Shows B

BALLROOM A musical in One Act, 13 Scenes. Book by Jerome Kass (based on the television play Queen of the Stardust Ballroom. Music by Billy Goldenberg. Lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman. Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett. Co-choreographer, Bob Avian. Majestic Theatre, New York - 14 December, 1978 (116 perfs) SYNOPSIS Bea Asher has been widowed for a year, but while her family has virtually enshrined her late husband, Bea won't accept "widow" as her designation for the rest of her life. She has opened a little shop, even though it's only a junk-shop that amounts to an ongoing garage sale of her own belongings. When her friend Angie urges her to get out of the shop and start living again and suggests that she visit a local dance hall, the Stardust Ballroom, Bea responds. Outside the hall that night, Bea summons her courage and goes in. The Stardust, she sees, is no disco. Rather, it represents the American ballroom-dancing tradition that began with Vernon and Irene Castle, soared with the Astaires, and thrived with two generations of couples who learned their steps in formal dancing academies, often in order to be able to dance at their own weddings. At the Stardust, time has flattened out. The foxtrot co-exists with the hustle. The end is in sight — there are no young people here to carry on the tradition — but the Stardust regulars will keep the flame burning brightly, until each individual candle burns out. On the Stardust floor, a foxtrot is in progress featuring the house-band and singers. Bea's friend Angie takes her around, introducing her to someone called Harry "the Noodle," who sambas Bea to the brink of collapse. Bea decides to watch for a while, as Angie and her partner show off their skill at the Lindy. Now one spectacular dance succeeds another as Bea is drawn into the excitement of the Stardust. Appropriately, her romance begins here, as she meets Al Rossi, a mailman ("I'm in the government"). Like the other regulars, Al shakes off the tedium and the fear of daily life through an obsession with dancing, and he spins Bea through cha-cha, merengue, waltz and, finally, a fox-trot. Bea hasn't felt this way in years. Al asks to drive her home, but Bea, still very much a product of her generation, says no. She goes home happy, however, and proud. At home, though, the "agony column" begins: Helen, sister of Bea's late husband, waits for her, thinking something terrible has happened. When she discovers that Bea has in fact been out enjoying herself, she becomes out-raged, calling it an insult to her brother's memory. A moment after Helen furiously departs, Bea's phone rings, and of course it's Al, calling to say what a fine time he had and how much he hopes to see her again. Bea, her emotions in some disarray, is both flattered and embarrassed. She encourages Al to phone again — but at the shop, not at home. A month later, we catch up with the ballroom regulars in the middle of the Tango. Nathan, the singer, lets us know what's happened with Bea and Al: "Dancing together for only one month and already they're joined at the hip!" Tonight, Bea lets Al take her home and invites him in for coffee. Haltingly, Al tries to tell her how he feels about her, and Bea has what she feared she would never have again, the feeling of being loved. But the next day, her family again intrudes. At the junk shop, Bea realises her plans to go back to the Stardust that evening conflict with an earlier promise to baby-sit for her daughter, Diane. Bea tries to get her sister-inlaw to help, with no luck, then offers to pay for a sitter. When Diane tries to insist, Bea makes it clear that she has begun a new chapter in her life and that the ballroom will take priority. That night, Al again waits for Bea at the Stardust, to Nathan's accompaniment. When she is late in arriving, some suspense builds, culminating in Bea's appearance, no longer gray-haired and simply dressed, but as a