Shows B

BAJOUR A Musical Comedy in 2 Acts, 22 Scenes. Book by Ernest Kinoy. Based on the short stories The Gypsy Women, and The King of the Gypsies by Joseph Mitchell published in the New Yorker. Music and lyrics by Walter Marks Shubert Theatre, Broadway - November 23, 1964 . Transferred to LuntFontaine Theatre 10 May, 1965. (218 perfs) SYNOPSIS The highest of all arts, to gypsies, is the bajour - a confidence game in which they swindle lonely and unhappy women out of their life savings. Among gypsies, a talented bajour woman is the most precious possession of her husband's tribe. STORY ACT I Cockeye Johnny Dembo, King of the Dembeschti gypsy tribe, rents a deserted, dilapidated store in a New York slum. He then unloads his "inventory" from a converted hearse - the entire Dembeschti tribe. Dozens of women with gold-coin necklaces and men in garish silk shirts quickly transform the dingy store into a maze of fringed shawls, beaded curtains and astrological and phrenological charts. The gypsies are in town! Soon the neighbourhood hums with business: laundry disappearing from clothes lines, wallets vanishing from pockets, shoplifting, illicit tea-leaf readings at Schrafft's. At the police station, Lt. Lou MacNiall of the Pickpocket and Confidence Squad realises that such petty crimes must be the work of his long-time headache and friend Johnny Dembo. The lieutenant's work is further complicated by Emily Kirsten, a lovely, disarming college girl and a distant cousin of the Seventh Deputy Police Commissioner. Emily explains that she is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at NYU, but, unfortunately, most primitive tribes have been either spoiled by Planned Parenthood or monopolised by Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. Lou decides that if Emily is to study the gypsy tribes, then the Dembeschti tribe is probably the safest. At the store (now transformed into a fully equipped ofisa - fortune-teller parlour), Dembo explains to Lou why he has brought the Dembeschti to town: to buy a wife from the wealthy Moyva King of Newark for his handsome young son, Steve. Lou, a gajo (outsider), leaves as the Moyva gypsies, contemptuous of the lowly Dembeschti, arrive. In haggling each tribe tries to outdo the other in feats of agility, while each king disparages the other's marriage candidate. The King of Newark produces his daughter, Anyanka, a girl of panther-like, sinuous beauty, who performs a wild and seductive gypsy dance. Slowly she and Steve begin to circle, then dance faster and faster in a swirling blend of personal challenge and courtship. Even more persuasive to Dembo than her physical charms is Newark's insistence that his daughter can manoeuvre a great bajour: - shrewd, crooked, mean, heartless, greedy -a perfect bride." Dembo agrees to pay the final price, $9,000, eight hundred dollars down, the balance due in three weeks, if Anyanka will give a sample of her vaunted powers as a swindler and pickpocket. While reading the love line in Emily's and Lou's hands, Anyanka plants the idea of love in their minds; at the same time, she steals Lou's wristwatch, wallet and police pistol, which the now-convinced Dembo good-naturedly returns. Emily quickly experiences the colourful folkways of the gypsies: her purse is snatched, her shoes disappear, she is conned out of ten dollars for a combination palm reading and anti-backache charm. More cooperative, Dembo lets her give him a word-association test to help her understand gypsy psychology: Dembo eventually reverses roles with Emily, as she associates the word "love" with "Lou." At first, Anyanka resents being sold in marriage and Steve dislikes being saddled with a "hard-nosed witch." But soon, each begins to sympathise with the other's plight, and insults give way to an embrace. Afraid that she may lose Steve, Anyanka reveals that her father, on four other occasions, has sold her to tribes who cannot pay for her, kept the down-payment and then offered her for sale again. This time, however, she will outsmart her father; she will raise the money to buy herself. When the Dembeschti women challenge Anyanka's attempts to organise them, she asserts her qualifications: they're too soft, while she is mean. In order to get the bride-money quickly, they must pull off a big bajour.