A Musical in 2 Act. Book by Will Holt Music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
Sam S Shubert Theatre, New York - Opened 6th March, 1974, closed 4th January, 1975 (341 perfs)
The action takes place in the 1940s.
Norwin Spokesman,MC for the evening and general factotum, sets the mood of the period with a song that could have been written for the Glenn Miller Band.
It's sometime in the early 1940s. A train leaves Los Angeles for a week-long trek across the country. On board are recruits, like Bill, Lucky and Utah, on their way to New York and embarkation for Europe where the war is raging. With them are assorted friends and civilian passengers, like Mother and Father, who want to help the young soldiers until it's time to see them off, and Rankin, the automobile executive, who is making a great deal of money from the war and is on his way to Washington for high-level consultations with his political friends.
Also on board are Pauline and Paulette DePaul, a singing sister act, looking for their big break in show business, but whose main responsibility is keeping the morale of the troops high and operating the canteen. The Office of War Information proposes to do a broadcast from the train as it moves across the country — the very opportunity for which the DePauls have been waiting... if they only can find a third voice. As Pauline observes, "no duo ever hit the Big Time." But with so many people around, it should not be difficult to find another female singer able to provide the mid-range voice needed to transform their act into a trio.
Such a concentration of troops is bound to attract enemy interest, and the Nazi spy, Mitzi, a former German cabaret singer, has also boarded the train in order to gather as much information as possible. She is in constant contact with her network through the lipstick with which she frequently repairs her makeup, but which is in reality a radio transmitter.
As the train leaves L.A., the mood on board is at a high pitch, buoyed by the fact that the travellers feel they're on their way to a victorious confrontation with the enemy. Only June, Bill's fiancée, has misgivings, and in a last-minute decision, she jumps on board without a ticket, without money, without anything except the simple prom dress she is wearing. If that were not bad enough, June also faces another problem: Bill would like her to "go all the way," something she adamantly refuses.
The DePaul sisters, conscious of June's predicament, enlist her to work with them at the canteen. While providing the soldiers with everything they need, cigarettes, drinks and encouragement, the singing sisters light up when they hear Lucky say that he is from Jersey City. As they recall, they appeared there once, at Charlie's Place, a Saturday-night dive.
Meanwhile, Father and Rankin have taken Bill aside for a serious man-to-man talk; but then they begin to reminisce about their own World War I adventures and the memories they have left behind .
In another part of the train, the DePauls have been enlisted by Spokesman, now acting as Sarge, to lecture the recruits on basic hygiene and the dangers of what they call "the V.D. polka". Once the lecture is over, Paulette suggests that Mitzi help out in the canteen. To cheer up Bill, who is increasingly depressed about June's constant refusals, Mitzi talks about the "one who waited" while her lover was away fighting and never returned. At this point, June barges in and announces that, for the war effort, she is collecting scrap metal, including lipsticks, and she promptly picks up Mitzi's which had been left on a counter top. Mitzi's horrified gasp strikes a note that Pauline and Paulette immediately recognise as the sound they've been looking for. Thus, Mitzi becomes the third voice in the DePauls' act.
At. night, June finally consents to sacrificing her ideals in the cause of war and shares a sleeper with Bill. Suddenly he declares he won't sleep with June unless they're married — an immediate cause for celebration.
As the trip continues, the train is suddenly sidetracked to allow another train, carrying FDR, to move ahead. Everybody is excited at the sight of the president, who smiles and waves his hand, except Sam, the black porter, who is fully aware that he is not invited to the "Big Party," and who explains in his own jive to the Sarge that he is no dupe.
After seven days, the spirits of the passengers start to get frayed, and the mood sullen. Even Paulette, whose optimism has often been a source of cheerfulness, seems to feel blue. In order to restore morale, the Office of War Information, in the person of Spokesman, goes ahead with the intended broadcast and gives the passengers a chance to reveal their dreams for the future. Utah, a young recruit who is incredibly idealistic, and Donna, a waitress who gave up her job to work in a defence plant, oblige. Even the DePauls get their opportunity to make it to the Big Time, with some help from Mitzi. The sisters don't know that Mitzi inserted a Morse-code message into their song, but Lucky is able to decipher it. Suspicion falls upon Mitzi, and, when in a "patriotic" effort to prove she is an American she sings the second chorus of the national anthem, she is unmasked — "no real American knows the second verse to the 'Star-Spangled Banner'. Fortunately, the broadcast has not been aired: Utah somehow had wired the sound system incorrectly.
And that is part of the memories of World War II from the American home-front: a time with a united purpose and common fears, a communal effort, radio news broadcasts, big bands, snapshots, small towns, fast embraces, and No Goodbyes.
Cast (in order of appearance)
- Norwin Spokesman.
- Pauline de Paul
- Paulette de Paul
- The Beat Begins (Overture)
- The Big Band. - Company
- Since You're Not Around - Make-Out, Company
- Over Here - Pauline, Paulette
- Buy a Victory Bond - Company
- My Dream for Tomorrow - June, Company
- Charlie's Place - Pauline, Maggie, Lucky, The Big Band, Company
- Hey Yvette / The Grass Grows Green - Norwin, Rankin, Father
- My Dream for Tomorrow (reprise) - June, Bill
- The Good-Time Girl - Paulette, Company
- Wait for Me Marlena - Mitzi, Company
- We Got It - Paulette, Pauline, Mitzi, Company
- The Beat Continues (Entre'Acte) - The Big Band, Company
- Wartime Wedding - Paulette, Pauline, Company
- Don't Shoot the Hooey to Me, Louie - Sam
- Where Did the Good Times Go? - Paulette
- Dream Drummin' / Soft Music - Misfit, The Big Band, Company
- he Big Beat - Paulette, Pauline, Mitzi
- No Goodbyes - Paulette, Pauline, Company