Book by: Luther Davis
Music and Lyrics by: George Forrest and Robert Wright
Additonal Music and Lyrics by: Maury Yeston
Based on the novel by Vicki Baum, GRAND HOTEL By arrangements with Turner Broadcasting Company, owner of the 1932 motion picture "Grand Hotel"
Martin Beck Theatre - 12 November, 1989 (1077 perfs)
Revival Donmar Warehouse, London - 29 November, 2004
The show is set in a ritzy Berlin hotel in 1928 when Germany is on the brink of Nazism. The main characters whirl through the revolving doors of the hotel. There is Elizaveta Grushinskaya, the ageing Russian ballerina, Felix von Gaigern, the impoverished romantic, German nobleman, Otto Kringelein, a Jewish bookkeeper dying of cancer and blowing his life savings on a few days of high living, and Flämmchen the pregnant typist who is desperate to make it to Hollywood.
PEOPLE COME, PEOPLE GO,
WAVE OF LIFE OVERFLOWING!
COME BEGIN IN OLD BERLIN,
YOU’RE IN THE GRAND HOTEL!
Come, spend a night or two in the world’s most opulent, extravagant hotel. Perhaps you will find your fortune there, perhaps you will find true love, perhaps all of your dreams will come true … perhaps. . .
It is 1928. The world is between wars, the stock market is booming, Berlin is the center of high life, and optimism rules the day. Inspired by Viki Baum’s period novel, book writer/playwright Luther Davis (Kismet, Timbuktu!) collaborated once again with the prolific, distinguished composer-lyricist team Robert Wright and George Forrest (Kismet, Timbucktu!, Magdelena, The Anastasia Affaire). Together, they created a seamless musical that boasts an engaging, non-stop book and a powerful score that is sure to sweep you away with all of the lavishness of the 1920s.
The story, performed without an intermission, intertwines a cast of eccentric characters through a series of fateful encounters. Passing through the golden light and dark shadows of The Grand Hotel is the fading, still-beautiful Prima Ballerina; the charming young Baron, out of money, riding on his looks; the ambitious Hollywood hopeful; the mortally ill bookkeeper, meeting society before his grave; the honest, hardworking father-to-be; and the doctor, whose cynical tone foreshadows the looming depression.
Grand Hotel richly contrasts comedy, tragedy, glitz, and realism and is sure to captivate both your actors and audiences.
The voices of telephone operators ring out in the dark. “Grand Hotel Berlin, at your service.” The telephone operators promise prompt service for The Grand Hotel’s illustrious clients. As the sound grows to a loud din, The Doctor, in a room of his own injects some morphine into his arm to ease the pain caused by wounds he suffered in the First World War. He smiles, knowing today, will be another exciting day, where people come and people go, and people’s lives change, in The Grand Hotel. One by one, people enter the lobby of the hotel.
Baron Felix Von Gaigern enters the lobby of the hotel, while being vigorously hounded by a gangster, who thinly veils himself as a chauffeur. The Baron avoids paying The Chauffeur the money he owes, by claiming to be very busy, “breathing”. Meanwhile, Erik, the front desk operator, waits on news of his son’s birth, while still attempting to attend to his duties as front desk operator. One of those duties includes dealing with the dancing diva who is Elizaveta Grushinskaya, who enters the lobby with a flourish, along with her company manager Witt, a theatre impresario Sandor, and Grushinskaya’s dresser Raffaela. Grushinskaya has just come from a disappointing performance during which she stumbled. She swears, “I cannot dance any more! Grushinskaya retires!” Her bevy of assistants follow her off to her room to convince her otherwise, while Rafaela runs to the phones at the side of the lobby.
Rafaela tries to sell some of Grushinskaya’s jewellry to pay for the shows that Grushinskaya wants to cancel. Next to her is a woman, Frieda Flamm, who has taken the stage name Flaemmchen. She is an aspiring actress, who is afraid that she might be pregnant. Next to her is Preysing, a general manager of a textile mill, who is waiting nervously to hear from Boston to see if his company is going to merge with a Boston company, or if his company is going to become bankrupt. The final man at the phones is Otto Kringelein, who is mortally ill, and has decided to spend his last days extravagantly at The Grand Hotel.
Erik discovers that his wife is in great pain while giving childbirth. The Doctor dismisses her pain as insignificant to that which he suffers everyday. He tells a bellhop that he may be checking out today, but the bellhop dismisses the claim, “Sir, you said that yesterday.” Kringelein tries desperately to check into the overbooked, Grand Hotel, but the general manager, Rohna, can not find a room for him. Kringelein works himself into a fury, and passes out. The Baron comes to his aid, and uses his pull to make sure that Kringelein can spend his final days in style.
At the coffee bar, two black American entertainers, The Jimmys, sing to the crowd. Flaemmchen waits nervously for Preysing, as she has agreed to be his typist for the evening. The Jimmys tell Flaemmchen all about America, and she wonders if perhaps America is the place where she can find fame and fortune.
Witt and Sandor successfully convince Grushinskaya that she must dance, by quoting old reviews of her dancing, that glowingly referred to her as, Fire and Ice. While Grushinskaya finds the strength in past glory to continue to practise, Raffaela sings of her passion for Grushinskaya, and how she wishes they could just retire.
The Baron and Flaemmchen cross paths near the cloakroom, and playfully flirt. She enjoys The Baron’s interest in her, and it gives her the confidence to wonder if she could be a movie star in Hollywood.
Preysing’s attorney Zinnowitz, hounds him to tell his shareholders that the merger is on with the Boston company, and to restore calm to the shareholders. Preysing stands by his morals, saying that he can’t tell his shareholders things that aren’t true. Zinnowitz tries unsuccessfully to get Preysing to change his mind. Preysing meets with Flaemmchen, and they head off to his room, so that she can type his notes for the meeting. Just then Preysing receives the devastating news that the Boston merger is off. Realising that his company, and therefore his life, is in ruins, Preysing, considers lying to his shareholders.
The Chauffeur catches up with The Baron again, and offers him a solution to his debt problems. The Chauffeur describes a necklace in Grushinskaya’s room, that The Baron could steal. The Baron claims that he would never steal, only as a last resort. The Chauffeur jams a gun into The Baron’s ribs, to remind him that his last resort is approaching very quickly.
The Baron heads off to The Yellow Pavilion to forget about his worries. There he runs into Flaemmchen, whom he courts. She is ecstatic that a Baron would take such an interest in her. The Baron sees Kringelein alone off to the side of the dance hall, and asks Flaemmchen if she would dance with him. She obliges, and life returns to the fading Kringelein. Preysing interrupts, and demands that Flaemmchen help him type up his notes for the shareholders’ meeting. Kringelein, who used to work for Preysing, tries to hold onto his dream dance with Flaemmchen, and is infuriated that Preysing would want to end the dance, and also that Preysing doesn’t even seem to remember who Kringelein is.
Preysing heads off to the shareholders’ meeting. The pressure becomes too much for Preysing, and he erroneously exclaims, “The Boston merger is definitely - on!”
The Baron approaches Kringelein in the lobby, and tries to convince him to buy stock because, “It’s crazy not to own stocks today.” As The Baron ushers Kringelein off to a broker’s room, The Chauffeur corners The Baron again, and reminds him to steal Grushinskaya’s necklace.
Meanwhile Grushinskaya dances in her concert, but the audience is hardly appreciative of her. Grushinskaya refuses to go back out on stage, and instead rushes back to the hotel for solace. However, upon entering her room, Grushinskaya finds The Baron, standing beside her precious necklace. The Baron quickly improvises that he is in her hotel room because he is her biggest fan, and has been following her all across Europe. The two jaded romantics, quickly fall for each other, while trying to convince themselves that they're not. They are overwhelmed by their emotions, while Raffaela sits alone in her room.
Elsewhere in the hotel, Erik tries to sneak off the job to see his wife, but Rohna stops him, and threatens to fire Erik if he doesn’t get back to work. Preysing, facing certain destruction once his lie is found out, decides to go to Boston, and force the Boston company to merge with his company. Preysing also manages to convince Flaemmchen to come along with him, “to take care of him.”
The next morning, The Baron awakes next to Grushinskaya, and finds he is in love with her as he was the night before. He confesses to her that he was in her room to steal her necklace, but now he wants only to be with her. Grushinskaya offers The Baron money to travel with her to Vienna, but The Baron responds, “I am not a gigolo!” He leaves to find the money on his own, and Grushinskaya basks in her new found love .
While The Jimmy’s sing at the hotel bar, The Baron sees Flaemmchen, and tells her of his new love for Grushinskaya, thus ending their serial flirting. Kringelein bursts into the lobby and informs The Baron, that his advice on the stocks was correct! “I made more last night than I ever made in an entire year!” Kringelein buys drinks for himself and The Baron. Kringelein gets so worked up, that he passes out, and drops his wallet. The Baron sees the wallet, bursting with money, and picks it up before helping Kringelein off to his room.
The Doctor, who has been observing all of the on goings at The Grand Hotel, sits in his room, alone. He injects himself with more morphine. Preysing corners Flaemmchen in his room, and makes her undress for him. Down the hall in Kringelein’s room The Baron helps Kringelein to his bed. Kringelein realises that his wallet is missing, and The Baron is struck by his own conscience and returns the wallet to Kringelein. Kringelein, realising what has transpired, gives his friend a wad of money, as a thank you for all of his help. The Baron is ecstatic, and runs off, as he now has enough money to go to Vienna with Grushinskaya. As soon as he runs into the hall however, he is confronted by The Chauffeur. The Chauffeur takes the wad of money, and tells The Baron to go to room 420, “a certain randy businessman will be next door playing with his little blonde secretary. I saw his wallet, stuffed with fifty-mark notes.” The Chauffeur hands The Baron a gun, to make sure he gets the job done.
Back in Preysing’s room, Preysing is pushing Flaemmchen further and further, until finally she changes her mind and wants to leave. Preysing tries to force her to stay. The Baron sneaks in next door, and is about to rob Preysing when he hears Flaemmchen’s cries from the next room. He runs next door, and confronts Preysing, who in turn, accuses The Baron of being there to rob him. The fight escalates until The Baron takes out his gun, which Preysing grabs, and shoots The Baron dead.
The Ghost of The Baron moves to the railway station, where he was to meet Grushinskaya before going to Vienna.News of The Baron’s death spreads through the hotel, and all of Grushinskaya’s friends agree not to tell her the news until they are in Vienna.
The police take away Preysing to prison for killing a Baron. Kringelein asks Flaemmchen what she was doing with someone like Preysing. She tells him, that regretfully she was with him for the money, so she could start a new life for herself in America. Kringelein reminds her that he has money, and he will always take care of her.
Erik finds out that everything is okay with his son and wife. Witt, Sandor, and Raffaela usher Grushinskaya out the lobby of the hotel, hoping that she will not hear of The Baron’s death. The Doctor, looks through the lobby of the hotel, and notes, “Grand Hotel, Berlin. Always the same – people come, people go – One life ends while another begins – one heart breaks while another beats faster – one man goes to jail while another goes to Paris – always the same.” The Doctor decides, “I’ll stay – one more day.”
- Grand Parade - Company
- Table With A View - Kringelein
- At the Grand Hotel - Kringelein
- Maybe My Baby - Two Jimmys
- Fire and Ice - Grushinskaya, Company
- Twenty-Two Years - Raffaela
- Villa on a Hill - Raffaela
- (Girl In The Mirror) I Want To Go To Hollywood - Flaemmchen
- Everybody's Doing It - Zinnowitz
- The Crooked Path - Baron, Preysing, Company
- Who Couldn't Dance With You? - Kringelein, Flaemmchen,
- Merger Is On - Company
- Love Can't Happen - Baron, Grushinskaya
- What She Needs - Raffaela
- Bonjour Amour - Grushinskaya
- The Grand Charleston - Two Jimmys, Company
- We'll Take A Glass Together - Baron, Kringelein, Two Jimmys
- I Waltz Alone - Doctor
- Roses At The Station - Baron
- Death/Bolero - Orchestra, Company
- How Can I Tell Her? - Raffaela
- Grand Ending - Company
- Grand Waltz - Company
- The Doorman
- Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag (The Doctor) - Grievously wounded by gas and shrapnel in WWI; a cynical, ruined man.
- The Countess - Ballroom Dancer
- The Gigolo - Ballroom Dancer
- Rohna - Hotel General Manager; a Martinet
- Erik - Intelligent young assistant conceierge, ambitious, about to start a family.
- The Bellboys - Georg Strunk, Kurt Kronenberg, Hans Bittner, Willibald, Captain
- The Telephone Operators - Hildegarde Bratts, Sigfriede Holzhiem, Wolffe Bratts
- The Two Jimmys - Black American Entertainers
- Chauffeur - A tough cockney (or Spanish or Italian or Algerian) gangster posing as a chauffeur.
- Zinnowitz - An attorney in Berlin.
- Sandor - Hungarian Theatre impresario.
- Witt - Company Manager of Grushinskaya's ballet troupe.
- Madame Peepee - Lavatory Attendant
- Hermann Preysing - General Director of a large textile mill; a solid burgher
- Flaemmchen (née Frieda Flamm) - A pretty girl who seems to be younger than twenty and has theatrical ambitions.
- Otto Kringelein - Not old, but morally ill; a bookkeeper from a small town.
- Baron Felix Von Gaigern - Young, athletic, charming, optimistic, broke.
- Raffaela - Confidante, Secretary, and sometimes dresser to Elizaveta Grushinskaya
- Elizaveta Grushinskaya - The still-beautiful, world-famous, about-to-retire Prima Ballerina
- Scullery Workers: - Gunther Gustafsson, Werner Holst, Franz Kohl, Ernst Schmidt
- Hotel Courtesan
- Trude - A Maid
- Wolffe Bratts