Jewish Dr. David Katz is a fired West Coast music professor who is told by a doctor’s computer he has only 40 days to live. Depressed, he enters a bar where he’s thrilled by a blues tune “You Got The Blues.” He decides to max out charge cards and travel across America to finally leave his mark: a recorded book about the emotional effects of modern music. He hires Rita Vonne Wheeler (white, Christian, honky tonker, truck driver) to drive the Winnebago, and Mohammed M’Tumbe (young black Muslim, rapper, & European-trained chef) to cook. The 3 travel across America to NYC, recording songs for doc's book. They journey from dislike and misunderstandings to friendship and love.
Main characters: descriptions & vocal range
This musical play presents a Jewish professor, a Christian truck driver and a Muslim chef traveling across the country in a Winnebago—seeking music and harmony—showcasing blues, jazz, gospel, classical, country, pop, punk, rap, and rock. Doc's long-lost daughter, now a punk-rock star, also plays a part.
Dr. David Katz
55-64 years, baritone. Lapsed Jewish faith, white, on the midlife decline. Extremely well-read and versed, the product of a proper American upbringing and Sabbaths at the Synagogue. Dresses in typical Eddie Bauer/LL Bean ivy-league styles. Despite his formal demeanor, he has the timing of a Jewish comedian. Doc Katz has a heart of gold.
Rita Vonne Wheeler
35-55 years, alto-second soprano range with scratchiness from passing cigarette smoke and Jack Daniel's over vocal chords while performing in honky-tonks. Baptist-style Christian. Gen-u-ine Good Ol' Girl and proud of it. Dresses in cowboy boots, jeans, bright western shirts, trucker cap, and in last scene: fancy Tony Lama™ type boots, fringed jacket and cowboy hat. Under her outwardly gruff and crusty front, RV has a heart of gold.
24-30 years, tenor, rapper, blues bass player. Trim, muscular, intelligent and vibrant African-American from the ghetto way of life. A European-trained chef, he learned to cook soul food from Grandma. Full of youthful energy and pride. Speaks with the hippest 2001 street rap and presents himself in the "baddest" way. Dresses in 2001 athletic clothing and basketball hi-tops (open at the top?). Does pushups and yoga. Despite his street-hardened wiseguy attitude, Mo is a devout Muslim with Koran wisdom, and has a heart of gold.
21-27 years, soprano to mezzo-soprano range, rock-n-roller. Dr. Katz's [adopted?] long-lost daughter who ran away from home as a teen. Speaks and acts like a street-wise punker with a "don't-mess-with-me-'cause-I-know-what's-happening" vibe. Full of vitality, dresses in the latest 2001 MTV girl-star fashions. Behind her garish and abrasive style beats a heart of gold.
Scene One: 2001. West Coast of America. Heart specialist office. Day 40. Medical tests reveal Dr. David Katz has only 40 days & 40 nights to live. In TO LIVE LONG, the Jewish, recently-fired professor of music history is told to give up smoking, drinking, eating rich foods – or die. (Music by Mozart, rondo a la Turka.) The physician's diagnosis is recorded on the going-away digital recorder gift from his college. He is stressed by his ex-wife who “took everything but my socks,” and his daughter who ran away 7 years ago – “with a long-haired hippie, yet.” Depressed, he gave up his faith. He is advised get his affairs in order and pray. Dr. Katz is left walking in place, wearing a heart monitor, reviewing his life, and “getting nowhere but alone.”
Scene Two: 2001. West Coast of America. Blues bar. Day 39. Drunk and depressed, Dr. Katz is diagnosed by a female bartender: YOU GOT THE BLUES. He senses the power of music: “Why, I feel… almost better.” He dedicates his remaining 39 days to write about & record modern music. The blues song was captured on Doc's digital recorder. A Slick Dude sells him an old Winnebago to travel & research music. Doc waffles: “But such a venture. I could never do it alone. I’m 60 years old. I haven’t done anything with my entire life.” Slick Dude takes Doc to an employment office to get someone to travel with him.
Saul Lerner recommendation
"Buoyant, enthusiastic, and highly entertaining
musical...It is a message – perhaps THE message
for our time –that the heartlessness of hatred
and prejudice can be melted by personal contact."
Michael Downey Bio
Produced & published playwright, musical writer & lyricist.
Overview: Michael Downey is a published and produced author of short stories, poems, advertisements, plays, and musicals. He has written 2 book-length manuscripts and 2 screenplays.
Recognized as Outstanding Writing Teacher by The Writing Conference, Inc., a national award.
America the Musical production history
2021. World Premiere! What theatre group will first mount a full production? 15 songs recorded with and without lyrics. Sheet music and chord charts available. Running time: 90 minutes. Website: AmericaTheMusical.net
2019-2020. Major revision, streamlining script from 58 pages to 37.
2002-2009. Presented at Mukogawa University, Kobe, Japan, with video, CD of songs, and lesson plans, as an introduction to American people and music.
2001. A concert and dramatic reading. 2 performances. Penn Valley Community College. KC, MO. The school music department played the music.
2001. One scene performed before a panel discussion The Common Ground: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, featuring a rabbi, a priest, and an imam.
1992. With the title Blues Highway, a gala benefit for the Kansas City Symphony, raising $20,000. By Dorcy Productions. 10 songs.
1991. A blizzard cancelled Purdue University Calumet's production of America the Musical.
1989. A staged reading by Writers and Other Troubadours in South Bend, Indiana.
1986 - 1989. America the Musical script written and 15 songs recorded.
Get in touch if you’d like to comment on the story & songs, ask a question,
request a script, or learn more about America the Musical.
Michael Downey, Playwright
Lee's Summit, Missouri