Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

It's 1936 on the French Riviera. Dulcie delivers an introduction, identifying the principal players and sorting out the couples, bringing us up-to-date from where things ended a decade ago (in the roaring '20s) with Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend.

Now we're in Nice on the French Riviera and in the foyer of the Hotel du Paradis, greeted by the hotel manager, Gaston, who is singing "Here We Are in Nice Again" with an assortment of hotel guests.

The three naughty wives (Dulcie, Fay and Nancy) confess to Hortense, the hotel receptionist, that they are on a spree, having told their French husbands that they were off to England to visit their families there.

Polly, our heroine, arrives... but without her husband, Sir Tony, who is busy at home, handling their estate. The three naughty wives reappear with giddy greetings all around. Reflecting on their dreary mates who seem more concerned with matters of business than with matters of the heart, they croon "Whatever Happened to Love?"

Hortense, hotel receptionist/confidante, consoles the frustrated wives and cheers them up with the news that, tomorrow night, an international star, the mysterious Madame K, will appear in un Grand Cabaret.

The American, Bobby van Husen, a bit tipsy, enters from the bar and sings "Someone to Dance With" offering to waltz, fox-trot, tango or rumba... if only he could find a partner.

Hardly recognizing one another, Bobby and Polly meet and ask about each other's mate. He reports on his wife, Maisie, who is supposedly in London, trying to round up a husband for his older sister, Hannah. Bobby and Polly plan to have dinner together.

Meanwhile, Mme Dubonnet confides in Hortense that she is the mysterious entertainer, Madame K; she also admits that she is Polly's mother-in-law, married to Percy, who fled to South America after losing his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929. With the loss of their fortune and his escape to the New World, she was forced to pursue a lowly career in cabaret. She wants to keep the awful truth from Polly; she's changed her hair to blond and her name to Mme K (that ought to do it!) and expresses her hard, heartbreaking life behind the "glittering façade" of her theatrical calling in her number, "Lights! Music!"

Cheering off stage heralds the arrival of the President of the South American nation of Monomania.

Pierre, Marcel and Alphonse, the errant husbands of Nancy, Fay and Dulcie, show up in Nice, feeling like bachelors again and sing of a special girl whom they remember from their carefree single days – "Maisie."

Lady Brockhurst (Polly's mother-in-law) arrives on the scene with a trio of young girls who are dressed in hiking gear. Their anthem is "Back to Nature," urging one and all to forget the city and explore the rugged life of the great outdoors. She brings her troops to a halt, and, of course, Lord Brockhurst, dressed in plus fours, is a reluctant member of her troop – far more interested in pinching, rather than bringing up the rear. The troop march off in search of a spot to pitch camp, and, true to form, Lord Brockhurst sneaks off in the opposite direction, in pursuit of a skirt. He runs into Dulcie, Fay and Nancy, and they agree not to snitch on one another – all having deserted their mates for a bit of frolicking. They sing "On the Loose."

The President of Monomania and Percy, in a tropical suit and dark glasses, greet each other as compatriots. Since they are of the same stature and, with the addition of a false beard and wearing the President's uniform, Percy agrees to go in the President's place to the gala at the Cafe Pataplon. The President must be elsewhere for a reason that he cannot reveal. Percy agrees to take on the role. Then, he spots Madame K featured on a poster. He gasps, recognizing Kiki, his wife (Mme Dubonnet), but with blond hair.

Scene 3 reveals two balconies side by side. Hortense and Gaston (both of the hotel staff) are inspecting each of the suites and simultaneously come out onto the balconies to get a glimpse of the Riviera view. Ever-dedicated to their chosen professions, their duet describes their dream resort, "Paradise Hotel," as other members of the staff join in the song. They exit before Polly enters one suite, kissing the photo of her husband, Sir Tony; in the other suite, Bobby follows suit, kissing the photo of his Maisie. Polly's on her balcony; he's on his. What a coincidence. He invites her, just as old friends, of course, to his balcony for champagne. They drink to absent mates and sing "No Harm Done," rationalizing, "And what's a glass of wine between friends?" They dance a bit. She protests a bit, saying that they must say goodnight before anything silly happens. They dance a bit more from his suite to hers. He accidentally drops a scarf that he's wearing in her quarters. The telephone rings. It's her husband, Tony. "Here? In Nice...? Downstairs?" He's on his way up! The two dancers retire to their respective suites. Bobby gets a call on his telephone. It's Maisie. In the adjoining suite, Sir Tony spots the scarf. He argues with Polly as to what it's doing there. Angrily, he exits... to take a bath. She rushes to the balcony to tell Bobby about his scarf. His news is that Maisie's on her way up.

He welcomes Maisie to the suite and pours champagne. The glass has lipstick on it. She accuses him of having a secret lover – so that's why he came to Nice! In tears, she rushes out of the room. He calls for Polly from the balcony and lets her know that he has made Maisie as jealous as she has made her Tony. Isn't it delicious? Soon, from inside each suite, we can hear their mates apologize for their suspicious behavior. Polly and Bobby signal one another that they've each won this round.

The next morning, each couple in pajamas and negligees, on their respective balconies, have breakfast and sing "Together Again." As the number ends, the two couples spot each other. What a coincidence! Bobby puts on an act of surprise, as does Polly. Suddenly, Hannah, Bobby's older (husband-hunting) sister, bursts in, looking for her brother. Sir Tony's mum, Lady Brockhurst, still in her camping togs, looking for her son and complaining about the hotel management, follows the intrusion. She seems to have set up her tent in the hotel gardens. Arguments ensue. Hannah introduces herself to Sir Freddy once she discovers that he's a baronet. From the suite above, Madame K (Mme Dubonnet) complains about all of the noise below. Enter valets, chambermaids, manicurists, and chefs – in the manic style of a Marx Brother's movie, all squeezing into the tiny room. Hortense and the hotel staff join in for a reprise of "Paradise Hotel" as pandemonium ends the act.

Act Two

Outside of the Cafe Pataplon, Hannah mentions the scarf as well as the lipstick stain on the glass and provokes another argument between each couple (Tony vs. Polly, as well as Bobby vs. Maisie). They sing to their mates "Divorce Me, Darling." Others arrive at the cabaret, discovering their respective mate's flirting. Husbands and wives are shocked at each other's capricious behaviors, accusing one another and picking up loose ends of the song.

The President (actually, Percy in a false beard, the president's military uniform and dark glasses) is ceremoniously announced as the Monomania "Anthem" is struck up by the band. Percy, upon seeing his daughter, Polly, does a double-take and enters the ballroom.

Hannah laments her unattached state with "Here Am I, But Where's the Guy?," bemoaning the fact that "ev'ry time that I spot him / Some other dame has already got him." The sibilant-challenged Sir Freddy arrives. She nabs him and sweeps him into the ballroom.

Mme Dubonnet (Madame K) confides in Hortense, explaining that she cannot do her nightclub act, for it would reveal to Polly that her mother-in-law is a lowly cabaret performer. She convinces Hortense to don a mask and go on in her place. They rehearse a brief reprise of "Lights! Music!"

Bobby and Maisie are still at odds. She's still determined to divorce him. He sings "Out of Step" and urges her to dance. She joins him reluctantly. The manager of the Cafe Pataplon introduces the act, and Hortense, wearing a mask, goes on as Madame K, singing "Fancy Forgetting." Percy (disguised as the President) leaps up to expose the impostor, tears off Hortense's mask, and Mme Dubonnet steps in, singing a line from the song. Percy is overwhelmed. She, in turn, exposes him. He's not the President of Monomania! He admits it, tearing off the beard. Polly cries out, "Daddy!"

Lady Brockhurst and her uniformed girls march in and perform a military drill. A champagne bottle literally explodes! Someone has placed a bomb in the jeriboam to kill the President of Monomania. The real President enters and commends Percy for his bravery in impersonating him and putting himself on the line. Phew... luckily no one is hurt. Or... where is Lady Brockhurst? She emerges, soot-covered, uniform in disarray. The President invites all to continue the party aboard his yacht. Percy, Mme Dubonnet and Polly – husband, wife and daughter – are reunited with a song, "Together Again."

The properly British Sir Freddy and the All-American Hannah get reunited, too, with a song, "You're Absolutely Me," laced with affectionate homage to Cole Porter. (She: "You're Boston beans." He: "You're tinned sardines." She "You're corned beef hash." He: "You're sausage 'n mash.")

On board the President's yacht, Polly and Tony are reunited, each apologizing for playing games and acting foolish. In each other's arms they sing "Back Where We Started." Polly and Bobby run into each other on deck, and she assures him that everything is patched up between her and Tony. Maisie is approaching them as the yacht lurches and Polly stumbles into Bobby's arms. Maisie, in tears, runs off.

Entertaining the President and his guests, Mme Dubonnet sings (a la Marlene Dietrich) "Blondes for Danger," warning sailors to beware of this breed ("You can make a household pet / Of a redhead or brunette...," but cautions them about the dangerous blonde). Commending Percy for his heroism, the President awards him a deed to the Monomanian Platinum Mine. Percy and Mme Dubonnet embrace.

Hannah has Sir Freddy in tow; they're to be married. Bobby is searching for Maisie. Lady Brockhurst is shocked to see that her girls have traded their scouting uniforms for scanty shorts, sailor caps and tap shoes, as they break into song with a trio of sailors: "Swing Time Is Here to Stay." Maisie, in an abbreviated seafaring uniform, leads the cast in the song and dance.

Bobby patches things up with Maisie, supported by Polly and Tony. Suddenly, Polly faints. In turn, Maisie and the other girls faint, as well. Their husbands come to their rescue – all delighted to discover that they're all in the family way. They reprise the title song, singing, "I would like to make it plain / You'll never hear me say again / Divorce me, darling!"