Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

The City of Paris in 1899. A young girl sits high above the city, ready for a new adventure ("Sitting on the Edge"). She disappears as her mother, Madame Gateau, enters doing chores. Madame Gateau introduces her hotel that is special for theatre people who need a place to stay. The guests appear one at a time and introduce themselves: Mme. Rouspenskaya, a Russian folk singer; Tabac the juggler; Clouk and Claire, the acrobatic duo; Gaby the aspiring ballerina; and Camembert the comic. They are all very happy at Madame Guteau's hotel and love her daughter Mirette. Mirette enjoys hearing all of their stories and doesn't mind waiting on them during their stay. They depend on her ("Madame Gateau's Colorful Hotel").

Later that day, Claire confides in Mirette that she wants to give up performing and move to the country. She is envious of Mirette's secure and safe life, although Mirette can't understand this – she longs for adventure and asks Mme. Rouspenskaya how someone knows whether they have special talent. She replies that they must be discovered and that the talent must be nurtured. Mirette and Rouspenskaya wonder what might lie in Mirette's future ("Maybe").

As Mirette is working at the front desk, a dark and mysterious man enters. His name is Paul Bellini, and he gives three months rent in advance for a tiny room in the basement. Mirette questions him and learns that he is not an actor but travels frequently. We learn from Mirette that her father died in Brazil after leaving her and her mother. Paul is unsettled by the girl's directness and after she shows him to his room, he asks her to leave. Alone, he reflects on his life and his need to keep running away ("Someone in the Mirror").

The lights come up on Rouspenskaya, who is practicing a cappella ("Irkutsk"). During the song, Rouspenskaya is continually interrupted by Camembert, the older clown, who has bought a porcelain box for Gaby. He is smitten with her but he gets no attention from her. Madame adds that Gaby cannot hate him because that would require her to think about him and she does not. Camembert agrees and adds that they are both too old and ugly for love. In a rage, Rouspenskaya calls him a peasant and leaves.

Mirette is hanging laundry outside when she sees Bellini practicing a tightrope walk in the courtyard. He stops when he sees her watching, but she asks him to continue and requests that she get a chance to walk on the wire. He responds that she will only fall. She steps up, but after one step, jumps down. Bellini refuses to help her and leaves, but she is determined and practices all day, finally mastering three whole steps.

The next morning, all of the artists are watching from their windows what has become a daily occurrence: Bellini practices his wire and Mirette watches, unobserved, until he leaves. She then hops on the wire and practices what she learned ("Practice"). Bellini catches her and forbids her to go near his wire. He retreats. She continues. He returns and this time reprimands her, but she shows him what she can do. He watches and is impressed. He looks at her feet and says that she is blessed with a rare foot. She asks him to teach her, but he refuses. Paul tells Mirette that the high wire is a life choice, a passion and an obsession, but Mirette still begs for him to teach her. Finally, he agrees ("Learning Who You Are").

Now at the Music Hall, Tabac is juggling knives and misses the handle on one, instantly cutting his hand. He is promptly fired and realizes that he cannot afford his rent. Madame Gateau gives him an extra week to find work. Meanwhile, all of the artists are gathered to congratulate Gaby on getting a solo dance. Everyone brings a small gift, including Camembert with his porcelain box. Gaby is very grateful, and everyone is happy until Tabac announces that he has been fired. They all try to encourage him to keep trying, as any artist must do ("The Show Goes On"). The excitement of the party is interrupted by Bellini, who bursts in and demands some peace and quiet. Just then, Madame Gateau calls Mirette for bed, and the party disperses. Mirette confesses to her mother that she wishes to be a wirewalker and that Paul Bellini is going to teach her. At first, her mother is concerned but agrees that as long as the wire remains low, there is no harm; Mirette describes how she feels on the wire, and her mother tells her that the life of an artist is a difficult and sad one. She reminds Mirette how lucky she is that when she grows up, she will be able to run a boarding house ("Feet upon the Ground").

While Bellini sets up the wire, Clouk and Claire perform a few acrobatic tricks. Bellini and Mirette begin their first lesson. All is going well for Mirette; she is a disciplined student. Bellini therefore rewards her with a higher wire. She becomes afraid, but his inspiring, firm words convince her to walk. The artists observe from their windows ("If You Choose to Walk upon the Wire"). Just as she begins the walk, her mother cries out to her. Mirette loses her balance and falls, grasping the wire and then gently falling to the ground. A furious Madame Gateau sends Mirette to her room and confronts Bellini. Both believe that they know what is best for Mirette ("She Isn't You").

Act Two

Mirette and Bellini continue to practice on the high wire. Madame Gateau calls for Mirette – Bellini and Mirette quickly hide. The artists join her mother in calling for her, wanting Mirette to watch their new acts. Gaby then enters and tells the group about her new act and costume, where she plays the Great God Pan. Gaby leads them all as they begin to play out her new act ("The Great God Pan"). As they all applaud and cheer Gaby, Max enters. Max is a promoter of talent who helped all of the artistes get their acts together. After greeting his friends and giving Mirette a surprise gift, he probes the presence of The Great Bellini. They all reminisce about the Great Bellini; the greatest hire-wire walker of all time. He and the artists recall all of his daring tricks on the wire and are shocked to learn that the dreadful man living in the basement is the Great Bellini. They wonder what has happened to this magnificent man to make him so unpleasant, so afraid and so alone ("The Great Bellini").

Upon hearing this, Mirette approaches Paul and wonders why he did not tell her that he was the Great Bellini. He denies his identity, but eventually confesses that he was the Great Bellini. He does reveal, however, that something happened to change him forever. Mirette offers to help him if he would just open up to her ("Sometimes You Just Need Someone"). Bellini is outwardly unmoved by Mirette's words and asks her to leave; he cannot teach her anymore. Mirette fights back and in a burst of anger, Bellini yells at Mirette. She runs away. Feeling bad, Bellini tries to call her back but she is gone ("Sometimes You Just Need Someone – Reprise").

Some days later, Mme. Rouspenskaya is with Mirette and her mother, but Mirette is unresponsive. Gaby enters in an expensive outfit and announces that she is moving to a more spacious apartment, much to the disapproval of Camembert. At the same moment, Tabac tries to sneak by when Madame Gateau once again demands his rent. He admits that he cannot make the payments, and she has no choice but to let him go. The others wish to help him but fear that he will never be able to pay them back. The artists reflect on the difficulties of a life on the stage ("Madame Gateau's Desolate Hotel"). Bellini enters to announce that he is leaving. Madame Gateau demands that he give Mirette an explanation and calls for her. Mirette enters, and Bellini is shocked and frightened by her appearance and movements. He informs her of the decision and then reveals his reason for being unable to teach her: one day, in the middle of a difficult act that he had performed hundreds of times, he was overcome with fear and had to crawl off of the wire. She must find a teacher that can do the same tricks that she has to learn. Mirette leaves. She goes to the wire in the courtyard and cuts it down, an act that seems to wake Bellini up. He realizes what he must do. He calls Max over and tells him to gather the necessary materials for him to walk across the roofs of Paris that evening. Everyone is shocked. He says that he must do this for Mirette.

We transition to the wire. Max steps forward to gather a crowd for Bellini's walk. As he takes his first steps, it is clear that he has been overcome with fear – Mirette knows what she must do. She proceeds to climb the tower and joins Bellini, inching slowly towards him. They take hands and all of his faith and courage are restored. He lifts Mirette upon his shoulder as a huge banner falls behind them that readins, "Mirette and Bellini! Wirewalkers Extrordinaire! Stupendous Feats!" ("Finale").