Who knew the founders of the LADWP were so gosh darn musical?! This Dickensian account of the life of William Mulholland, the man who brought water to Los Angeles County, is bursting with catchy tunes about dams, county lines, and duplicitous legal documents. Though often overlooked or taken for granted, the historical figure of William Mulholland is largely responsible for uniting the disparate towns around Los Angeles into the vast county we know today— thanks to an engineering marvel of an aqueduct, a crew of scheming aristocrats, and a town full of well-meaning farmers. With the help of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future— as well as the singing ghost of Teddy Roosevelt— audiences and Mulholland himself gain insight on how he went from being an honest employee of the L.A. City Water Company to the great Scrooge of the West. If you think a historical musical about the birth of this sprawling desert city sounds a bit dry… you’re in for a surprise!
Los Angeles water baron William Mulholland takes over the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Mulholland Christmas Carol: a cautionary tale of the role of corruption in the birth of the 20th-Century American West.
The play begins in 1928 when Mulholland, in the midst of preparations for the building of his latest and largest dam, the St. Francis, is visited by the ghost of his deceased partner, Fred Eaton, who warns him that he will be approached by three spirits before the night is through.
The role of the first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, is assumed by John Wesley Powell: the great Western explorer and pioneer. By revisiting Mulholland’s past, Powell traces the evolution of the young engineer from an idealist serenading his beloved “L.A. River,” to the water department head working with corrupt politicians and land speculators to steal an entire river from the farmers of the Owens Valley in the epic “Land Grab!”
Teddy Roosevelt opens Act II as the Ghost of Christmas Present with the rousing “Bully!,” then takes Mulholland on a tour of the devastated Owens Valley— first by visiting the desolate town of Keeler in the song “Christmas Time,” then the home of his clerk, Harvey Van Norman. There, Mulholland learns that the crippled Van Norman boy, Poquito Pablito, will not survive for long if the water engineer and his city don’t change their ways.
But it is the specter that is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come who most impresses upon Mulholland the terrible price of his hubris. When he is forced to contemplate the deaths of hundreds resulting from his poorly constructed St. Francis Dam, William Mulholland seeks redemption in the elegiac “I Envy the Dead."
Lucky for him, this is a Christmas show, and everyone knows Scrooge is given another chance. Realizing the error of his ways, Mulholland pays a Christmas visit to the poor Van Norman family, where he announces he is closing the St. Francis Dam and giving the poor farmers back all their water. Says Pablito, “God bless us, everyone!”
William Mulholland – Cantankerous head of the Department of Water and Power.
Harvey Van Norman – Mulholland’s clerk, and loving head of the Van Norman household.
Fred Eaton – Clever and calculating, then regretful— death will do that to a person.
John Wesley Powell – Bold and wise explorer of the Old West.
Young Mulholland – Hard-working and hopeful Irish immigrant.
Woman in Rags – Impoverished, yet proud, Latina mother.
Lillie Mulholland – Idyllic representation of all that is good and pure.
J.B. Lippincott – Slimy, ambitious snake-in-the-grass.
Harrison Gray Otis – Old World, 19th-century robber baron.
Theodore Roosevelt – Passionate, committed progressive President of the United States.
The Van Norman Children – Martha, 16; Peter, 13; Mary, 12; Melinda, 10; Pablito, 8. Impossibly adorable and loving children.
Casting Notes: Principal Characters— All the male characters can be either bass or baritone, with the exception of Theodore Roosevelt, who may be preferable as a tenor— though not necessary.
Female characters can be anything mostly, with the exception of Ellen Beach Yaw, who should be a soprano.
The music has more of a pop than traditional musical variety, and actors will be asked to play several roles, so the overall composition of the cast is of greater concern than the ranges of most of the individual parts.
Setting: Various times and locations, mainly Owens Valley, 1928.
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Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement. To download the show rider for A Mulholland Christmas Carol, click here.
“Ten years after its debut, writer Bill Robens' hilarious holiday offering remains as satirically razor-sharp and relevant as ever.” –L.A. Weekly
“This spirited revival is a treat.” –L.A. Weekly
“Just terrific.” –Backstage West
“The writing is also strong, witty, sharp, and, in a story as well known as this, unpredictable— though Robens does make canny use of the particularly well-worn passages.” –Backstage
“The songs are impressive, running the gamut from hilarious to touching.” –Backstage
Materials: Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date and will include everything necessary for your production. They can be ordered in Printed or Digital format. Printed Materials are provided on unbound three-hole punched loose-leaf paper while Digital Materials are provided via email as downloadable PDF files for you to print in-house. All materials are yours to keep! No deposits, no returns.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for A Mulholland Christmas Carol includes: