Play the Songs
- "Jamaica" Overture
- Savannah's Wedding Day
- Pretty to Walk With
- Push de Button
- Little Biscuit
- Cocoanut Sweet
- Pity the Sunset
- Yankee Dollar
- What Good Does It Do
- Monkey in the Mango Tree
- Take It Slow, Joe
- Ain't It de Truth
- Leave de Atom Alone
- For Every Fish
- I Don't Think I'll End It All Today
- 18 Napoleon
- Savannah (Finale)
Set on a small fictional island off the Jamaican coast, JAMAICA weaves romance, comedy, and social commentary as an unspoiled island community fights the encroaching forces of commercialism.
On fictional Pigeon Island, off the coast of Jamaica, a cheerful fisherman named Koli celebrates life and serenades the woman he loves (“Savannah”). Though Koli loves his island life, his ambitious girlfriend Savannah plans to leave the island and move to New York City, home of every modern convenience (“Push The Button”). Despite his misgivings, Koli promises to marry Savannah and accompany her to New York. Overjoyed, Savannah tells her grandmother about the pending wedding, and everyone celebrates “Savannah’s Wedding Day.”
To honor the engagement, Grandma gives Savannah a single black pearl earring. “You find the mate for this earring when you find the true mate for your heart,” she tells her. Savannah boasts to the other women that – after five years of dating – she has finally “caught” her man by being “Pretty To Walk With. Koli returns in style; instead of buying a wedding ring, he has purchased a beautiful new glass-bottomed boat. Savannah storms off, heartbroken (“Incompatibility”).
Meanwhile, the meek and mild-mannered mayor, Cicero, attempts to woo the spirited Ginger (“Little Biscuit”), but she remains indifferent. Grandma, confiding in Savannah’s younger brother Quico, admits that she doesn’t know any magic; she just helps people “see with their eyes what they feel in their hearts” (“Coconut Sweet”). Savannah tells Grandma that she envisions a great future for Koli—she wishes he could see his own potential. All the fishermen choose to take the afternoon off, but Cicero says they must return; they’re all too low on the economic food chain to make that decision themselves (“For Every Fish”).
Koli and Savannah go sailing in his new glass-bottomed boat (“Pity The Sunset”). He urges her to stay on Pigeon Island. Why should they go to New York when all those overworked, uptight New Yorkers come to Jamaica to relax? They argue and flirt until Savannah playfully throws Koli overboard. Laughing, he again asks her to marry him.
The next day, the S.S. Carribea approaches, filled with American tourists. Cicero tells the islanders that Pigeon Island is broke, and they desperately need tourist dollars. He and Ginger impersonate an American couple, and she leads everyone in a lively salute to the “Yankee Dollar.” The boat arrives, and a single passenger disembarks: Joe Nashua, successful American businessman, has come to export pearls from nearby Devil Cove. To Cicero’s dismay, Ginger takes Joe by the arm and welcomes him to Pigeon Island (“What Good Does It Do?”).
Joe urges Koli to give up fishing and start diving for pearls, but Koli flatly refuses (“Monkey In The Mango”). Diving has proven deadly in the past, but Joe offers a ten-dollar advance to any man willing to dive again, and the fishermen all clamor to sign up. Joe pleads with the men to resist; Joe will grow rich while they all risk their lives.
Savannah approaches Joe with a business proposition: she’ll make authentic clothing that he can sell to upscale New Yorkers. Joe is more interested in a personal relationship, however, and he invites Savannah to dinner. At a fancy restaurant, he attempts to seduce her, but she wards him off (“Take It Slow, Joe”).
Weeks later, the pearl business is thriving (“For Every Fish” Reprise). Koli continues to fish while the other men dive. While fishing, Koli has discovered a rare black pearl; he sells it to Joe for five hundred dollars. Koli, money in hand, tells Savannah they can finally marry and he will accompany her to New York. But he notices she’s wearing a second black pearl earring, which she admits was a gift from Joe. Jealous and hurt, Koli exits in a rage.
A few days later, Savannah is packed and ready to sail to New York with Joe. She tells Ginger she doesn’t love Joe, but she’s willing to marry him to get out (“Ain’t It The Truth”). Just before they set sail, a huge storm begins blowing in. Grandma and Savannah both panic: young Quico is diving at Devil’s Cove, and Koli is out fishing. As the howling winds increase and everyone scrambles to find shelter, Savannah stands at the shore, calling out to Koli.
In the wake of the storm, the island is devastated: boats are smashed to splinters, homes are in ruins, and the islanders remain in tatters. Ginger, lightening the mood, blames the wreckage on science going too far (“Leave The Atom Alone”). Joe, starving, pleads for food, and Ginger trades him a single apple for a string of pearls. Savannah, who has spent days staring out at the sea, breaks off her plans with Joe (“Coconut Sweet” Reprise).
Cicero, now promoted to Governor, faces a host of new problems. Grandma encourages everyone to get up and start rebuilding (“Noah”). Suddenly, Quico comes running in—he was rescued! “Who rescued you?” Savannah asks, and Koli triumphantly appears with a duffel bag full of fresh fish. Joe, wanting the food for himself, offers Koli a bag of pearls in exchange, but Koli refuses, instead sharing the fish with everyone. The fishermen taunt Joe, steal his bag of pearls, hand him a single fish, and chase him off.
Savannah, after days of worry and grief, begins feeling hopeful again (“I Don’t Think”). Ginger finally warms up to Cicero, telling him a Governor needs a Governor’s Lady, but he is too busy to think about love. Savannah comments on Cicero’s new stature (“Napoleon”).
Some time later, as normal life on the island gradually resumes, Koli again sells his fish at the market. He presents Savannah with a beautiful pearl stole, made from the pearls the fishermen took from Joe’s bag, and she says she loves him. He doubts her affections, though, fearing she only loves him for his material success. Stunned, Savannah returns the stole and leaves. Savannah and Ginger commiserate about their love lives (“What Good Does It Do?” Reprise). The true Governor returns to his post, and Cicero is demoted. Ginger forgives him and takes him back, saying she prefers him with his shoes off, anyway.
Koli decides to leave Pigeon Island for good, but Quico begs him to stay. Quico tells Koli about the legend of the black pearls – that whoever found the mate for Savannah’s black pearl earring would be her mate in life. Joe appears, just before sailing to New York. Koli offers him the pearl stole in exchange for Joe’s one black pearl. Joe accepts and sails off.
Koli runs to Savannah’s house, stands outside her window with the black pearl, and declares his love for her (“Savannah” Reprise). With Joe gone, the storm cleared, and the lovers reunited, the entire community celebrates (“Finale”).
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy
Such credits to the authors for all purposes shall be in type size equal to or greater than that of any other credits except for that of the star(s) above the title. In the programs, the credits shall appear on the title page thereof.
The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:
is presented by arrangement with
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1 Reed I: Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, flute & Piccolo
1 Reed II: Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Flute, Piccolo & Bass Clarinet
1 Reed III: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Oboe & English Horn
2 Trumpet I & II
2 Percussion I & II
1 Piano/Conductor’s Score [provided with Rehearsal Materials]
2 Piano/Conductor Scores
20 Libretto/Vocal Books
JAMAICA opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on October 31, 1957 and played for 555 performances, starring Lena Horne, Adelaide Hall, Ricardo Montalbán, and Ossie Davis.
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