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The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Music & Lyrics: Meredith Willson

Book: Richard Morris

IN the opening scene Molly Tobin and her brothers are indulging in a rough-and-tumble game in front of their shack in Hannibal, Missouri; the time is the beginning of the 20th century. Molly is a wild, uninhibited, backwood girl, who immediately reveals that what she lacks in culture or polish she more than makes up for with spunk and vitality ("I Ain't Down Yet"). Some day, she announces confidently, she will be powerful and rich. In search of such a future, she goes on foot to Leadville, Colorado, and gets a job singing in the Saddle Rock saloon ("Belly Up to the Bar, Boys"). There she meets and falls in love with Johnny Brown, who before long proposes marriage to her ("I've Already Started"). On their wedding night Johnny mysteriously deserts his bride for a week, but when he returns he showers a fortune on her: $300,000 which he had received from the sale of a claim. When all this money is accidentally burned Johnny is only temporarily taken aback. He promises Molly he will find another claim and once again make her rich. He is as good as his word: Setting off for Colorado, he becomes one of the wealthiest miners there. At an elegant social event, to which Jimmy and Molly are invited, Molly introduces herself with her customary boisterousness ("Beautiful People of Denver"), but finds herself snubbed by her social peers. Undaunted, she announces a huge party in her own house. When nobody shows up, Molly decides to brush the dust of Colorado off her shoes and set of with Johnny for Europe.

A few years later, in a Paris salon, Molly is the darling of royalty. But, unable to forget how she had been snubbed in Colorado, she is determined to avenge herself. She invites all her highborn friends to come home with her, where Molly throws another gala party. This time the cream of Colorado society shows up and is impressed by the distinguished foreign visitors. But some of the less desirable elements in Colorado break in on Molly's party, with the result that a rowdy free-for-all ensues. The party disintegrates into a fiasco, Molly decides to go back to Europe in the company of Prince de Long. Johnny, however, insists on staying home, where, after the passage of time, he begins to miss her sorely ("Soliloquy").

In Monte Carlo Prince de Long begs Molly to divorce Johnny and marry him ("Dolce far Niente"). Molly hesitates because she has not forgotten Johnny ("I May Never Fall in Love With You"). The memory of Johnny sends her back home. She books passage on the Titanic on its maiden voyage. When the Titanic collides with an iceberg on April 14, 1912, sending almost fifteen hundred passengers to their death, the hardy Molly manages to survive, being one of the seven hundred carried to safety in lifeboats. Back in Colorado, she finds Johnny waiting for her, and her friends ready to salute her courage with the rousing refrain of her own song, "I Ain't Down Yet").

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This document was originally published in The Complete Book of Light Opera. Mark Lubbock. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 928-9.

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