Ellen and her collaborator (and life-long friend) Bonnie Lee Sanders began work on a musical based on the life of Mae West as one of Ellen’s first ventures into musical theatre. It has gone through an astonishing number of versions, variations and mutations. Throughout its development, the basic through-line has been a biography of the inimitable Ms. West, starting from her early days on the sidewalks of New York, through her involvement in vaudeville and the development of her unique and uniquely sexual persona, her run-ins with the law, her long involvement with James Timony and her later career in the movies, including with W. C. Fields. “Mae,” as Ellen and Bonnie referred to the show, received numerous readings and presentations. Notably, it received a full-scale production at the Penguin Repertory Company, under the name Way Out West, in which the part of Mae was played by a man – Jim Bailey. Songs from the show have been widely performed, including by Ellen’s dear friend Sharon McNight.
The lyrics for these tracks can be downloaded here.