AMERICA the MUSICAL

DETAILED SUMMARY

ACT  ONE


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 daysto 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.


Scene Three: 2001. West Coast of America.  Employment office. 39.8  days.  Dr. Katz hires Rita Vonne Wheeler (driver/mechanic) and Mohammed M’Tumbe (gourmet chef) to help him drive the Winnebago across America to a NYC publisher.  R.V. is a honky-tonking Christian woman, while Mohammed is a young black Muslim man and blues player/rapper.  Mo raps MAH RIBS, boasting about his cuisine, but is cut short by Doc.  Instantly, R.V. & Mo dislike each other and Doc. But Doc is r-i-c-h, so during jazz fusion OPPORTUNITY KNOCKIN’ they sign a contract to drive and cook for 40 daysto help Doc’s recording project.  It will be like Alan Lomax recording and writing about American music for 70 years -- except Doc only has 39.6  days.

Scene Four: 2001.West Coast of America.  Winnebago. Day 38.  Doc posts Countdown Chart to count off the 38 days.  He quells argument between R.V. & Mo, and suffers a heart spell.  They drive to INSTRUMENTAL VERSION OF LIVE IN AMERICA, until engine sputters to a halt.  Countdown Chart says 33 days.  A small town festival is nearby.  The local band sings satirical folk song WELCOME TO THE COUNTRY (based on 150-year-old folk tune “Flop-Eared Mule”).

Scene Five: 2001. Mississippi River.  Winnebago.  Day 20.  Doc pays only a few wages because repairs took money. Mo and R.V. want to quit.  But they're stranded, halfway across America. Doc reveals he's only got 20 days to live, so they agree to continue. Mo bows & prays to Mecca, R.V. hums bars of Amazing Grace. Doc dons prayer shawl & yarmulke and prays Hebrew. Mo shows Doc yoga.  R.V. & Mo squabble over radio stations.  R.V. ridicules Mo’s taste for blues & rap music, while Mo claims R.V.’s country music drives him crazy.  R.V. retaliates, singing the BALLAD OF R.V. WHEELER. An explosion.  “This time, looks like the radiator, boys.”

Scene Six: 2001. Appalachian Mountains. Winnebago. Day 10.  With only crackers to eat, R.V. says grace, asking God to put others in their path to help them on their way, ‘because we can't do it alone.”  R.V. swerves to hit a possum, and announces “Dinnertime!” Mo looks heavenward, “All praise to Allah.”  Doc thinks he’s eating splendid pheasant-under-glass.

Scene Seven: 2001. Philadelphia. Soup kitchen. Day 8. Without money or food, our three wait by a soup kitchen while people sing a cappella DUWOP SONG. Then singers do a FREESTYLE RAP BATTLE to rhythm tracks. Mohammed wins the battle. The young Female Rapper reminds sad Doc of his runaway daughter. A TV Announcer, doing a broadcast about the homeless, briefly interviews Doc, who confesses he has only 8 days to live, that he's writing a music book, and hands TV Announcer a CD of collected songs.  Our trio enters soup kitchen for a free meal, blessing, and the inspirational gospel song YOU’LL BE ALRIGHT. Doc collapses. TV Announcer describes the emergency and asks: "Is there a doctor in the house?"

ACT  TWO


Scene One: 2001. Philadelphia. Winnebago. Day 7. Mo & R.V. vote to “keep on keepin’ on” helping Doc finish his book journey, even without pay.  Day 5, the vehicle totally breaks down with no warranty, no title. Suddenly, they’re surrounded by police and TV cameras, and they fear arrest for vehicle theft.  A rock band barges in.  Shirley Wilder, rock star, tracked the travelers to get into Doc’s book that is now the top news story.  Songs earlier given to TV Announcer have been broadcast and touched the nation’s heartstrings.  Shirley belts out the punk anthem HATE EVERYTHING.  Shirley shockingly reveals she is Dr. Katz’s long-lost daughter, Becky Katz.  He tenderly holds her face in his hands and says, “Beckala, mine Beckala.”


Scene Two: 2001. New Jersey.  River bank. Day 4. Shirley tells her father about life from a milk carton photo of a runaway teen, to Time Magazine cover of a rock star.  Needing to accept their past, she found her father after the soup kitchen broadcast.  She’ll help with his music book, and Shirley's Agent in NYC will publish it and release the recordings. They will stop at her headliner rock concert along the way. They accept, forgive, and hug each other during Doc’s 50s ballad WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT BABY? (Doc's research reveals "baby" is the most used word in Rock and Roll.) 

Scene Three: 2001. New Jersey.  Peace Festival.  Day 2.  Shirley rocks DON’T PUSH THE BUTTON of nuclear war, which amazes and delights Doc as he records it.


Scene Four: 2001. East Coast of America. NYC. Shirley's agent's office. Day  Zero. On destined death day, Doc's book will be printed, with CD of recorded music. The songs are rocketing to top of classical, blues, jazz, country, gospel, pop, and rock charts. Doc splits cash advance with Mo & R.V. Shirley's Agent declares the perfect book title: America the Musical. All three sign contract.

Doctor Katz gasps, clutches heart and collapses on desk, falling to the floor as his clenched hand pulls signed contract after him.  All are stunned.  Doc Dies.

Not! Then Dr. Katz laughs – it was a practical joke.  Instead of dying, he has found reasons to live. He is eating healthy, exercising more, praying again, loving his daughter & Mo & R.V. 

He wants to write a song, which he does with everyone's help:  INTRO to LIVE IN AMERICA, a powerful blend of classical piano (Doc), blues bass beat (Mo), country drums and melody line (R.V.), and power rock guitar chords (Shirley). This show-stopping song LIVE IN AMERICA harmonizes different music --just as America is a harmony of our diverse people.


THE END

 

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America the Musical ©1989

 by Michael Downey & Clifford Henricksen. Website created with Wix.com.