The stage is dark...silent...then...a flash of light and five players appear and launch into a rousing finale number (THE CLOSING SONG). As they take their bows and rush off, the lights come up...the show is over...or is it? One by one, the performers amble out into the now empty theatre and we discover that this has been the final performance of a long running Off Broadway musical. It is also apparent that during the run a complex series of relationships has sprung up between the players, complete with overlapping feelings of love. Helene (played by Dena) has a cursh on Alan, but he prefers the more sophisticated Barbara. Barbara, however, is far more concerned with finding a giant jar of cold cream in her voluminous pocket book. No one has any good prospects for future theatre work, but, they all are able to maintain a happy facade. ("I'm starting a new show tomorrow...Nathan's...the musical...I play the waitress.") Finally, after painful goodbyes, they leave...that is their bodies leave...their spirits linger to contemplate on the ethereal qualities of the theatre (THE SPIRIT SONG). Months later, Sally and Barbara meet in a coffee shop and discover that they have both had as much luck getting another job in a show as they have finding Mr. Right in New York City. Sally complains to Barbara that she is sick of men who are only interested in her body (WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR). Before splitting up, they decide to hold a reunion for all the cast members of their last show. At the reunion, Sally tells everyone about an audition for a new show the next day at Minskoff's. Alan is feeling a little rusty, so they decide to take on a little improv to sharpen up their skills. Barbara finds the perfect subject in an old copy of LOOK magazine..."The Problems of Having a Beautiful Wife" (QUARTET WITH A SMILE). Helene corrals Barbara to tell her that ever since leaving the last show, she has felt helplessly frozen in the character she played, Jeannine. Barbara suggests that she confront her alter ego and tell her just where to get off. (I KNOW YOU'RE HERE JEANNINE). At Minskoff's the next day, they do an impromptu skit on a tough producer (Jim) putting his "victims" through the meat grinder. As part of the improv, Barbara, Sally and Helene do a 1940s sister act that calls themselves the Adenoid Sisters (YOU'D BETTER WATCH OUT FOR ME)... Helene sidles out for her Marlene Dietrich impression (IT'S NOT WORKING OUT)...followed by Alan and Barbara who waddle onstage dressed as Raoul and Louella Sturgeon, the Underwater Brother and Sister Dance Team (IF WE SPENT OUR LIVES IN A FISHBOWL). They are promptly shown the door of the make believe producer's office to make room for Sally, portraying a wide yed ingeune fresh from Idaho, who quickly discovers that all the producer is interested in is someone to do a toothpaste commercial. Disqualified by a gap in her teeth, she is despondent. She's a real Idaho State Trouper, however, and soon perks herself up provinding a real splashy finish for act one ...(NOTHING CAN STAND IN MY WAY)
The cast has retreated to a bar across the street from the rehearsal hall to compare notes onhow badly they did at the auditions ("I didn't want to put too much into it unless I woke somebody up.") They unanimously decide that actors, singers and dancers are little more than animated lumps of clay (WE'RE NOT WHO WE THINK WE ARE). Helene then admits to Alan that, although she's gotten over it now, she had developed a crush on him during the run of the last show and now regrets never having said those three magic words to him. She tries them on for size anyway, just to see how they would have sounded. (UNANSWERED QUESTIONS). Attention then focuses on Jim and Barbara who imagine the fireworks that would ensue if they ever got together (IF THERE'S ANYTHING LEFT OF US). Sally bursts in to tell everyone that they have all been called back. Elated, they rush over to Minskoff's for the final tryouts. We now follow the final auditions. Helene does a number extolling the virtues of pregnancy (THAT'S WHAT LOVE DOES TO ME)...Barbara extolls the virtues of marriage (TWENTY FIVE YEARS)...and Alan extolls the virtues of divorce (STILL HERE WITH ME). Meanwhile, backstage, Sally returns from her audition knowing that she failed misrably. Completely disgusted, she yearns for the simplicity of an imagined, idyllic French village (BESANCON). But her number is called and she finds out she was wrong. They all have won parts in the show, FIVE AFTER EIGHT, which begins immediately. The first number is a send up of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF whith a mixe up son (Jim) reminiscing about his parents from the old country. (THE PERFECT IMBALANCE). Following this, Alan goes backstage, and while he removes his makeup comments on the nature of humor (WHAT IS FUNNY). We cut backstage again to find Alan and Helene discovering the romantic possibilites in sharing a small dressing room and then it's time for everyone to stampede out onto the stage for the obligatory New York Finale (HOW CAN YOU WRITE A SONG ABOUT MANHATTAN WHEN THEY'VE ALL BEEN WRITTEN BEFORE?) but as we all know, nothing ever really ends in the theatre and once again, the cast fades into a reprise of the SPIRIT SONG...
The stage is dark...silent...then...a flash of light and five players appear and launch into a rousing finale number (THE CLOSING SONG). As they take their bows and rush off, the lights come up...the show is over...or is it?
FIVE AFTER EIGHT is Copyrighted 1979 by Michael Bitterman and Richard Morton
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