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Based loosely on Edmond Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac, CALVIN BERGER is the hip and hilarious story of unrequited feelings, love notes, and physical insecurity among four high school seniors. Calvin is smitten by the beautiful Rosanna, but he feels insecure because of the size of his nose. Rosanna, in turn, is attracted to the good-looking newcomer, Matt, who is painfully shy and inarticulate around her, although the attraction is mutual. Hoping to get closer to Rosanna through his eloquent love notes, Calvin offers to be Matt’s “speech writer,” all the while ignoring the signals of attraction from another girl, his best friend, Bret. When the deception unravels, everybody’s friendship is seriously jeopardized, but Calvin eventually realizes that his preoccupation with his appearance had led him astray, and his eyes are opened to Bret, who’d been there all along.
Music samples courtesy of Ghostlight Records and Barry Wyner
The timeless story of Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the most famous romances of all time. Where better to set this story of unrequited feelings, love notes, and physical insecurity than a high school?
On the first morning of their last year of high school, we see four seniors having a “Security Meltdown.” Calvin frets about the size of his nose, which prevents him from pursuing the girl of his dreams, Rosanna. Rosanna is having a meltdown of her own, yearning to find her “thing” and be more than just a pretty face. Calvin’s best friend, Bret, longs to be seen as a potential girlfriend and not just a girl friend. Matt, the handsome new kid in school, fears that his poor speaking skills will keep him from making friends.
Calvin’s school year starts with a bang: Rosanna speaks to him for the first time, inviting him to a meeting for a new charity she is starting. She then has a bumbling encounter with Matt, and though they are perfect strangers, there is instant attraction (“I Can See Him Now”).
Later, Calvin and Bret are in study hall chatting about movies. Rosanna interrupts and asks Calvin to meet her that night (“Don’tcha Think?”). He takes this to mean a date, and shows up with a love poem for her… only to hear her confess her feelings for Matt. She asks Calvin to speak to Matt, since they are both on the wrestling team, and find out if he likes her. Though heartbroken, Calvin agrees (“It Just Wasn’t Meant to Happen”). In the locker room the next day, Calvin speaks to Matt, who says he likes Rosanna but gets tongue-tied around girls. Calvin laments having the opposite dilemma: verbal wit without good looks. In a hilarious duet called “We’re The Man,” they hatch a scheme to win Rosanna’s affection by combining Calvin’s words with Matt’s looks.
In preparation for Matt’s first date with Rosanna, Calvin writes love notes for Matt to give her. He tries to coach Matt on what to say, but discovers that Matt has a lousy memory… except for rap lyrics. Thus, Calvin must — quite awkwardly — teach Matt through the use of rap (“Never Know”). When the big night comes, their plan works like a charm. But it pains Calvin to see Matt kiss Rosanna.
Alone in her bedroom, Bret wishes she was with Calvin instead (“Saturday Alone”). Just then, Calvin calls and invites her over. She shows up at his house dressed to the nines, but he just asks her for help writing love notes to Rosanna.
Back at school, Calvin playfully asks Rosanna how things are going with Matt. In “More Than Meets the Eye,” she raves about Matt’s brilliance and says she loves him for his beautiful words, not his looks. Calvin is stunned to think Rosanna really loves him. Calvin writes Rosanna a note confessing his feelings, and explaining that the words she has fallen in love with are his (“Act One Finale”).
Calvin shares a playful moment with his Mr. Potato Head doll, envying its ability to change facial features (“Mr. Potato Head”). He then takes the confession note to Matt to give Rosanna that night. To Calvin’s dismay, Matt has decided he no longer wants help (“Graduation Day”), but Calvin convinces him to deliver this one final note. Calvin cancels plans with Bret for that night (“Saturday Alone” Reprise), so he will be ready when Rosanna learns the truth.
On the date, Matt hilariously blunders and calls Calvin begging for assistance. In an update of Cyrano’s balcony scene, Calvin feeds Matt lines through his cell phone earpiece. Things go awry, and Rosanna storms out before Matt can give her Calvin’s last note. Growing suspicious of Calvin’s motives, Matt reads the note himself.
Calvin is confronted by Bret, who is fed up with his insensitivity to her feelings, and by Matt, who now sees that Calvin was using him. Rosanna looks on and learns that she’s been tricked. Suddenly everyone is screaming at Calvin (“The Fight”). The scene culminates with Calvin getting punched in the nose and everyone singing the quirky lament, “How Can I Compete With That?”
The final scenes crescendo to a “Bachelor Auction” that Rosanna has organized for her charity. Calvin must make amends with the other characters, especially Matt (“We’re The Man” Reprise). Along the way, he realizes that Bret has secret feelings for him (“Perfect For You”), just as he does for Rosanna. He questions which of the two girls is truly right for him, and realizes the answer was right under his you-know-what. Meanwhile, Matt must win back Rosanna’s affection without assistance from Calvin, and Bret and Rosanna share a moment of female bonding (“Calm, Cool and Collected”). By the time the four friends take their places for the Bachelor Auction, each has found new self-confidence and acceptance of their own imperfections (“Finale”).
Book, Music and Lyrics by Barry Wyner
Orchestration by Doug Besterman
Original Direction by Kathleen Marshall
Scene Change Music Arranged by Aron Accurso
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1 Electric Bass Guitar
1 Percussion: Trap set and mallet instruments:
1 Keyboard/Partitur (registrations mostly for Piano and Electric Piano) [SAMPLE]
2 Piano/Conductor Scores
10 Libretto/Vocal Books
A high school-age boy who is charming, witty and lovable but does not have traditional good looks (pref. has a big nose). Must have impeccable comic timing. Good models for type: McLovin from “Superbad,” Ferris Bueller, Jon Cryer in “Pretty in Pink,” Anthony Michael Hall in “The Breakfast Club.” Baritone, pleasant sound but need not be polished, up to F#.
A very handsome high school-age guy. Muscular, macho, athletic happy-go-lucky, likable, earnest. Can be a lovable meathead (Stifler from “American Pie”), or a pretty-boy jock (Zac Efron in “High School Musical”), or an ultra-cool dude (James Dean, The Fonz). Bari-tenor with a comfortable G, who can belt a few loud A’s, too. Pref. a rock sound.
A beautiful, high school-age girl. Ingénue type with cheerleader good looks and a girl-next-door sweetness. Likable and able to show vulnerability. Beautiful voice, soprano or mixey high belt.
Quirky, witty, sarcastic, lovable, funny high school-age girl. A funkier, less mainstream look than Rosanna, perhaps alternative, grunge, goth, etc. Must not be extremely pretty – or the opposite. Probably more cute than hot. Good example: Juno from “Juno.” Strong, pleasant singing voice, alto with good high belt/mix up to D.
In addition to the four principal roles, CALVIN BERGER can also feature an Ensemble of flexible size. Creator Barry Wyner provides the following suggestions:
As a teacher and director myself, I’ve been involved in many high school and community musical theater productions. I know firsthand the pressures that sometimes exist to provide opportunities to more actors, not just a select few. CALVIN BERGER will always be more of a small-ensemble show in nature, since that’s what I envisioned when writing it, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be something bigger.
Below are some scenes and songs where I feel opportunities to expand the cast exist. They are just guidelines and suggestions, not an “official” cast expansion list, so feel free to implement them to greater or lesser degrees than I’ve indicated. Consider them flexible. Use your directorial judgment and discretion, and you may assume that you implicitly have my blessing. And if you see expansion opportunities in scenes I didn’t think of… just go for it! Many of the ideas I’m listing are things other people thought of, things I saw done in productions I attended. When doubling ensemble members on choral parts currently written for leads, put them with the part closest to their singing range. Generally, Calvin is Baritone, Matt is Tenor, Bret is Alto, and Rosanna is Soprano. If you ever want to run an idea by me for an opinion, use the Contact section on BarryWyner.com, and I will respond ASAP.
Thanks for supporting my show, and best of luck with your production. I hope it makes your audiences laugh out loud, feel for the characters, and maybe even contemplate their own insecurities a bit. Those nagging little demons, often irrational and rooted in fear, keep us from becoming our best selves. They seem small– as small as a nose, even– yet can hold us back in giant ways. Writing this show helped me conquer some of my own insecurities, and it was truly the most liberating thing. Feel free to post highlights, or all, of your production on YouTube. It may inspire other productions, and besides, I would love to see your take on the material. Break a leg!
Security Meltdown: Have ensemble enter after Matt’s solo (“…could be hell!”) and double the leads’ vocal parts to end of song. This represents everyone arriving to school at the start of the day. Consider giving one of them the “I’m too damn short!” solo.
Students pass through school hallway. Some take SHITOTS flyers from Rosanna. (Use same approach in other hallway scenes, too, such as scenes 5 and 6.)
Students in library studying. One yells “Ssssh!” to Calvin after Edward Scissorhands line.
Don’t’cha Think: Extra students may double the phrase “Don’tcha Think” whenever it occurs, and also sing background “ooh”s and “aah”s underneath the “not such a mystery” and “normal emotion” sections to fit the chords.
Act One Finale: Start doubling leads (Calvin only when appropriate) from “You Should Know” at end of Bret’s verse to end.
Second Dream: Students enter when Rosanna yells nose. They yell “Nose!” repeatedly, pointing and laughing at Calvin.
Mr. Potato Head: Other students spread around stage hold Mr. Potato Head dolls and sing with Calvin, having similar moments of reflection. They may double him, or take solos, on entire song except “If you don’t like your nose, you pull and there it goes. You put a new one in its place, and Poof! A whole new face,” and “Mr. Banana Nose envies you,” which should be Calvin. Change to “WE really covet…” and “WE wish that WE…”
Populate bowling alley with students. (One of them must bowl a strike to earn Matt’s congratulations!)
Someone plays the waitress when Calvin orders the ice cream sundae. Squeeze in “What can I get you?” before Calvin says “A sundae would be perfect,” and “Anything else?” before he says “No thanks.”
The Fight: Students slowly gather around the altercation, as in a hallway when a fight breaks out. (It’s as if they heard the commotion from inside the bowling alley, and came outside to see what’s happening.) Starting at Bret’s “you got busted,” have students double the more choral phrases, like “Calvin, what kind of friend are you?” and “Just tell her.”
How Can I Compete With That: Other students may double Matt and Rosanna when they sing “It just wasn’t meant to happen,” and then double ALL parts (or re-assign them as solos) from “Everybody sees my body,” to end of song.
Scenes 5 and 6
Have students pantomime the person on the other end of Rosanna’s phone calls. (If you REALLY need to create cast opportunities, you can have them say the other lines, like “my origami team has a match that night,” but this will definitely make the phone calls less funny, so I prefer you don’t)
Instead of Matt handing flyers to the audience, have him give them to students passing by.
Calm, Cool, and Collected: A student does the announcement labeled “Voiceover” in the script. Other female students join in the song (perhaps emerging from bathroom stalls?) on the chorus sections, from “But so what…” right through “Show the school you’re collected, calm and cool.” Starting at the bridge, have female ensemble sing, “From a crisis comes and opportunity. You’ll be BFF before too long. From this unexpected female unity, WE feel so strong. Bret and Rosanna version 2.0,” all the way to the end. I would keep a couple lines, like “But so what we know what we’ve got to do, me and you!” as Bret/Rosanna solos to keep the focus on them.
When Matt and Calvin enter after Calm, Cool and Collected, have the other male ensemble members enter with them.
Finale: Other students join at “Who knows what’s really meant to happen?” and sing to end. Keep Calvin solo on his final “me,” and perhaps also the “if we don’t find the answers…” section.
CALVIN BERGER made its world premiere on August 31, 2006 at the Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts. In 2007, it was produced by the Barrington Stage Company at the Athanaeum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Its third production took place at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 2010, under the direction of Kathleen Marshall.
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