As the mini-operetta begins, five sorority sisters, vacationing in front of modest painted backdrops of Italy, sing the opening number, “So This Is Venice,” extolling the romance of the city (“… shed a tear for the gondolier / as he must beat a retreat from the menace / of Brooklyn teachers on sabatical / who are on a seach fanatical / for a life that’s more romantic than grammatical.”)
(“…the lovely maid in the gondola / a tall serenader to fondle ’er…”)
(“La, la, there’s the Lido / you know, where you can go / to get the sun and air for your libido / though the sand you will have sat in / won’t feel very much more Latin / than the kind you find at Coney or Manhattan.”)
July Isn’t it wonderful, girls, to be in Venice?
June It’s the most romantic spot in the whole world. Aren’t you just thrilled, May?
May It’s so exciting, I can hardly speak. Why, to think, I have wasted away year after year on papa’s miserable 50,000-acre estate at Great Neck, Long Island. Aren’t you just struck dumb, April?
April I can hardly believe it’s true—I’m in Venice. Just think of it, January, I’m in Venice.
January And we have Mr. Vanderveer to thank for it all. It was just peachy of him to take us all on this trip. Wasn’t it, July?
July But there was a method to his madness. He knew that his daughter Mary Sue Ann would be lonesome for her sorority sisters.
June Methinks she hasn’t stayed lonesome very long.
May Why, what do you mean, June?
June You know very well what I mean, May.
May What does June mean, April?
April The Masked Gondolier, of course, you silly. She’s out with him this very moment being serenaded on the Grand Canal.
July And we’re just excess baggage.
Jan. Yes, but we must keep it a secret. If Mr. Vanderveer finds out, he’ll send us all home.
May I wonder what Bruce Benson will think? Engaged to a girl who falls for the notorious heartbreaker in Venice?
July As far as I’m concerned, hear no evil, see no evil. Mr. Vanderveer is willing to pay, I’m willing to stay. I wonder what the old man is up to anyhow? Carrying that leather case with him wherever he goes.
Jan. Shhh, here he comes now…
Vanderveer (enters, dictating to his secretary) And I will close the deal as soon as possible. Sincerely yours. Sign my name. Ah, there you are, girls, how do you like Venice?
(They gush about what a wonderful time they’re having, until he asks where is Mary Sue Anne. They stutter.)
Vanderveer Come, come, speak up.
July She went to see a man about a boat.
Van. What, I told you not to leave her out of your sight. I just received a cable from Bruce Benson. He closed up his ranch and will be here any minute.
Girls Bruce Benson?
Van. Yes, here he comes now…
Bruce (enters) Ah, there you are, Mr. Vanderveer. I’ve been looking all over for you.
Van. Howdy, Bruce. Glad to see you, my boy.
Girls Helly, Bruce. This is a surprise.
Bruce Well, I just couldn’t take it, I guess, riding the Lone Prairie, jest with Tony, it’s pretty lonesome. I jest had to come to see Mary Sue Ann.
(He breaks into the song “On the Lone Prairie,” about how lonely it is on the prairie. After the song, all exit. Then, from offstage, a voice is heard serenading. In “floats” a gondola with the singing Masked Gondolier, Mario, and Mary Sue Ann.)
Mary (sighs) Such divine music.
Mario What did you say, signorina?
Mary Such divine music—and don’t call me signorina.
Mario Ah, but you are a signorina, no?
Mario But you are not married?
Mary No, I’m not married.
Mario I am glad.
Mary Why, Mario? Why are you glad?
Mario I cannot help it, signorina—
Mary Why, Mario, why can’t you help it?
Mario (passionately) Because you are the most beautiful signorina in all the world. Ever since you came into my life, I do not feel the same. I feel much better. You have done something to me, like six bottles Chianti. You do something to me. You have made me———
Mary Why, Mario, I have not.
Mario Yes, signorina. You have make me very happy. My voice she is better. You have changed me from baritone to tenor. Tell me I have done the same to you.
Mary You mustn’t forget yourself, Mario. You are only a Gondolier—and I—
Mario And you are Mary Sue Ann Vanderveer, the richest girl on Long Island. I knew I must never forget, but my heart keeps pounding and the words keep flowing like wine, from my lips. Tell me, signorina, you are not engaged?
Mario Ah, you are engaged. You are in love with handsome, rich Americano—
Mary No, I’m not. I’m fancy free and pledged to no one. (Aside) Heaven help me for this lie. But this romantic foreigner has captivated me. And I am truly in a dilemma. (She turns to Mario) Tell me, Mario, why do you wear that mask?
Mario I am deeply hurt, signorina. Deeply offended. You have promise not to ask.
Mary I know, but it is a woman’s prerogative not to keep her promise. Come, take it off.
Mario No, signorina. No, I will do anything. I will sing for you a thousand songs. I will gondolier you a million miles. I will jump into the canal—four feet deep—but I cannot remove my mask.
Mary Very well then, I will go and find myself a gondolier without a mask. (Aside) How lightly the words fall from my lips, yet I know I cannot budge from this spot. I fear me I have fallen in love with this dashing boatman. Yet I must not appear too eager.
Mario Very well, signorina, but only for you I will take off the mask. (He turns his back to audience and takes off mask. She falls into his arms. He replaces mask.)
(After song, Trixie enters selling flowers.)
|Lee Brody, as the seductive Trixie, flirts with Danny Kaye, as Mario, the Masked Gondolier.|
Trixie Ah, signor, you buy beautiful flowers for beautiful signorina?
Mario Yes, I buy. Only she must be more big, more beautiful, she must be magnifice, like the signorina herself. I buy whole garden flowers.
Trixie Si, si, signor.
(Hands Mary all the flowers in the basket. Mary takes money from her purse and pays Trixie. Trixie lurks in the shadows.)
Mary Thank you, Mario, and now I must go. Tomorrow, same time, same canal.
Mario Adio, signorina. (She goes. Mario turns to Trixie) What the hell do you mean busting in like that? I told you never to come near me when I was with her.
Trixie You listen to me, you two-timing heel. I’ve stood enough of this. I’m going to the dame’s father and shoot my mouth off.
Mario Now wait a minute, Trixie. You know it’s only the black leather case I’m after. You don’t think I’d pass you up for a Long Island orchid like her.
Trixie You better not try it.
Mario Once I get my hands on that black leather case, we’ll be set for life.
Trixie Well, you’d better step on it. I’m running out of disguises.
Mario You can hide out for a while. I’ll keep an eye on the case.
Trixie Yeah, and who’ll keep an eye on you?
Mario It won’t be long now. Just let me get the old man into this damn rowboat. Shhh, here he comes now…
(Vanderveer enters dictating same letter as before. Mario asks him if he would like a ride. He declines, saying he doesn’t trust boats.)
Mario (reaching for case) Ah, but you can trust me. I am the singing boatman (sings)
Trixie (passes seductively, goes to Mario) Your gondola, signor, she is free?
Mario No, get the hell—no, signorina, she is taken by the Americano.
Trixie (to Van.) Ah, you will help me, signor, no? I must get to the other side of the canal, where my mother she is dying. I have brought her medicine, no? (seductively)
Van. (hems) Well, eh—eh—I have never failed a woman in distress. (They hop into the boat and go off as secretary is left behind) And besides, it really doesn’t matter.
(The secretary exits, as Vanderveer, Trixie and Mario sing “It Really Doesn’t Matter.” After the song, they sail offstage. Enter Bruce and Mary Sue Ann)
Bruce But, Mary Sue Ann. I came all the way from the Lone Prairie to take you back to my ranch.
Mary That was indeed a reckless thing to do, Bruce. You know father wants me to see all of Venice. And I’ve only been paddled on one canal.
Bruce But, Mary Sue Ann, you know I have the finest ranch in Texas—Bar None.
Mary That I am well aware of. Bar None is the finest ranch in all the world—60,000 acres—but not a gondola in sight. (Aside) Strange how I cannot drive gondolas from my mind. If this Western Plainsman should suspect my infatuation with the Masked Gondolier, it would, I fear, break his heart.
Bruce But, Mary Sue Ann, I am beside myself.
Mary (Aside) I knew it, he is beside himself. His favorite positon. What can I do? (Turns) You dear, dear boy. You are suffering, aren’t you? Why did you not bring your horse, Hi-Ho Silver?
Bruce But, Mary Sue Ann. They ain’t no place to ride here, ‘ceptin’ the canals, and Hi-Ho Silver cain’t swim. (Falling to his knees) You must come back with me or I’ll go crazy. (Enter secretary)
Secretary Oh, Miss Vanderveer! Mr. Benson! They’ve kidnapped him!
Mary What are you talking about?
Bruce Yes, man, what are you talking about?
Secretary The Masked Gondolier and that woman, they took Mr. Vanderveer in a boat—they’re after the leather briefcase.
Mary The leather briefcase?
Bruce The leather briefcase?
Secretary Yes, ma’am. Yes, sir. The leather briefcase.
Bruce Then I must get into action. No foreigner is gonna steal no leather briefcase from my prospective father-in-law. You better go, Mary Sue Ann. There’s gonna be trouble. (Mary goes) And you, give me some men. (As the secretary exits, Bruce and chorus break into “Give Me Some Men”—“Give me some men / make it eight / he said ten / with a yen to sing fortissimo / Give me some men who will cry / that they’re willing to die / for my Carissimo.” After the song, all exit. Mario and Mary enter.)
Mario But you do not understand, signorina—
Mary Do not understand? Do not understand what? What is there to understand? You have kidnapped my father and stolen his leather briefcase—
Mario But, signorina, I unmask myself. You must trust me.
Mary I do trust you, Mario. (Aside) Heaven help me, but I do. I know not why, but I do.
|Mary Sue Ann (Imogene Coca) and Mario (Danny Kaye) belt out a love song in the operetta spoof "Here He Comes Now."|
Mario Ever since I have seen you, I have longed for you. For this moment, this one moment alone. (They sing “One Moment Alone,” as shadowy figures battle behind them. “One moment alone / one moment my own / one moment before we part / one moment to hold, enfold you closely to my heart / one moment of bliss / one moment to kiss / one moment we have to share / one moment to whisper darling just how much we care…” The sorority sisters approach.)
Mary The girls mustn’t see you, Mario. Here they come now. Put on your mask and go.
Mario I go, but I shall return.
(He exits, as girls enter.)
Mary Oh, what am I going to do—what am I going to do? April, May, June, July, January? What am I going to do? My father has been kidnapped by the man I love, and the man who loves me has gone to kidnap the man who kidnapped my father. Oh, what am I going to do?
Jan. Don’t worry, Mary Sue Ann.
April Everything will turn out all right.
May It always does.
June Love will find a way.
(They sing “Love Will Find a Way”)
Mary It cannot be. It cannot be. I cannot believe that the Masked Gondolier is a deceiver. I’m sure he can explain everything. Here he comes now…
(Mario rushes in)
Mario Signorina, I can explain everything.
Mary I knew it, Mario. I knew it.
April Don’t, Mary Sue Ann.
May You musn’t, Mary Sue Ann.
Jan. You can’t, Mary Sue Ann.
July It ain’t right, Mary Sue Ann.
Mary Calm your fears, girls. You do not know who this man is. Remove your mask, Mario—show them.
(Mario drmatically removes his mask)
Girls Danny Kaye! What are you doing here?
Mario (very fast) Yes, girls, Danny Kaye, U.S. Secret Service never sleeps. I followed Mr. Vanderveer and Miss Mary Sue Ann to protect them and the important Navy plans from the clutches of the international spies, Bruce Benson and Trixie Lee. Here they come now…
(Vanderveer enters with Bruce and Trixie. Father has them covered with a gun.)
Van. Good work, Captain Kaye. I knew it all the time.
Girls My goodness.
Bruce My God.
Van. My papers.
Mario My sweetheart.
Mary My hero.
(All sing finale, “L’Amour Toujours.” Curtain.)
“Here He Comes Now” was such a smash, the Tamiment Players repeated it twice more during the summer and it was featured on Broadway in The Straw Hat Revue (although retitled "The Great Chandeleir"). Liebman and Fine would also borrow snippets of the plot and dialogue four years later in writing “The Lobby Number” for Danny’s first feature film, Up in Arms.