Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

An offstage voice announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, a big welcome for the next President of The United States... Senator Reed Chandler!!!" Television reporters appear on a television screen and report that Senator Reed Chandler is "a veritable shoo-in for the presidency of the United States." Below the screen, The Senator sits beneath his mistress, Donna, who none too subtly screams out in pleasure until she realizes that The Senator is no longer moving... or breathing.

The Senator rises from his death bed and looks incredulously at his corpse. Grahame, The Senator's brother, as well as the genius behind his presidential campaign, walks in on crutches, with his legs in braces, and looks over his dead brother's body. He asks the ever-present security advisor, Peter, if anyone has told Violet, Reed Chandler's wife. That question is quickly answered when Violet enters, screaming, "You son of a bitch!" Reed, realizing the spin that it is going to take to remedy the situation that he has caused, announces the ensuing fervor triumphantly ("Let the Games Begin").

During ("The Funeral"), America asks if "there's another Chandler waiting in the wings," and Violet coldly answers, "There is." The other Chandler is Reed's only son, Cal, who has different aspirations from his father. A far cry from the presidency, Cal dreams of being a guitar-playing rock star ("One, Two, Three").

Devastated by the loss of all that he has worked for, Grahame struggles to move on with his life. Violet interrupts him and convinces Grahame to help her mold Cal into a presidential candidate, warning him not to dwell on the failure of the past but to ("Embrace Tomorrow"). Tempted with the promise of a judgeship, Grahame reluctantly agrees.

Grahame and Violet waste no time in getting their new project into the public eye and enlist a reluctant Cal into the Army. Grahame, Violet and The Army Sergeant slowly turn Cal into a soldier ("Army Chant"). Cal still feels some reservations about a life in politics, but his father, Reed, returns to give his son a little pep talk, convincing him that the sacrifices he's to make will be more than made up for in power and ("Control").

After returning from battle, one Purple Heart richer, Cal is confronted with Violet, Grahame and Peter's next part of their plan, a wife. Deborah Pullman, the pert and perfect wife, is presented to Cal as Grahame, Violet, Peter and several reporters explain to Cal that he and she will make the perfect ("Man and Wife").

Grahame and Violet next bring in Leslie Pynchon, a media coach, to prepare Cal for the media and to convince all of America that Cal is not a loafing slacker but ("America's Son"), instead. By the end of her work, Leslie has trained a candidate who is perfect for public appearances and speeches, which Cal proves during the brilliant presentation of his canned speech ("I See the Future").

The speech is such a success that Calvin gets elected to City Council. However, after the election, Cal gets no time for celebration, as Grahame sends him home to rest up for the next election, that of Governor. Cal gets a little sidetracked on the way home and ends up at a seedy strip club, where the sultry Tina sings ("Lonely Is a Two-Way Street"). Taken by Tina's candid attitude towards life, Cal immediately falls for her, and they dance off into the shadows. This affair does not go unnoticed by Frankie, one of the bar's frequent patrons and a henchman to the mobster, Anthony Gliardi.

After an evening of alcohol, cocaine and Tina, Cal arrives at his press conference visibly hung over. He fumbles, struggling to find the correct prepared speech but comes up with nothing ("Press Conference / Simple Words"). Finally Cal explodes and blurts out, "Just f**k it, OK?!?" At first, the reporters are shocked, but Cal, taking lessons from his new friend, Tina, just explains the situation frankly and bluntly. This newfound honesty has never before been seen in a politician, and the reporters are quickly swayed – Cal is proclaimed "a genius!"

Armed with new confidence, Cal challenges Grahame, who is infuriated by Cal's behavior. Cal decides that he has discovered his own political idiom and doesn't need Grahame anymore, letting Grahame know so.

Tina arrives and gives Grahame a gift of an engraved watch and, together, they celebrate Grahame's new popularity by shooting up some heroin together ("Alleluia"). Unfortunately, their tryst is caught on film, and it will only be moments before the photos are released to the public ("Flash, Pop, Sizzle / Who Said"). Grahame and Violet are infuriated, but Cal turns their blame back on them and scolds them ("Don't Blame the Prince"). Grahame turns to his old friend, the mobster, Anthony Gliardi, who has already secured the negatives, but Grahame asks him to go one step further to ensure that the photographer is silenced, as well. Grahame's knows his dealings are neither safe nor moral, but, in politics sometimes it is important to break some rules and play ("Dangerous Games").

Act Two

As the second act begins, Grahame wonders how his life has gotten so out of control. He thinks back to a time when he and his brother both seemed destined to lives of promise and hope together, back when they were ("Two Guys at Harvard"). However, as college wore on, it became clear that Reed would always be the successful son, and Grahame, although smarter, would never surpass his brother because of his crippling polio. While thinking back to this deciding time in his life, Grahame's situation worsens, and a doctor relegates him to a wheelchair for life ("First Came Mercy").

Meanwhile, Cal's drugged-out, drunken binges have only gotten worse, and he and Tina's tryst is nearly impossible to hide ("Alleluia / One, Two, Three – Reprise). After Cal misses three press conferences in a row, things spiral out of control. To add to the dilemma, Gliardi has come to collect on his earlier favor. The press is calling Gliardi terrible things, and he needs Cal to assure the public that he is, in fact, an upstanding citizen. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Grahame and Violet decide to rid the entire mansion of drugs and temptation, including Tina ("Cleaning House"). Cal pleads with Grahame, explaining to him that he needs his drugs because it makes him strong and gives him ("The Upper Hand"). Grahame realizes that Cal is a lost cause and walks away resignedly.

Meanwhile, Violet is getting drunk and losing control, realizing that her life has been nothing but calculated ("Spin"). Grahame approaches a very drunk Violet and informs her of his resignation, claiming that he never should have tried to form Cal into something that he wasn't... and he especially shouldn't have hidden Cal's questionable paternity. In a flashback, it is revealed that Violet used to sneak off in the night and have lustful affairs with a murderer, Bobby "Cracker" Barrel, in his car. However, the murderer was eventually caught and put to death, thus dying with the truth that he was the true father of Calvin Chandler ("The Ballad of Bobby 'Cracker' Barrel").

Cal looks in a mirror and sees a man whom he no longer recognizes. He is confused and depressed and yearns for a time long ago, a time when his life was carefree and nothing more than ("Child's Play").

Defeated, Cal heads out to his press conference and starts on his prepared speech. However, as he gets to the part about Anthony Gliardi, he breaks down and admits "He's a crook." As the world reacts to this stunning announcement, Cal longs for Tina ("Simple Words / Dangerous Games – Reprise"). Tina is alone, however, and thinking that she has forever lost Cal. She laments that she has been seduced by the ("Mistress of Deception"). As her self-torture ends, Cal returns and passionately tells her, "I'm going to leave Deborah. I'm going to leave my wife. And I want us to be together."

Gliardi enters, infuriated by Cal's public statement and, as Tina and Cal dance, Gliardi draws a gun and shoots Calvin dead. As Tina protests, Gliardi finishes the job by finishing her as well. The full ensemble, including Violet; Deborah; and Deborah and Calvin's son, Calvin Chandler, Jr.; enters to mourn the fallen hero ("Finale"). The Reporters ask if there is "Another Chandler waiting in the wings?" Violet reaches for Calvin Chandler, Jr., and holds him tight to her, assuring them that, "Yes, there is."