Promises, Promises – Broadway Revival 2010
New York: Accountant Chuck Baxter, one of thirty-one thousand employees at the insurance company, is sitting at his desk feeling small and invisible (“Half As Big As Life”). Even Fran Kubelik, an attractive cafeteria worker, doesn’t seem to notice him when he asks her out for a drink. So Baxter invites the audience to accompany him to his favorite Second Avenue bar – it’s on First Avenue – the “Grapes of Roth.” At the bar we meet Mr. Dobitch, an executive in the Mortgage and Loan Department, with Sylvia, from the Telephone Operating Department, on his arm. With a thinly veiled promise to Baxter of a promotion in the company, Dobitch appropriates the key to Baxter’s apartment, pleading that Sylvia “needs a place to lie down.” Soon it develops that Sylvia needs a place to lie down every Tuesday evening after work. And Mr. Dobitch has introduced Baxter to Mr. Kirkeby of Public Relations, who brings Ginger to the apartment every Wednesday before meeting his wife for their appointment with the marriage counselor at eight-thirty. Three weeks later Baxter still hasn’t been promoted, but Mr. Eichelberger of Research sees Vivien regularly on Thursdays, while Baxter contemplates the goings-on “Upstairs” from the stoop outside. Baxter’s next-door neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss, attributes all the noisy partying to Baxter himself; not only is he concerned for Baxter’s health, but for his own – he’s losing sleep. The Doctor figures that the solution is to get Baxter to sleep through the night, and gives him sleeping pills. Now Mr. Vanderhof, from the company Claims Department, arrives on the doorstep, desperate; for an hour and a half in the apartment with his dentist’s nurse, he’ll offer a junior executive position. A promise? – No, it’s Vanderhof’s bonded word of honor. Baxter really believes he’ll soon be the one “Upstairs.” He has caught a cold standing out in the rain until two-thirty in the morning. In the waiting room of the company doctor’s office he runs into Fran Kubelik, who has a case of the hiccups. Making conversation doesn’t come easy, but he knows she’s down about something – a breakup with a guy, probably – and tries to cheer her up (“You’ll Think of Someone”). Baxter is summoned to the office of Mr. Sheldrake, Director of Personnel. Finally, he thinks, all that waiting out in the cold is going to pay off! But it turns out that Sheldrake has gotten wind of what Dobitch, Kirkeby, Eichelberger, Vanderhof, and Baxter have been up to, and he wants to be part of the key club, too – in fact, he wants to be the sole member. Baxter trades the key for a genuine promotion and a pair of tickets to the basketball game (“It’s Our Little Secret”). Fran tells the girls in the Telephone Operating Department that she’s crazy about a certain guy who’s taking her to her favorite Chinese restaurant tonight (“I Say a Little Prayer”). Baxter shows up; he’s been promoted and will be seeing her tomorrow in the Executive Dining Room! He shyly invites her to go to the game with him tonight. She figures she’ll be done with her date by nine o’clock and accepts (“She Likes Basketball”). Sheldrake meets Fran in their old hideaway, the Chinese restaurant. It’s been six weeks since they have seen each other. She tries to be stand-offish, but she can feel that he is working his way back into her heart (“Knowing When To Leave”). Sheldrake calls his wife in White Plains to make some excuse, and leaves the restaurant with Fran. Meanwhile, Baxter is still waiting outside Madison Square Garden. Back at the office, Dobitch, Kirkeby, Eichelberger, and Vanderhof are understandably resentful at being denied Baxter’s facilities (“Where Can You Take a Girl?”). In the Executive Dining Room, Baxter forgives Fran for missing their date by making up excuses for her. Baxter has found a compact with a broken mirror in his apartment and, realizing that it must belong to the “lady” who had been there last night, has delivered it to Sheldrake. Sheldrake envies Baxter for the simplicity of his life (“Wanting Things”). At the office Christmas party (“Turkey Lurkey Time”), Sheldrake’s secretary, Miss Olson, fills Fran in on Sheldrake’s past patterns of adulterous behavior – in which she herself has played a major part. Fran is sure that her relationship with him really is different (“A House Is Not a Home”). Baxter finds Fran at the party and, in his little office, asks her opinion of an executive-style hat he has bought for himself. Does she like the angle? She hands him her compact to look in the mirror. The mirror is broken. The phone rings – it’s Sheldrake, and Baxter sends Fran out of the room. Baxter morosely assures his boss that everything in the apartment is ready for Sheldrake’s assignation that afternoon. Finale Act One. Baxter is moping at the bar, slugging down cheap whiskey. Marge, a barfly who insists she’s “not a pickup,” picks him up – pointing out the very present reality that they are both alone on Christmas Eve (“A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing”). Meanwhile, in the apartment, Fran is weeping copiously and ruining her eye makeup, while Sheldrake explains why he can’t ask his wife for a divorce just yet. For Christmas, Fran gives him a hand-knitted scarf; Sheldrake hasn’t had time or inclination to buy her anything, so he hands her a hundred-dollar bill: “Go out and buy yourself something.” Sheldrake hurries off to catch his train, but she needs to repair her face, and stays in the apartment (“Whoever You Are, I Love You”). She catches sight of the bottle of sleeping pills on the bedside table and picks it up … while Baxter and Marge are stumbling up the stairs to the apartment door. For a time the drunken couple engage in the banter and innuendo that would ordinarily lead to a sexual encounter, but when Baxter sends Marge into the kitchen to get some ice, he discovers Fran unconscious on the bed. He can’t wake her, finds the empty pill bottle, rushes next door to Dr. Dreyfuss, and shoves Marge out the door, all the while continuing to give the Doctor the impression that he, Baxter, is the cause behind Fran’s suicide attempt. He and the Doctor walk her around the apartment to keep her awake all night. Before the Doctor leaves in the morning, satisfied that Fran will live, Baxter persuades him not to file a police report. Baxter calls Sheldrake in White Plains; Christmas music is heard in the background (“Christmas Day”). Although Sheldrake is shaken by Baxter’s story, it is impossible for him to leave his family on Christmas morning. He offers to pay any expenses, but is relieved and “appreciative” that Baxter has kept his name out of it. Baxter hangs up and waits for Fran to wake up (“A House Is Not a Home” – reprise). When she does, Dr. Dreyfuss pays a visit to scold her and try to get her to smile (“A Young Pretty Girl Like You”). Then Fran and Baxter sit down to play gin rummy, though all she can think about is Sheldrake. Suddenly comes a knock at the door: it’s Dobitch and Sylvia, right on time for their scheduled appointment at four. Baxter throws them out, but not before Dobitch sees Fran in Baxter’s bed. Baxter tells Fran about a girl he was in love with back home in Ohio; they both agree they have learned their lesson (“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”). Another knock at the door: now it’s Karl Kubelik, Fran’s brother, who has had a call from “some guy” telling where he could find her. Once again Baxter takes the blame for Fran’s suicide attempt: “I jilted her … You’re going to hit me, aren’t you?” Karl hits him, twice, and leaves with his sister. Back at the insurance company, the executives are prowling for a new pad. Baxter plans to announce to Sheldrake that he intends to “take Miss Kubelik off your hands,” but Sheldrake turns the tables on him: as the result of a phone call from Miss Olson, Sheldrake’s wife has thrown him out and he is now living at the New York Athletic Club. “It looks like I’ll be taking Miss Kubelik off your hands,” Sheldrake says, and asks for the key to the apartment. Baxter gives him the key to the executives’ washroom instead, and walks out on Sheldrake and his job. “I will never EVER get myself into a situation like that again. That’s a promise!” (“Promises, Promises”) He goes home to pack and move out. Dr. Dreyfuss, who is giving a New Year’s party next door, comes over to borrow some ice, but Baxter has already defrosted the refrigerator. There is a bottle of champagne left over, though, and Baxter pops it for the Doctor and himself. Just at that moment, Fran comes to the door and hears the bang. She shouts – she thinks Baxter has shot himself. Of course everything gets sorted out: Fran has finally realized that she and Sheldrake have nothing in common; Baxter declares his love for Fran; the cards come out again for the game of gin rummy (“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” – reprise). Only the Doctor goes back to his party in the firm belief that Baxter is at it again.
– Lucy Cross
Chuck Baxter: Sean Hayes J.D. Sheldrake: Tony Goldwyn Fran Kubelik: Kristin Chenoweth Eddie Roth: Keith Kühl Mr. Dobitch: Brooks Ashmanskas Sylvia Gilhooley, Nurse, Miss Polansky: Megan Sikora Mike Kirkeby: Peter Benson Ginger, Miss Della Hoya, Lum Ding Hostess: Cameron Adams Mr. Eichelberger: Sean Martin Hingston Vivien, Miss Wong: Mayumi Miguel Dr. Dreyfuss: Dick Latessa Jesse Vanderhof: Ken Land Miss Kreplinski, Helen Sheldrake: Ashley Amber Company Doctor, Karl Kubelik: Brian O’Brien Miss Olson: Helen Anker Kathy, Orchestra Voice: Sarah Jane Everman Patsy, Orchestra Voice: Kristen Beth Williams Barbara, Orchestra Voice: Nikki Renee Daniels Sharon, Orchestra Voice: Chelsea Krombach Night Watchman, New Young Executive: Ryan Watkinson Lum Ding Waiter: Matt Loehr Eugene: Adam Perry Marge MacDougall: Katie Finneran