The prompt for "Rodeo" came from my reading of Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fayre first staged on 31 October 1614 at the Hope Theatre by the Lady Elizabeth's Men's Company. In Jonson's play a variety of characters are placed in an unusual setting, The Fayre. Some are familiar with the surroundings, others not. Some accept the place for what it is; others come to pass judgment upon it. So, in a way, the Fayre itself, the place, is a character.
So what would be a contemporary American equivalent? The Rodeo. Some come to enjoy it, others to pass judgement upon it.
Mrs. Worthmore, a widowed New York socialite enters the “alien” world of rodeo, determined to “rescue” her wayward daughter who has fallen for a young cowboy. The Reverend JJ Busy, a braggart prone to malapropisms, accompanies this wealthy widow into this forbidden world acting as her “protector” and “translator.” The pair’s plans for a rapid and successful venture are, however, soon thwarted by Jimmy McGraw, a rodeo clown/bullfighter, and general mischief-maker. Determined to rescue Harper and escape this “veritable swamp of filth,” Mrs. W. and Reverend Busy soon become, through Jimmy’s intrigues, embroiled in the life of the rodeo. For her safety, Jimmy, who has convinced Mrs. W she’ll be viewed as a would-be “rustler,” persuades Mrs. W to hide, dressed as a rodeo clown herself. She is later saved, during the bull riding, by Doyle McGraw. She enlists Doyle aid in finding her daughter, “bewitched” by a young cowboy, neither realizing the young man they seek is Doyle’s son, Cody.
Reverend Busy, who insists on speaking to the rodeo folks in “their language,” confronts that “hot-headed snake” Charley/Charlene (Doyle’s daughter who dresses as a man while the rodeo is in town), a challenge which later calls for them both to play “cowboy poker”: four players and, unknown to the Reverend, a bull. Meantime the lusty Bullwhip Betty in her quest for a man, any man (even the audience!), focuses upon her new prey, Reverend Busy. All is complicated since Harrison (Busy’s nephew and Harper’s intended) is attracted to Charlene, whom his uncle, Reverend Busy, is convinced is really a man, Charlie, who likes to dress up as a woman, Charlene. Eventually all ends well and Jimmy turns to the audience seeking its forgiveness.
RODEO is an assortment of love stories blending city and country, mistaken identities, cross-dressing and widespread confusion as all fall victim to the pranks of our rodeo clown determined to teach us all that “everything in life is rodeo.” The two-act musical- comedy reveals that, beneath the differing cultures, expressions and language, a human bond brings us all together. In the songs pertaining to the rodeo events themselves, we see how rodeo can be a metaphor for life itself. Do we know of someone we’d like to throw on the back of a bareback bronc and "rattle them rigid bones"? And, of course, there’s always the bull. Whatever you wish it to be—global warming, nuclear warfare, whatever—it is coming hard and fast.
The music for RODEO divides into two groups:
1 Storyline songs (character development, relationships, moving the story along, etc.);
2 Songs for the rodeo events themselves. All revolve around rodeo as metaphor for life. (“Everything in life is rodeo”)
MUSLIM, HINDU, CHRISTIAN, JEW,/SO MUCH HATRED. WHAT SHALL WE DO?/ OPEN THE GATE, THAT BULL’S A’COMIN’/ FORGET THE HATIN’ AND START A’RUNNIN’
A short video about RODEO can be found on https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/711707996
Text and lyrics by Lynn Elliott. Music by Marcel Daguerre, Josh Hegg and Michael Bone.
Mrs. Worthmore, a wealthy, widowed New York socialite has entered the world of rodeo, determined to “rescue” her daughter, Harper, who has fallen for a young cowboy.
First workshopped at Theatre on the Ridge, Paradise, 2019.
BULLWHIP BETTY: Folks ‘round here call me Bullwhip Betty. Flick a cigarette out of man’s mouth at ten paces, and a cell phone from his pocket at twenty, or the belt off his britches if I’m real close. Don’t let my way of speakin’ trouble you, sir. Underneath you’ll find an ace-high lady. A soft, loving woman. Very soft, loving woman, if you catch my drift.