On my way to Anivorano, I had a great idea for a musical. It’s about an English-speaking girl who arrives in a French-speaking industrial port with two pieces of hand luggage and a non-functioning cell phone. She’s on a mission to find a guy named Maurice, who’s supposed to pick her up and drive her to a hospital some 8 hours away. Or maybe it turns out to be a school. Or a shed that operates as both. Whatever, the details don’t matter.
Anyway, the first song is a big splash of a number with all the corps members – sailors, dockworkers, shopkeepers, waitresses and one very comical-looking gatekeeper wearing a beret and a Miami HEAT basketball jersey. In an effort to be authentic, the audience shouldn’t understand exactly what these locals are saying about the girl, but they should gather that it’s something along the lines of, “We don’t see the likes of you every day!” and “This bag is really heavy!”
Near the end of the song, we meet the hero of the show, Bousy, a dockworker wearing bright red jeans, a knock-off Ed-Hardy t-shirt and a cracked iWatch. He installs the girl at a table outside a small restaurant and, in broken English, asks what time her taxi is coming. When she says, “In an hour,” he winces.
The girl has her first solo – a mournful number about a useless cell phone from which she had planned to call Maurice. Midway through the song, the tone shifts to one of determination and pluck as she makes her way from person to person at the restaurant, performing a vibrant pantomime of dialing a phone while shaking an AR 1,000 note.
Several people try their luck at this game, though none of them are successful. The song is called “No Maurice,” and each verse should end with a different person delivering that line with a simple shrug.
At the conclusion of “No Maurice,” Bousy returns and buys the girl an orange Fanta. He drinks an entire pitcher of cherry Kool-Aide and teaches her how to say “Hello,” and “Good-bye,” in Malagasy. An upbeat number called, “Mala-Tsara / Venu-Ma,” ensues, during which the girl tests these words on several shopkeepers. The interactions result in the purchase of a baguette, a spool of thread and another pitcher of Kool-Aide for Bousy.
Next, we have a bit of comic relief in the form of a group of Italian eye doctors who arrive by speed boat with roughly one hundred designer suitcases. As they make their way to the restaurant, they take turns trying to say “Antsiranana.” Each attempt ends with the phrase “Oh, forget it.” This bothers Bousy, as does the fact that they tip him 2 Euro for carrying their luggage. “For when I go to Europe,” he says tossing the coin in the air and rolling his eyes.
Much to the girl’s disappointment, the doctors are picked up in a shiny Range Rover in mere minutes, thus prompting a brief reprise of “No Maurice.”
[Here I have a little timing problem. I haven’t quite worked out how to convey that between the above activity and some additional sitting around, three hours have passed. Perhaps three Fantas are consumed. Or there’s a number about what everyone has for lunch. Maybe there’s a shift change on the dock. I don’t really know, but I need everyone to understand that time has passed. A lot of it.]
Dejected, the girl performs a second solo, which is called, “90 more minutes.” In it, she announces that if Maurice does not arrive in the allotted time, she will return to the resort from which she came and order at least two Caipirinhas. As part of the song, she imagines all the possible reasons why Maurice may not have arrived, including that there has been a terrible accident, that she has come on the wrong day or that he just hasn’t been able to find her in the busy port.
These thoughts inspire a high-energy dance number in which the girl methodically goes from shop to shop, car to car, stand to stand asking if anyone has seen Maurice. At each stop, at least one person joins her and walks with her to the next location, where another person joins the party. And so it goes up all the way up the street that connects the port with the main road. When they reach the corner, everyone looks left, then right, then left again and yells, “No Maurice!”
Just then, the girl sees the make and model of the car that Maurice is supposed to be driving. She chases it down the street, her backpack bouncing wildly behind her while Bousy follows closely with her suitcase. When the driver stops, she sticks her head through his passenger window and asks, “Maurice?”
The rest of the group waits hopefully, but the driver shakes his head. No Maurice.
With that, the girl returns to the original restaurant and sits at the very same table she started at that morning. She looks at her watch. “Twenty minutes,” she announces.
Just then, a stranger appears, so calmly and silently, she doesn’t even notice him.
“Nova?” he almost whispers.
“MAURICE?!” she replies.
He nods, then steps aside to reveal that he is traveling with five other people, two of whom are children under the age of five. All of them are gnawing on oranges.
Everyone comes out of their shops and restaurant to gather around the mythical Maurice.
A reprise of “No Maurice,” changed to, “It’s Maurice!” ensues and the entire town sees the girl off in a dilapidated Peugeot with no working brakes and a missing window.
– Intermission –