LITTLE BLACK BOXES
A small town circa 1920. (OVERTURE)
It is nighttime. We hear the footsteps of someone sneaking about, then a
cat screeches. "Gotchya!". The lights go up on the village park (DO
IT). The tall Constable Michael Muldoon tacks up a poster seeking
help in the capture of a cat burglar who has been stealing cats all over
the county. He is pleasantly surprised when Maggie speaks to him. She was
an old flame who at age 15 ran away, some 20 years ago. She is in town for
her best friend's wedding. Maggie makes her living telling fortunes, and
she predicts that Muldoon will capture the criminal and receive a nice
promotion for it. He is skeptical of her powers.
Inside Village Hall Mrs. Mayor flirts with John, the handsome promoter of the upcoming cat show (He had also been given a box). Constable Muldoon informs the mayor about the boxes. "It must be a prank," she declares. She notes that people receive nothing through magic, but must work for things (WORK). Muldoon promises to investigate the matter thoroughly. Cynthia and Todd arrive to get a marriage license. Cynthia has two children, Christopher and Angela (their father died years ago) and Todd has a son Ronnie, a troubled boy. Mrs. Mayor is surprised that Cynthia is marrying Todd and she appears to be somewhat uncomfortable about it.
John goes to the park to eat his lunch. There he encounters Mary, a homeless woman, and he shares his sandwich with her (SHARING) , and also gives her his box; "I don’t know if there really is any treasure in this box," says John, "but if so, I’m sure you can use it more than I." Mary is grateful. Cynthia arrives home with her children. She finds her fiancé Todd asleep on the couch and wonders how he got in. Christopher had been given a little black box and they discuss it with Todd, as does Muldoon with his mother. (HONEY) . Todd is mean and he demands that Christopher hand over the box. Cynthia defends her son and Todd motions to strike her. "When we are married, he will obey me," he warns. Todd is shown the door. Constable Muldoon’s mother complains that he is already 35 and still a bachelor. She says that he never should have let Maggie go, so many years ago. She notes that he still pines for her, but is too shy to take any action.
That night, the Boxman, laments Mary’s fate while she sleeps on the park bench. He reveals that Mary used to own the fanciest house in town, but was swindled out of it. Soon after, Todd Greely moved in. The Boxman had uncovered the plot but soon met with "a little accident". John comes by to give Mary some dinner. The Boxman hides in the bushes and appreciates John’s act of kindness. The burglar shows up suddenly and meets the Boxman, who seems to encourage the burglar to steal Christopher’s box (VICTORY) . The Burglar is caught stealing the box. He escapes out the window, but not before Cynthia realizes it is her fiancée Todd. Todd had ripped open the box and found nothing inside. Of course, the wedding is off, and Christopher blames the Boxman for causing him to loose a chance at a new father. Cynthia comforts her children (ONCE IN A WHILE) .
Later that night, in a haunting scene, the Boxman appears to Christopher. He tells Christopher that the marriage would have failed, and that his mother was just settling. He says that everything will work out (ANTHONY) . It is hinted at this point that the Boxman is actually the ghost of Christopher’s real father, come to rescue his family from a mistake. The Boxman says that Christopher’s future dad will be named John. Cynthia enters when she hears her son yelling, "Who’s John?!" The Boxman has vanished, and she assumes Chris was dreaming.
Next day in the park, John again shares his lunch with Mary and leaves just as Cynthia and her children arrive. (By now the audience realizes that Cynthia and John are destined to meet, however, the two will continue to miss each other by seconds throughout the musical.) Ronnie teases Angela by giving her a fake little black box. (MAGIC - REPRISE)
That night, Mrs. Mayor argues with Todd, the cat burglar. (RUNAWAY). We learn that she is behind the theft of the cats, in an effort to win the cat show for her own cat. (Apparently, Todd does odd, dirty jobs for her because she is blackmailing him.) She and Todd are both concerned about the Boxman and all the disruption he is causing. Todd intends to leave town for good.
The Villagers arrive for a meeting to discuss the problems created by the boxes. The mayor wants to open a box to prove they are empty and a hoax. She coerces Constable Muldoon into giving up his by saying that he had accepted it as a bribe from the Boxman. He is devastated, when she smashes open the empty box. The mayor proposes that everyone just forget about the troublesome boxes, but suddenly someone announces that his box has grown. Another says that hers has changed color. Everyone begins to argue (ALIVE). Muldoon picks up his shattered box and discovers, stuck inside, a little charm — a gold heart.
- ALIVE) Mrs. Mayor awakens from a nightmarish dream about dancing
boxes. In the park, (DO IT) we find that Mary’s box has grown
large enough for her to make a simple home of it. She has found her
treasure! Angela has colored her fake box as a joke on Ronnie and now he
is convinced it is genuine. The villagers assemble to view the parade. (THE PIE MARCH) (MARCHE HUMORISTIQUE).
Mrs. Mayor welcomes the Cat Society to the village, and the contest soon
Meanwhile, Angela discovers that her false box has grown huge in size —
the time is right to open it! She discovers her lost cat, except that it
now is beautifully colored with blue and so on. The judges are about to
award Mrs. Mayor’s cat the grand prize, when Angela arrives. The judges
are amazed at the beauty of Angela’s cat and they award it the prize.
Mrs. Mayor marches off angrily.