“GLINDA / MRS ZIEGFELD”
“The Woman Behind the… WAND” ©
Billie shares and narrates her life starting with her own father, Billy Burke, who was touted as being “America’s Greatest Clown” with the (1883)… Barnum and Bailey’s Circus and we have the opening number, ENCORE / The Show of Life , which features papa Billy as the singing clown, as we see a theatrical grand parade of the Greatest Show on Earth. With showbiz in her genes, Billie narrates several vignettes of being groomed by her aggressive mother, Blanche, to become a star, and her early training in England, (1903) Your Day, MY DAY! with songs of encouragement from her mother. Her father, Billy, who wasn’t very supportive of her acting career, predicts that she will someday have her name in lights on Broadway, but, before he can witness this, he passes away after a lingering illness, and Billie and her mother, Blanche, lament his loss in, (1906) Can’t Make It On My Own.
Billie and her future manager, Charles Frohman, and his business partner Alf Hayman, give her the opportunity to go to New York and begin her heralded Broadway career. Billie’s showbiz friends come to help her pack for the move to New York, and the company performs the show stopping production number, (1907) The New York Reel, about the amazing New York experience. Despite the misconceptions, Billie’s Broadway career takes off, and with her name in lights, it prompts a Deja Vu experience about her father’s prediction.
Billie’s friend Somerset Maugham and she decide to go to a high society costume ball on New Year’s Eve, (1913) where she meets Florenz Ziegfeld for the first time. Their eyes meet as Billie Burke enters at the top of the grand staircase at the glamorous Hotel Astor, Use Your Talents / Paul Jones (Ballroom Dance) and then they sing the beautifully romantic, Whatever It Takes, to each other from a distance. Flo, still enchanted by her beauty, sings her off with the commitment, “to have her love forever” from “Whatever It Takes.”
Flo’s determined to win her love with a barrage of extravagant gifts, and surprise visits and encounters. This growing relationship is not unnoticed by her furious managers, Charles Frohman and Alf Hayman, and they show up at Billie’s home of Burkeley Crest, her sprawling estate north of New York City, in an uninvited and hostile ambush, in an attempt to catch her with Flo. It ends up in threats of career destruction, if her contact with Ziegfeld continues. There are ultimatums, and in the driving number, Life On The Stage, demands are made clear.
Blanche overhears the confrontation, and she realizes Billie’s frustrations in having to choose between career and love, and she concludes a counseling session with Billie by singing the lovely song,
Where Is A Woman Needed Most. Despite her mother’s efforts, Billie decides to cut things off with Flo, and writes him letters dissolving their relationship. Flo is distraught, and books passage for Europe, but, in a last effort of reconciliation, he confronts Billie, presses her on why the breakup, and breaks down her feigned resolve to pursue her career without him in her life, and they decide to get married. They present the idea to Blanche, who has always adored Flo, and quick plans are made for the wedding. The whirlwind leaves Billie bewildered, and after an awkward yet humorous beginning to the wedding, Billie gets cold feet.
Billie hopes to resolve issues with her caring but controlling manager, Charles Frohman. She feels confident they can work things out and continue in an amicable working relationship. Sadly though, before this can take place, C. F. dies on his voyage to Europe when his ship, the Lusitania, (1915) is attacked and sunk. Billie reprises her lamented loss in, Can’t Make it Reprise. Alf Hayman, who has always had a grudge with Billie, takes over her management, and in anger for defying his decree against Florenz Ziegfeld, he sends Billie on a national tour in her current show in hopes of destroying her marriage. It has its effect, and Flo slips into his womanizing ways in Billie’s absence, finding it difficult to resist the surroundings of the beautiful women of the Follies.
While Billie concludes her show tour in Los Angeles, she receives opulent offers from movie directors to start up a movie career based in the small hamlet of Hollywood. Although Alf has tried to fill Billie’s head with vicious rumors of Flo’s philandering ways, she still chooses to remain true to him and passes up on the movie offers to return home and salvage her marriage; but, not until after a serious confrontation with Flo to address the hurt and pain of his weakness with beautiful women. Promises are made and peace wins out.
Meanwhile, Alf has heard of Billie’s offers from Hollywood, and immediately sends scathing wires demanding that Billie is not to do any movies, and orders her to cease any contact with them. Billie returns to New York and confronts Alf face to face and flatly quits him, due to his disrespectful attitude toward her. In a crushing song, (1915) Hollywood, Alf predicts how Hollywood will destroy Billie and her family as she tries to resist the hateful idea of it doing so.
This song meshes with a Follies rehearsal of a major production number. Billie joins the scene in an effort to communicate to Flo that she has quit Alf and the Frohman Organization. Between Flo’s preoccupation with his show, Billie’s tells him about the offers from Hollywood, and how that might be useful for them now that she won’t be doing theater. To her surprise, Flo agrees, but he leaves the choice up to Billie. In mulling over the options, she sings a production number reprise of, (1915) My Day and the company joins in taking turns expressing their realization that it’s due time for their day, and following Billie’s lead, they all profess, along with Billie, that they are going out to take it! MY DAY!
Billie’s wild success and popularity, and her fashion setting influence in the entertainment business. Billie appears at a gathering of fans, posing on a runway in fashionable attire, and then, magically, the female fans appear in the exact same dress and likeness of Billie, singing about their desire to be just like Billie Burke. Then, Billie magically changes instantly into a completely different outfit, only for the ladies to make the same magical identical change. The dancing is synchronized into a mesmerizing visual, all to praise Billie.
Her success in Hollywood comes with a price, as Alf relishes in more rumor-mongering about Flo returning to his womanizing ways once again. This time there is a big blowup, and even though Flo denies any wrongdoing, they sulk and refuse to speak to each other. This leaves Blanche to try and make peace between the two of them. In her reflective song, (1920) Marriage Is A Room, Blanche is able to convince them to at least talk to each other, where the reason for Billie’s emotional state is revealed, and the story turns to the arrival of Patty into their lives. Years of happiness follows as in the delightfully happy song, I Fell In Love With You,.
Alf meets Billie on her return home to New York with new rumors and offers her a place back in his stable if things don’t work out in her marriage, to which she curtly refuses. She meets with Flo at the opening of his newest Follies show, and we see the production number, PROMENADE, which depicts the ploys people use to cover up their little indiscretions by promenading about as if nothing were wrong. Some of the references strike a little too close for Flo to be comfortable there with Billie, but, their love and happiness win out over the new rumors. Some fun times with the family being together are shared, and these include the song, (1921) The Party, where the family celebrates Billie’s birthday with a fun tribute to her value as a mother, daughter, and wife. This happiness is countered by the death of her mother (1922) Can’t Make It , Blanche, which followed soon after Billie’s return to work in Hollywood.
The work in Hollywood turned into several movies and a longer stay than Billie had anticipated, and sadly, more bad news about Flo arose. This time it came from the Follies star herself, one that Billie had recommended to Flo, and she told the press that Flo was going to leave Billie to marry her. This was crushing news to Billie, and she demanded that Flo return from his trip to Europe and that he go out to California to end things between them if the claims were true. Flo responded, but he stopped by to take the seven-year old Patty with him. Things don’t go well, and Flo and Patty go home without Billie. Time passes and Billie still doesn’t return home. (1927) Encore the Show of Life (Chorus) Will Rogers, Flo’s good friend from the Follies, hears of Billie and Flo’s separation, so he invites his friend Billie out to his ranch and councils her about his feelings on the two of them. During his talk, Billie is caught up in her thoughts which take us to a reprise and mashup medley of songs and themes that she remembers from her family, which includes Vision Montage.
It weighs on her mind, along with Will’s comments, and she decides to return home to her family in a loving reunion.
Several happy events are shared including the family’s times in Florida. The only problem is that Flo’s final vice is revealed, in that he is addicted to gambling, and this illness nearly brings about their closest time to getting a divorce. Flo is on a gambling binge, and when Billie gives him an ultimatum, he responds in anger, for the first time ever between the two, and goes out on an all-night binge. The next morning, when Flo finally wakes up, Billie and the whole staff are packed and ready to leave. Only by the skin of his teeth, with oaths and promises, and a Song, (1928) Nothing Left To Say Flo averts disaster and saves the marriage. Instead of ever gambling again, Flo invests heavily in the stock market, and even though he gets the feeling he should get out, his stockbroker convinces him to stay in, and two days later, disaster strikes. (1929) The crash causes them to lose Burkeley Crest, camp Patricia, and their Florida home, leaving them destitute. Billie has to go out to Hollywood again for income, as Flo is having a hard time mounting a Follies show, and without Billie’s watchful care, Flo gets ill with pneumonia and his health starts to quickly deteriorate. Billie insists that he come out to California to recuperate, and that he spends time in a hospital to get the care he needs while she is filming. They are given a little vacation from shooting, and spend a wonderful week together, making plans for their future and all the exciting things their move to California will bring. George Cukor, her director, calls to ask her to please come in and do an emergency screen test, so, reluctantly, she goes in. As they finally start to shoot a phone call comes from Sidney, the family’s dear long time butler, who was staying with Flo at the hospital. He’s in a panic, and can only say, “Come quickly!” Billie drops everything and rushes to the hospital, only a few blocks away, however, she is met in the hallway by Sidney who tells that it is too late, and that Flo had passed away. (1932) Billie collapses, and the many kindnesses she receives from friends and fans, especially from Will Rogers, helps her to deal with the great loss. She sings the final reprise, with a full rendition of Can’t Make It On My Own, and with the help of the now teen-aged Patty, the song turns into “CAN Make It On My Own,” in a reformation of her own strength, and the strength of women in general.
The story is wrapped up with a promise of things to come. Billie sings the brief song Words of Wisdom, encouraging those who wish to pursue a life in acting to go for it and give it their best effort, because it’s worth it if the dream should happen to come true. Ready and refreshed, Billie moves to the doorway of the dressing room, strikes a pose in the doorway and says, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Vidor.” Blackout as the famous close-up picture of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North is projected onto the back screen of the stage. The Show Of Life reprise is sung throughout the curtain call and finishes with, “…Whatta ya do… for an Encore…..”
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Copyright© July 2015 MMXV
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Douglas C. Stewart / Richard D. Pelton… / Contract (Music/Lyrics) Agreement
A L L R I G H T S R E S E R V E D
Richard D. Pelton owns and holds the exclusive performing rights to this and any other version as set forth in this script and music. All rights, including professional, amateur, radio, television broadcasting, internet, recitation, lecturing, motion picture, public reading, and or recordings are fully protected and strictly reserved.