Two Gentlemen of Verona
Music by Galt MacDermot:: Lyrics by John Guare: Book by John Guare and Mel Shapiro based on the play by William Shakespeare
St James Theatre, Broadway - 1 December 1971 (627 perfs)
Phoenix Theatre, London - 26 April, 1973 (237 perfs)
We hear the sounds of nature, as Visi D'Amore - the Spirit of Love - runs on and sings Jack Benny's old theme song, "Love in Bloom". He runs off. The Ensemble wanders on and sings the prologue, a joyful ode to springtime and to love. During the song, an oversized Cupid moves among them, bow-and-arrowing everyone, while Lucetta appears on the top-most level and pours a bucketful of red tissue-paper hearts down on them and the audience.
The story begins in the provincial town of Verona. Valentine, a young gentleman, is preparing to depart "to see the wonders of Milan." He tries to convince his best friend, Proteus, to join him. Valentine asks Proteus, "what do you want to do with the rest of your life?" Proteus replies: that's a very interesting question. However, Proteus cannot bring himself to leave Julia, whom he loves from afar. Valentine leaves for Milan, accompanied by his servant, Speed.
Proteus writes Julia a love letter but when Julia actually appears, he is too terrified to speak to her - much to her dismay. Gathering the Ensemble for support, he re-enters to present her with a Symphony. During the song, his love letter is handed down through each Ensemble member until it gets to Julia, who abruptly tears it up. Julia explains to the audience: I Am Not Interested In Love.
Suddenly Visi D'Amore reappears in giggly pursuit of a Soprano. Singing they happily throw magic love confetti at each other and on Julia, before running off again. Now "metamorphosed," Julia frantically tries to put the pieces of the torn letter back together. She writes Proteus a letter. She and Proteus meet and declare their love.
Proteus' father, Antonio, ignorant of his son's new love, orders him to join Valentine in Milan to further his education. A heartbroken Proteus tells Julia he must depart but before leaving, Proteus gives her a giant string of pearls, and she gives him her virginity. Proteus' servant, Launce observes and comments.
Launce has his own problems: he has been ordered to accompany his master Proteus away from both his beloved Verona and his beloved dog, Crab, who is to be left as another gift to Julia. Crab seems oddly indifferent. Proteus and Launce set off on theirjourney.
Back in Verona - some time later - Julia has discovered she is pregnant. With the help of the Female Ensemble, she and Lucetta concoct a plan to travel to Milan in search of Proteus - they will disguise themselves as Two Gwentlemen of Verona.
Enroute to Milan, Valentine and Speed, Proteus and Launce, and Julia and Lucetto all become lost. Valentine and Speed arrive in Milan, and it is indeed the most exciting place imaginable. In the midst of the crowd appears the Duke who introduces his daughter Silvia and the foppish Thurio, whom the Duke intends for Silvia to marry. The Duke makes a campaign speech, promising that if re-elected he will end the war and "Bring all the Boys Back Home".
Valentine has opened a letter-writing shop in Milan, but confesses to Speed that he is having difficulty concentrating on his work, for he has fallen in love with Silvia. Silvia arrives at Valentine's shop to send a letter:. After convincing Valentine to rescue her from Thurio, Silvia declares, "I came in here to write to my lover Eglamour. Instead I found a truer love." She and Valentine make plans to elope that night, and she leaves.
Proteus and Launce enter and are joyously reunited with Valentine and Speed. Valentine confides in them his love for Silvia. Valentine gets on his bicycle (which has appropriate Renaissance/Baroque decorations) and exits in search of a "night ladder" for the elopement. Launce and Speed go off in search of ale.
Left alone, Proteus confesses to the audience that he is filled with jealousy towards his friend Valentine, for he too has fallen in love with Silvia. It is only with great sarcasm that he pretends to be happy for Valentine. He makes a plan: he will forswear both his love for Julia and his friendship with Valentine. By revealing the elopement plans to the Duke, he will surely cause Valentine's banishment, gain favor with the court, and become the front runner for Silvia's hand. He runs off to carry out his scheme.
Using a "Renaissance" telephone, Proteus calls the Duke and anonymously warns him of Valentine and Silvia's plans. Julia and Lucetta, disguised as boys, enter in time to overhear Proteus proclaim his love to the many pictures of Silvia he has now draped around the stage. Before they can leave, Proteus sees them. He asks about their origins, and Lucetta wryly explainsthat they come from the land of betrayal. Proteus does not recognise the two "men," and takes them into his employ.
Valentine enters on his bicycle, and is stopped by the Duke and Thurio, who reveal that Valentine is concealing a rope ladder under his cape. The Duke promptly has Valentine drafted into the army, and Proteus himself leads Valentine out of the city. A distraught Silvia complains bitterly to her father, who orders her back to her tower. Thurio is worried that Silvia will not accept him instead of the more manly Valentine, but the Duke reassures Thurio that she had nothing but praise for him.
Meanwhile, in the local tavern, Launce and Speed are "glowingly" drunk, but not so lucky in love as their employers. Each wishes that he too could become a "Hot Lover. Proteus gives "Sebastian" (Julia) the same ring that she had given him back in Verona, with instructions to present it to Silvia. Left alone, Julia muses upon some improbable yet pleasant methods for regaining Proteus' heart.
Proteus returns, having gathered the Ensemble to assist him in serenading Silvia. During his song Proteus tries in vain to get the ring away from Julia, but then does succeed in bringing on a tearful Launce to give away - again! - his dog, Crab. As the Ensemble converges on Silvia and smothers her with gifts, she suddenly breaks free, protesting that she is no idol. During the final verse, a dove flies to her (on a wire) from over the audience; she ties a note to it and sends it flying back again.
Silvia's long-lost love, Eglamour appears in the rear balcony of the audience, dressed in an army uniform and carrying Silvia's dove on his shoulder. He is Chinese. As he and Silvia sing he literally climbs down to her on the stage.
Eglamour and Silvia escape to the forest, and the Duke raises the alarm. Proteus leads the charge as the Ensemble heads to the forest to hunt down the escaped lovers.
Deep within the forest, amidst trees and a full moon, Eglamour and Silvia reach his encampment and go into his tent. Meanwhile, in another part of the forest is Valentine, standing guard in his army uniform, and thinking about his lost love. Proteus finds the tent and reacts to what he has sees inside.
Proteus jumps into the tent, forcing Silvia and Eglamour to come rushing out. After chasing Eglamour away, Proteus is overcome with lust for Silvia. He throws himself on top of her. At first she protests, but then starts to giggle. At that moment Valentine finds them. Silvia is embarrassed; Proteus is contrite, as Valentine tells him, "Proteus, I must never trust thee more." But before they can sort things out, Eglamour returns with reinforcements in the form of a Chinese dragon - the type that one might see in a parade. Proteus and Valentine defend themselves with swords; eventually the dragon turns on Eglamour and chases him off.
Julia, Lucetta, Launce and Speed arrive as Valentine and Proteus forgive each other in the aftermath of the battle. In a magnanimous gesture to restore their friendship, Valentine relinquishes to Proteus his claim to Silvia. Hearing this, Julia swoons, and Proteus at last recognizes her. Lucetta, Speed and Launce advise her not to have the baby but Julia, ever faithful to Proteus, decides to take him back, albeit on her terms. And he agrees.
Valentine confronts Thurio who, being a complete coward, gives up all claims to Silvia and runs away. The Duke, seeing Thurio's actions, decides that Valentine is a much better suitor offer all, and presents Silvia to him.
Thurio sees Lucetta, and it's love at first sight. He douses her with confetti and they run off together. Launce, too, has finally found love. Back in Milan, the Duke wishes everyone well. The Finale of the show is a literal free-for-all, with cast members playing basketball, throwing frisbees into the audience, blowing bubbles, juggling, twirling batons, and even swinging from the rafters, while red paper heart confetti falls from everywhere: an enormous and joyful celebration of life and love.