Start with White Christmas, mix in a mid-'60s Judy Garland television Christmas special, add a dash of Silkwood, and you have The Paisley Sisters' Christmas Special! It’s 1964, and America’s Songbirds, The Paisley Sisters, are airing a brand-new color-television holiday extravaganza with hopes of landing themselves back in the Top 40. The result is a hilarious send-up of early television holiday specials full of backstage drama, questionable corporate sponsors, secret telephone calls, assumed identities, and general mayhem. This hip alternative to standard holiday fare has been charming sold-out crowds across the USA and Canada, and your theater can be next! Appeared in the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival.
New York, Christmas 1964.
The Paisley Sisters (Connie, Bonnie, and Lonnie) are backstage at New York’s NBN studios. They’ve just gotten the half-hour call for the broadcast of their first live television special – in color! Sister Ronnie, the fourth member of their quartet, is curiously absent, having been committed to a psychiatric ward after a sudden onset of wild personality changes. Ronnie’s daughter, 16-year-old Abigail, has been drafted to step in for her mother, but Abigail is nowhere to be found. With minutes to go before “places,” Abigail breezes in, fresh from a shopping spree at Gimbel’s. No time to lose – stockings are straightened, wigs adjusted, and lipstick reapplied. The Paisley Sisters open the broadcast with (“Crazy for Christmas”). Connie announces that at the end of the show, there will be a special gift giveaway, courtesy of sponsor Plasticon: “Modern Products, and So Much More!” Polly Plasticon, the company mascot, will be set free to fly through the audience, and “the lucky person whose shoulder she lands on will win 10,000 dollars’ worth of Plasticon Products!” (“We’re the Paisleys”), their signature number, introduces each of the sisters in turn. Bonnie then does a commercial spot for Slenderella, a size-reducing garment that works “by actually reshaping and redistributing your internal organs.”
The sisters gather around the old Christmas photo album and reminisce about past holidays spent with celebrity friends. Abigail steals focus, which leads to some tight exchanges with Lonnie. Connie declares that it’s time for a song (“How Could it Be Christmas”). Lonnie and Bonnie do a commercial spot for Citronella Chewing Gum, a tasty chew that also keeps pesky mosquitos away. Bonnie flubs one of her lines. Back in the dressing room, the voice of Bernard Fortrell, the show’s announcer, is heard over the intercom, complaining about Bonnie’s on camera behavior. The TV special resumes as the sisters sing about their favorite candy treats (“Sweet on You”). Connie, who is married to comedian Sol Scheckman, explains that at their home they celebrate Christmas and a holiday called Hanukkah, “The Jewish Christmas.” She dedicates (“Two Holidays”) to her son Joey, who is watching from home. In a commercial spot, Lonnie models a dress made of Asbseticon, a man-made fabric woven from asbestos.
Backstage, Bonnie seems more and more disoriented, and worries that she is succumbing to the same illness that befell her hospitalized sister. She rushes out to search for a telephone to call Ronnie, leaving Lonnie the privacy to arrange (via intercom) a romantic rendezvous with Bernard. Abigail, who is eavesdropping on the lovebirds, confronts Lonnie and the sparks fly! Meanwhile, Bonnie has found a telephone–onstage–and is in a deep medical conversation in full view of the TV audience. Connie wrestles the phone away from Bonnie as Lonnie and Abigail, still bruised from their fight, join them to segue into a tense and wacky around-the world Christmas medley (“Christmas Rancheros”, “Calypso Christmas”, “Christmas in Taiwan”, “Bikini Christmas”), which is cut short when Bonnie goes into a wild spin and collapses center stage.
Back in the dressing room the sisters revive Bonnie, who remembers nothing of her recent incident. After being admonished by Bernard, “We’re sponsoring a Christmas Special–not a freak show”, they open the second half of the Christmas special with (“Beauty Day”), a paean to the Plasticon line of wigs. Abigail shows her astronomical aspirations with a holiday space travel song (“Christmas on the Moon”). Just as Lonnie is preparing for her solo ballad, Bernard dumps her for the evening, leaving her emotionally raw for the tearful (“Just for Christmas”, “Let’s Pretend”). Connie picks things up with a commercial spot for Snapshot, “the clear adhesive that literally bonds makeup to your skin.”
Backstage is bedlam: Bonnie has gone completely schizo, crawling around the dressing floor looking for her childhood checkers set; Bernard is screaming through the intercom; Polly will not stop squawking Plasticon slogans. Lonnie throws a wig over the birdcage to shut the parrot up. Abigail realizes that Bonnie’s and Ronnie’s symptoms are indeed identical, but there is no time to ponder – they rush onstage for the jazz-hot (“Christmastime in Swingtown”). Then Bonnie, in the role of Mrs. Santa Claus, hosts an onstage eggnog break while extolling the virtues of (“Plasticlean”), a dishwashing liquid that contains tiny flakes of fiberglass. But things go terribly amiss; Bonnie suddenly goes bawdy, lurching into an impromptu bump-and-grind called (“Mrs. Santa Claus Blues”). Connie and Lonnie scurry her off stage; she must be silenced. The sisters drag her through (“We Three Kings”) with her arms strapped down and her mouth taped shut. Abigail receives a backstage telegram from her mother’s doctor: Ronnie has been exposed to hydrazine, AKA rocket fuel. Meanwhile, Polly Plasticon lies dead at the bottom of the wigcovered cage. Putting two and two together, Abigail seizes the dead bird and rushes onstage to tell the others it’s the Plasticon wigs causing the erratic behavior. Making the most of her moment in the national spotlight, she tells the world that Plasticon products are dangerous and urges all women of America to take off their Plasticon wigs and burn their Asbesticon dresses. “You can’t.” Bernard abruptly cuts them off the air. With shock and dismay, the Paisleys realize they’re finished. But Connie inspires, reminding them that the Paisleys are troupers who always find a way.
Via slideshow, we follow the Paisleys as they change and grow through the ensuing years. We return to real time to witness their triumphant performance as they win the 1970 Grammy award for record of the year, (“Lucky Day”)!
Connie: Mid- to late-30's. The group’s leader, she is ambitious and self-assured, sometimes to the point of being autocratic. She tries for an aura of motherly warmth but is tightly wound underneath. She is all show business all the time. She sings Alto 1, with a gutsy belt up to “D.”
Lonnie: Late-30's to 40. Oldest sister in the group, she is the classic fading siren: red-headed, sexy, bitingly sarcastic, but vulnerable underneath. She has a dusky alto that anchors the harmony of the group and breaks your heart as a ballad soloist. Belt up to B, strong mix up to Db, needs audibility down to low F. She sings Alto 2.
Bonnie: Early- to mid-30's. The youngest of the sisters, she is pretty but in an old-fashioned way, very lovable, naive and reserved but has a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Late in the show she undergoes a radical personality change that turns her into an over-the top red-hot mama. This is a vocally challenging part–she sings Soprano 2 and has a clear and blendy mix; however, when her personality changes in Act 2 she belts up to a high F in a sassy R&B style.
Abigail: 16 years old, she is the newcomer to the group, filling in for her ailing mother. She is blonde, bright, starry-eyed, always looking for her place to shine and consequently overstepping her bounds. She is the new generation of the 60's, very lithe and beautiful, a foil to her older aunts. She sings Soprano 1 with a bell-like tone up to high A. She can sing legit, pop and also in a folky style like Joan Baez. This actress must feel comfortable wearing a bikini on stage.
Bernard: Late-40's to 50, this character is heard but not seen. The show’s announcer, he has a voice that sounds like a walking advertisement. A classic womanizer, he also inhabits the role of blustering corporate executive trying not to panic as he watches his empire crumble.
Polly: A parrot seen in an onstage cage, she has a few lines that are best done using a small, very localized speaker so that the sound is not artificially big.
Setting: A television studio and backstage dressing room
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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 The Paisley Sisters’ Christmas Special, click here.
“Downright hysterical.”–The Boston Phoenix
“A wonderfully wacky world.”–The Boston Herald
“A happy surprise. Original songs that are as amusing as they are catchy.” –The Tab
“The four talented actresses don’t just star as the Paisleys, they shine.”–InNewsweekly
“Clever yet loving. So many kitschy wigs and campy cocktail dresses you’d think it would be a drag show, but it’s not.”–The Boston Globe
“The perfect antidote to all those synthetic Christmas specials. Welcome at the holidays — or any time.”–Bay Windows
Materials: your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date and will include everything necessary for your production and 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 required materials for The Paisley Sisters’ Christmas Special, include:
Production Scripts, Vocal Scores
Orchestrations: Piano/Vocal, Bass, Drums
Print Edition – Beautifully bound scripts available at wholesale costs to sell in your lobby!
Director's Script – Single-sided script with space for director’s notes.
Reference Recording - Audio recording for reference purposes only
Sound FX Tracks
Logo/PR Pack – Includes high-resolution artwork, ready-designed posters, reviews and pull quotes, and reference photos.