Location: Inside and outside the Marvelous Mall, U.S.A. Time: The present, holiday season.
Corridor of the Marvelous Mall. Sammy Santa asks passers by to distill the mall experience into one word. After various answers such as "hope," "dreams," "wanting," and "security," Melissa states that the word is "love." Her fiance Albert adds the word "money," insisting that the words "money" and "love" are interchangeable. The ensemble sings the short version of I Need To Shop. As the people drift off leaving just Melissa and Albert, we learn that Albert has plans to replace the aged Sammy Santa with a Virtual Santa designed to generate optimum toy sales. Albert then cements his position as villain with the ultra- materialistic song If Money Isn't Love. Top
In the music store, Brittany is behind the cashier's desk. Her boyfriend Dion, on his break from his job, chats with her. Dion expresses seemingly jocular jealousy because the attractive Brittany is surrounded by a mostly male clientele. Brittany reminds Dion that he works as a clerk in a women's shoe store and that she, too, has reason for jealousy.
Howard and Sammy Santa walk into the music store together, engrossed in a conversation on the meaning of life in the mall. Howard inquires after Brittany's sister Melissa. He asks Brittany, "Is she still going to marry that guy?" Brittany replies that she is, but it is obvious that Brittany would prefer the now saddened Howard as a brother-in-law.
After Howard and Dion leave, Sammy Santa confesses to Brittany that he has had a crush on her old Granny ever since he and Granny were in grade school together. Granny is considered by all to be the "The most talented shopper I have ever seen." Sammy explains to Brittany that there was once a place called "Main Street," where people shopped before the mall. Brittany is astonished. Top
Granny and Melissa discuss Melissa's upcoming marriage to Albert Acquisition, and what a catch he is. There's so much to do: the dress, the hall, the bridesmaids, etc. Melissa doesn't care what anything costs, since Albert will be paying for it all. Yet Granny insists on "shopping hard" for everything, just on principle. Granny then hobbles off to shop, as Melissa shows some concern over Granny's increasing difficulty in getting around.
Melissa then receives a cellular phone call from Albert Acquisition in which we learn that Melissa doesn't really like Albert very much. She wants to get him off the phone even though she's only browsing in a store where she doesn't really intend to buy anything.
At another end of the stage, as Melissa exits, her older sister Karen appears. While skillfully shoplifting item after item right under the nose of Joe the security guard, she sings, to the audience, I Love To Steal, a light rock number that details her compulsive kleptomania, about which she shows not the slightest remorse. Suddenly a hand reaches out of the dark and grabs her. It is not a security guard, however; it is Melissa, who upbraids Karen for her disgraceful and potentially dangerous behavior. Karen immediately counters that Melissa is going to marry Albert Acquisition just for his money. Melissa, admits as much when she sings As Long As It's Him, a tender ballad with cynical lyrics, the gist of which is that anything goes, as long as he, Albert, pays for it. Karen tells Melissa, "You can't marry him just for his money. That's stealing! Top
Howard the hairdresser meets Joe the security guard on his way to the hair salon. Joe is concerned about a ring of shoplifters making the rounds of the mall, while Howard, as director of the mall's Merchants Association, is equally concerned over apparent discrepancies in the mall's advertising budget. Soon, however, the conversation turns to the female of the species as women shoppers continually pass them by. We learn that, besides being the mall's crack hairdresser, Howard is working an a special "I Feel Beautiful" software program he wants to sell to salons. Joe then gives his philosophy of the mall (People want MORE). Joe is gruff but fair, manly but the hidden romantic, blue collar but aware of the world around him. They then part, and we follow Howard to the hair salon.
At the hair salon, Howard works on a "head," actually a mannequin. He makes her talk by pulling a string in back of her head like those on a "talking" doll. Next he fusses with the salon's computer. Howard shows mastery as he deals with computer glitches and at the same time coordinates a number of women at various stages of beautifying. It is clear he runs things in this salon.
Melissa comes into the salon for her appointment. After talk on how Melissa wants her hair done, Howard awkwardly changes the subject as he works on her hair. "I thought we had something going," he implores. "What went wrong? We've never spoken about this."
"It was only a few dates," Melissa says, brushing him off in a flirtatious way that is out of character (she's no dumb blonde) and being a little more hurtful in so doing.
"You didn't act like those dinners we had were 'only' anything," Howard stresses.
"Okay, maybe you're right, but you know, you're so . . . unstable."
They then sing the upbeat, jazz number I See Your Face, alternating verses at cross purposes. Howard describes Melissa's face as lovely, inspiring, etc., while Melissa describes Howard's face as that of her funny friend. Melissa, in song, speech and action, seems completely oblivious to Howard's pain, while at the same time expressing adoration for him, for keeping her beautiful. As they part, Melissa stresses (hurtfully to Howard) that she is counting on him to make everybody beautiful for the wedding. Top
In the music store, Dion amd Brittany have another jealousy argument, in which Dion vows that he will quit the women's shoe store and get another job.
Dion leaves, and Brittany bursts into tears. Sammy tries to console her. Brittany asks Sammy why love has to be so difficult. The pair then sing The Hand of Love. Top
We are at Melissa's bridal shower. Melissa, Karen, Brittany, and Granny are present at the same table, with the other guests being represented by mannequins. The male cast members double here as servers, busboys, etc. An unpleasant cell phone conversation between Melissa and her mother ensues, a grey pall comes over the stage and there is an interlude of depressing "mother" music, followed by tongue-tied silence. Brittany breaks the silence by asking, "So when are you going to get married, Karen?" After we learn that Karen's love life barely exists, Karen rises to make the rounds of the room. She methodically steals knives, forks, spoons and other pieces of silverware as she sings the insistently upbeat dance tune, Capture Me, indicating she is waiting to be "captured" by Mr. Right. During the song and dance, she makes appropriated "captured" gestures as if she has been handcuffed.
After her number, Karen presents Melissa with her gift: "A matched service for twelve; just wash them off and they'll be like new." Melissa again criticizes Karen for her compulsive stealing, and Karen again counters that Melissa is being just as Machiavellian in marrying Albert Acquisition. Top
It is the peak of the holiday season. Granny is in her element, instructing both Melissa and Brittany, stop watch in hand, on how to weave through crowds and pick the best bargains. She praises Brittany for getting an item at 60% off in only 36 seconds, then questions why Melissa has to choose a sweater that costs $675--the wealthy fiancé is creating some bad habits!
Granny sings, to Melissa, the sensitive ballad, My Victory, the gist of her "victory" being that she's the world's best shopper, something she takes very seriously.
Interrupting and ending all this action, Melissa gets another cellular call from Albert Acquisition. "I haven't seen you in almost ten days," she complains. Looking around her she adds, "This place is filled with happy couples. Don't you like to shop? What do you mean you do it all on the web? Don't you need suits and shirts and things? The web. Ties? The web. Underwear? Don't tell me, the web. "No don't put me on hold," she pleads as her puts her on hold. She gets disconnected, and puts the phone away after nearly throwing it away.
Granny, Melissa and Brittany come across Santa's Christmas Village, where the experienced Sammy Santa is busy showing the ropes to Dion, now working as a first-time Santa. Brittany teases him, "Aren't you a little thin for this?" Dion, a little distracted and annoyed, tells Brittany he is busy with his training. Brittany is offended by his manner and storms off, dragging Melissa and a hobbling Granny with her. "Ooops," Dion says to Sammy. "I guess my girlfriend's mad at me now." But they don't have time to discuss this; a voice says "The Santa's are ready, kids," and they are forced to deal with the kids, actually mannequins that come by on a circular track. For each new kid, the Santa presses a button (just like they do at the dry cleaners) and the track revolves. The Santa then lifts the kid out of its place, puts the kid on his lap then pulls a string at the back of the kid's neck for the gift request.
Sammy Santa sings: What We Give Them Is Hope. Top
At the hair salon, on an extremely crowded day, Melissa enters and asks for Howard to work on her hair even though it's only been a few days since she's had her hair done. They are constantly and consistently interrupted by the ringing of cellular phones going off all over the place. Pleased to find Melissa in a vulnerable position, Howard probes a bit, to quickly show up this excuse for visiting him as lame, then follows through by asking Melissa to marry him instead of Albert Acquisition. She thinks he's joking at first, but he perseveres until she, more seriously, gives him what is meant to be a definitive, yet is actually a not particularly convincing, "No." It is here that Melissa sings her big song, In My Little Corner of the World. The cellular phones, quiet during the song, resume in a great cacophony as the scene blacks out. Top
Granny, deep in her element, is laden with bags after multiple shopping victories. Sammy Santa, still in his Santa suit, passes and offers to assist her. Sammy sings the waltz-like Creaky, about growing old, as Granny reacts knowingly. The two old people briefly waltz with each other during the instrumental portion of the song. All at once, Granny is not feeling well. Sammy helps her sit down on a bench just to catch her breath. She seems all right for a moment as they discuss old age, continuing the sentiments of "creaky," but then she collapses in a heap of shopping bags. Sammy, bells jingling, runs off calling for help. Top
Dion and Brittany have their scene in the food court where they are trying to settle the differences between them, but they are drowned out by cell phones. They will be at rear center behind gauze, while spotlight hits on one after another mannequin (and one large teddy bear) sitting with junk food at tables squawking on cell phones. The ballad Communication is the song, and lack of communication is the problem. After the song, they are interrupted by a hysterical Karen and Melissa with "It's Granny!!!" Top
At the mall's walk-in medical clinic Granny is in a bed, gravely ill. She is surrounded by Karen, Brittany, Dion, Sammy Santa, still in his costume, a male nurse played by the Howard actor, and a doctor played by the Joe actor. Melissa is in mid-conversation on the telephone, to Albert Acquisition's office, but she is sparring at length with Albert's secretary rather than speaking with Albert. She imitates the secretary's voice as she repeats what the secretary has been telling her (he's in a meeting, etc.). After a considerable but vain effort to get the woman to interrupt things and get Albert to the phone, Melissa gives up.
The doctor, who has been patiently waiting while Melissa tried to reach Albert, indicates to Karen and Melissa that Granny has had a stroke and that even if she recovers, she will need constant, and undoubtedly expensive, care.
Granny, very weak, still tries to speak. The audience does not hear her speak, but Brittany bends over and interprets. Granny is sure she's going to die, says the tearful and frightened Brittany. But she is not going to die unless and until Karen and Melissa promise they won't waste unnecessary money on the funeral.
At this the telephone rings. It is Melissa's mother. The usual dark pall descends over the scene and the depressing "mother" music plays. After the conversation, Melissa vows never to be like her mother, then has an argument with Karen about nothing important. They do not see Granny's life support monitor in the background flickering, rallying, then fading. Brittany has to interrupt them with the news that Granny is dead.
There is a period of silence, as the parties on the stage grieve, console each other, or look on depending on the case. Through this Brittany gradually takes the focus. Haltingly, then more firmly, she zeros in on Granny's handbag, then, as everyone else looks on in silence, extracts Granny's purse, then, in a careful movement, Granny's credit card. She reaches out behind her as the orderly hands her a pair of surgical scissors. Tearfully and ritually, Brittany cuts the credit card in two. The halves of the card fall with a shattering click, one after another, to the floor.
The funereal music theme begins just briefly, but then Melissa, Karen and Brittany sing, to the others, the rousing a capella hymn-like (She Was) An American Original, which uses partial strains of "America." As this ends, the funereal music theme, loosely based on Siegfried's Funeral March from Act III, Scene Two of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung, plays to completion as they slowly wheel Granny's body off-stage. Top
The next day. Joe collars Karen shoplifting. She pleads that it's her first offense, and also that she was just getting something for her old Granny's funeral. Romantic sparks fly between them; he's losing, she's winning. In the process, Karen does theatrical things like turning the light on herself for the third degree, demanding that she be handcuffed, etc. She then breaks into I Don't Know What Came Over Me, the gist of which is that she was upset by what happened to Granny and that she'd otherwise never dream of stealing anything, other than a man's heart. Joe doesn't have a chance against Karen's seductiveness. This is a swing tune, and the couple dance with energy. Joe lets Karen off, then Karen assures Joe she has a way to thwart the ring of shoplifters Joe has been pursuing since the beginning of the play. Top
Melissa and Albert shop together, showing no particular affection. Melissa points to certain items, with Albert nodding. Wordlessly, Karen enters, followed soon after by a watchful Joe. Karen is cold. She borrows Albert's jacket. She nods knowingly to Joe, who glues his eyes to Albert. With Joe distracted, Karen, humming I Love to Steal, fills the pockets of Albert's jacket with the very items Melissa had been looking at. Only then does Melissa notice Karen, then notices the jacket-less Albert. Karen forestalls a remark from Melissa by flirtatiously returning the jacket to Albert and pointing out a sweater to Melissa. Melissa tries on the sweater, with Karen fussing over her. Albert feels the oddness of his jacket, now stuffed with loot, some of it showing, tries to figure out what is happening, but is too late. Joe arrests Albert. Melissa makes a feeble protest, but Karen takes over and makes her try on sweaters, this time, for the first time, resisting the urge to steal sweater after sweater. Top
At the Keep Me Beautiful Salon, Howard is reading she Shoppers Weekly newspaper, whose headlines read "Millions Missing at Marvelous Mall." Melissa arrives at the salon on the flimsy excuse that she has to "use up my coupon" even though she's just gotten her hair done twice. Howard alludes to the scandal in the accounting office that surfaced in an investigation once Albert was arrested, as well as the precipitous drop in shoplifting that has occurred since. Melissa tells Howard about Granny. Cell phones keep interrupting them. He destroys the cell phones, each in a novel way (throwing to the audience, stomping, snipping with his scissors, melting with hair dryer, etc). Finally when all is quiet he asks, "Well?" She is speechless. She cannot say "No" and she lacks the courage to say "Yes." Frozen near motionless in her salon chair, there is an uncomfortable silence, until Howard gets the bright idea of pulling strings in the back of the necks of mannequin after mannequin, all of whom say, mechanically, "Tell him yes." Melissa is still petrified, until after another awkward silence, Howard reaches behind Melissa's own neck, pulling a string that suddenly appears and which makes Melissa say, mechanically and repeatedly, "Yes, I love you." or words to that effect. As Melissa sits dumbfounded, Howard, in an aside to the audience, tells us, "I always knew I was a technical genius, repeating the words "I always knew." They then sing the duet I Always Knew, referring to their love for each other. Top
Back out in the mall, between Melissa and Howard, what now? In front of the Federal Express office she gets a bright idea, says, "give me a minute," and puts her engagement ring into a Fedex envelope, addressing it to Albert Acquisition, delivery fees to be charged to the recipient. "I guess you need another one (ring) now," Howard asks. "I guess," she says, but can you afford it on your salary?" He answers, "Of course not, but the software I've been developing has just been licensed, they're giving me $1.2 million, plus 6 percent of sales, and in all the excitement, I just forgot to tell you." She doesn't know whether to believe him or not, but she indicates that she no longer cares about the money in the full reprise of As Long as It's Him, the "him" meaning now Howard, whom she loves money or no.
After Melissa and Howard exit, Karen, leading a bewildered but smitten Joe, walks by, extracts the package with the ring in it, hands the ring to Joe and tells him, "When the moment arrives, you'll know what to do with this." Top
Granny's Funeral at the mall funeral home. All three couples are obviously very much in love. Spirits are bright, despite the occasion. Brittany is the first to begin to eulogize Granny, but the eulogies are interrupted by the entrance of the girls' parents, Marilyn Mallhater and Preston Podiatrist. The grey pall and depressing "mother" music begin but are cut short, as if the lighting and music people started these effects by accident, realized their error, then quickly cut them. Marilyn is ready to collapse with grief and is leaning on her husband for support. It is she who gives the truly stirring eulogy for Granny, which is done entirely in verse. In it she talks about family love, values, being true to yourself, and things worth living for. She indicates her own moral development, but she also does not fail to mention that everyone ought to be grateful for living in a country that offers so much commercial choice. And then she drops the bombshell, startling everyone by admitting she was wrong. The entire groups sings, and dances through, She's Wrong. Next, all present ooh and ahh as the spirit of Granny (made out of back-lit diaphanous materials but holding real shopping bags) ascends out of the coffin and toward the sky. Instrumental strains of the refrain of the song My Victory play briefly and then fade out as Granny rises and moves out of view.
In the silence and awe that follows this, Howard off-handedly slips his credit card to the funeral director, a suitable mannequin, and shouts "Charge!," proving he really does have bucks, after all. As most of the others remain transfixed skyward, Howard pulls Melissa's father aside, motions for him to sit, sits down himself, and proceeds to take off a shoe and sock and show Preston Podiatrist his foot as the lights dim. Top
After Sammy Santa's "sum-it-up" poem, the entire cast sings I Need To Shop, a rousing, busy, up-beat number that combines an insistent rock riff with pop/jazz refrain and bridge. There is a vocal solo for each of the principals. This begins with mannequins, each with a cell phone that rings out one of the notes to the song as cell phone rings of different pitch, then people come in a capella, then the full song and dance number. Top
Meet Me at the Mall
An Original Musical
Music, Lyrics and Book by Elliot Essman
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