archy and mehitabel
Other Plays by Joe Darion
Other Plays by Mel Brooks
Darion, Joe (American playwright, lyricist, b. New York City, U.S.A., January 30, 1911-d. Lebanon, New Hampshire, U.S.A., June 16, 2001), and Mel Brooks (American playwright, actor, comedian, composer, director, lyricist, producer, writer, born June 28, 1926), “archy and mehitabel,”
a __-minute opera version of a full-length musical comedy (originally on Broadway as Shinbone Alley, 1957), with music by George Kleinsinger (American “symphonic jazz” composer, February 13, 1914-July 28, 1982) and lyrics by Joe Darion, in English, from stories by Don Marquis aka Donald Robert Perry (American journalist and New York Herald-Tribune humorist, b. Illinois, U.S.A., 1878–d. 1937), set in The Big City, the present. [Note: Shinbone Alley opened on Broadway on April 13, 1957],
© 1957 by Joe Darion and Mel Brooks;
• in Joe Darion and Mel Brooks’ archy and mehitabel (New York: Music Theatre International, 1957);
• script/rights available from Music Theatre International, 421 West 54th Street, New York, New York 10019, U.S.A., telephone 212-541-4684, fax 212-397-4684, e-mail Licensing@MTIshows.com; other addresses at http://www.mtishows.com/contact.asp.
• Cited in 1/2/3/4 for the Show: A Guide to Small-Cast One-Act Plays, vol 1, (Lanham, Maryland, U.S.A.: The Scarecrow Press, 1995), ISBN 0810829851, 273 pp.
The Narrator (m), __, a newspaper reporter; Archy (m), __, a poetic, politically progressive cockroach, a reporter; Big Bill (m), __, the biggest, ugliest, meanest Tom cat in the whole wide world; Mehitabel (f), __, a joyous cat, Archy’s feline friend; The Cronies [singing and dancing trio and chorus, m and f].
“In a deserted office, a cockroach dives headfirst onto the keys of a typewriter, pouring out the ruminations of his soul. It’s ‘archy’ (he’s too small to hold down the shift key), poet, philosopher, moralist and futile worshipper of ‘mehitabel,’ the alley cat.”—Show Information: archy & mehitabel: Music Theatre International - MTI - Musical Theatre Broadway Shows Available for Licensing, http://www.mtishows.com/show_home.asp?id=000008, accessed February 23, 2008.
“The Narrator, a newspaper reporter, tells how Archy, a poetic cockroach, came to be a reporter. Every morning the Narrator rushes eagerly to his office typewriter where Archy has jumped from key to key through the night, writing about the inhabitants of Shinbone Alley, particularly about the vicissitudes in the life of the joyous cat Mehitabel. Archy sings about her. Mehitabel has a soul too gay and a conscious, too frail, he thinks. She and her cronies sing and yowl and dance in the moonlight, until the cops come. She grudgingly allows Archy to give unsought and ignored blue-nosed advice: he tries to get her to accept a job as a house cat. She sings about his maddening interference and her fondness for him, nevertheless. Archy sings of his philosophy, about politics, ethics, nature study. He cannot get his mind off Mehitabel. He is dismayed when she introduces him to her latest romance, Big Bill, “the biggest, ugliest, meanest Tom cat in the whole wide world.” Bill routs Archy and romances Mehitabel in song and dance. Having found her true romance, she runs off with Bill. Archy, trying to concentrate on other characters in Shinbone Alley, sings of Broadway, “The Lightning Bug.” The Narrator knows this is false cheer. Then suddenly, Archy sings of Mehitabel’s return. She has been deserted by Bill but has three kittens by which to remember him. She and a trio of the cronies sing of her ambivalence toward motherhood. Mehitabel sees them as hampering her life-style, but when a rainstorm comes, Archy get her to rescue the little dears. She thanks him with a scolding. However, Mehitabel does take his advice to accept a job as a house cat. As weeks pass, Archy misses and sings of the old Mehitabel he used to know. He regrets having robbed her of her joyous life-style. At that darkest moment, though, he hears her approaching, singing, dancing, celebrating her abandonment of being a house cat. She and the cronies sing and dance together, as of old. Archy has learned that he must accept her for what she is—”just plain wonderful.” He proudly calls her his friend.
• The full-length version was produced on Broadway as Shinbone Alley, and the music was recorded on the Columbia Masterworks album, featuring Carol Channing, Eddie Bracken, David Wayne, Percival Dove, and The Heathertones. The one-act version runs twenty-plus minutes. Singing and dancing demands are light, but good talent would enhance any production. The mood is upbeat. The script offers an excellent chance to try musical comedy without mounting a full-blown, full-length production. Royalties are higher than for a nonmusical, of course.
• An archy and mehitabel, undated typescript copy, 16 pp., libretto by Joe Darion is in the Music Division, New York Public Library, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, New York 10023-7498, U.S.A., telephone 212-870-1650, http://nypl.org/research/lpa/mus/mus.html.
• Not to be confused with Gregory Jones’ Archy and Mehitabel, 1990.
choice of life-style, friendship, joie d'vivre, reincarnation.