Phantom of the Country Opera
Music by Michael Duff. Lyrics by Cheri Coons. Book by Sean Grennan and Kathy Santen
This hilarious country and western send-up of "The Phantom of the Opera" takes place backstage at the Country Palace in Nashville, Tennessee, where former operatic ingenue Christina Joseph gets a job singing back-up to the "Reigning Queen of Country Music." Changing her name to Chrissy Joe Jenkins, Christina finds a mentor in Aaron, the mysterious janitor who turns out to be a closet composer with a fabulous recording studio in the Palace's basement, who guides her to stardom at the Country Palace...
At La Scala., we see "backstage" and "onstage" spaces.
The ensemble, Gabriella, Antonio and Chrissy are performing "onstage." The
two divas are trying mightily to upstage each other. "Ho paura molto
agitato quatro fromaggi!" and "Mezzo-soprano Lucretia Borgia," they
sing. The upstaging continues until Gabriella begins her dramatic death, "Salmonella!
Salmonella!," and she dies. The Gabriella exits to the "backstage
area." She complains to her husband Carlo that the American has
upstaged her and demands that she be fired. "But the Opera, she's
not finished!" Gabriella will take Chrissy's place for the second
Chrissy enters the backstage and Carlo kisses her hand saying the contracts for the next season are ready. She hesitates. Though her successful opera career is what her mother always wanted, Chrissy is not happy. Just as she resolves to quit, she is summoned back to America by the Guild of Opera artists. She sings "Somebody's Calling Me Home," as the rest of the ensemble continues the Opera onstage. Chrissy prepares for her entrance. The ensemble is dancing in a large vat of grapes "Scusi! Scusi! Basta Jacuzzi." Meanwhile, Gabriella, dressed in an identical costume, enters from the other side. They both sing while the ensemble tries to figure out whom to follow. In a panic, Carlo calls out to bring down the curtain. The chandelier appears from above. The music continues as lights fade; a singer holds a note while the underlying music becomes more "country." The singer’s upper costume tears away revealing a country costume.
Now Carlo is in front of The Country Palace. He sings "Street Singer." A chorus of guys and gals enters singing "everybody here's got a suitcase full of rhinestone, fringe and cowboy boots/and everybody here's got a briefcase full of two-step tunes and heartache." As they sing, Chrissy and Skipper enter, when suddenly a pickpocket removes Chrissy's wallet from her purse. Skipper trips him as he tries to get away. Officer Tammy Fay June Ellie Fay Crenshaw arrives and demands the wallet from the thief warning him "I am a weapon." Skipper pipes in "Youth Nabs Cornpone Capone--Nashville safe again!" (Skipper reads the Inquirer and the Star every week and can't help making headlines for everything he experiences.) Skipper introduces himself as Sally Barker’s son, the Queen of Country. He asks Chrissy if she'd like to go to hear his mother sing. Skipper and Chrissy sing a reprise of "Country Tune."
Inside the Country Palace, Skipper and Chrissy find their seats. Major Billy introduces his wife Miss Sally. She sings about her life as a hog-butcher's daughter in "Sally" "It was being reared with ham that got me where I am." She starts another song but is interrupted by the entrance of a flying pig. They decide to call it a night, reminding the audience that the big Country Music Extravaganza is only two days away. Major Billy flirts with one of the backup singers, Sally gets mad, has her fired and sets an audition for tomorrow morning to replace her. Though Chrissy has never done that kind of singing, Skipper talks her into going to the audition. If all goes well, they can make their debut together.
In Sally's dressing room, Sally and Billy start a fight singing "For Better, for Worse." "I am the headlights, you are the deer.... I am the trailer, you're the tornado." By the end of the song they've made up. But Sally can't understand why things keep going wrong right in the middle of her songs. Maybe it's your ghost, he speculates. He tells her that he's invited all of Hollywood's head honchos to a big party for the Country Palace. But only Hocus Focus Films accepted, in the person of Mort de Soleil. They're hoping to be discovered. They sing a reprise of "For Better for Worse." Clive, the stage manager, announces that a " life or death" message has arrived for Miss Sally "from a Phantom Friend." Suddenly, the flying pig drops from the ceiling, hung from a noose. We hear a voice from off stage threatening her with more than just "technical difficulties," if she sings "If I Could Hold You" again. Major Billy lets out a stunned "Soo-ee!"
The next day at the backup auditions, Clive addresses Chrissy and some other auditioners and Officer Crenshaw. Major Billy, Sally and Skipper enter and sit at the audition table. One by one the other singers fail to sings a high C until Chrissy nails it. She’s hired and it’s time for Major Billy to “get better acquainted.” Clive saves her from Billy’s advances having her fill out her W-4 and Over-size Wig Consent Form. Chrissy meets the other backup singers, June and Patsy who advise her that the best way to keep Billy at bay is keep mentioning his wife, Sally. Billy shoes the others away to begin his private tutoring session with Chrissy. He gets a little fresh and she tells him where to get off just as some bales of hay start to fall around them. As Billy decides to grab some Barbecue, Aaron--a stagehand--arrives. Stacking the bales, he tells her ominously that there are no such things as ghosts.
The next morning, Chrissy arrives early to find Aaron already setting up the stage. He tells her that he recognizes her from articles about La Scala but her secret is safe with him. A telegram arrives from Antonio in La Scala and she sings of what he writes in “A Telegram,” while Aaron listens nearby. He desperately misses her and “desperate men do desperate things.” Sally, Clive and the others arrive—including, Andrew, Lloyd and Weber—and the rehearsal begins “Country Music Rehearsal.” It doesn’t go well for Chrissy. She goes off to find a place to rehearse.
In a subterranean recording studio, Aaron is mooning over a picture of Chrissy; she enters. She tells him about the rehearsal and he offers to help, singing “Voice Lesson.” She opens up to him, telling of the father she never knew. He reminds her that she must sing with her heart. All she need do is remember her mother and the love that she gave her in “Two Roads Meet.” Chrissy finds her true voice again singing a reprise of “Somebody’s Calling Me Home.” He offers to let her sing his song “If I Could Hold Youl” “You wrote this? It’s a classic! Aaron, who are you?” He tells her it’s a long story. She gets a little spooked and leaves.
With a half-hour to go before the Extravaganza, Mort de Soliel (of Hocus Focus Pictures) and his assistant, Crystal Light introduce themselves to Billy and Sally. Aaron is hovering in the background. He can’t wait to hear “If I Could Hold You.” They leave. Sally plays a tape that the Phantom left her. It demands that they feature Chrissy in the Extravaganza. Sally wants to show this guy whose boss and fire Chrissy right away, but since they need her tonight they agree to fire her in the morning. Billy and Sally sing a reprise of “For Better, For Worse.” Later, Aaron hypnotizes Sally instructing her to give Chrissy a chance.
Onstage the show is beginning. Major Billy introduces the chorus and they sing “Extravaganza Montage.” The Hoggettes—Patsy, June and Chrissy—continue the song as we hear Billy instructing Aaron to release the 2,000 helium balloons only on cue. A male quartet enters and sings “Does Your Daddy Know You Like to Kiss Cowboys?” Next on the program, Skipper dedicates his song to Chrissy “The Train of Adolescence.” “The train of Adolescence is runnin’ down my track./ I’m seven miles from puberty, and I ain’t turnin’ back.” Aaron passes his hand over Sally’s face just as she prepares to enter. “Your country days are over” say he. Sally starts to sing “If I Could Hold You,” but keeps mingling in bits of opera and other songs. Mort and Crystal get up and leave. Who can save the show? Chrissy knows the song! She sings it and it’s a triumph. The ensemble joins her and they sing “Country Music is My Home—Finale.” Sally sees what’s happening from offstage and turns on the helium tanks. Just as Chrissy is finishing her triumphal debut, she suddenly starts to sound like a chipmunk.
Skipper is reading the National Enquirer on the steps of the Palace, joined by the ensemble as he sings “Night of Terror, . . . Helium Cologne threatens pretty unknown.” As the song continues, Sally—in a neck brace—is in her dressing room being questioned by Officer Crenshaw; Major Billy is reading a tabloid. Mort and Crystal appear speaking with their Japanese owners. The boss orders them back to Nashville: Sally’s faux pas has made her more popular than ever.
In a restaurant, Chrissy and Antonio read the stories in the tabloids: “Satan Worship Blamed for Back-up Singer’s Dirty Tricks.” Antonio tries to convince Chrissy to return to the opera: he’ll change cities, commission a new work—based on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. “Very modern. Nobody like.” The other back-up singers, Judy and Patsy come in with their dates. Antonio sings a fable of his love for Chrissy in “An Open Door.” She sings “Maybe you can help me find an open door.”
During a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Palace, the ensemble sings “God Save Our Glorious Queen. We shall lubricate her larynx with the tears we shed today”. Uncle Billy appears and introduces Sally, who outstretches her arms and says “People of Nashville, don’t weep for me.” She collapses dramatically into Billy’s arms as Chrissy and Antonio enter. The fans clamor for Chrissy’s autograph and the reporters try to learn more about her--including who Antonio is. Skipper watches from afar seeing his love slip away. Sally sees her fans slipping away and convinces Billy to fire Chrissy. He agrees and they’re off to ease the stress of it all with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and some Twinkie’s. Clive enters to find Officer Crenshaw donning a helmet and breastplate as an undercover disguise. The outfit sets the sparks between them ablaze, they kiss hungrily and leave.
The next afternoon, backstage at the Palace the ensemble is arriving and rehearsal is about to begin. Aaron is mopping the floor as Chrissy enters and is summoned to Sally’s dressing room. Aaron warns her not to take this ‘star’ talk too seriously or she’ll end up like Sally. Skipper enters and tells Chrissy that he saw her together with Antonio the other day and he is willing to step aside. They agree to be friends and Chrissy heads for Sally’s dressing room.
Billy greets Chrissy in the dressing room, says that she’s stirred up the ghost with her performance and fire’s her. Chrissy sees a paper cup fall from the rafters and—knowing that it’s Aaron’s—she hides it behind her back.
Chrissy searches the subterranean recording studio for Aaron. She’s figured it out and threatens to expose him as the ghost. He sings of his own lost dreams of being a star performer in “Ghost Town.” She sings that she’s made her own like and can take care of herself. He replies “ . . . close to you is someone that you’ve known before/ Funny how life brought you back to me.”
Backstage at the Palace, Billy receives a fax from Mort de Soliel suggesting a movie deal for both Sally and Skipper. The fax cautions that although he enjoyed the comedy, Sally still needs to sing for the deal to work. Aaron—whose been ‘cleaning’ in the background--suggests that they have Sally lip-synch just like they did in "Singing in the Rain.”
Meanwhile, Chrissy, shaken from her encounter with Aaron, meets June and Patsy in the dressing room. Skipper enters and tells her about his screen test tomorrow morning. Sally interrupts them and tells Chrissy about the lip-synching scheme: she’s gotta do it or else Sally won’t let Skipper have the screen test. Chrissy agrees to lip-synch for Sally’s audition. Sally leaves as Antonio enters dressed in an outrageous cowboy outfit and sings “Spaghetti Western.” Chrissy loves his performance but Antonio says he tried to fit in to Chrissy’s world but it just doesn’t work. He’s going back to Italy.
The Palace stage. Skipper and Sally perform their screen test with Sally overacting grandly and Crystal groaning on every line. They begin Sally’s song; Chrissy sings from behind a banner advertising pork rinds while Sally moves her lips. As the song proceeds Aaron raises the banner to expose the fraud. All hell breaks lose. Billy fires Aaron. Mort decides to reshoot the scene with Chrissy in the lead. He loves her; she’s cast! As a consolation, Sally gets to be the grandmother. They’re all off to LA tomorrow. Billy puts Clive in charge of the Palace and Clive’s first act is to rehire Chrissy. Now, she must choose between the glamour of Hollywood and the music of Nashville. Aaron appears and, trying to convince her to stay, shows her an unknown verse of “If I Could Hold You (Duet Reprise).” They sing it together, revealing that he is the father that abandoned both Chrissy and her mother long ago. Chrissy is shocked and doesn’t know how to respond. Aaron rushes off. Skipper enters ready to leave, Chrissy hesitates and then decides to stay at the Palace, singing “Somebody’s Calling Me Home—Reprise”. Chrissy goes off to find her father.
The subterranean recording studio. Chrissy enters looking for Aaron but finds that he’s left. A recording of his voice explains that she’s better off without him. Chrissy joins the recording in song “Fly Away/ If I Could Hold You (Finale)”. As the song continues, we see Chrissy’s future, as she becomes a star, receives awards and is mobbed by fans. Chrissy’s father appears among the fans and Chrissy and her father embrace as the curtain falls.
- Somebody's Calling Me Home - Chrissy, Gabriella, Antonio,
You Want To Hear A Country Tune? - Street Singer, Skipper,
Butcher's Daughter - Sally, Back-up Girls
I Could Hold You - Sally
- For Better, For Worse - Sally, Major Billy
- The Audition - Auditioner, Crenshaw
- A Telegram - Antonio
- Voice Lesson - Aaron, Chrissy
- Two Roads Meet - Aaron, Chrissy
- Does Your Daddy Know You Like To Kiss Cowboys - Male Quartet
- Train Of Adolescence - Skipper
- If I Could Hold You - Chrissy
- Country Music Is My Home - Chrissy, Ensemble
- Night Of Terror - Skipper, Patsy, June, Crystal, Ensemble
- An Open Door - Chrissy, Antonio
- God Save Our Glorious Queen - Fan #1, Ensemble
Town - Aaron, Chrissy, Women
- Spaghetti Western - Antonio, Men
- Fly Away/If I Could Hold You - Aaron, Chrissy, Ensemble
8 men, 6 women, chorus
Reed (flute/clarinet/tenor sax), trumpet db. flugelhorn, trombone, percussion, Guitar I (acoustic/electric/steel guitar), Guitar II (electric/acoustic/banjo), keyboard, Violin I (violin/ mandolin), Violin II (violin/viola), double bass db. bass guitar