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L'événement culturel de l'été à Bruxelles!    

Street Scene

Musique: Kurt Weill
Paroles: Langston Hughes
Livret: Elmer Rice

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The play takes place on the doorstep of a tenement on the East Side of Manhattan on two brutally hot days in 1946. The story focuses on two plotlines: the romance between Rose Maurrant and her neighbor Sam Kaplan; and on the extramarital affair of Rose's mother, Anna, which is eventually discovered by Rose's irritable father, Frank. The show portrays the ordinary romances, squabbles and gossips of the neighbors, as the mounting tensions involving the Maurrant family eventually build into a tragedy of epic proportions.

[edit] Act 1As the curtain rises, we are introduced to some of the residents of the apartment block where the action takes place. Emma Jones and Greta Fiorentino lament the incredible heatwave that is gripping New York (Ain't It Awful, The Heat?). They are joined by another neighbor Olga Olsen, who tells of the stress of dealing with her newborn baby and her husband Carl, and an old man, Abraham Kaplan, who sings of the murders and scandals in the press, whilst joining in with the opening number. Henry Davis, the janitor, enters from the basement and sings of his ambitions to greater things (I Got A Marble And A Star). Young Willie Maurrant enters and calls for his mother, who enters at the window and throws him a dime to buy a soda. The three women (Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Fiorentino and Mrs. Olsen) persuade Mrs. Maurrant to come downstairs and be sociable, and as she descends, they gossip about the rumour that Mrs. Maurrant and Steve Sankey, the milkman, have been having an affair (Get A Load Of That). Mrs. Maurrant comes down to chat and Mrs. Olsen goes back down to her cellar apartment to tend to her baby. Sam Kaplan comes out of the house and asks after Mrs. Maurrant's daughter, Rose, but she hasn't got back from work yet. He leaves to go to the library.

Daniel Buchanan enters, jittery; he's nervous because his wife is upstairs about to have a baby. He and the women sing of the perils of childbirth in a short Arietta, When A Woman Has A Baby. Just as he runs upstairs to tend to his wife, Mrs. Maurrant's husband Frank comes home. He mentions that he is going on a business trip to New Haven tomorrow, and argues with his wife about Rose not being home yet (She Shouldn't Be Staying Out Nights). Fuming, he storms into the house, just as George Jones returns home from work and chats with the ladies for a while. Anna Maurrant sings an aria about the importance of putting your faith in a brighter tomorrow (Somehow I Never Could Believe). Steve Sankey enters and a tense scene ensues between him and the suspecting women. Almost immediately after he departs, Mrs. Maurrant heads off in the same direction, under the guise of going to look for her son. Mr. Jones, Mr. Olsen, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Fiorentino sing more about the scandal (Whatcha Think Of That). Mrs. Olsen runs in excited and says that she has just seen Sankey and Mrs. Maurrant standing close together around the back of a local warehouse.

Lippo Fiorentino returns home from work with an armful of ice cream cones for everybody. The two Fiorentino's, the two Olsen's, Mr. Jones and Henry Davis sing a jubilant sextet praising ice cream (Ice Cream Sextet). Maurrant has been watching, and when his wife comes back he questions her about where she's been. She tells him she's been looking for Willie, and Maurrant and Abraham Kaplan argue about parenting, and later economics. Kaplan uses the example of the Hildebrand family who live upstairs, who are run by a struggling single mother who is unable to pay the rent, to illustrate his point. Maurrant and Kaplan's argument almost becomes physical, but the neighbors and Kaplan's granddaughter Shirley hold the two men back. Maurrant sings about how he longs for a return to traditional moral values in Let Things Be Like They Always Was. Immediately after, Jennie Hildebrand and other high-school girls enter the street coming home from their graduation ceremony. The ensemble sings a jubilant celebration number, Wrapped In A Ribbon And Tied In A Bow. Steve Sankey's entrance causes an abrupt end to the celebrations. After the awkward silence of the neighbors forces him to leave, Sam brings Willie Maurrant on in tears. Willie has been fighting with a local kid and Sam stepped in to break it up. Mr. Maurrant leaves to go to the local bar to have a drink, warning that there'll be trouble if Rose isn't home by the time he gets back, whilst Mrs. Maurrant takes Willie upstairs. As soon as they leave, the neighbors all begin gossiping about the Maurrant family. Sam gets passionately upset, chiding the neighbors for gossiping so much behind their backs, and then storms off.

All the neighbors say goodnight and go to bed, except Mr. Jones, who goes to the bar to shoot some pool. Sam returns onstage and sings of his crippling loneliness (Lonely House). Sam goes into the house, then Rose enters with her boss, Harry Easter, who has walked her home. Easter attempts to charm Rose, taking her in his arms and kissing her. He then tries to win her over with a tempting song, promising her that if she were to run away with him he could get her a gig on Broadway (Wouldn't You Like To Be On Broadway?). Rose, however, sticks to her convictions, and sings a Cavatina about how she will always choose true love over showy promises (What Good Would The Moon Be?). Rose sees her father returning home and tells Easter to leave. Maurrant questions her about who she was talking to, and gets angry when she tells him that they had been out dancing. He goes upstairs to bed, furious. Buchanan rushes out of the house and asks Rose to go and phone the doctor, as his wife's baby is about to be born. He heads back upstairs, and as Rose is leaving, she passes young Mae Jones and her suitor, Dick McGann. The two have been out dancing and are flirting, and they sing a fast-paced jitterbug about their infatuation with one another (Moon-faced, Starry-eyed). After they dance on the sidewalk, they passionately run upstairs into the house, after saying a drunken good-night to Rose, who has returned from phoning the doctor.

Mae's brutish elder brother Vincent returns home, and begins harassing Rose. Sam sees him hassling her out of the window, and comes outside to confront him, however Vincent violently lays him out on the sidewalk. Vincent is about to continue his attack when his mother, Mrs. Jones, comes outside to see what the commotion is. He immediately seizes up and innocently goes upstairs at his mother's order. Sam and Rose are left alone, and Sam is embarrassed that he was humiliated by Vincent in front of Rose. Sam laments the terrible strife of living in the slums, but Rose calms him down by reminding him of a poem he once read her (Remember That I Care). Dr. Wilson arrives and goes upstairs to tend to Mrs. Buchanan, and Mr. Maurrant calls Rose and tells her to go to bed. Sam and Rose share a kiss on the sidewalk, and then Rose runs up to bed, just as Henry Davis comes upstairs and starts sweeping the stoop for the night (I Got A Marble And A Star (Reprise)). Rose calls goodnight to Sam from the window and Sam is left alone on the midnight street as the curtain slowly falls to end Act 1.

[edit] Act 2Scene 1: Daybreak, the next morning

Mr. Jones drunkenly returns home from the bar and reels into the house. Dr. Wilson leaves the house, telling Buchanan to let his wife get plenty of rest, and Dick McGann and Mae Jones share a much less passionate goodbye in the cold light of day than their energetic exchanges the night before. Willie Maurrant, Charlie and Mary Hildebrand, Henry's daughter Grace, and other local children play an energetic game (Catch Me If You Can), which ends in a large scuffle. Rose calls for them to stop it from the window, whilst Sam comes outside and physically breaks the fight up. The children all disperse. Sam and Rose have a brief conversation, as Rose tells him that she has to go to the funeral of the head of her real estate firm this morning. Shirley comes outside and tells Sam to come in for breakfast, as Rose goes back inside to do the dishes. Buchanan comes outside and tells the Fiorentino's that he has had a little baby girl in the night. Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Maurrant enter, and Mrs. Jones asks her about Mrs. Buchanan, who Mrs. Maurrant has been looking after all night. Mrs. Jones leaves to walk her dog, and Mrs. Maurrant leaves to go to the grocery store. Rose and Mr. Maurrant come out of the house and Rose tries to persuade him to be nicer to her mother. Mrs. Maurrant returns and the three have a family argument about Mr. Maurrant's behaviour. Mrs. Maurrant asks him nonchalantly how long he'll be gone on his business trip for, and Mr. Maurrant accuses her of having an affair, which she denies. He leaves in a rage, and Mrs. Maurrant and Rose lament his behaviour (There'll Be Trouble). Willie comes on and Rose chides him for looking scruffy. Willie and Rose have a verbal disagreement and Rose quickly storms into the house. Mrs. Maurrant tells him that that is no way to talk to his sister, and that she is relying on him to turn into a good man when he is older (A Boy Like You). Willie leaves for school and Mrs. Maurrant goes into the house, as Rose comes out. Shirley Kaplan comes out of the house and asks Rose why she spends so much time with Sam, when he should be concentrating on his work. Shirley leaves for work, and Vincent Jones comes out of the house and starts harassing Rose again, but promptly leaves as Sam comes out of the house. Rose mentions Easter's tempting offer of running away to Sam, and Sam gets upset, saying that she would be better off running away with him, and the two sing of their intention to run away together (We'll Go Away Together). Easter arrives to walk Rose to the funeral, and the two leave. Sam goes into the house, as Sankey appears. Mrs. Maurrant appears at her window and tells him to come upstairs, as Mr. Maurrant has gone on his business trip and Rose will be at the funeral all morning. As Sankey hurries upstairs he passes Sam coming out of the house, who looks up at the window and sees Mrs. Maurrant pulling the shades shut. Sam sits on the stoop and reads a book, as James Henry, a city-marshall, and Fred Cullen, his assistant, appear. They call Henry Davis up and tell him that they're here to dispossess the Hildebrand family, and that since she has made no arrangements to have the furniture taken away, they'll have to dump it on the sidewalk. Henry goes back into the cellar as the two men enter the house. Mr. Maurrant returns, having changed his mind about the business trip. He sees the shades pulled shut and becomes furious. Sam pleads with him not to enter the house but he pushes him aside and runs upstairs. Mrs. Maurrant is heard screaming, and then two gunshots. Sankey appears at the window in terror, he tries to escape but Maurrant pulls him back inside and shoots him. Panic ensues, as Maurrant exits the house, covered in blood, and points his revolver at the crowd of gatherers in order to make his escape. Policemen, paramedics, concerned neighbors flood the scene. Rose returns from the funeral and sees the concerned crowd. Sam tries to keep her back but she cannot be restrained. The ensemble sings a tragic chorus number about the killing, The Woman Who Lived Up There. Mrs. Maurrant's body is brought out of the house on a stretcher and taken to the hospital and the citizens rush after the ambulance, as Rose, quietly crying in Sam's arms, follows. The curtain slowly falls as the two city-marshalls continue bringing the Hildebrand furniture out onto the sidewalk.

Scene 2: Mid-afternoon, the same day

Two young nursemaids appear at the house and sing about the scandal of the murder that has already spread around the city, as they try to quiet the children they are looking after (Lullaby). As the nursemaids leave, Rose enters, dressed in black. She asks Officer Murphy, the policeman who is still in her apartment, if they have found her father yet, and he tells her that they haven't. Sam enters and tells Rose that he has taken Willie from school round to her aunt's house. Shirley enters and expresses her condolences to Rose, and the two of them go up to Rose's apartment together, as Rose is afraid to go up alone. Sam tells his grandfather that the police are going to make him testify against Maurrant, when two shots are heard in the distance. Buchanan and Olsen run on and tell Sam and Rose (who has run out of the house, alerted by the noise) that the police have found her father hiding in the basement of a house down the street. Two policemen bring on Maurrant, who is covered in blood and dirt. The officers are taking him away when he begs for one minute with his daughter, which they grant him. He and Rose talk about the murder, as the crowd looks on (He Loved Her Too). The officers take Maurrant off, and Rose and Sam are left alone onstage. Rose starts to enter the house when Sam asks what she's going to do. She tells him she'll go away, but when he says that he'll go with her like they discussed that morning, Rose says she has to go off alone. Sam finally confesses to Rose that he is in love with her, and that his life is nothing without her. Rose says that her parents have proved that two people do not belong to be together, and she says goodbye to Sam (Don't Forget The Lilac Bush). Shirley comes out of the house and hands Rose a suitcase full of her things. Rose starts walking off, then returns and swiftly kisses Sam, but he breaks away and goes abruptly into the house. Rose stands looking after him, then picks up her bag and walks off. Mrs. Fiorentino, Mrs. Olsen and Mrs. Jones appear and immediately begin gossiping about Rose and Easter hanging around on the street late last night (Ain't It Awful, The Heat? (Reprise)), as they once again lament the unbearable heat and the curtain slowly falls.

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