The New Secret Agent Musical
Music/lyrics/concept by Masi Asare & book by Brooke Pierce
This is the story of a young woman who dreams of being a star...a star spy, that is. Sympathy Jones is a spunky receptionist at a New York City intelligence agency who studies Indonesian martial arts in her spare time and is constantly angling for a promotion, to the amusement of the manly spies who inhabit her 1960s world. When a top-secret file is accidentally left on her desk she seizes the opportunity to embark on an adventure of her own, and in the process discovers that daring to save the world against impossible odds is not nearly as glamorous as she thought it would be. Even the best spies need some help from their friends along the way.
One mysterious evening circa 1964, Richard Oscill, CEO of Oscillex Luxury Watches, holds a press conference at his Manhattan boutique. As he proudly unveils the Delta-29—a watch that grants eternal youth to its wearer—a gunshot rings out. The crowd screams. Tick Tock, an agent from the Secret Coalition for Revenge, Assassination, Terrorism, Counterintelligence, and Heists (S.C.R.A.T.C.H.), has broken into the Oscillex lab to steal sensitive scientific research and attempted to nab the precious watch as well. Ace spy Nick Steele chases after him but is injured in the scuffle and Tick Tock slips into the shadows.
The next morning at The Agency, receptionist Sympathy Jones peppers Agency director Mr. Pinkerton with questions about her request for a promotion, to no effect. Frustrated, she laments being trapped behind a desk when she'd rather be in the field going after the bad guys. Meanwhile, with Nick incapacitated, Pinkerton must put novice agent Henry Greene in charge of the S.C.R.A.T.C.H. case. But Henry has only just accepted his mission when, following a botched attempt at flirting with Sympathy, he accidentally leaves the case file on her desk. It’s a golden opportunity she can’t refuse.
Soon afterward, Oscill is at work in his lab when two masked men break in and spirit him away. In a nearby alley, his ex-wife Katherine "Kitty" Hawk, the secret leader of S.C.R.A.T.C.H., instructs her evil agents on how to be as effectively evil as possible. She also reveals to Oscill, a helpless prisoner, that she plans to use the Delta-29 "time-stopping" technology to create a powerful weapon. When Kitty and Tick Tock rendezvous later that night at the Tempo Club, Sympathy—now pursuing the case on her own—discovers valuable information about Kitty’s scheme. However, it isn’t long before Sympathy’s secret investigation collides with Henry’s official one. He threatens to report her, and she tries to convince him that they should work together. Just when they’re at an impasse, Henry receives word from HQ that Kitty has demonstrated her time-freeze bomb on Washington and is attempting to blackmail the President. Considering the severity of the situation, Henry and Sympathy agree to team up, and they head to Kitty's secret hideout together.
The duo break into Kitty’s lair and navigate a series of devious traps and dangerous obstacles as they race to the main chamber, where Tick Tock is preparing to launch another bomb. Sympathy and Henry attempt to ambush Kitty and Tick Tock, but are caught and left to die an elaborate death. Sympathy escapes, barely making it out of the compound alive. But when she radios for help, Pinkerton orders her to stay put until more agents arrive. Sympathy contemplates her situation and decides she has no choice but to venture back in and help Henry before it’s too late.
Exhausted but determined, Sympathy sneaks back into the compound and frees Henry, and together they burst into the main chamber. As Henry works frantically to de-activate the bomb, Kitty and Sympathy face off. An all-out fight ensues, as the seconds, and the bomb, keep on ticking…
- Time Will Tell - (Ann)
- Every Day / Super Secret Agent - (Sympathy, Ensemble)
- Get Your Gun - (Nick, Pinkerton, Henry)
- Don’t Cross Kitty - (Kitty, Tick Tock, Ensemble)
- Technical Disguise - (Caprice, Sympathy)
- You Don’t Have A Clue - (Sympathy, Henry)
- Before It’s Too Late - (Company)
- If I Didn’t Have You - (Kitty, Tick Tock)
- Think Fast - (Sympathy, Henry, Ensemble)
- A Story - (Sympathy)
- Finale: Sympathy Jones, Super Secret Agent - (Company)
Cast of Characters*
- SYMPATHY JONES, a secretary at The Agency. 20s or early 30s. Should have a girl-next-door vibe, but still be credible as a tough-as-nails, take-charge spy. Bright, eager, passionate, and massively overconfident. True musical theatre belt/mix to a D.
- KITTY HAWK, ex-wife of Richard Oscill. 40s or early 50s. A socialite and bitter divorcee. She’s self-centered and crass, but attempts to be classy and fashionable. Slightly deranged. Strong belter with musical theatre legit sound to an E.
- HENRY GREENE, a spy with The Agency. 20s or 30s. Nice, intelli¬gent, unassuming. He’s shy around Sympathy and lacks confi¬dence in his skills as an agent. He’s a methodical, by-the-book kind of guy. Younger cousin of Nick Steele. Tenor, solid A.
- TICK TOCK, a scientist and former employee of Oscillex. 20s or 30s probably. He’s an accomplished mad scientist and Kitty’s most devoted henchman. Intense, obsessed with his work. Also de¬ranged, but with a sensitive side. Tenor.
- NICK STEELE, a spy with The Agency. Late 20s or early 30s, cocky, charming. He’s “James Bond” but dumber and not as good look¬ing. He thinks that he’s extremely handsome and suave, and so does everyone around him. Physically comedic baritone.
- CAPRICE NOVA, a disguise designer at The Agency. 20s or 30s. Upbeat, quirky, good-natured, and passionate about her work. ‘60s pop voice, high mix/belt to an F.
- ANN, a nightclub singer. Late 30s or 40s. Smooth, smart, and sexy. Kind, but with an edge. She doesn’t say much, but seems to know more than everyone around her. Mainly a singing role. Powerful pop belter with a Shirley Bassey-type sound; must have legit soprano sound as well.
- ROGER PINKERTON, the Director of The Agency. 50s or 60s. Au-thoritative, patrician, smart, and a little misogynistic. Kind but firm, and always in control. A real man’s man. Baritone.
- RICHARD OSCILL, owner of Oscillex Luxury Watches. 40s or 50s. One of the brightest minds of his generation, all-around de¬cent guy who happens to be a billionaire. Better with clock¬work than with women. Baritone.
ENSEMBLE (Minimum 1 man, 2 women. With doubling, possible with actors playing the above characters plus 1 additional woman): PR PERSON, PRESS, AGENCY STAFF, ROCKET SELLER, TEMPO CLUBGOERS, DELIVERY PERSON, PRESIDENT and ADVI¬SORS, SWORDSMAN and S.C.R.A.T.C.H. AGENTS / GUARDS.
* It is possible to cast with 5 men and 5 women. A breakdown of the charac¬ters in each scene is included as an appendix to the script.
Place: New York City, and a remote part of Long Island.
Roles are open to all ethnicities. The show is set in the 1960s to the extent that it evokes the aesthetic and style of that time period, but the story does not refer to any specific political or cultural events that would indicate the characters have to be of a certain race or background.
Standard musical staging/some dance. Production numbers that es-pecially feature dance/movement are: “Time Will Tell” (I.2), “Don’t Cross Kitty” (I.6), “Question Mark Stomp”(I.9), “Think Fast” (II.3), and “Finale” (II.9). In addition, there are several fight sequences (see below).
As Sympathy Jones is inspired by the spy genre, there are a number of “action” sequences in the show, especially in Act II. As Sympathy Jones is also a comedy, there is no need to worry too much about making these sequences seem ultra-realistic. There should be an el¬ement of fun to most of the fighting, which chiefly involves people kicking and punching each other, with a couple of gun and sword showdowns thrown in for good measure. We suggest using colorful toy guns, and don’t sweat the sword fighting, as it doesn’t need to be very sophisticated. Sympathy is a student of the branch of the martial art known as Pencak Silat, so we recommend having your actress learn at least a couple simple moves (you can find video dem¬onstrations online) to add a touch of authenticity. Please also note that there is musical underscoring to the fight scenes, to add to the tension, so you will want to consider the musical accompaniment early on during the process of rehearsing these scenes.
A couple of substitutions are possible to tone down the few racy mo-ments/innuendos in the show. In “Question Mark Stomp,” the lyrics “You can show me yours / I might show you mine” could be replaced with “We could have some fun / later down the line.” In Act I, Scene 11, Pinkerton’s line “I know you’re a little out of touch these days, Nick, but there is a world outside of your bedroom” could use the substitute ending “.there is a world outside the Tempo Club.” And the brandy bit at the top of Act I, Scene 4 can be easily cut if needed.
Spy stories are known for moving quickly through exotic locales. Bringing a largely cinematic genre to the stage calls for a certain in-ventiveness and also presents unique opportunities for theatricality. We offer the following notes to help in conceptualizing the scenic elements of Sympathy Jones.
Scenic World: Act I
The overarching world of Act I is early 1960s New York City—the streets, a nightclub, the offices of an intelligence agency, and a pent-house apartment. Although Sympathy Jones is most certainly a com-edy, there should be a sense of danger and mystery in the show.
In Act I, there are gunshots, chases, and shady people slipping in and out of the shadows. The various locations within this larger world can be evoked with a few well-chosen set pieces:
- The Tempo Club with a microphone for Ann, a table and chairs for Kitty and Tick Tock, a sign with the name of the club, and (in Scene 9) a large potted plant.
- Agency Reception Area with a desk and chair, coat rack, and filing cabinet.
- Pinkerton’s Office with a small table for the brandy or a desk.
- Department of Disguisement with a couple racks of clothing, a sign, and a curtained changing area.
- Kitty’s Apartment with a desk and chair, clock-shaped torture table, and a window frame that actors can climb in and out of.
- The City Streets can be created with evocative lighting and a trash can or two. In Scene 1 there is also a rope hanging from above that Nick climbs down.
Note that within The Agency, there are three main settings: Sympathy’s Reception Area, which is adjacent to Pinkerton’s Private Of¬fice, and the Department of Disguisement. We also briefly see other departments of the Agency (Cryptology, Weapons Testing, Gadgets) during the song “Super Secret Agent” in Scene 3; these can be indi¬cated with signs and perhaps a chair or two.
It is possible, in both acts, to eliminate the need for physical doors as part of the set. Alternate solutions are a welcome option, such as cutting Henry’s kicking down a door in Scene 10. And, at the end of Scene 3, Sympathy could use a different eavesdropping device, such as a design like a stethoscope or two tin cans connected by a string, which she can mime putting against the imaginary door to Pinkerton’s office. At the very beginning of the show, Nick could en¬ter in an alternate way if rope climbing is not possible—for example, he could enter through a trapdoor or through a cutout in a flat that looks like a brick wall, swing down a fireman’s pole, or make a fly¬ing leap from an offstage ladder.
Finally, there are a few scenes in Act I that briefly show us a char¬acter in action in another setting: Oscill at a press conference, Tick Tock and later Oscill in Oscill’s office, Tick Tock in his lab, Kitty and Tick Tock at their evil lair, the President in the Oval Office. These can be accomplished as follows:
- Oscillex Press Conference with a podium or spotlight.
- Oscill’s Office with a file cabinet or desk.
- Tick Tock’s Lab with a small lab station (small table with various watch-making and explosives props).
- Kitty’s Lair with chairs, preferably throne-like, for Kitty and Tick Tock to sit in. Kitty’s throne may have wide armrests that include control panels.
- The Oval Office with a Presidential Seal behind the president.
- Scenic World: Act II
- The world of the show shifts in Act II, where the bulk of the ac¬tion takes place at Kitty’s compound in Pestilential Bay, Long Island, in an old meat factory. Much like The Agency, Pestilential Bay has three main areas where the action unfolds: the Grounds outside the compound; the Throne Room where Kitty presides and Tick Tock works to prepare the bomb and rocket for lift-off; and the Alcove of Death which is adjacent to the Throne Room. These settings may be indicated as follows:
- Pestilential Bay Grounds with a few large rocks and shrubs or trees.
- Throne Room with two chairs or thrones, a small table bearing a cage full of (stuffed) chinchillas, Tick Tock’s lab station table, and a rocket poised to launch—perhaps we see just the base of the rocket but it should still be recognizable. Late in Act II a small trolley is wheeled into this room.
- Alcove of Death with a dungeon-like wall and a large on/off switch that controls the flow of toxic gas into the room. The Al-cove of Death is connected to the Throne Room by an (invisible) one-way window.
One number, “Think Fast” in Scene 3, has Sympathy and Henry making their way through the vast industrial areas of the rest of the compound. This number works well in an open playing space utiliz¬ing creative props (ropes, electrical tape, signs, hula hoops, etc.) carried by squadrons of S.C.R.A.T.C.H. Guards to dramatize the experi¬ence through movement. The Agency is represented in Act II with scenes in the Reception Area and Department of Disguisement.
- The final scene takes place in a Hotel Lobby in New Zealand. This may be indicated with a desk and a few chairs and perhaps a floral arrangement or potted plant.