A Musical in 2 acts, 17 scenes: Book by Roger O. Hirson and Ketti Frings, based on the play Hobson's Choice by Harold Brighouse; Music by James Van Heusen, Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre - 26 November, 1966 (161 perfs)
The curtain rises on Moonraker's, a pub in the thriving industrial town of Salford, England, in the middle of Lancashire. The men of Salford gather at Moonraker's, merchants as well as mill workers. One of those merchants is Henry Hobson, who runs the town's most successful boot shop. The widowed Hobson has three daughters, two of them - Alice and Vickie - ready for the altar. Hobson is perfectly willing for his oldest daughter Maggie to remain unmarried, because she runs his business so well. The friendly hubbub in Moonraker's is shattered with the arrival of George Beenstock, doyen of the local temperance league. He encourages the men to abstain, but Hobson turns Beenstock's plea into a celebration of the bottle.
Ironically, Hobson's two younger daughters are in love with Beenstock's two sons, Albert and Freddie. Back at the shop, the young couples flirt until the sensible Maggie arrives and scares young Freddie Beenstock into buying a new pair of boots. After they leave, Hobson arrives and makes noises about getting Alice and Vickie married. He cruelly tells Maggie that her chances, more or less, have passed her by. When he leaves her alone, Maggie wonders why this has to be. One of the shop's leading customers, Mrs. Hepworth, enters the shop demanding to know who made the boots she recently bought. Up from the floor, through a trapdoor to the shop in the cellar, pops the head of Will Mossop. Instead of rebuking him, Mrs. Hepworth compliments his work and insists that, from now on, he make all her boots. Maggie instantly sees an answer to her lovesick question: with her mind and Will's gifted hands, how could a match between them fail?
She summons him and informs him that he's her man. Reeling from this news, Will seeks out his partner in the workshop, Tubby Wadlow, and asks for some advice on how to go about courting Maggie. In the midst of a raucous evening at Moonraker's, Hobson is appalled to learn that his daughters want to marry Beenstock's sons. Someone reminds him that Beenstock owns the large local grain warehouse, and Hobson suddenly becomes a philosopher - principle, he says, must never stand in the way of profit. He makes a deal with Beenstock, who is pleased to learn that the shoe merchant is at least considering sobriety. Their children will marry.
Will and Maggie talk about their relationship in a nearby park. Will doesn't understand how Maggie could marry him since he doesn't love her. There's also the matter of his engagement to a working-class feather-brain named Ada Figgins, whose mother is determined to see the marriage happen. When Maggie tries to force the issue, the Figginses and their neighbours force Will to participate in a traditional premarital dance. Maggie breaks up the ritual, though, and insists that Will must marry her. Back at the shop, Will tries to understand this whole crazy situation.
Hobson is livid when he learns the terms of the dowry he's expected to provide for Alice and Vickie. The girls are terrified now and, as usual, seek advice and solace from Maggie. Will arrives, and Maggie insists that he inform Hobson of his intentions ... though Maggie, of course, will do most of the talking. The already angry merchant is enraged by Will's gall and begins to beat him. But Will stands up to him, shocking everyone by telling him that not only will he marry Maggie but they will open their own shop. When everyone leaves him and Maggie alone in the panic that follows, he passes out at her feet.
As Act II begins, Will and Maggie have gone to Mrs. Hepworth's to ask for a loan to set up their business. Mrs. Hepworth is unsure about their plan until Maggie explains it. What seals it is Maggie's assurance that she'll put some fire into Will. They rent a little shop and prepare to go into business. Maggie still worries about Will's lack of spirit; she even tries to put some spring in his step. Once he hangs out his own sign - Will Mossop Master Bootmaker - Will is walking happy. And so, it seems, is everyone else in town.
Still, the feeling between Will and Maggie is odd, though they are elated over their first sale: a pair of shoelaces. Hobson, it would seem, hasn't changed a bit in Maggie's absence, except that he's spending more time at Moonraker's. A late-night fit of delirium tremens sends him tottering into the street, where he gets lost and fails into the corn chute of Beenstock's grain warehouse. When Hobson awakens in the corn chute, he is furious to learn that Beenstock is suing him for trespassing, and he vows to stop being such an easy touch. Alice and Vickie are doing their best, which isn't very good, to take Maggie's place at their father's boot shop. They are surprised when Will and Maggie turn up to invite the girls to their wedding. They accept and even kiss Will on the cheek. He's still a little unsure but resigned anyway to the inevitability of the wedding. At Will and Maggie's wedding in their new shop, Hobson makes an unexpected appearance. It isn't the wedding he's upset about, though, it's Beenstock's lawsuit.
They hammer out a new, more reasonable agreement about the dowries for Alice and Vickie, and Hobson even agrees to wear the blue rosette of the temperance league. Most importantly, though, he asks Will and Maggie to come back to work for him. Will sees the wisdom in this move, reminding Maggie of her own earlier arguments. Hobson is so relieved that agrees to rename the business: Mossop and Hobson. After the wedding crowd has left, though, Will is too shy to take Maggie to bed. He's still unsure. But when Maggie makes it clear she'll leave him, he sees how much he needs her - that, in fact, he can't live without her. That is what she has been waiting to hear. And, as she takes his hand, he leads her to bed as the curtain falls.
- Think of Something Else - Hobson, George, Townsmen
- Where Was I? - Maggie
- How D'ya Talk to a Girl? - Will, Tubby
- Clog and Grog (dance) - Townsmen
- If I Be Your Best Chance - Will
- A Joyful Thing (dance) - Will, Mrs Figgins, Ada Figgins, Townspeople
- What Makes It Happen? - Will
- Use Your Noggin - Maggie, Vickie, Alice
- You're Right, You're Right - Maggie
- I'll Make a Man of the Man - Maggie
- Walking Happy - Will, Maggie, Townspeople
- I Don't Think I'm in Love - Will, Maggie
- Such a Sociable Sort - Hobson, Friends
- It Might As Well Be Her - Will, Tubby
- People Who Are Nice - Hobson
- You're Right, You're Right (reprise) - Will, Maggie, Hobson
- I Don't Think I'm in Love (reprise) - Will
Scenes and Settings
The action takes place in Salford, an industrial town in Lancashire, England, in 1880.
Scene 1: The Moonrakers Pub. Night.
Scene 2: Hobson's Bootery.
Scene 3: The Cellar of the Bootery.
Scene 4: The Moonrakers Pub.
Scene 5: The Park.
Scene 6: A Street in the poor section of Salford.
Scene 7: An Alley lit by gaslight. Evening of the same day.
Scene 8: The Bootery.
Scene 1: Mrs. Hepworth's Sitting Room.
Scene 2: A Cellar.
Scene 3: Flat Iron Market.
Scene 4: Will and Maggie's Cellar.
Scene 5: Outside Moonrakers Pub. Three weeks later.
Scene 6: Outside Beenstock's Corn Warehouse.
Scene 7: Hobson's Bootery.
Scene 8: Inside Beenstock's Corn Warehouse.
Scene 9: The Mossop Bootery.
(in order of appearance):