys, grew naturally.  And in time–for me, the icing on the cake–I became friends with actor Ryan Foy, a grandson of Irving Foy.  I feel immensely grateful that he’s been involved in my ongoing Foys project.

* * * 

I’ve enjoyed selecting and arranging the songs for this show, most of which come from the vaudeville era, which I happen to love very much.  (I wrote one new original song, “Faith,” for this show.) The music for The Family That Sings Together…  has been  prepared and edited primarily  by Donald Brown and Richard Danley; they’re terrific musicians and I’m grateful for their help. Additional music copywork was done by  Chase Baird,  Evan Barker, Peter Ecklund, Shawn Stanley, Brett Kristofferson, Ron Drotos,  and D. Jay Bradley. All music preparation, arranging and editing on this project has been done as work-for-hire for Chip Deffaa Productions LLC.

* * * 

The Family That Sings Together…  had its first reading on April 11, 2009 at Roy Arias Studios, 300 West  43rd Street, New York City, with the following  personnel: Michael Townsend Wright, Jack Saleeby, Dea Julien, Peter Charney, Seth Sikes, Alex Craven, Rayna Hirt, Tyler DuBoys,  Eric Johnson,  Lisa Lambert, Melodie Wolford,  Lisa Carroll, Chip Deffaa.  This musical play has been developed by Chip Deffaa Productions LLC (Chip and Deb Deffaa, principals). 

* * * 


Special thanks to the one and only Carol Channing, the wisest woman in show business, for her insights, kindnesses, and buoyant spirit; the multi-talented performer/director/choreographer Tommy Tune, for sharing some of his ever-appreciated stardust; the late Todd Fisher, a contemporary of the Foys, whose stories, songs, and dances from the vaudeville era meant so much to me;  the spirited, ever-helpful singer/songwriter J. A. Loglisci; Keith Anderson of Univision, for many kindnesses;  the late George Burns, for the delightful tales of vaudeville he shared so generously with me at his Hollywood office;  Eric Anthony Stevens, a first-rate talent, for his terrific energy;  the always magical Victoria  Leacock Hoffman for being who she is; the ever-inspiring Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Toby Parker, whose belief in my work has  meant a lot.  A special “heads up” to my friend, actor Ryan Foy (a great-grandson of Eddie Foy) and the Foy family.

Producer Richard-Jay Alexander has  helped me more than he realizes.   Thanks, too, to Marty Jacobs, who curates the Museum of the City of New York’s  Theater Archives (a great research resource); the good folks at CrackingInc   (C. A. McCarroll and J. M. McCarroll,  principals); Sam MacKinnon / Bighead Productions;  Hansaem Song / Showfac Inc;  the masterly Joel Grey, who knows how deep a place this work comes from; the prolific and unstoppable Sean Conner McCune; Kurt Deutsch and  Noah Cornman  of Sh-K-Boom Records; the ever-musical (and knowledgeable) Dan Levinson;  Paul  Bartz and  Beau Bisson / Windwood  Theatricals; ASCAP’s theater expert, Michael Kerker, who always has time to answer our endless questions; the late James Cagney (whose autograph to “Tip” Deffaa sits on desk as a touchstone); my valued friends at the Irish Repertory Theatre and at the York Theatre; C. M. Smathers, whose words buoy my sprit; the esteemed Chase Brock,  Justin R. M. Eisbrenner (such a good writer), Clark Kinkade; and Jennie Cohan Ross (great-granddaughter of George M.) and the rest of the Cohan family. Thanks, Max and Julia Deffaa for your audience-research assistance.   

An appreciative salute, too,  to Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Jean Vander Woude and her colleagues at the U.S. State Department. I value, too, the input, insights, and help in various ways provided by  my favorite director, Okey Chenoweth; my favorite graphic novelist, Howard Cruse, and a few of my favorite actors, John Lloyd Young, Santino Fontana, John Tartaglia and Jack Keating. I’d like to acknowledge my indefatigable research assistant A. R. Biggs.  I appreciate, too, the various kindnesses of the talented Tyler Lively, David Eckstein, Braden Lee Bacon,  David Cronin, Jackson Blake Connolly, Tyler Patterson, David J. Smith, Chase Baird, Jim Morgan, Brian Blythe, Mike Ficcocelli, Dea Julien, and Derek Osman.  A special thank-you to my original “Seven Little Foys” cast-members–the generous and gifted actors from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and Massachusetts who’ve helped in workshopping/developing  this Foys project–and the memorable performers I’ve enjoyed at the Thomaston Opera House (under the direction of Rick Doyle), for the inspiration they’ve  helped add.   Thanks, too, to Daris Howard of Drama Source for his ongoing interest in my work.

And–as always– I’m most grateful to my wonderful, and quite spirit-filled  family, who made me so eager to write a play about the importance of family in the first place.



(As the scene opens, we see Mrs. Foy, in the parlor of the family’s big old home in New Rochelle, New York,  singing around the piano with  her seven children: Bryan, Charlie, Mary, Richard, Madeline, Eddie Jr., and Irving–the whole family except for her husband, Eddie Foy. The date is July 4th, 1912. The children–except for Madeline who is wearing a black dress–are wearing lively,  colorful, hand-me-down-type clothes.  The house has Victorian furniture: a couch, a few chairs and a table or two.  Scattered about on the tabletop, the couch, and on the floor are  vintage children’s toys–perhaps a well-worn Teddy Bear, toy horses, tin soldiers, a top, a yo-yo; that sort of thing.  The room could also contain some larger items, such as, say,  a rocking-horse or a sled.  The room should have a comfortable, if slightly cluttered, messy kind of feel.  This is clearly a home in which lots of children live, and whose parents are more interested in their children’s happiness than in maintaining appearances.)  


MRS. FOY. (Sings:)




CHARLIE. (Sings:)




MARY. (Sings:)


The Family That Sings Together

Author: Chip Deffaa

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