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The Fix

Book and Lyrics by: John Dempsey
Music by: Dana P. Rowe

Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London - Opened 12 May, 1997. Closed 14 June, 1997

From a new team of writers comes a hard-edged, hard-boiled commentary on the American political machine. Part tabloid, part “The Manchurian Candidate,” The Fix is a totally original biting satire ripped from the headlines of today, yesterday, and most likely tomorrow. A popular presidential candidate is dead, and his wife, who has power on the brain, thrusts her son into the political spotlight. Her maniacal scheming is matched by that of her crippled brother-in-law, who will stop at nothing to see the boy elected. Together, the three of them make up one of the most dysfunctional almost-first families this side of real life Washington politics.

With a driving, riveting score by John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe (The Witches Of Eastwick), The Fix is a powerful, nightmarish, hysterical roller coaster of a musical guaranteed to leave an audience breathless.



An offstage voice announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, a big welcome for the next President of The United States … Senator Reed Chandler!!!” Television reporters appear on a television screen and report that Senator Reed Chandler is “a veritable shoo-in for the presidency of the United States.” Below the screen, the Senator sits beneath his mistress Donna, who none too subtly screams out in pleasure, until she realises that the Senator is no longer moving, or breathing.

the Senator rises from his death bed, and looks incredulously at his dead body. Grahame, the Senator’s brother, as well as the genius behind his presidential campaign, walks in on crutches, with his legs in braces, and looks over his dead brother’s body. He asks the ever-present security advisor, Peter, if anyone has told Violet, Reed Chandler’s wife. When Violet enters screaming, “You Son-Of-A Bitch!”, that question is quickly answered. Reed, realising the spin it is going to take to remedy the situation he has caused, announces the ensuing fervour triumphantly,

During the Funeral America asks if "there’s another Chandler waiting in the wings”, and Violet coldly answers, “There is.” The other Chandler is Reed’s only son Cal, who has different aspirations than his father. A far cry from the presidency, Cal dreams of being a guitar playing rock star.

Devastated by the loss of all he has worked for, Grahame struggles to move on with his life. Violet interrupts him, and convinces Grahame to help her mould Cal into a presidential candidate, and to not dwell on the failure of the past. Tempted with the promise of being made a judge, Grahame reluctantly agrees.

Grahame and Violet waste no time in getting their new project into the public eye, and enlist a reluctant Cal into the army. Grahame, Violet, and the Army Sergeant slowly turn Cal into a soldier. Cal still feels some reservations about a life in politics, but his father, Reed, returns to give his son a little pep talk, and convince him that the sacrifices he’s to make will be more than made up for in power and control.

After returning from battle, one purple heart richer, Cal is confronted with Violet, Grahame and Peter’s next part of their plan, a wife. Deborah Pullman, the pert and perfect wife, is presented to Cal, as Grahame, Violet, Peter, and several reporters explain to Cal that he and she will make the perfect couple.

Grahame and Violet next bring in Leslie Pynchon, a media coach, to prepare Cal for the media, and to convince all of America that Cal is not a loafing slacker, but instead a true Son of America. By the end of her work, Leslie has trained a candidate perfect for public appearances and speeches, which Cal proves during the brilliant presentation of his canned speech.

The speech is such a success that Calvin gets elected to City Council. However, after the election, Cal gets no time for celebration as Grahame sends him home to rest up for the next election, that of Governor. Cal gets a little sidetracked on the way home, and ends up at a seedy strip club, where the sultry Tina is performing. Taken by Tina’s candid attitude towards life, Cal immediately falls for her, and they dance off into the shadows. This affair does not go unnoticed, by one of the bar’s frequent patrons, Frankie, one of the mobster Anthony Gliardi’s henchmen.

After an evening of alcohol, cocaine, and Tina, Cal arrives at his press conference visibly hung over. He fumbles, struggling to find the correct prepared speech, but comes up with nothing. Finally Cal explodes, and blurts out, “Just fuck it, OK!” At first the reporters are shocked, but Cal, taking lessons from his new friend Tina, just explains the situation frankly and bluntly. This newfound honesty has never before been seen in a politician, and the reporters are quickly swayed, and Cal is proclaimed, "a genius!”

Armed with a new confidence, Cal challenges Grahame, who is infuriated by Cal’s behaviour. Cal decides he has discovered his own political idiom, and doesn’t need Grahame anymore, and lets Grahame know so.

Tina arrives and gives Grahame a gift, an engraved watch, and together they celebrate Grahame’s new popularity, by shooting up some heroine together. Unfortunately, their tryst is caught on film, and it will only be moments before the photos are released to the public. Grahame and Violet are infuriated, but Cal turns their blame back on them and scolds them. Grahame turns to his old friend, mobster, Anthony Gliardi, who has already secured the negatives, but Grahame asks him to go one step further, to ensure that the photographer is silenced as well. Grahame’s knows his dealings are neither safe, nor moral, but sometimes in politics it is important to break some rules.


As act two begins Grahame wonders how his life has become so out of control. He thinks back to a time when he and his brother both seemed destined to live lives of promise and hope together when at Harvard. However, as college wore on it became clear that Reed would always be the successful son, and Grahame, although smarter, would never surpass his brother, due to his crippling polio. While thinking back to this deciding time in his life, Grahame’s situation worsens, and a doctor relegates him to a wheelchair for life.

Meanwhile, Cal’s drugged out, drunken binges have got worse, and he and Tina’s tryst is nearly impossible to hide. After Cal misses three press conferences in a row, things spiral out of control. To add to the dilemma Gliardi has come to collect on his earlier favour. The press is calling Gliardi terrible things, and he needs Cal to assure the public that he is in fact, an upstanding citizen. Realising the seriousness of the situation, Grahame and Violet decide to rid the entire mansion of drugs, and temptation, including Tina. Cal pleads with Grahame, explaining to him that he needs his drugs, because it makes him strong. Grahame realises that Cal is a lost cause, and walks away, resigned.

Meanwhile, Violet is getting drunk and losing control, realising that her life has been nothing but calculated spin. Grahame approaches a very drunk Violet, and informs her of his resignation, claiming that he never should have tried to form Cal into something that he wasn’t, and he especially shouldn’t have hidden Cal’s questionable paternity. In a flashback it is revealed that Violet used to sneak off in the night and have lustful affairs with a murderer, Bobby “Cracker” Barrel, in his car. However, the murder was eventually caught, and put to death, thus dying with the truth that he was the true father of Calvin Chandler.

Cal looks in a mirror and sees a man he no longer recognises. He is confused, and depressed and yearns for a time long ago, a time when his life was carefree.

Defeated, Cal heads out to his press conference and starts on his prepared speech. However, as he gets to the part about Anthony Gliardi, he breaks down, and admits, "He’s a crook.” As the world reacts to this stunning announcement, Cal longs for Tina. Tina is alone, however, and thinking that she has forever lost Cal, she laments that she has been deceived. As her self-torture ends, Cal returns, and passionately tells her, “I’m going to leave Deborah. I’m going to leave my wife. And I want us to be together.”

Gliardi enters, infuriated by Cal’s public statement, and as the Tina and Cal dance, Gliardi draws a gun, and shoots Calvin dead. As Tina protests, Gliardi finishes the job, by killing her as well. The full ensemble, including Violet, Deborah, and Deborah and Calvin’s son, Calvin Chandler Jr., enters to mourn the fallen hero. The Reporters ask if there is, “Another Chandler waiting in the wings?” Violet reaches for Calvin Chandler Jr. and holds him tight to her, assuring that yes, there is.

Original Cast


ALSO: Assorted Reporters, Mourners, Servants, Staff, Soldiers, Supporters, Club Patrons, Businessmen, Clergy, Mobsters, Showgirls, Newsboys, Doctors, Nurses, Etc.

Musical Numbers

  1. Let The Games Begin - Reed, Reporters
  2. The Funeral - Mourners
  3. One, Two, Three - Cal, Ensemble
  4. Embrace Tomorrow - Violet, Grahame, Bobby
  5. Army Chant - Army Sergeant, Cal, Soldiers
  6. Control - Reed, Cal
  7. Man And Wife - Grahame, Violet, Peter, Reporters
  8. America’s Son - Cal, Ensemble
  9. I See The Future - Cal
  10. Lonely Is A Two-Way Street - Tina
  11. Simple Words - Cal, Grahame, Reporters
  12. Alleluja - Tina, Ensemble
  13. Flash, Pop, Sizzle! - Maids
  14. Who Said? - Grahame
  15. Don’t Blame The Prince - Cal
  16. Dangerous Games - Gliardi, Frankie, Ensemble
  17. Two Guys At Harvard - Grahame, Reed, Violet, Ensemble
  18. First Came Mercy - Grahame, Ensemble
  19. Cleaning House - Violet, Peter
  20. Upper Hand - Cal, Grahame
  21. Spin - Violet
  22. The Ballad Of Bobby 'Cracker’ Barrel - Bobby, Ensemble
  23. Child’s Play - Cal
  24. Mistress Of Deception - Tina, Ensemble