Birds of Paradise
A group of amateur actors hilariously tries to stage a musical adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull.
Show Essentials
8
Roles
12
Rated
2
Acts

Full Synopsis

Act One

As the story begins, the group is awaiting the arrival of Lawrence Wood, a professional actor. Wood, who grew up on Harbour Island (and left as soon as he could) is visiting his hometown for the first time in twenty years. He has agreed to observe their rehearsal. Thrilled at the prospect of a real professional in their midst, each member feels for the first time since they've been working together, that it's finally worth it ('So Many Nights').

Wood arrives and we learn that he's in trouble, both personally and professionally. The amateurs are dazzled by his presence and blind to his problems.

Wood is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Julia, who bursts in dressed as a kind of moon-sprite and begs to be allowed to perform a song written by Homer, a young writer/composer who is also a member of the group. It's from his bizarre musical adaptation of Anton Chekov's play The Seagull, appropriately titled Seagull. Over the group's protestations, Wood asks to hear the song, an eerie ballad about a young girl who flies to the moon only to find she can t get back down ('Every Day is Night').

Intrigued by the song, by Homer's loony talent and, most of all, by Julia, Wood asks to see the script and reflects on how good it feels to be a big fish in a little pond ("Somebody"). In an attempt to recover what has been missing in his life, Wood offers to direct and star in Homer's shows. The others are beside themselves with excitement, especially Marjorie, Homer's mother who still carries a torch for Wood from high school days.

The next morning Julia and Homer arrive early for rehearsal. Since childhood, Homer has been unrequitedly in love with Julia. Before rehearsal, they both fantasize about how the events of the past evening might change their lives ("Coming True"). The rest of the group arrives and, in a sequence that tracks the first weeks of rehearsal, Homer discovers what it's like to work with a real professional ("It's Only a Play").

As the final week of rehearsal approaches, Andy (Wood's brother) gives Wood a message about a call from his agent in New York. Wood claims he's not interested and Andy seizes the opportunity to confide in his brother about his rich fantasy life ("She's Out There").

Later, in the middle of a disastrous rehearsal, Wood takes Marjorie, Hope and Stella aside and encourages them to "open up" emotionally. This results in a hilarious misunderstanding as the ladies attempt to make sense of what she said ("Birds of Paradise").

Wood calls his agent in New York and is furious to learn that she wants him to audition for a part that he feels is beneath him. When the rehearsal reconvenes, he vents his rage on Homer, insisting that he slow down one of the numbers. Homer, equally enraged, deliberately plays it as slowly as possible, transforming it into an expression of each group member's unrequited love. As the song reaches its climax, Wood and Julia steal a clandestine kiss, unwittingly witnessed by a heartbroken Homer ("Imagining You").

Act Two

It's the night before dress rehearsal. With great conviction (and in penguin suits) Andy, Hope and Dave perform a number from Seagull and demonstrate how far they've come ("Penguins Must Sing"). The rehearsal continues. Wood attacks Marjorie for her lack of commitment to her character and goads her into a deeply felt rendition of "You're Mine."

Meanwhile, Homer is intent on re-writing the end of his play, determined to make it a bleak and bitter reflection of his present circumstances. After a devastating encounter with Julia, he tears up what he's written and seeks solace at the piano remembering a song he wrote as a child ("Things I Can't Forget"). Marjorie surprises them both by picking up the pieces and mother and son end up - for the first time - comforting each other ("After Opening Night").

Dress rehearsal. Deep in character and loving every miserable minute, the amateurs give thanks to the man who made their lives worth living ("Chekov"). Wood enters with a crushing announcement: he has been offered the part in New York and he must leave that night. Julia runs off, believing she is included in his plans. The group is devastated. Homer tries to convince him to stay, but Wood goes, leaving Julia behind, her illusions destroyed. Homer threatens to leave as well when all at once the group discovers the pages of his re-written final scene. They fall in love with the surprising new twists he he has created for each of their characters. As they begin to piece the new ending together, they find a new appreciation for what they mean to each other ("Something New"). 

Casting

Casting

Cast Size: Small 10
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Andy
Stella's husband. A mechanic.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 40
Vocal range top: D4
Vocal range bottom: B3
Dave
A high school music teacher and a frustrated writer.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 35
Vocal range top: D4
Vocal range bottom: Bb2
Homer
A part-time college student, composer and writer.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 25
Vocal range top: F4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Hope
A depressed feminist.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 35
Vocal range top: C5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Julia
Homer's friend since childhood. Stage-struck.
Gender: female
Age: 20 to 25
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Lawrence Wood
Andy's older brother. A professional actor.
Gender: male
Age: 45 to 50
Vocal range top: D4
Vocal range bottom: C3
Marjorie
Homer's mother. Has starred in most of the Harbor Island Players' productions.
Gender: female
Age: 45 to 50
Vocal range top: B4
Vocal range bottom: B3
Stella
The amateur group's secretary. A housewife.
Gender: female
Age: 35 to 40
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: C4
Full Song List
Birds of Paradise: So Many Nights
Birds of Paradise: Every Day is Night
Birds of Paradise: Somebody
Birds of Paradise: Coming True
Birds of Paradise: It's Only a Play
Birds of Paradise: She's Out There
Birds of Paradise: Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise: Imagining You (Act I Finale)
Birds of Paradise: Penguins Must Sing
Birds of Paradise: You're Mine
Birds of Paradise: Things I Can't Forget
Birds of Paradise: After Opening Night
Birds of Paradise: Chekov
Birds of Paradise: Something New (Finale)

Show History

Inspiration

Birds Of Paradise, a collaboration between composer David Evans and lyricist Winnie Holzman, began while Holzman was pursuing her Master's Degree from New York University's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. The show is one of the first musicals to come out of the program.

The characters in Birds of Paradise are rehearsing a musical adaptation of The Seagull, Anton Chekov's 1895 classic about artistic and romantic conflicts in Russia. As the show progresses, the actors begin emulating the characters they are portraying in The Seagull.

Productions

Birds Of Paradise premiered Off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre on October 26, 1987. The show ran for 29 previews and 24 performances, closing on November 5, 1987. Directed by Arthur Laurents, the production starred Todd Graff, John Cunningham, Crista Moore, Mary Beth Peil, Andrew Hill Newman, Donna Murphy, Barbara Walsh and J.K. Simmons.

The musical was performed Off-off-Broadway on September 30, 2002 as a one-night-only free reading at the Chashama Theatre in New York City. Directed by Mark Cannistraro, the cast included Stephen Hope, DB Bonds and Georgia Osbourne.

Critical Reaction

"A warm, sweet, funny musical about an amateur theater group rehearsing a version of Chekhov's The SeagullBirds of Paradise has a book and songs by Winnie Holzman and David Evans (she's words, he's music), and an eight-member cast of superlative charm directed by Arthur Laurents, and it is the wittiest little musical I have seen in ages." - The New Yorker

Billing

Requirements

Under the terms and conditions of your organisation’s Performance Agreement, the following credits must appear on all advertising (including websites) relating to the production. Credits must be reproduced faithfully in accordance with the following layout. No alterations or deletions can be permitted unless stated below.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.

CREDIT

 

SIZE TYPE

BIRDS OF PARADISE

100%

 

Book by

WINNIE HOLZMAN & DAVID EVANS

 

 

50%

Music by

DAVID EVANS

Lyrics by

WINNIE HOLZMAN

 

50%

     

 

 

 

            In advertisements of 1/4 page size or less, or where only the title of the play, performance dates and venue are provided, the following "shortened billing" is permissible:

 

BIRDS OF PARADISE

Video Warning

If you purchase a separate Video Licence to allow non-commercial video recording of this production, you must print the following in your programme: ANY VIDEO RECORDING MADE OF THIS PERFORMANCE IS AUTHORISED FOR PERSONAL, AT-HOME, NON-COMMERCIAL USE ONLY. THE SALE OR DISTRIBUTION OF SUCH RECORDING IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED UNDER COPYRIGHT LAW. If you do not purchase a separate Video Licence then you must print the following in your programme: The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited.

Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included
LIBRETTO12
PIANO CONDUCTOR'S SCORE10

Production Resources

Resource
PRODUCTIONPRO
REFERENCE RECORDING
VIDEO LICENSE

STANDARD ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
BASS(OPTIONAL) , ACOUSTIC BASS
CELLO
HORN
KEYBOARD 2
PERCUSSIONBOWED CYMBAL , CABASA , CASTANETS , COWBELL , DRUM KIT , GLOCKENSPIEL , MARK TREE , SANDPAPER , SLEIGH BELLS , SUSPENDED CYMBAL , TAMBOURINE , TEMPLE BLOCKS , TRIANGLE , VIBES , WOODBLOCK , XYLOPHONE
REED 1BASS CLARINET , CLARINET , ENGLISH HORN , FLUTE , OBOE , PICCOLO , TENOR SAXOPHONE