Shows B

THE BAKER’S WIFE Book by Joseph Stein; Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz Based on the novel Jean-le-bleu and the play La Femme du Boulanger by Jean Giono and the film by Marcel Pagnol. SYNOPSIS The simple plot involves a baker who, after finding that a handsome chauffeur is driving his wife crazy, refuses to supply the town with any more bread until she comes to her senses and returns to him. COMMENT The show has never been the success that was expected of it given the pedigree of both Joseph Stein and Stephen Schwartz. Despite several reworkings, the addition of new songs and Trevor Nunn's direction in 1989, The Baker's Wife folded after a disappointing 56 performances. Notwithstanding its professional failure The Baker's Wife has proved popular with amateur and regional theatre companies. However. the show is currently on the restricted list owing to problems with the available score. STORY Act 1: A few tables are occupied outside a small cafe in a French village. It's early autumn in the mid-1930s. Denise, the proprietor's wife, while tending to her chores serving customers, sings her "Chanson" about the quiet life, living from day to day when nothing really changes, and yet... sometimes, unexpectedly, something can happen to make life quite different, quite new. Several people stop at the cafe. Fragments of conversations are heard from table to table: an argument here between the school teacher and the local priest, a complaint there from a gardener to a neighbour who's tree is shading his spinach patch, and among all is the anticipation of the arrival of the new baker to replace the one who just died. This fairly argumentative group lists its complaints in a song, expressing a sense of general irritation amid the petty complaints among the villagers. The Marquis, accompanied by his three "nieces," welcomes the baker, Aimable Castagnet. This amiable, accurately named fellow is a jolly middle-aged man. With the baker is the young and lovely Genevieve whom the Marquis mistakes for the baker's daughter. The error is quickly addressed. After the couple leaves the cafe, with their cat Pompom, to move into their new home, the cafe customers exchange a few remarks about the baker robbing the cradle. The next scene is set in the bakery. Aimable is so pleased with the new surroundings and expresses his delight in his duet with Genevieve, "Merci, Madame." He is obviously enchanted with his young wife and delighted with their future in their little shop. The villagers we met at the cafe are now customers at the bakery and sing the praises of "Bread." In their eagerness to sample the delicious smelling bakery products, customers argue about their places in the queue. Others gossip about the Marquis and his "nieces," and Antoine, one of the villagers, brazenly asks the baker how an old fellow like him won such a beautiful young bride. Aimable replies "God was good to me." Genevieve chimes in that not only did her husband choose her, she chose him and is happy with her choice. But while she smiles at the customers, she rushes inside the bakery in tears. In her soliloquy, "Gifts Of Love," Genevieve reveals fragments of her past, her sensuous love affair with Paul, a married man, and contemplates the gentle love she shares now with her baker husband. She's determined to make the best of it, to be a good wife, and to close the door on her past. The Marquis' driver, Dominique, comes to the shop to pick up the Marquis' pastry order. He eyes Genevieve. He too mistakes her for the baker's daughter rather than his wife. She corrects him. He addresses her as mademoiselle. "Madame!" she insists. He continues flirting, radiating charm. She is flustered. Aimable returns