Lincoln & Booth

A Historical Musical - Book, Music and Lyrics by Richard Chiarappa; additional writing by Terrence Ortwein; Arrangements by Frank Hunter

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Synopsis - Click on the hyperlinked song titles for samples. Youtube sample performances are available here.

Act I

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 Townspeople casually wander onto the set speaking solo lines that are from future moments in the play. As one almost finishes, another starts up, creating a brief overlapping effect, not unlike the warming up of instruments in an orchestra. When all characters are in their separately lit places - the Lincolns in waltz position, Booth with pistol and knife, the conspirators at the gallows with the townspeople gathered round, the frozen tableau is broken by Mary Surratt's cry, "I never did!" ("Just a Little Lie").

The Lincolns and Booth exit as a courtroom-like scene is established and military questioning follows with the entire cast explaining the legal implications of "vicarious liability" and what it means in "Conspiracy."

Immediately following, Mary Surratt sets the scene and time for us - "The Ides of March." Booth is wooing the "action team," his specially chosen band of men and reveals the plan to abduct Lincoln - "Listen to Brutus." Mrs. Surratt and the chorus tell us the upshot of that failed scheme in "To Retribution."

We next move to the White House where we hear "Lincoln's theme" supporting his telling of his dream to Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln. From their moment together, we move to two undefined but clearly separate "spaces" for Booth and his final moment together with his two women; Lucy Hale, a senator's daughter to whom he is engaged, and Nellie Starr, a young girl he has set up to work in the city as a prostitute - "Good-bye."
 

pic A change of scene takes us to the lobby and out in front of Ford's Theatre where all kinds of preparations are taking place for the evening's performance. By the end of the song, "Ford's Theatre," everyone has discovered that the president and his wife will be in attendance that very evening. Everyone exits to go about with their respective tasks and Booth enters an empty foyer. H. C. Ford reenters and reveals to Booth that President Lincoln will be at Ford's that very night. Booth seems distracted, as if lost in thought as Ford exits, leaving him alone to ponder his next move - "Something Decisive and Great."

Booth finishes and enters the theatre where a rehearsal of "Honor To Our Soldiers" - a piece led by actress Laura Keene to be premiered that very evening - is taking place on stage. Booth listens, compliments the cast, and bids them adieu by quoting Shakespeare as he has "business to attend to."

As he exits the theatre we enter the White House where a meeting between Stanton and Lincoln is taking place. Lincoln cracks a joke, gives his opinion about the situation at hand, and ushers Stanton out as Mrs. Lincoln enters. Together they share a tender moment full of talk about the end of the war, of dreams for the future and taking a trip to Jerusalem. Their momentary lightheartedness culminates in a charming waltz which ends as they begin to leave for the theatre.

Act II

"picOnce a Plan is Set In Motion" warns us about Booth's upcoming act. We watch him in his final meeting with the conspirators as he doles out the assignments to "bring the monster down" as they sing "Tyranny." Shortly after, in Ford's Theatre, during a frozen moment of laughter Booth enters the presidential box as he and Lincoln sing the "Assassination" duet.

As the laughter resumes a gunshot rings out causing confusion which turns into pandemonium. After Booth exits, the greatest manhunt in our history begins - "Escape!" There are several stopping points along the escape route until the scene returns to The Petersen House where Mary Todd sings her plaintive reprise of "Just Ourselves" over the motionless body of her husband. A doctor checks vital signs and signals that Lincoln has breathed his last. Secretary Stanton breaks the silence with his famous line, "Now he belongs to the ages," as he and the mourners sing the words from Melville's poem "Beware The People Weeping."

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Back on the escape route, a house of entertainment, "The Trappe," becomes the fateful meeting place of two separate groups - Booth's group followed shortly after by a search party of Union soldiers. The famous barn at Garrett's farm is the scene of Booth's demise when he finds himself surrounded by Union troops. After the barn is set on fire and Booth prepares to fight to the bitter end, a rifle shot sends him staggering to the ground. In his final moments he pleads for his mother's forgiveness - "Death Prayer."

 

With crowd noise we find ourselves back at the military interrogation of the prisoners by the military tribunal and watch as each conspirator reveals one or more inconsistencies - "Just a Little Lie" - in his alibi. The sentences are picread, the conspirators are in their places at the gallows as the nooses drop and the sky turns bright red. As if looking back on history from a future time, we return to the opening tableau with "everyone in their proper place" - including the Lincolns and Booth - as the cast sings the finale, "We The People."