Divorce Me, Darling! is a nostalgic and amusing take-off of the musical comedies of the 1930s and a sequel to the technique used in The Boy Friend for the 1920s. The charming young pupils of Mme Dubonnet's finishing school who married their respective "boy friends" now come together again after ten years of marriage at the Hotel du Paradis in Nice. But the initial euphoria of married life has worn off and as they sing and dance their way through some catchy numbers events are misconstrued and partners change until everyone wants a divorce. The situation is finally taken in hand by Mme Dubonnet, alias Madame K the cabaret singer, and her long-lost husband Percy. Having saved the President's life, Percy is reunited with Mme Dubonnet and this sets the trend, nature doing the rest. As the "girls" return to their husbands each makes the startling announcement that there are several more happy events pending!
The action takes place over two days in the summer of 1936 on the French Riviera. The characters are older versions of the same characters introduced in The Boy Friend.
In Nice on the French Riviera in the foyer of the Hotel du Paradis greeted by the hotel manager Gaston 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, they are on a spree having told their French husbands they were off to England to visit their families there. Polly, our heroine, arrives but without her husband, Sir Tony, 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 she is Polly's stepmother, 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, heart-breaking life behind the "glittering facade" 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 "Maisie" they remember from their carefree single days. Lady Brockhurst (Polly's mother-in-law) arrives on the scene with a trio of young girls 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 each other--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 one another 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 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 on 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; Bobby in the other suite 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." They dance a bit. She protests at bit saying they must say goodnight before anything silly happens. They dance a bit more from his suite to hers. He accidentally drops a scarf he's wearing in her quarters. The telephone rings. It's her husband, Tony. . 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 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 turn 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 he's a baronet. From the suite above, Madame K (Mme Dubonnet) complains about all the noise below. Enter valets, chambermaids, manicurists, and chefs, all squeezing into the tiny room.
Hortense and the hotel staff join in for a reprise of "Paradise Hotel" (reprise) as pandemonium ends the act.
Outside 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 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 I Am, But Where's My Guy?". The sibilant challenged Sir Freddy arrives. She nabs him and sweeps him into the ballroom.
Mme Dubonnet (Madame K) confides in Hortense explaining she cannot do her nightclub act for it would reveal to Polly that her stepmother 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!" (reprise).
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" (reprise). 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. The President invites all to continue the party aboard his yacht. Percy, Mme Dubonnet, and Polly are reunited Together Again" (reprise)).
The proper British Sir Freddy and the all-American Hannah get reunited too You're Absolutely Me.
On board the President's yacht Polly and Tony are reunited, each apologizing for playing games and acting foolish. They are in each other's arms Back Where We Started. Polly and Bobby run into each other on deck and she assures him 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 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 they're all in the family way Divorce Me, Darling" (reprise)). "I would like to make it plain/You'll never hear me say again/Divorce me, darling!"
Divorce Me, Darling ran for 91 performances at London's Globe Theatre in 1965. It had its U.S. premiere at the Arena Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars, Houston, Texas, in 1984. It played at the Chichester Festival Theatre in July 1997, featuring Ruthie Henshall as Polly.
It is still occasionally revived at both an amateur and professional level, sometimes as a double bill with The Boy Friend.
Overture - Orchestra
Here We Are In Nice Again - Dulcie, Nancy, Fay, Hortense, Ensemble
Whatever Happened To Love? - Polly, Dulcie, Nancy, Fay
Someone To Dance With - Bobby, Ensemble
Lights! Music! - Mme Dubonnet, Ensemble
Maisie - Marcel, Pierre, Alphonse
Back To Nature - Lady Brockhurst, Sir Freddy, Cecelia, Prunella, Felicity
On The Loose - Lord Brockhurst, Dulcie, Nancy, Fay
Paradise Hotel - Hortense, Gaston, Hotel Staff
No Harm Done - Bobby, Polly
Together Again - Tony, Polly, Maisie, Bobby
Divorce Me, Darling! - Polly, Bobby, Tony, Maisie, Dulcie, Alphonse, Fay, Marcel, Nancy, Pierre
Here Am I - Hannah
Out Of Step - Bobby, Maisie, Ensemble
Lights! Music! (reprise) - Mme Dubonnet, Hortense
Fancy Forgetting (reprise) - Hortense, Mme Dubonnet
Together Again (reprise) - Percival, Mme Dubonnet, Polly
You're Absolutely Me - Hannah, Sir Freddy
Back Where We Started - Polly, Tony, Dulcie, Alphonse, Fay, Marcel, Nancy, Pierre
Blondes For Danger - Mme Dubonnet, Ensemble
Swing Time Is Here To Stay - Maisie, Ensemble
Divorce Me, Darling (reprise) - Ensemble
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