Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman: Book by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee: Based on the play The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux.
Mark Hellinger Theatre, Broadway - February 6, 1969 (132 perfs)
Charing Cross Theatre, London 13 February, 2013 - 30 March, 2013 (season)
A modern-day clash of Good and Evil.
The Devil is shown as the largest corporation in the world whose board of directors learn from a sleazy prospector that it can turn millions into billions by drilling for oil under the streets of Paris. All the Parisian bistros, boulevards and monuments are fair game - tear them all down and bring in the oil derricks and "By the Spring Of Next Year" the Establishment proclaim that money and pollution will reign over all.
The only clue to the source of the oil, however, is the water from the Café Francis in the Chaillot district. The café, however, is not for sale but this does not stop our Board from arranging an accident. Julian, a nice young man who has had some legal problems is dispatched as a saboteur. As he has in the past been saved from his problems by the Chairman of the Board, Julian is in no position to turn down any job the Chairman decides he should do. Julian is ordered to plant a bomb to explode at noon.
But the Café Francis is worth saving. Its personnel include Nina, a pretty waitress, a Deaf Mute who mimes and dances, a handsome waiter, a skilful juggler, an endearing prostitute and, as a resident Good Witch, an ancient madwoman who calls herself the Countess Aurelia. Her mission in life is to feed the stray cats of Paris. This she does with scraps, bones and chicken parts collected daily from the Café. She is also in a never-ending search of a missing nine-foot feather boa that was a gift from a vanished lover.
Noon arrives and passes with no explosion. The Deaf Mute enters with Julian whom he has prevented from jumping off a bridge. In trying this feat Julian has rendered himself unconscious. Nina ministers to him and brings him round. When Julian sees her he believes he is in Paradise: the Countess knows love when she sees it.
At this point Julian tells them of his mission. He says he is doomed for his failure and decides that he really must try to end it all. The Countess intervenes. "Despair is the creature of darkness." Each new day should bring hope. Reassured, Julian decides to stay but is immediately caught by the corporation, only to be rescued by the Countess who runs the Chairman of the Board off the premises. He leaves but swears to destroy her and the café.
The Countess's friends see the seriousness of the situation but, ever the optimist, the Countess doesn't see the evil in the world. But if what she is told is true, she doesn't want to know and retreats into the sewers of Paris leaving Julian to hide out in her tiny apartment under the café.
Nina, meanwhile, confesses that although she has known many men, she has never been in love with any one. The Countess has, in the meantime, has found a Sewerman who poles a barge full of refuse through the underground canals. She wonders whether the world has indeed become an evil place. The Sewerman says the proof is right there on his boat.
These two are joined for luncheon by two dowager lunatics, Constance, the Madwoman of the Flea Market, who is deaf except on Wednesdays and Gabrielle, the madwoman of Montmartre who has an invisible dog and the long blonde curls of the little girl she hasn't been for half a century. They all agree that the world is sick but only the mad can clearly see it.
Julian is still hiding in the Countess's apartment. Nina brings him food but the Countess believes that more than food is needed - they need love.
Long ago the Countess had saved the Sewerman's life. In return for this he promised to show her, when needed, the secret of the Moving Stone. He demonstrates by turning the head of a particular stone gargoyle. A secret trap door opens beneath which is a series of steps that go down, down and down forever.
The Countess ponders whether, if you could gather all the bad people in the world together and just dispose of them would it be legal? This subject becomes the topic of a tea-party consisting the three mad women and their various attendant spirits. However, the group is unable to stay on topic. Constance wanders off into the land of of old lovers, Gabrielle and the Countess decide that memories are like fake jewellery - the longer you wear them the more real they become. Gabrielle is distracted by her invisible dog but then realises that she hadn't brought him today! Constance wishes for the guidance of her household voices - the teapot, vacuum cleaner, hot water bottle - but the Countess tells her that everything, past and present, is available - unseen - in the air!
The madwomen decide that evil people are guilty so there must be a trial. They agree to meet at midnight in the Flea Market. The Countess requests Julian to give a letter to the Chairman of the Board in which it says that she will do as he wishes if he and all his group will come to the Flea Market at a quarter past midnight.
That night in the Flea Market the trial is held with the Sewerman and his friends in place of the Establishment. They plead their case but are found guilty. The Countess must put her plan into action all alone. The members of the Establishment arrive with what seems to be a deal to save the café and make its staff rich. The Countess is not fooled. She leads them all to her cellar, pulls on the gargoyle, opens the secret trap door and down they all go. The world has been saved, at least for the present. Dawn breaks, birds sing and the Countess goes about her business, feeding the strays.
Chairman of the Board
Constance - the Madwoman of the Flea Market
Gabrielle - the Madwoman of Montmartre
- The Spring Of Next Year - The Board
- Each Tomorrow Morning - Countess, Ensemble
- I Don't Want To Know - Countess
- I've Never Said I Love You - Nina
- Garbage - Sewerman
- Dear World - Countess
- Kiss Her Now - Countess
- Memory - Constance
- Pearls - Gabrielle & Countess
- Dickie - Gabrielle
- Voices - Constance
- Thoughts - Constance, Gabrielle & Countess
- And I Was Beautiful - Countess, Ensemble
- Each Tomorrow Morning (Reprise) Julian
- One Person - Countess
Original Broadway Cast starring Angela Lansbury with Jane Connell, Carmen Matthews and Milo O'Shea - Sony Broadway SK 48220 (01-048220-10)