1955 Broadway
Pipe Dream the Musical - SYNOPSIS

The action of the play is in the mid-1950s, and takes place on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. In the Steinbeck book which forms the basis for the musical, the Bear Flag is a bordello and Suzy a prostitute. This is alluded to in the musical, but never expressed outright.

Act 1

In the early morning hours, marine biologist Doc is already at work in his one-man Western Biological Laboratory, getting an order of starfish ready to be shipped to a university. His unintelligent friend Hazel (a man) comes in to chat with him ("All Kinds of People"). Millicent, a wealthy young lady, enters from the next room, where she has been spending (part of) the night with Doc. Mac, another friend of Doc, brings in Suzy, who has injured her hand breaking a window to steal some donuts. Doc, whose lack of a medical degree does not stop the denizens of Cannery Row from seeking him out for treatment, bandages her hand, as the irritated Millicent leaves. Suzy, new in town, is curious about Doc's work ("The Tide Pool") and tells about her journey from San Francisco ("Everybody's Got a Home but Me"). Fauna, who runs the nearby Bear Flag Café—an establishment open even at this hour—had heard that a new girl in town had injured herself, and has come to talk to Suzy. Fauna is initially reluctant to invite Suzy into the Bear Flag, but when Jim, the local plainclothes cop gives Suzy a hard time, Fauna takes Suzy in. Suzy is fully aware of what kind of a place it is.

The Palace Flophouse, where Mac, Hazel, and other locals reside, is a storage shed behind the Chinese store now owned by Joe the Mexican, and the Flophouse residents muse on their awkward path through life ("A Lopsided Bus"). Fauna comes by briefly to tell Hazel that she has run his "horror scope" and that he will one day be President. The Flophouse boys have a problem: Joe the Mexican acts unaware that he owns the shed; he has not appeared to either demand rent or to kick them out. They would like to know whether Joe is aware of his ownership, without tipping him off. The boys come up with the idea of raffling off their shed, with the raffle rigged so that Doc, who would not kick them out, will be the winner. The prize money will allow Doc to buy the microscope he needs for his scientific work. They sound out Joe about the scheme; he offers to sell tickets in his store and displays no awareness that he owns the shed.

Suzy and Doc are attracted to each other; she has in fact been quietly tidying his rooms while he is down at the tide pool catching specimens ("The Man I Used to Be"). Fauna tries to persuade Doc, who is very successful with the ladies, to woo Suzy. When Doc is dismissive, Fauna explains that she wants to get Suzy out of the Bear Flag when it is taken over for the night by a private party. Doc agrees to take Suzy out and treat her like a lady. Fauna goes back to the Bear Flag ("Sweet Thursday"), and works to give Suzy confidence ("Suzy is a Good Thing"). Doc and Suzy's date is the source of great interest to the people of Cannery Row. Both are nervous; Doc wears an unaccustomed necktie, while Suzy tries to act like a lady, but her polish wears thin at times. ("All At Once You Love Her"). At the end of the meal, they decide to continue the evening on a secluded sand dune.

Act 2

The next morning, the girls of the Bear Flag are exhausted; the members of the private party wore them out. They wonder how Suzy's date with Doc went. Although it is only July, Fauna is busy ordering the Bear Flag's Christmas cards ("The Happiest House on the Block"). Suzy comes in and tells Fauna of the date; that Doc made no pass at her, and that Doc confided how lonely he is. She is convinced Doc "don't need nobody like me"; he needs a wife. Fauna is encouraging, but Suzy believes that Doc, knowing what he does of her history and work, will not want her. The Flophouse is to host a fancy dress party the following night, at which the raffle is to take place—Fauna proposes that at the party, Suzy sing "Will You Marry Me?" to Doc. Suzy is still nervous; Fauna reminds her that the previous night, Doc did not treat her like a tramp, and she did not act like one. As word spreads of the celebration, the community becomes enthusiastic about the get-together ("The Party That We're Gonna Have Tomorrow Night")

At the Flophouse, a wild celebration takes place. Fauna, at first in the costume of a witch, seems to transform her costume into that of a Fairy Godmother. After some sleight of hand with the tickets, Doc wins the raffle, to the surprise of some. When Suzy comes out in a white bride's dress and sings her lines, Doc is unimpressed, and Suzy is humiliated. As both stalk off in opposite directions, the party disintegrates into a brawl.

Suzy gets a job at a burger joint, and moves into an abandoned boiler, with entry through the attached pipe. Doc is unhappy, and Hazel decides something has to be done ("Thinkin' "). He is unable to come up with an answer, and eventually forgets the question. Some weeks pass, and Joe the Mexican woos Suzy. He has no success, and his attempts irritate Doc. The next day, Doc himself approaches the pipe with flowers in hand ("How Long?"), still uncertain as to why he is seeking a girl like Suzy. Suzy lets him in the boiler, which she has fitted up in a homelike manner. She is doing well at the burger joint, but is grateful to Fauna for giving her confidence. She is confident enough, indeed, to reject Doc, who is unhappy, but philosophical ("The Next Time It Happens").

Hazel sees Doc even more dispirited than before, and asks Suzy for an explanation. Suzy says that she is not willing to go over and be with Doc, but "if he was sick or if he bust his leg or an arm or something", she would go to him and bring him soup. The wheels in Hazel's head begin unaccustomed turnings, and sometime later when Mac passes Hazel on the street, Mac is surprised to see his friend carrying a baseball bat. When the scene returns to Doc's lab, he is receiving treatment from a real doctor and trying to puzzle out how he broke his arm. Suzy comes in, and makes soup for him as Hazel and Mac take turns watching at the keyhole. Doc admits that he needs and loves Suzy, and they embrace. As Fauna and the girls arrive, so do the other Flophouse boys, and Mac gives Doc what was bought with the raffle money—the largest (tele)scope in the catalog. ("Finale")

Review: Pipe Dream the Musical Lyrics