Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

An eager young man in his mid-twenties appears, standing alone on an empty stage. This is Benjy Stone, who reveals that 1954 was not his best year... but it's his favorite year – the year that he made the jump from lowly assistant to freshman writer on television's hottest show, "The King Kaiser Comedy Cavalcade."

Suddenly, we hear the screams of a Stage Manager and the stage transforms into Studio 6B of the RCA Building, five minutes before the live show is about to air in front of millions of viewers ("20 Million People"). We see the screaming producers, flying costumes, last minute rehearsals and other chaos. We meet other important figures: King Kaiser, Sy Benson, Alice Miller, Herb Lee and K.C. Downing. In the middle of it all, Benjy's mother calls to remind him that he's coming over for dinner tomorrow. The countdown continues until the show begins.

It is now Monday morning at the RCA Building. Benjy delivers food and coffee for everyone in the writers' room. They suddenly get the word that King Kaiser is coming down the hallway. Because of King's superstitions, the food is hidden and everyone tries to appear official and professional. King informs the writers that Martha Raye has cancelled her guest star appearance for the next week. Instead, it's going to be Alan Swann, a swashbuckling actor. King wants a funny sketch written for Mr. Swann. As the other writers fight over what the sketch should be, Benjy steps out and tells us that he is destined to write the sketch for Alan Swann, because this man was his movie hero ("Larger Than Life").

Later, at the writers' office, everyone is panicked – Alan Swann's plane has landed, but they can't find him. King isn't happy with any of the sketches. Benjy suddenly jumps in with a new sketch, pretending that Sy Benson actually came up with it. Sy goes along with it as all get involved ("Musketeer Sketch"). By the end, King is thrilled, and Sy takes all of the credit.

The door flies open as an extremely drunk Alan Swann appears and promptly passes out cold. King wants to dump him, but Benjy defends Swann. After a bit of coaxing, King decides to give him one more chance but he also puts Benjy personally in charge of him. He wants Swann at every rehearsal – sober, or else!

Later at the Waldorf, K.C. and Benjy report to the office that everything is under control; Swann is tucked away in bed. Benjy asks her if she's ever dreamed about being a star, and she says no. He sweeps her off of her feet, pretending that he's Alan Swann and that she's Rita Hayworth, complete with an offstage chorus. They're interrupted by the entrance of Benjy's mom, Belle, and her Filipino husband, a former bantamweight boxer, Rookie Carroca. K.C. leaves the Waldorf while Belle makes herself at home. Benjy tries to get her to leave, but she makes him promise to invite Alan Swann to dinner. Benjy feels ashamed of his Filipino stepfather, but Belle tells him that Rookie is actually a prince, just like Alan Swann ("Rookie in the Ring").

A fully recovered Alan Swann appears, elegant and ready for a night on the town. Swann searches the room for his suitcase full of liquor, which Benjy has hidden. He explains that he needs to abstain, or else Benjy is going to lose his job. Swann promises to abstain while in his care. The two go out on the town, and Swann misbehaves but doesn't drink. Benjy does his best to keep Swann out of trouble but eventually loses him ("Manhattan").

The next day in the Broadcast Studio, all of the writers read the headline story: Swann hauled in for disturbing the peace, naked in Bethesda Fountain. King is furious and threatens Benjy. Swann enters, sober and alert, and charms the entire staff – including the cranky King – who reveals his superstitions to Swann ("The Gospel According to King").

Rehearsal for the musketeer sketch begins, with Benjy clumsily acting as a stand-in. Benjy reveals to Alan Swann that "Benjy Stone" is a made-up name; his real name is Benjamin Steinberg. Swann tells Benjy that he, too, was once a simple guy named Clarence Duffy, who transformed himself into a film star. Rehearsals for the entire show continue, but Benjy sees K.C. completely smitten with Swann. Acting on a jealous impulse, Benjy embarrasses her before she runs off.

Benjy follows K.C. into the ladies' room. She tells him to get out, but he wants to know what's been going on between her and Swann. Alice, in a stall, overhears the entire conversation. K.C. forces Benjy out, and Alice emerges from her stall. K.C. tells Alice that she's intimidated because she's the only unfunny person on the show ("Funny"). Alice tries to teach K.C. a joke, but she is hopeless ("The Joke").

Back in the Broadcast Studio, the musketeer sketch is all set for performance. Benjy awkwardly approaches Swann and asks him to dinner at his mother's house in Brooklyn. Swann accepts and goes off to get changed while Benjy waits. A pretty sixteen-year-old girl enters with a letter that she wants Benjy to give to Swann; an invitation to her school's reception at the Plaza. Benjy puts the letter in his pocket and promises to give it to Swann. The young girl leaves.

The scene shifts to Belle's Brooklyn apartment. The doorbell buzzes. Benjy and Swann are welcomed first by Uncle Morty, then by Rookie – who's done all the cooking – and finally by Belle, who makes a dazzling entrance in an over-the-top hairdo and dress ("Welcome to Brooklyn"). Aunt Sadie tops them all by arriving in her wedding gown. Finally, the entire neighborhood arrives to have a look. Swann dines with Benjy and his family, charming them all. After dinner, Swann tells Belle that he admires the loving family life; he admits that it's something he's never found. However, he does have a daughter, Tess, who lives with her mother in Connecticut and whom he has not seen in three years. While clearing the table, Benjy overhears this conversation and gives Swann the invitation that he received earlier. Benjy is shocked that Swann hasn't seen his daughter in so long, but Swann tells Benjy that life can never be as perfect as we would like to imagine ("If the World Were Like the Movies"). Belle appears with a bottle of champagne, and to Benjy's dismay, Swann accepts.

Act Two

Later that evening, Benjy and a drunken Swann charge on through Central Park. He is determined to get to the Plaza to see Tess but is unable to find it. Swann tells Benjy that he'll be sober tomorrow and will know all of the reasons why he shouldn't see his daughter, but tonight, he's going to see her with or without Benjy's permission ("Exits")!

At the Plaza, Swann makes a scene with the doorman, who knocks him down. Tess comes out of the Plaza with a group of friends, just in time to see her father's humiliation. She leaves, and Swann is devastated. In Swann's room at the Waldorf, shortly before dawn, ex-prize fighting champ Rookie has just finished attending to Swann's cuts and bruises. We see the beginnings of a relationship between Benjy and Rookie. As Rookie leaves, Benjy gives him two front-row tickets for the big show.

K.C. then enters. Benjy has called her over to help him out. He asks K.C. to watch Swann for a few hours while Benjy goes off to do something. K.C. is initially upset, and they quarrel, but Benjy finally tells K.C. that he's crazy about her. K.C. doesn't quite know how to take it. She tells him that she likes this new side of him, and they finally give in to a passionate embrace ("Shut up and Dance"). They kiss at last. He leaves, and she promises to get Swann to the studio on time.

At a last minute rehearsal for the show, King and Alice perform a comedic hobo number ("Professional Showbizness Comedy"), King has promised Alice one gag for tonight's show; however, he keeps stepping on all of her funny lines. Alice stops the music and says that she is not continuing. King lets her have her gag, and with that, a bunch of clowns enter and bind and "gag" King. She's finally got her big chance to shine! She tells a series of jokes, has fun with a striptease number and eventually finishes with a tambourine and kick-line of clowns. Everyone at the studio raves about the number. Even King supports the idea of airing it live.

The floor manager then announces that there are five minutes until air. Benjy enters with Swann, dressed in his musketeer costume. Everything seems to be perfect, except that Swann panics when he hears that the show is broadcast live. Also, to complicate matters further, Belle has come backstage to tell Swann that she's met his daughter, who's sitting next to her in the first row. Belle leaves, and Swann confronts Benjy, blaming him for bringing Tess to the show. Benjy confesses. Swann announces that he's not doing the show, but Benjy promises the crew that he will work everything out. The show begins.

Benjy enters Swann's dressing room to find Swann searching for, and finding, his last hidden pint. Benjy tries reasoning with him: Swann finally has a chance to make it up to the daughter who still deeply loves him. Swann is uninterested and defeated ("The Lights Come Up"). He leaves.

On stage, the musketeer sketch begins, but when it comes time for Swann's entrance, he isn't there. Benjy is preparing to accept the fact that Swann has abandonded him and the show when, all of a sudden, Swann pops up through a window in the set! Swann performs the sketch perfectly; it is a rousing success. Amidst all of the joyous chaos, Benjy steps out of the scene, looking back at this beautiful moment in his life. Tess runs to her father's arms, Swann is redeemed, King and Alice are happy, his first sketch is a success and he has finally found happiness in love, work and family ("My Favorite Year").