The Great American Backstage Musical
Music by Bill Solly; Lyrics by Bill Solly; Book by Bill Solly and Donald Ward.
Matrix Theatre, Los Angeles 2 December, 1976
Regent Theatre, London 8 August, 1978
In the late 30s, the rumbles of World War II were
sounding around the world. While America was recovering from the Great
Depression, Europe saw the shadows of Hitler and Mussolini strut across
the continent. That era produced a particular type of movie - the backstage
musical. Written as show entertainment, the genre traced the trials and
tribulkations of countless struggling writers and artists, who were elevated,
virtually overnight, to the dizzy heights of fame and stardom. These artfully
simple stories were staples of Hollywood in those sstrife-torn years.
This show is an affectionate look over the shoulder to a time when the
world turned at a slower pace, or so it seemed, and every cloud had a
This show is a delightful pastiche of the period, filled with melodies that remain infinitely hummable.
The action opens backstage at Johnny's Bar in Greenwich Village. Named for its ambitious, song writing owner, Johnny Brash, Johnny's Bar features The Pocket Revue with songs by Johnny Brash and introducing a quintet of young hopefuls, all of whom we meet in "The Opening Number". We are allowed to eavesdrop on two backstage romances, Johnny and the ever-so-devoted sweetheart, Kelly Moran; and the wisecracking duo of Banjo and Sylvia. In between romantic backstage interludes, The Pocket Revue continues with "I Got the What?" and "Crumbs In My Bed". There is much excitement when it is discovered that the English musical star, Constance Duquette is in the audience. Without hesitation, Johnny ensures that she hears his big finale number, "Cheerio!" Apparently impressed, Constance invites him to a party, an invitation he readily accepts, even though it means breaking a date with Kelly. While Johnny makes his way to the star's penthouse suite, Kelly settles for something less, pie and coffee with Harry. We discover that Harry is none other than Harrison Cartwright III, heir to a five-million dollar fortune that he can only receive upon his marriage. And what lovelier bride than Kelly! She plans to audition one of Johnny's songs. Back at the penthouse, Johnny survives a massive seduction by Constance who tells him, "You Should Be Being Made Love To". He realises, to his surprise, that it is Kelly he really loves. The following day at the audition, Kelly's plan backfires. It isn't the song but the singer they want! Offered the feature role in a new Broadway extravaganza, she turns it down. At the bar, the newly, and romantically, inspired Johnny has been up all night composing a new song about "The Star Of the Show". Hearing of Kelly's good fortune - and determined not to stand in her way - he accepts the offer Constance has made, to write a new show in London. He sells the bar and the old gang goes its separate ways.
As the lights go out all over Europe with the start of World War II, Kelly becomes the toast of Broadway, "When the Money Comes In." Meanwhile, in beleaguered London, Johnny and Constance struggle with both the end of a new operetta and their somewhat unsuccessful liaison. Johnny decides to enlist leaving her to find another prince. But happy coincidence! Who should come by but Harry, now a captain in the Canadian Medical Corps; it transpires that they have known each other rather well - "News Of You".
The years pass: Kelly, now a big Hollywood star, meets Constance, having seen her hit show in London's West End. "I Could Fall In Love". The conversation turns to the old days and Kelly discovers that Johnny and Banjo are entertaining the troops in highly dangerous front-line situations. "Ba-Boom!" Kelly herself goes on a USO tour of Europe to boost troop morale and discovers the badly wounded Johnny. Only the imminent arrival of the enemy forces her to leave. "Cheerio".
At long last the European conflict is over and the GIs are coming home. In the Village, Johnny's old bar is being sold again. Sylvia reminisces about the good old days and sings one of her favourite of all Johnny's songs, "I'll Wait For Joe". But, the good old days are not yet over. The bar's new owner shows up and the entire group is happily, and surprisingly, reunited.
The action takes place in New York, London and the battlefields of Europe, 1939 - 1945
- Being Made Love To
- Crumbs In My Bed
- The End
- The Girl In Short Supply
- Going Places
- I Could Fall In Love
- I Got the What?
- News of You
- Nickel Worth of Dreams
- On the Avenue
- Pie and Coffee
- The Star of the Show
- When the Money Comes In
- You Should Be Made Love To