Shows D

THE DESERT SONG Book and Lyrics by Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II and Frank Mandel Music by Sigmund Romberg Casino Theatre, Broadway 30 November, 1926 (465 perfs) Produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1927 (432 perfs) SYNOPSIS General Birabeau has been sent to Morocco to root out and destroy the Riff bandits. Especially must he bring to book their daredevil leader, known as the Red Shadow. He can look for little help from his milksop son, Pierre, who spends all his time mooning over Captain Fontaine's fiancée, the lovely Margot. But Margot secretly yearns to be swept into the arms of some bold, dashing sheik, perhaps even the Red Shadow himself? To her surprise, when her Eastern hero does in fact abduct her he treats her with every Western consideration. And when this Moroccan Robin Hood comes face to face with Birabeau, he surprisingly refuses to fight the old man. Azuri, the sinuous and secretive native dancing girl, might be persuaded to answer some of these riddles if only she can be made sufficiently drunk. Meanwhile, Benny and Susan still provide some of the best opportunities for inspired clowning ever offered to a comedy team. STORY Act 1 In their Moroccan hideout, deep in the Riff mountains, a group of anti-French Arab guerillas are taking their ease. Their activities over the past years, under the leadership of the mysterious Red Shadow, have been increasingly successful and this very day they have blown up a strategic French dam, liberating the waters to fertilise once again the Arabs' traditional farming lands, yet there is no complacency in their hearts. Over recent weeks they have found themselves under increased pressure, owing to the redoubled activity of the French military under their new commander, Captain Paul Fontaine, and they have several times come near to discovery and annihilation. Their skill in the desert and the speed of their horses have saved them, but it is said that Captain Fontaine has promised to bring the head of the Red Shadow as a gift to his fiancée, Margot Bonvalet, on their wedding day. The men would like to make a strike against this woman, but their leader will not permit it. Margot Bonvalet is not their enemy and she must under no circumstances be banned. The truth is that, under his Arab disguise, the Red Shadow is himself a Frenchman, Pierre Birabeau. Eight years earlier he left Paris and joined the army in Morocco in an effort to win sufficient glory to be able to pay court to this very Margot Bonvalet but, in resisting orders to raid Arab villages, he fell foul of the colonial administration and was publicly struck to the ground by the Governor as a traitor. Resigning from the army, he feigned a brain-damaged foolishness in everyday life while creating his position as an Arab Robin Hood in secret. When his enemy, the Governor, died, he was ironically succeeded by none other than Pierre's own father and now Pierre lives in Government House itself, still keeping up his role as a fool before his family while leading the Arabs against his father's men as the Red Shadow. And now his Margot is here, in Morocco, to wed Paul Fontaine, the son of his old enemy. The Riff hideout receives an unexpected visitor when the Red Shadow's men capture a funny little fellow wandering about in the desert. He is Benjamin Kidd of the Paris Daily Mail. Normally a society columnist, he has been sent to Morocco as an emergency war correspondent, and he is decidedly lost in his new job, both metaphorically and in fact. Today he went riding with Pierre Birabeau, the Governor's silly son, got separated from him, and fell into the hands of this bloodthirsty band.