Nick and Nora
A Musical in Two Acts, 14 Scenes. Book by Arthur Laurents. Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett and "The Thin Man" motion pictures owned by Turner Entertainment Co. Music by Charles Strouse. Lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Marquis Theatre, Broadway - December 8, 1991 (9 perfs)
It is 1937 in Hollywood and Nick and Nora Charles, inhabitants of San Francisco, return to their bungalow at The Garden of Allah Hotel following the wedding of a school chum of Nora's that has brought them - along with their dog, Asta - to Los Angeles. Their enjoyment of the mood and of each other is interrupted by another of Nora's old school chums, movie star Tracy Gardner. Tracy, a Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner, is in need of Nick's services as a detective: Max Bernheim, celebrated German film maker and director of Tracy's current picture, has been arrested for murder, and Tracy wants Nick to take on Max's case so filming can resume. Nick declines, claiming he's retired, but Nora - ever loyal to her favourite Farmington classmate - decides to take on the case herself, with Nick - who doubts that Nora can carry it off - as her assistant.
At the studio the next morning, Tracy admits to herself that her latest film venture is a last-ditch attempt to scale the heights of stardom. She is upset to learn that the murder victim was Lorraine Bixby, bookkeeper on the picture, and Nora begins questioning Max. Max declares his innocence and offers his version of the events that unfolded at Lorraine's Laurel Canyon house on the night of the murder. Also present at the studio are Lt Wolfe of LA Homicide, who seems obsessed with proving Max guilty; Victor Moisa, former union buster, now union president; and Spider Malloy, ex-con and movie gaffer. Just about everyone present at the studio would appear to be a suspect in the case.
Victor, attracted to Nora, tells Nora she's in need of his assistance, but Nora declares she will come through all by herself. No longer scared, she's positively exhilarated. Seeking information, Nora has a drink with Victor while Nick does likewise with old pal Spider. Victor promises to give Nora a crucial piece of evidence if she will come to his villa that night: Nick can't stop Spider from spilling what he knows either.
Back at the Garden of Allah, Nora accuses Nick of doubting her methods; Nick declares that he only wants what she wants. A frightened Maria Valdez - nightclub singer, drug dealer and Lorraine's sometime lover - puts in an appearance, followed rapidly by Lily Connors, Boston blue-blood and wife of Edward J. Connors, the producer of Tracy's picture.
Lily has managed to stop an item in Louella Parsons' column linking her husband and Lorraine and now she wants Nick and Nora to drop the case. Mrs. Connors will apparently do anything to protect her hallowed home and family.
Over the telephone, Victor tells Nora his version of the events of the murder night. When he visited her on that occasion, a bitter Lorraine related how Connors - with whom she was having an affair - dumped her for Tracy. Victor unwittingly gave her an idea for revenge.
Nick tells Nora she's missing something: something right in front of her eyes that she can't see. In truth, he's itching to take over the case, but Nora insists she can handle it on her own. Thus begins the competition: Nick and Nora will each attempt to solve the case separately and May the Best Man Win. The problem for Nora is finding a motive. Nick reminds her that anyone can kill for anything.
In order to explore some clues on his own, Nick sends Nora off on a wild goose chase and goes to Lorraine's. Nora figures out where he has gone and arrives at Lorraine's enraged. She tells Nick it's time he stopped trying to put one over on her. There's more to her than he's willing to see. She walks out and the usually confident Nick finds himself wrong-footed.
Nora, dressed to the nines, arrives at Victor's villa that night As promised Victor produces a clue: the gun that was used to kill Lorraine. As Victor makes a play for her, Nora fears she may be in over her head. Victor is bowled over by Nora's special aura, an aura he knows only too well may be forever out of his reach.
Nick arrives, rescues Nora from Victor's lair, and, back at the bungalow, tells Nora that he may not be able to change his ways. He's a man who works alone. He wants Nora to accept that, saying that he and Nora "make the best martinis just as we are." Nora, alone, only wants things to be the way they used to be between them. Nick returns and announces that he is willing, for the first time in his life, to collaborate with her on a case.
Nick decides to invite all the suspects to the Big Tamboo, the club where Maria entertains, believing that Lorraine's killer may make an attempt on Maria's life because Maria was also present at Lorraine's on the night of the murder. Reviewing all the evidence, Nick and Nora find too many suspects and motives. By attempting a reconstruction of events that occurred at Lorraine's that night the pair conclude that perhaps they have been trying to solve the wrong murder - after all, why have they never seen producer Edward J. Connors?
At the Big Tamboo, the suspects gather, Maria performs her number and a shot rings out. Later, on Tracy's terrace, the mystery is unravelled, the solution involving multiple murders, professional desperation, Tracy's Japanese houseboy and a monogrammed watch dug up in Tracy's garden by Asta.
Nora is severely shaken by the outcome, but there's a positive aspect too: Nick and Nora - having functioned as perfect partners in solving the crime - are in love all over again.
(in order of appearance):
- Nora Charles
- Nick Charles
- Tracy Gardner
- Max Bernheim
- Victor Moisa
- Spider Malloy
- Lorraine Bixby
- Edward J. Connors
- Lieutenant Wolfe
- Maria Valdez
- Lily Connors
- Monsignor Flaherty
Scenes and Settings:
The action takes place in Hollywood, 1937.
- Scene 1: Nick & Nora's bungalow, The Garden of Allah.
- Scene 2: The Studio.
- Scene 3: Lorraine's (Max's version).
- Scene 4: The Studio.
- Scene 5: Nick & Nora's bungalow.
- Scene 6: Lorraine (Victor's version).
- Scene 7: Beverly Hills.
- Scene 8: Lorraine's.
- Scene 1: Victor's villa.
- Scene 2: Nick & Nora's bungalow.
- Scene 3: Lorraine's (Maria's version).
- Scene 4: Lorraine's.
- Scene 5: The Big Bamboo.
- Scene 6: Tracy's terrace.
- Overture - orchestra
- Is There Anything Better Than Dancing? - Nick, Nora, Tracy
- Everybody Wants to Do a Musical - Tracy
- Not Me - Max, Lorraine, Edward
- Swell - Nick, Spider, Nora, Victor
- As Long as You're Happy - Nick, Nora
- People Get Hurt - Lily
- Men - Lorraine, Victor, Edward, Tracy
- May the Best Man Win - Nick, Nora, Tracy
- Detectiveland - Company
- Look Who's Alone Now Nick
- Class - Victor
- Let's Go Home - Nora
- A Busy Night at Lorraine's - Nick, Nora, Spider, Suspects
- Boom Chicka Boom - Maria, Mariachi
- Let's Go Home (reprise) (Married Life) - Nick, Nora
Original Broadway Cast - CDJAY 1268