Music by John Kander: Lyrics by Fred Ebb; Book by George Abbott & Robert Russell: Based on the novel Love Is Just Around the Corner by Lester Atwell.
Alvin Theatre - Broadway - May 11, 1965 (87 perfs)
Revised version Book by David Thompson: Vineyard Theatre - Off-Broadway - December 6, 1987
We enter a small meeting hall in New York in 1935. Outside, the Depression rages, but inside, a play is about to begin. The WPA has given a troop of young actors just enough money to pull together some scenery and cosumes for their production of Flora the Red Menace. They have taken a few crates, some wooden chairs, a trunk of old clothes and an upright piano and transformed the space into a theater brimming with hope and optimism that defies the economic forecast.
Even though prosperity is just around the corner, bread lines form down the block. The bleak outlook doesn't daunt Flora Meszaros, a young fashion illustrator, who has just graduated from high school determined to change the world. While filling out a job application to be a fashion illustrator at Garrett and Mellick's, a leading department store in New York, Flora spots an intense, oddly handsome young artist who speaks with a slight stammer named Harry Toukarian When he fails to respond to her attempts at conversation, she takes matters into her own hands. Flora tells Harry she has a 'studio' - an old ballroom in the Hotel Sedgewick - where she rents space to other artists. Flora invites Harry to share space at the studio and counters his plea of poverty by telling him to pay her in apples.
A short time later while eating lunch in the park, Harry reveals to Flora he is a Communist and persuasively asks her to join the party. When Flora returns to the studio, she finds she has a job interview with Mr. Stanley, the art director at Garrett and Mellick's. Short on money, but long on pride, she swears she won't accept any offer less than $15 a week. She arrives at Mr. Stanley's office and he tells her the job is hers - for $30 a week.
That evening, Harry and a group of comrades meet to discuss the week's activities, Comrade Charlotte, the party zealot who has her own designs on Harry, tells everyone that her week has been unexciting. Flora announces she has obtained a job at Garrett and Mellick's, but Charlotte puts a damper on the excitement, pointing out that Garrett and Mellick's is not a union shop. Rising to the occasion, Flora promises to collect names within the store of people interested in forming a union. Charlotte goes one step further, calls for a rally in front of the store and declares that Harry shall speak. She personally offers to work with him on his stammer.
Despite the nearly impossible demands of the party and the deadlines at the store, Flora and Harry find they are falling in love. On the eve of the rally Flora plans a Valentine's Day celebration with Harry. When Harry tells Flora that Comrade Charlotte has suggested Harry spend that evening working on his speech, Flora is furious, Harry apologizes and leaves. Left alone in the studio, Flora decides to surprise Harry at his apartment with a real Valentine neither of them will forget.
That evening, Kenny and Maggie perform the dance routine they have been preparing for their audition at the Rainbow Room - an audition Flora arranged for them by pretending to be an agent. They are accompanied by Willy on the clarinet.
At the some time, on the other side of town, Harry practises his speech in his apartment by speaking with marbles in his mouth, a technique the Greek Demosthenes used to cure a stammer. Unannounced, Charlotte storms Harry's apartment and gives him a few of her own pointers on public speaking. Flora arives a short time later and all the best laid plans end in disaster: the evening ends abruptly for everyone.
On the day of the rally Flora finds Charlotte has changed the simple rally at Garrett and Mellick's into a picket-line in an act of spite. Knowing there is no way to turn in her artwork without crossing the picket-line - an act which would immediately expel her from the party - Flora gives the artwork to Willy to take to the store. Mr. Weiss and Elsa are not pleased with Flora's actions. Flora agrees. The first test of her newfound determination comes, however, when she realizes she has sent Willy to Garrett and Mellick's with the wrong envelope and has accidentally turned in the list of names of people interested in forming a union.
Outside the store, Harry tries to speak, only to heckled by the crowd. He tosses aside his prepared remarks, speaks from the heart and for the first time the crowd listens. When Flora arrives at the store, Harry realizes she plans to cross the picket-line in order to retrieve the list of names. He becomes angry, pointing out that crossing a picket-line is an act of disloyalty and tells Flora she is either with them, or against them . . . "and if you're against us, you're against me.' Flora argues she has put other people's jobs on the line and refuses to look of the world in the black and white terms of the Party. Fully aware of the consequences, Flora crosses the line. Once inside Mr. Stanleys office, Flora pleads her case and sacrifices her own job in order to save the jobs of the other people on the list. As Flora reads her letter of dismissal, we see a montage of the strikers on the street and hear Willy sing.
Floral returns to the studio just as the artists are leaving to celebrate
Kenny and Maggie's new job at the Rainbow Room. Harry enters and tells
Flora that things aren't going to work out between them. He tells her
she'd never be committed to the party the way he is and despite their
shared ambition to change the world, they go about their mission in two
very different ways. Reluctantly Harry kisses Flora good-bye. Flora is
left alone in the studio, momentarily defeated, but determined to pick
up the pieces and start again.
THE MUSICAL NUMBERS
* New songs for the revival production