DescriptionA gritty, dark, and vibrant look at street workers in Times Square, THE LIFE is charged with emotionally revealing songs and realistically conflicted characters. Trapped in a location and situations most of us would avoid at all costs, Fleetwood, Memphis, Jojo, Sonja, Queen, Mary, and Lou struggle to survive and maybe, to get out. Cy Coleman's celebrated jazz and pop-inflected score includes "Use What You Got," "The Oldest Profession," "Easy Money," "My Body," "Greed," and "My Friend."
Music samples provided courtesy of Masterworks Broadway and Notable Music Co. Inc.
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Lilias White sings “The Oldest Profession” from THE LIFE
In Times Square in the 1980’s, the streets pulsate with life: garish topless bars, seedy transvestite joints, and hookers working the sidewalks at the bidding of their pimps (“Check It Out”). Jojo, an opportunistic, conniving white hustler in the thick of the action, has a bare-knuckled plan for feeding his ambition (“Use What You Got”). Sonja, a veteran hooker who has seen better days, has befriended Queen, who is on the street to support her man, Fleetwood, a displaced Vietnam veteran. Queen has saved her money; she and Sonja celebrate her plan to get away with Fleetwood and leave the life for good (“A Lovely Day to Get Out of Jail”). Returning to her hotel room, Queen discovers that Fleetwood has spent half of her savings to pay off his drug debts and feed his habit (“Oh, Daddy”).
Fleetwood dreams unrealistically of attaining power, money, and “A Piece of the Action,” but Jojo tells him he’ll never amount to anything as a pimp as long as he’s romantically involved with the woman he’s selling. At the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Jojo and Fleetwood find the seemingly naïve Mary, just off the bus from Minnesota.
In a prostitute hangout called Lacy’s Bar, Sonja relaxes with her sisters, bemoaning the wear and tear of “The Oldest Profession.” Fleetwood arrives with Mary, and Memphis, the “biggest businessman on the block,” zeroes in on the new girl (“Don’t Take Much”). Queen takes Mary to the room she shares with Fleetwood and urges her to “Go Home.”
Later, as prostitutes eye potential customers, a gospel group parades by (“You Can’t Get to Heaven”). The girls defiantly stand up for themselves (“My Body”), and the pimps complain about the harassment of the cops (“Why Don’t They Leave Us Alone?”)
Jojo convinces Mary to take a turn as a go-go dancer. A smashing success, she celebrates her good fortune with Fleetwood and Jojo (“Easy Money”) Jojo has her in mind for his “mentor” Lou, a gaudy Los Angeles producer of triple-X “motion pictures.”
Back in jail, Queen reflects on her attachment to Fleetwood (“He’s No Good”). Jojo and Fleetwood spend the night with Mary. As Fleetwood turns his attentions toward Mary, Memphis makes his move to put “Queen in his deck.” Queen discovers what’s been going on between Fleetwood and Mary, and decides she’s finally had enough (“I’m Leaving You”). As everyone parties at “The Hookers’ Ball”, Lou makes off with Mary, while Queen, shunning Fleetwood, attaches herself to Memphis.
Over a game of Three-Card Monte (“Step Right Up”), Jojo and the pimps acknowledge their silent partner, “Mr. Greed.” In Memphis’ spacious apartment, Queen thanks him for getting her out of jail and for the beautiful dress he gave her to wear to the Hookers’ Ball; but Memphis makes it very clear that the dress was a $6,000 loan that she must repay with her earnings (“My Way or the Highway”). He tells Queen if she and Fleetwood attempt to leave town, he’ll kill them both.
Queen tells Sonja that she must find Fleetwood and warn him about Memphis’ threat. She asks Jojo to tell Fleetwood to meet her the next morning at Lacy’s. Meanwhile Mary, with Lou, celebrates her potential movie career (“People Magazine”).
The next morning, Jojo double-crosses Queen and comes to Lacy’s with Memphis, who brutally beats her. When Fleetwood arrives, Queen reminds him of what they once had together (“We Had a Dream”). Fleetwood returns to his hotel and discovers Mary leaving for Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Queen, Sonja, and other girls share their disillusionment (“’Someday’ Is for Suckers”).
Later, that night, Sonja hands Queen a bus ticket and a suitcase, in a desperate attempt to get her away from Memphis. Fleetwood appears and urges Queen to make a new start (“We Gotta Go”), but Queen bitterly rejects him. Jojo and Memphis arrive and violence breaks out: Fleetwood pulls a gun on Memphis, but Jojo knocks the gun loose and Memphis mortally stabs Fleetwood; Queen seizes the fallen gun and shoots Memphis. Sonja decides to take the rap for killing Memphis, claiming self-defense. Sonja and Queen say good-bye (“My Friend”). Queen departs for the bus, which will carry her to freedom, as Sonja surrenders to the police. But even without Sonja and Queen, Jojo and the girls continues to hustle on the streets (“Check It Out” Reprise).
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Ira Gasman
Book by David Newman, Ira Gasman and Cy Coleman
Dance and Vocal Arrangements by Cy Coleman
Based on an original idea by Ira Gasman
Original Broadway Production Produced by
Roger Berlind, Martin Richards, Cy Coleman and Sam Crothers
The size of the billing given to the Authors and Producer shall be the same size and shall in no event be less than fifty percent (50%) of the type size used for the title of the play. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominently than the billing to the Authors and Producer, except for the title of the play and star(s) of the play billed above the title. The billing for the Authors and Producer shall appear immediately following the title of the play.
The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:
is presented by arrangement with
TAMS-WITMARK MUSIC LIBRARY, INC.
560 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10022
1 Reed I – Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet, Soprano & Alto Saxophone.
1 Reed II – Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone.
1 Reed III – Clarinet, Bass Clarinet & Baritone Saxophone.
2 Trumpet I & II (2 Volumes) (both double Flugelhorn)
1 Guitar (Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar & Banjo)
1 Bass (Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass, Fender Bass & Fretless Bass)
1 Keyboard I (2 Volumes) (Keyboard Synthesizer-principally Piano)
1 Keyboard II (2 Volumes) (Keyboard Synthesizer-Bass, Strings & Woodwinds)
Timpani (2 pedal drums)
Triangle (several sizes)
Brass Bell (or mallet on Vibe)
Wood Block (several sizes)
1 Drums-Trap Drum Set:
Ride & Crash Cymbals
Piano-Conductor’s Score (2 Volumes) Sent with Rehearsal Material.
1 Piano Conductor’s Score (Two Volume Set)
1 Prompt Book for Director
18 Prompt Books for Cast
30 Chorus-Vocal Parts
Original Cast CD, if available, is sent with perusal material.
Queen – A temporary hooker from Savannah, recently moved to New York with Fleetwood. She still hopes their dreams of a better world outside “The Life” can come true.
Sonja – An experienced hooker from upstate New York, and one of Memphis’ women; resigned to her fate but not broken by it, she befriends Queen.
Mary – A young, pretty blonde from Duluth, Minnesota. New to New York, but not new to hustling men. She feigns innocence of “The Life” while using everyone to climb ahead.
April – A favorite of Memphis
Chichi – Somewhat larger than life
Tracy (Doubling role: Jesus People Trio)
Dancer – “The Doll house” topless bar employee (non-singing)
Jojo – Well-dressed man in his forties & a hustler.
Fleetwood – A disillusioned Vietnam vet trying to get ahead in New York City. Unable to break a drug habit, he loses everything in pursuit of “The Life.”
Memphis – New York’s most successful pimp on the block. He is sure of his power and is looked after by an entourage of other pimps & enforcer/bodyguards.
Lacy – Late middle age. A likeable if eccentric owner/bartender at the regular gathering place for the pimps & hookers of “The Life.”
Lou – A smarmy hustler, future partner with Jojo in schemes yet to come.
Snickers – Enforcer for Memphis
Oddjob – (A principal dancer)
Bobby – (Doubling roles: Enrique’s Shill; City Jail Guard)
Silky – (Doubling roles: Jesus People Trio; Enrique)
Slick – [Doubling roles: Jesus People Trio; Transvestite Hustler (Shatellia)]
Denizens of the street: hustlers, dealers, scammers, stolen watch peddlers, three-card-monte dealers, hot dog vendors, shoe shiners, street corner saxophone players, derelicts, home boys, transsexuals, hookers & pimps, policemen, bouncers and horny customers of “The Doll House,” guests at the Hookers’ Ball. The cast is multi-racial and multi-ethnic.
THE LIFE played for 466 performances on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre starring Pamela Isaacs, Chuck Cooper, Sam Harris and Lillias White.
2 Tony Awards for Featured Actor and Featured Actress
3 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding New Musical, Featured Actress and Music.