A Family Affair
Musical comedy in 2 acts: Music by John Kander : Book by James and William Goldman: Lyrics by James Goldman and Jolin Kander
Billy Rose Theatre, Broadway - January 27, 1962 (65 perfs)
A Family Affair is a musical set in Chicago that tells the story of a family wedding (from engagement to the big day) and all that goes into it. We don't just see the lovely side of the bride and groom. We get to see the inner workings of all parties involved (especially the families) as they prepare for that "special day."
As the show opens, we see Gerry Siegel, a young successful Harvard graduate lawyer, proposing marriage to Sally Nathan, an attractive young woman. She accepts and they sing a love duet perfect for two people about to be wed, "Anything For You." It all seems wonderful. The scene then shifts to Alfie Nathan's den where we meet Sally's bachelor uncle/guardian. Sally's parents died long ago, and Alfie has been both father and mother to her. He is sobbing as he phones Gerry's parents, Morris and Tilly Siegel. Morris answers the phone. Alfie informs them of the wedding. Upon hearing the news, Morris and Tilly elatedly rush over to Alfie's house to greet the waiting wedding couple. The wedding plans begin. Gerry and Sally have decided to have a small "family affair" right in Alfie's living room. Will this small wedding be fine enough for all parties involved? Only time will tell with two Jewish families battling it out to the end. But for now, everything seems to be "Beautiful."
Later that night, back at the Morris house Tilly ruminates about all that she has missed in her life as far as weddings are concerned. She and Morris eloped and their own daughter, Babs, got married in the army. They have never really "experienced" a family wedding.
Even though Alfie is technically "mother of the bride," Tilly can't help but wonder if he might not need just a little help with the everything. After all, he's just a bachelor uncle/guardian who is really a successful real estate man. What does he know about planning a wedding?
Tilly promises Morris that she will not interfere. She just tells everyone she can phone that "My Son, the Lawyer" is getting married. The next day Alfie tries to make a few calls and tell people about the wedding, but finds that there is no one to tell - Tilly has beat him to it. Alfie feels a bit left out, but moves forward to plan the wedding.
He makes a few mistakes here and there, but Tilly is right there ready to "help out." At the bridal shop Tilly and Alfie politely fight as they help Sally purchase her trousseau. Tilly doesn't think anything is quite right, and Alfie would just like to get the job over and done with. No one really seems to care what Sally thinks. To top everything off, Alfie announces that his living room will only hold forty guests - twenty for the bride, twenty for the groom. Tilly is horrified - she has many relatives and friends whom she must invite. After further fighting about the bridal dresses, Tilly and Alfie both leave. Sally and Babs, her future sister-in-law, stay and sing about the joys of all this in "Every Girl Wants to Get Married."
At his country club Alfie tells his friends about the "trousseau experience." As the guys laugh about the whole affair, they ask Alfie about the day when he finally gets married. Alfie has no plans to get married. His friend, Weaver, says that there must be plenty of "right girls" who liked to get married. Alfie says that unfortunately that's just the problem. There are too many "Right Girls" who don't get into any trouble - what fun is all that?
Tilly throws an "engagement luau" in her backyard for a variety of reasons. First-of-all, she wants to show Alfie just how great a back yard would be for a wedding. Maybe then, he'll move the wedding from his living room to his yard so she can invite more guests. Tilly's entire family meets him at this luau, and ultimately, Alfie is tricked into moving the wedding to his lawn. To top things off, Tilly (who has vacationed in Hawaii) dances "Kalva Bay" in hopes that the young couple will choose that spot for their honeymoon.
The gifts start arriving soon, and the pressure gets to Sally when she gets three toasters all in Marshall Field boxes which upon returning she finds to have actually come from wholesale outlets. Tilly has also picked out an apartment for the couple. As upset as Sally is, Gerry calms her down by saying it doesn't matter where they live as long as they're together - "There's A Room In My House."
Alfie is further upset because he won't have his niece embarrassed on his lawn at her own wedding by having fewer guests than the groom's family. Alfie has a small family; nevertheless, he tries to dig up enough relatives to match the Siegel's. To him the whole thing is like a big football game. In his mind we see an imaginary musical football game with both families fighting it out to see how the wedding will be done. Ultimately, Alfie decides that the wedding will be at his house - his way.
Unfortunately, all that only existed in Alfie's mind because the wedding gets so big that it has to be moved to the country club with 400 guests. He hires, Hazel Lumpe, a wedding consultant - a woman Tilly doesn't like. Hazel is ready to do things her way - not Tilly's way - not even Alfie's way. Pretty soon all parties are fighting about everything from the band to dresses to cake to rabbi in a very ironical number called "Harmony."
With Hazel Lumpe now in charge Alfie is going crazier than ever. The arriving gifts are also just getting weirder. Tilly's constant complaining has Morris also going crazy and he suggests that the kids just elope. Alfie and Tilly finally have a fight to end all fights. The act ends with Alfie throwing everyone out of his house, and Sally and Gerry wondering if they even want to get married at all.
Back at her own house, Tilly is furious. How dare Alfie throw her out of his house like that? Tilly decides that neither Alfie nor any of his relatives will be invited to the bridal dinner. Morris has had enough and puts his foot down - he wants them to apologize to Alfie. She says that she will most certainly not do that. Instead, she fights with her husband and demands justice. Yes, she talks about this wedding a lot, but Morris also talks about their approaching vacation to Greece. "Now Morris" Isn't it the same? Morris replies that it is not the same. Singing "Now Morris" he echoes back to her all the things he has endured with his wife over the years.
Back with Alfie we see that he is breaking out in hives because of all this. He is further agitated to learn from Gerry and Sally that neither he nor his relatives are welcome to the bridal dinner. After hearing this, he is out for blood.
At the bachelor party, neither Alfie nor Morris shows up. Nevertheless Gerry and his brother-in-law have a "Wonderful Party" with a myriad of people in the bar.
Sally comes to talk with her uncle. Should she marry Gerry? Is her future with him going to be just like this entire engagement period? Unfortunately, her uncle is more concerned with getting the wedding his way and getting "Revenge" then in helping his troubled niece figure out what's best for her. Sally goes to bed while Alfie broods and at 4AM ultimately calls his own rabbi to preside at the service and also orders the cake from the place he originally wanted to get it.
At the rehearsal dinner, Morris isn't talking to Tilly. He has canceled their dream vacation to the Greek Islands. Morris can't keep up with this anymore and just leaves Tilly alone. She sings "Summer Is Over." realizing that her actions have done more than simply upset Alfie.
Alfie arrives at the country club and we find that there are indeed three cakes (Tilly had her brother, the baker, make one). Hazel, the wedding consultant throws her two cents, too, and once again no one is talking to each other - just casting blame. Gerry and Sally finally step forward and tell them that they are all selfish, petty and egocentric. It's true. Tilly, Morris, and Alfie have all acted terribly. Alone, each tells us "I'm Worse Than Anybody."
We find Gerry and Sally alone. They find that there are three rabbis - Gerry doesn't know what to do. Sally finally speaks her mind and says that she wants a man who knows what to do. He does know what to do - love her forever. Ultimately, they pledge to each other and Gerry sings that "What I Say Goes."
In the last scene, Tilly, Morris, and Alfie also make up and the wedding is beautiful.
- Anything for You - Gerry & Sally
- Beautiful - Alfie
- My Son, the Lawyer - Tilly
- Every Girl Wants to Get Married - Sally & Babs
- Right Girls - Tilly & Morris
- Kalua Bay - Gerry & Sally
- There's a Room in My House - Gerry & Sally
- Siegal Marching Song
- Nathan Marching Song
- Harmony - Miss Lumpe, Mr Weaver, Harry & Fifi
- Now, Morris - Morris
- Wonderful Party - Gerry & Kenny
- Revenge - Alfie & Voices
- Summer Is Over - Tilly
- I'm Worse Than Anybody - Tilly Morris & Alfie
- What I Say Goes - Gerry
- The Wedding.
Violin, cello, bass, alto sax (Eb clar, pic, flute), alto sax (flute, pic, clar), tenor sax (clar, oboe, Eng. horn), bari sax (bass clar, flute, clar), trumpet I, II, III, trombone, horn, percussion, guitar, harp, piano/conductor.
33 parts, 6 principal, 6 supporting roles.
Alfie, comic actor who sings and dances.
Gerry and Sally, the bride and groom, actors who sing and dance.
Tilly, character actress who sings.
Morris, character actor who sings.
Miss Lumpe, comedienne who sings and dances.
Some intricate choral work. Total cast, 33-50.
Scenes and Settings
2 acts, 22 scenes, 5 full stage sets, 8 partial stage sets, 4 drops, 1 wedding canopy.
Scene 1a: A Bare Area.
Scene 1b: Nook of Alfie's Den and Siegals' TV room.
Scene 1c: Foyer in Nathan Apartment.
Scene 2: The Siegals' Bedroom.
Scene 2a: A Telephone Traveller.
Scene 3: In Front of Traveller, Alfie's Office, Bookshop, Flowershop, and Bakery.
Scene 4: Bridal Shop at Marshall Field.
Scene 5: Country Club Gym.
Scene 6: Siegals' Backyard.
Scene 7: Alfie's Backyard.
Scene 7A: A Football Field.
Scene 8: Old Oaks Country Club.
Scene 9: Nook of Alfie's Den.
Scene 1: Siegals' Kitchen.
Scene 2: Nook of Alfie's Den.
Scene 3: Bachelor Dinner.
Scene 4: Nook of Alfie's Den.
Scene 5: Corridor at Country Club.
Scene 6: In Front of Traveller.
Scene 7: Nook of Alfie's Den.
Scene 8: Corridor at Country Club.
Scene 9: The Wedding.
guitar banjo, guitar
percussion - bells, cowbell, triangle, tympani, vibraphone, wood block, xylophone
reed 1 - alto saxophone, bb clarinet, eb clarinet, flute, piccolo
reed 2 - alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, piccolo
reed 3 - clarinet, English horn, oboe, tenor saxophone
reed 4 - bb clarinet, bass clarinet, bass saxophone, bassoon, flute
trumpet 1 & 2
Period and Costume:
The present: suits, dresses, casual clothes, bathrobes, bridal fashions, gym suits, ridiculous cook-out aprons, frivolous clothes of affluent suburbia, uniforms for Country Club staff, sleazy evening dresses, wedding ensembles for all.
OCR - United Artists 5099