New musical by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, book by Peter Duchan, from film by Nancy Savoca
It's November 21, 1963. On the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for one final boys' night of debauchery, partying and maybe a little trouble. But when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of compassion.
In 1967, Eddie Birdlace, a U.S. Marine just returned from Vietnam, rides a Greyhound bus heading for San Francisco. As he travels through the night, he remembers Rose Fenny and the night he spent in San Francisco four years earlier. Memories overwhelm him and suddenly it's November 21, 1963.
The Greyhound bus becomes a military bus, carrying Private First Class Birdlace and his rowdy fellow Marines, fresh out of training and ready for action. Arriving in San Francisco, they're eager to take the town by storm on their last night in the United States. Birdlace and his two best friends, Boland and Bernstein, who call themselves the Three Bees, are participating in a dogfight, a cruel game with simple rules. Each Marine puts $50 in the pot. The one who brings the ugliest date to the party wins the money. Birdlace and his friends set off to scour the city for potential dates.
Birdlace ends up in a diner, where he sees Rose, a shy waitress, quietly playing guitar in a corner booth. He flirts with her, eventually inviting Rose to be his date. Not knowing the true purpose of the evening, she's excited to go on her first date. She tears items from her closet, searching for the perfect dress. Meanwhile, other Marines find their dates, including Boland, who breaks the established rules of the dogfight by inviting Marcy, a wisecracking, near-toothless prostitute eager to win a share of the cash prize that comes with being deemed the ugliest date.
As Birdlace and Rose walk to the party, she is chatty, revealing her folk music aspirations and her burgeoning pacifism. When they reach the Nite Lite, a club rented for the party, Birdlace finds himself questioning his plan to subject her to the event. He suggests they go somewhere else and get a bite to eat. Rose believes his change of heart means he's embarrassed by her, that he doesn't want his friends to meet her. Conflicted, Birdlace acquiesces and they enter the party.
At the table with his friends and their dates, Birdlace drinks heavily and grows sour. He tries unsuccessfully to keep Rose off the dance floor during the slow dance, when the contest is officially judged. As they dance, each Marine presents his date for judging. It's determined Marcy is the ugliest, crowning Boland the big winner. Later, in the ladies room, Marcy reveals to Rose the true nature of the party. A distraught Rose returns to Birdlace. She is furious and deeply hurt and slaps him hard across the face. "I hope there's a war and you get killed," she tells him, before escaping in shame. Back home in her bedroom, surrounded by rejected dresses and dashed hopes, Rose beats herself up for having believed Birdlace's lies.
The Marines, reckless and invincible, continue their debauched last night with a trip to the arcade and then by visiting a prostitute. But Birdlace can't bring himself to revel like his friends do. Feeling terrible about how he treated Rose, he leaves them and goes to her. He apologizes as best he can and offers to make it up to her by taking her out to a fancy dinner. At first incredulous, Rose sees Birdlace's apology, though misguided and inarticulate, is in fact genuine. She consents to the date, demanding they never again discuss the dogfight ritual and its indignities. They cautiously set out on their date.
At a swanky restaurant, Rose challenges Birdlace's tough exterior and cuts through his posturing, lies, and bravado. They share a meal and inch closer to understanding each other. Later, they take in the late-night view from the Golden Gate Bridge. Rose tells Birdlace that, despite its unpleasantness, what happened earlier that night has helped her to a new understanding. She can no longer allow herself to be defined by what other people think of her. In the remaining hours before Birdlace must report and ship out, Rose nervously invites him home with her. They share an awkward and romantic first sexual experience.
The next morning Birdlace returns to his buddies and the world of casual cruelty that shaped him. The Marines head overseas, where they will be pawns in the growing Vietnam conflict. Birdlace sees his friends, including Boland and Bernstein, killed in action. These harsh memories linger as Birdlace arrives in San Francisco in 1967, a broken, confused, lost man, unwelcome and derided. Birdlace makes his way through the changed city to find an older, wiser Rose at the diner. Compassionate as ever, she welcomes him home.
- Prelude: Take Me Back
- Some Kinda Time
- Hey, Good-Lookin'
- Come to a Party
- Nothing Short of Wonderful
- Come to a Party (Reprise)
- That Face
- Pretty Funny
- Hometown Hero's Ticker Tape Parade
- First Date/Last Night
- Before It's Over
- Give Way
- Some Kinda Time (Reprise)
- Come Back
- Finale: Take Me Back
- BERNSTEIN A Marine private first class and Birdlace's good friend. A bit nerdy and very inexperienced with the opposite sex. (Male, 18-25 yrs old -Range: B2 - B4 )
- BOLAND A Marine private first class and Birdlace's closest friend. A poor Southern cad, he is the most vocal supporter of the dogfight and fairly crude in his behaviour and language. (Male, 18-25 yrs old - Range: B2 - B4 )
- EDDIE BIRDLACE A Marine private first class. He is well respected and a natural leader amongst his comrades. Initially a hothead; a cocky smooth talker. He eventually sheds his brash exterior when he falls for Rose. (Male, 18-25 yrs old - Range: A2 - A4)
- MAMA The owner of the local diner. She is unamused by the Marines' antics and protective of her daughter, Rose. (Female, 40-50 yrs old - Speaking Role )
- MARCY Boland's date for the dogfight. She is a nearly toothless and homely prostitute. Crass and brash, but sneaky and cunning. (Female, 25-35 yrs old - Range: F#3 - Eb5 )
- ROSE FENNY A diner waitress who dreams of life as a musician. She is a naturally shy girl, naive of the world around her. Becomes smitten with Birdlace and discovers a lot about her self-respect and confidence along the way. (Female, 18-21 yrs old - Range: G3 - E5)
- ENSEMBLE Marines (Sergeant, Gibbs, Fector, Stevens); Bus Passengers; Singers; Hippies