four lives in two acts

Book, Music & Lyrics by Steven David Horwich

INFO:

Wokrshopped in Los Angeles
Original Director: Steven David Horwich
Cast Size: Male: 2    Female: 2    Ensemble: 0    Total Cast Size: 4
Orchestra: 5 (2 keyboards, guitar, bass, drums)
Published Script: Available By Request Only
Production Rights: Restricted. Please contact us for information, or requests for a perusal copy.
Recordings: Original demo. (Below)
Other shows by the authors: And The River Flows, Call To Arms, The Kingdom That Was, The Wheel Turns, Tragedy, All Of The People – All Of The Time, I’ve Died And Gone To Acting School Heaven, Loveplay , The Theaters Of Paradise Alongside Moliere    Collaborative: A Tale Of Two Cities, Eden, The Third Wish , Beautiful Poison

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

An ideal show for theater companies with smaller theaters or a small stage with few technical elements such as flies. A very small, contained musical with great energy and entertainment value. Should be very good for Colleges and Universities, Dinner Theaters, Rep and Stock companies looking for a technically simple Musical to slip into a busy season, Little Theaters, smaller Regional theaters with intimate theater spaces, Off-Broadway.

Be Warned:
Your four singing actors must be very strong singers and actors, able to do some movement. The show requires a very capable cast and Director/Choreographer, as they are the whole thing, along with the band. If you haven’t these people, do another show.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: The four characters are born to the sound of babies crying (“We Are The Young”), they grow, and enter their teens. LYNN, a beautiful girl, sings “My Parents Say”, establishing the influence family has on the future of a child. JIMMY, destined to be a stud, tells of his crush for his English teacher in “Loving Dianne”. He lets STEPHANIE, a short, vivacious girl, know she’s short, and she longs to be “Tall”. As they move into their mid-teen years, BEN, the most industrious and middle-of-the-road of the four, begs the audience to “Hire Me”.

The boys now have cars and learners permits, and the girls are ready to step into those cars on their first dates. (“Before I Turn Sixteen”) They pack, and move out into the world (“Goodbye, Home), each carrying just a few things important to them.

Young adults now, the girls contemplate a world of possibilities, if they can just keep boys out of their minds (“I Just Can’t Live Without”). But Jimmy has other ideas (“Knock-Knock”), and sleeps with Lynn. Stephanie, rejected by Jimmy earlier, returns the favor now in “A Cold Day In Hell”, though she yields at the end. Ben contemplates a relationship with Lynn and then Stephanie, but no one’s paying any attention to him. Lynn, now feeling rejected by Jimmy, sings a sad song with Ben about relationships never meant to be. (“They Say”) She clearly no longer believes what well-intentioned people tell her about a bright future. Jimmy tries to make up with Stephanie, who rejects him utterly. But all Ben sees are the moments during Jimmy and Stephanie’s angry encounter when they’re speaking softly or holding hands, and he’s convinced Stephanie is lost to Jimmy. (“Lucky, Lucky, Lucky”)

The ladies are isolated in light, and sing an angry plaint about how Jimmy has romanced and dumped them. (“Until Something Better Comes Along”) They are all four alone and unhappy in love (“Love Ping-Pong”) , the women are pregnant by Jimmy, and feeling stupid. (“We Are The Young” reprise) The boys try to bury themselves in their work. (“There Is More To Life”) But the ladies are too present to be ignored, and suddenly, in “My Reason To Live”, Lynn’s child is born. Jimmy watches, and starts to grow up, as Lynn raises the baby alone. Stephanie is struggling as well with her very loud, very angry baby. (“A Cold Day In Hell” reprise.) Ben offers Stephanie’s baby (unseen) a toy, the baby quiets, and Ben and Stephanie’s love is established. Jimmy has made up with Lynn, and the two couples are married in “Hold On To You”, and a reprise of “We Are The Young”.

They are very temporarily happily wed. (“The Big Step”). But as they sing about the idyllic family life they’ve assumed (“That Place Of Mine”), the relationships again degenerate into frustration and acrimony. Jimmy can’t seem to keep his hands off Stephanie, Ben’s wife, and the song falls apart. Alone and furious, Lynn stares into a bleak future (“Going Nowhere, Fast”), as the lights fade on act one.

ACT TWO: The couples are posed “American Gothic” style, singing “This Is His Home”. They try to separate, but seem supernaturally “stuck” together. Jimmy breaks free (“Knock-Knock/I Just Can’t Live Without” reprise) to pursue Stephanie once again. But Stephanie, older and wiser, is hard-pressed not to laugh at his juvenile romantic antics. The women are tempted as well to go out into the world and find better matches, and the couples get jumbled again. Yet, in “The Perfect Couple”, they each try to maintain the public image of happy marriage, ending with a frustrated toss of the wedding rings to the ground. They each dance alone (“The Big Step” reprise).

Stephanie quietly returns the ring to her hand, and bemoans her separation from Ben (“Cold Memories”), as he does the same across the stage from her. Jimmy, alone, cruises for women and misses his wife desperately. (“All I See Is You”) Alone, in their mid forties, they each try to date again, to disastrous and comic effect. (“On The Prowl”) There is clearly only one route available to them.

Jimmy begins the reconciliation. He looks at photos of Lynn, himself and their child, and sings “Touch The Moon”, remembering his young children, and his own lost youth, and Lynn, moved, joins him. Ben and Stephanie do the same. Speaking again, Jimmy and Lynn reconcile, with difficulty, in “Start Again.” The couples restate their vows, in a reprise of “Hold On To You.”

Their children graduate school. (“We Are The Young” reprise) Their children leave home. (“Goodbye, Home” reprise) In their late fifties now, the foursome take a trip to the beach (What Does It Mean?”), and realize in looking at the young, sweet things running about barely clothed, that their wooing days are done. The men focus on work (“There Is More To Life” reprise), but the music suddenly stops as Jimmy sits weakly, having suffered a heart attack. Lynn joins him, holds his hand, and as they reprise “Start Again”, Jimmy expires. Lights fade.

As the lights rise again, we are at Stephanie’s funeral. Lynn looks at Ben, a look suggesting that they are alone now, and if the romance they had considered as children is ever to be consummated, it must be now. But Ben knows he married the right girl (“After All The Days”), and himself perishes, happily remembering Stephanie. Lights fade.

Lights rise again on Lynn, alone now, wheelchair-bound. She looks at the audience, and offers them the lessons of her life. (“Teach Them While They’re Young”.) She dies, as she completes this passing of the torch. Lights fade.

Lights rise suddenly, and we hear the opening number again, and the sound of babies crying. And so the finale plays out, a repeat of the opening number. The four beings are born again, discover the world and each other, and look out into the dark, the future, a world of possibilities.

THE SONGS:

“We Are The Young”, “My Parents Say”, “Loving Dianne”, “Tall”, “Hire Me”, “Before I Turn 16″, “Goodbye, Home”, “I Just Can’t Live Without”, “Knock-Knock”, “A Cold Day In Hell”, “They Say”, “Lucky, Lucky, Lucky”, “Until Something Better Comes Along”, “Love Ping-Pong”, “There Is More To Life”, “My Reason To Live”, “Hold On To You”, “The Big Step”, “That Place Of Mine”, “Going Nowhere, Fast”, “This Is His Home”, “The Perfect Couple”, “Cold Memories”, “All I See Is You,”On The Prowl”, “Touch The Moon”, “Start Again”, “What Does It Mean?”, “After All The Days”, “Teach Them While They’re Young”

The following Demo has 21 of the 30 songs from the show. It’s a bit loose, but will more than give a listener an idea of the show.  The songs are sung by the wonderful (all of them) Danny Fehsenfeld (Loving Dianne;All I See Is You), Eddie Padilla (Hire Me; After All The Days), Shannon Nelson (Tall; Cold Memories), and Monica Brooke (My Parents Say; Going Nowhere Fast)

Act One

We Are The Young
My Parents Say
Loving Dianne
Tall
Hire Me
Before I Turn 16
Goodbye, Home
I Can Live My Life Without
Knock-Knock
Lucky, Lucky, Lucky
My Reason To Live
The Big Step
That Place Of Mine
Going Nowhere Fast

Act Two

This Is His Home
Cold Memories
All I See Is You
Touch The Moon
What Does It Mean?
After All The Days
Teach Them While They’re Young

 

MY OPINIONS:

I’m the author, so I won’t offer much in the way of an opinion. I will say that when we workshopped this in Los Angeles (with the cast on the demo), it was received with a rather thunderous ovation – and I was offered a job that night as Dramaturg for the theater we presented it in (which I turned down). A showcase for a Director who is creative, and for four gifted performers.

MY RATING: We do not rate original musicals.

 

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

The piece is virtually sung through, with 30 numbers. They songs range through various pop and theatrical styles. Your Musical Director is going to be very busy, there will never be a break, so he or she needs to be inexhaustible. Also, the score is pianistic at its core, so a good player is necessary. There are a lot of sung harmonies built in. It would help if your cast reads music, but is not a deal-breaker.

All your singers must sing with emotion. All must harmonize well. All must belt at least decently, and have clean high notes. All must be comfortable with theater/pop styles. All must have sufficient technique to survive more singing than is usual for a Musical, and still make it whole to opening night. If a voice is of questionable strength or problematic (sore throats, that kind of thing), they won’t survive. All must be able to deliver a lyric clearly and compellingly. All must be easy to listen to. They are the show.

Lynn – Soprano, lovely and clear voice, sweet and accessible. Needs some serious range. She and Jimmy must sound good together,

Jimmy – Baritone, warm and passionate. It must be a beautiful voice, rich and rangy.

Ben – Tenor, energetic delivery. Character-driven, but a strong mid register and some ringing high notes.

Stephanie – Alto, with a good belt, some decent high notes. Character-driven, funny, able to spin and man-handle a lyric.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

The show has a cast of four on essentially a bare stage. The cast will need to move, to create a setting and situation for each number, and interact as much as possible. That said, you’re not going to have an opportunity to do much if any dance.

A Choreographer might be involved in staging “Before I Turn 16”, “I Just Can’t Live Without”, “Knock-Knock”,“Love Ping-Pong”, “There Is More To Life”, “The Big Step”, “That Place Of Mine”, “This Is His Home”, “The Perfect Couple”,”On The Prowl”, “What Does It Mean?”, and “After All The Days”.

“Before I Turn 16” is sung by the company, and expresses their desire to get out and live life before they grow as ancient as sixteen years old. It should express youthful enthusiasm and naiveté. It’s a high-energy number, and can absolutely support some choreographed moves. Emphasize their youth, their self-involvement, their eagerness to cover ground, even if awkwardly. It’s all urgent, immediate, reaching, trying to break loose. Perhaps break the fourth wall, move into the aisles.

“Knock-Knock” is a sort of 50′s street strut for the boys, the girls back them up. It is a celebration of a horndog, his technique, his “charm”, and his successes. It should be totally fun, and will support some slick moves as he makes his own slick moves.

“Love Ping-Pong” is a sort of patter verse, aggressive, upbeat, upset and confused. The couples shuffle and shuffle again in uncomfortable ways that leave them breathless at the end. They become exasperated, and share this at the end of the number with the audience as if to say “you know…you understand.”

“There Is More To Life” is a sweet, reasonably aggressive mid-tempo number expressing continued hope, continued dreams, though the characters are growing older, and experiencing increasing disappointments. We should feel that something has been lost from the urgent and overwhelmingly positive vitality of earlier numbers. The characters are a bit tempered, now, a bit more mature, a bit used to taking life in stride, and quietly disappointed.

“The Big Step” is a Latin thing, and the movement should reflect it. A celebration of taking a big risk, of falling in love and getting married and damn the consequences. A momentary reigniting of the youthful energy we saw earlier, but directed, more assured. They have succeeded, and though they harbor some comic doubt, though the number is a bit too frenetic, a bit too enthused, still, life moves forward for them in an accomplished form.

“That Place Of Mine” is a cool, almost romantic samba. It is a picture of tranquility, of ease with life, of having arrived at a moment of comfortable stasis. They do what they do smoothly, moving to the samba beat as they live their lives and quietly appreciate what they have acquired.

“This Is His Home” (likely to be cut) is a fairly aggressive upbeat. They’re arriving at their mid-life crises, and the nice home and family is not enough. There is an edgy jumpiness to the piece, a flat statement of what is as if it is unacceptable, not enough. “The Perfect Couple” accelerates this sentiment, becomes angry, frustrated, openly hostile. The couple is in each other’s faces, or as far removed from each other as they can get. Things have gone wrong, they’ve been married long enough and have arrived at a point where there’s little but dissatisfaction.

“On The Prowl” is a quasi-military march, demanding, regimented, rigid, as the characters work daily to keep their lives and bodies together. It is insistent – life will not just stop. They have to play out the string. So they lock into ritual to get through their days, looking for a way forward. It is darkly comic. Get the military thing into your movement, attention, eyes left, all that. Yet it is all empty. Funny, but useless outside of the fact that they are still trying.

“What Does It Mean” find the characters elderly and on a beach, looking at all those tasty young creatures running by them and wondering what happened. The number is all about showing how they’ve aged, and should be seen as a contrast to their early Act I numbers. They are somewhat mystified…wasn’t it just an hour or so ago that they were young? (Yup.) That mystification is comic, as is their dry observation about the beauties that dance (unseen) by them. Keep it comic. Little aches and pains should be staged into the movement.

“After All The Days” is a summation of the entire show, a relationship pictured in a few minutes. It can be done without any movement, or we could see their lives as he sings, racing by as they’re born, age and die.

The Choreography must be tightly wedded to the songs, to the Direction. It cannot exist in this show for the sake of dance, or to show off the Choreographer’s chops. The show is too intimate for wasted motion. A decent Choreographer who has mastered the trick of thinking like a Director but in using those understandings to generate fun and interesting movement is what you’ll need. Even better, a Director who is also a Choreographer, and who can work with the cast to generate the movement.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Note – Any role can be cast with any race. Get the strongest performers you can. They will all need to be very strong actors and singers, able to move, and reasonably attractive. They should all be around the same age.

Lynn – 20s-30s. A beautiful young woman, sensitive, a free spirit with a clean sense of the world, and long hair. The kind of person who never stops dreaming and hoping, who always finds a way to look forward. And so, the sort of person who can be brutally hurt by disappointment and life in general. Also, the kind of person who takes on the hard road, the hard job, instead of the easy way through. Good hearted, wiser than the others in the long run. Cast for voice, acting, look, movement.

Jimmy – 20s-30s. Tall, dark and handsome. A ladies man, and he knows it. Aware of his appearance, and vain. But he grows up, becomes more interested in life and others, to some degree. A born romantic deep inside, there must be something innately charming about him, we do need to like the guy. Cast for voice, acting, look, movement.

Ben – 20s-30s. Shorter than Jimmy, more of a character. Energetic, comic, eager, alive, interested in everything, he demands to get out there and live his life to the fullest. Not exactly the kind of guy who knocks walls down, but rather the guy who would try to reason with the wall before finding a way around it. He grows into a reasonably stable, wise man who knows what is important to him. Cast for voice, acting, look, movement.

Stephanie – 20s-30s. Shorter than Lynn (or anyone else in the cast), funny, dry, desperate to experience the world but lacking the sort of calm reserve and resources Lynn has, it’s harder work for her. Aware of every one of her flaws, perhaps to an alarming degree. She must be lovable, we must root for her. Cast for voice, acting, type, movement.

SETS:

The world is your set. That is to say, it’s played on a bare stage, with four chairs. Various props and articles of clothing might be suspended from the rafters on fish wire, or under chairs, or hung on the walls. (They could be lowered from the “heavens” as needed, that would be fun.)

Consider hanging simple, almost cartoon clouds that, when lit a specific way (or raised out of view), reveal a night sky filled with stars.

A multi-media approach would be a very good idea, to provide the production with a look. The image behind the actors (or surrounding them) could reflect where we are in their lives. Birth certificates, school bells ringing, movie theaters, driver’s ed class, a club, a wedding ceremony, a job, a home, a beach, a cemetery. Accompany this with sound effects as we move into each new arena in their lives, and the image appears. You can decide whether or not to continue the ambient sound of where we are (a school, a beach, etc) under a certain scene or number, which could enhance the mood and the sense of lives progressing in a creative manner. But sound, multi-media images and lighting should create a changing fabric that will largely serve the purpose sets generally serve.

Could be a very interesting job for a relatively inexperienced Set Designer. An easy job for one with experience.

COSTUMES:

Modern dress, on costume per. Get it from their closets, or off the rack. The clothes should be contemporary. They must be able to sing a lot, and move.

You’ll need a few specialty items, like two wedding veils. A very easy job.

PROPS:

Sun glasses. Most of the things needed are everyday items, and there aren’t many. An easy job.

LIGHTING:

Given the simplicity of the other production elements, lighting is very important. The piece should generally avoid blackouts between numbers, and the action should be fluid, it should keep moving. Lighting will be used to isolate attention and reinforce emotional content.

I’d avoid “showy” theatrical lighting that is obvious, such as the use of a follow spot. The show is a journey through the lives of four individuals. Perhaps the lighting could reflect changing seasons? Spring for birth, summer for youth, fall for middle years, winter for old age and death. Something lovely and aesthetic should be created through the use of lighting. There may be a lot of cues, there may not. Probably a job for a reasonably experienced Lighting Designer.

MAKE-UP:

Unobtrusive. No attempt is made to change the appearance of the actors as they age, it’s all done with acting. A very easy job.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director (who should also Choreograph, probably), Musical Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, The Cast

MY THOUGHTS:
There are not very many good small-sized Musicals. And many theater companies and Producers can really only handle smaller productions. The size of a show has nothing to do with its impact on an audience, however. Every Musical should entertain and move its audience, and the best ones do exactly that. From what I’ve seen, this show could be exactly the kind of Musical to fill this needed category.

Invite me to come in and direct!