What about Luv?
A dark comedy about love – in all of its neurotic glory and pain.
Show Essentials
3
Roles
G
Rated
2
Acts

Full Synopsis

Act One

The entire show takes place atop a bridge overlooking the New York City skyline.

We first meet Harry Berlin, a rather down-and-out fellow, who is putting the finishing touches on his suicide note. As he tries to find a place to tack it up, readying himself to jump, Milt Manville, a rather well-dressed Wall Street broker, enters and notices Harry. It seems as though the two of them know each other from when they were classmates at Polyarts U, fifteen years ago ("Reunion"). Harry climbs down from the railing and listens as Milt recalls those college days at Polyarts, when winning the big football game was much more important to him than academics ("Polyarts U"). Although Milt was the big football star, Harry was "the Dostoyevsky of Polyarts U" – completely immersed in Greek studies and poetry.

Nevertheless, time has passed, and neither of the men has seen the other. Milt has married Ellen – a wonderful woman – and is living in the suburbs, playing 18 holes of golf every weekend. Harry, on the other hand, is at the end of the line. Life for Harry is so bad that sometimes, in the middle of the day or night – without warning – his whole body becomes paralyzed, and he can't move a muscle. Just at that moment, Harry stiffens like a board and topples forward. Fortunately, Milt catches him. Does this happen often? Has Harry seen a doctor, a specialist? Harry is convinced that it is simply because he has lost the will to live. He also loses his sight and hearing.

Once more, Harry tries to jump off of the bridge, but Milt stops him. He asks Harry to stop and think about just why he has fallen so far, when he had so much. Milt, on the other hand, had nothing and achieved a lot. Harry objects to Milt's observation and says that his life has actually been just horrible, ever since he was a child. The two compare notes and try to see just who had the rougher childhood and who came the furthest – they both had pretty rotten lives ("Paradise").

Yes, they both had a hard time of it, but Milt is convinced that it's no reason to give up. All Harry needs to say is "yes" to life and "yes" to love. It appears that Harry has said "yes" to women – 28 times, to be exact – but that wasn't love. Milt is convinced that if Harry could just find love, then his problems would be over. Love is all around them – it's everywhere! Just give it a chance ("Carnival Ride")!

Harry ponders it for a moment and just as he is having another spell (losing his sight and hearing), he thinks about love and feels as if his body is like a phoenix, rising from the ashes. Yes, love might just be the answer! It is for Milt, after all – who is more in love today than on the day that he got married; unfortunately, his wife won't give him a divorce. He shows Harry a picture of his love, Linda – a woman who works with him. Out of desperation, Milt asks Harry to fall in love with his wife, Ellen, so that she'll want a divorce. Harry thinks that the whole idea is crazy. What's even crazier is that Milt confesses that the reason he's come to the bridge is to meet Ellen, so he can throw her into he river. He's going crazy! It's either him or her! Milt tries to throw himself off of the bridge, but Harry stops him. Harry promises to meet Ellen, at least.

Ellen, a rather attractive woman in a mink coat, enters. Harry hides in the corner while Milt tries to see if he can interest her in Harry. Before Ellen meets anyone, she wants to talk with Milt! It seems as if he didn't come home until 1:18 AM last night, and she knows that he wasn't stuck at the office with clients. Out of a wooden case, she pulls a window shade upon which a chart is drawn that shows the sharp decline in their sexual activity over the past five years of marriage. They used to do it twice a day – now, not at all! She doesn't want a divorce. She wants sex – now ("The Chart")!

Milt brings Harry out to meet Ellen and then exits – taking the chart with him. While looking out at the early night sky, Harry notices the first evening star and tells Ellen to make a wish. She wishes that she were a lesbian – then she wouldn't need men at all. She, too, had a terrible childhood. Harry listens to her but just like with Milt, claims that his childhood was even worse than hers ("Paradise II").

Ellen talks some more with Harry and asks if he is afraid of her. It seems that her wit, power of analysis, photographic, memory, etc. all make men feel threatened by her. She tells him to ask her a question – and he does. "How many states did Al Smith win in the election of 1928?" She answers him, not only knowing the number of states but also knowing which ones. As Harry prepares to go, Ellen begs him to stay. She didn't ask to be so smart – it just happened. Plus, there is more to her than just being brilliant. She also wants to be a loving wife ("I Believe in Marriage").

She, too, is at the end of her rope. Out of her coat, she pulls a knife, which she is going to use on Milt, for she knows that he is seeing another woman. Instead, she raises the knife to her chest, and when Harry intervenes, she tries to kill him, eventually stopping herself; she is simply out of her mind! Harry has her look out at the river to see how warm and inviting it appears. He, too, wants to end it all – he's a "dead man." Ellen asks him, "What about love?" The hope for it is inside all of us. She takes his hand and puts it on her breast, asking if he can feel the desire. He suddenly feels it. Yes, he feels it! She tells him to sing, and they both do – realizing that they have now found something more by finding one another ("Somebody"). Harry and Ellen dance together quite romantically, and after a bit of difficulty, Harry confesses to Ellen that he loves her.

Harry can't believe that he is in love. Ellen, not quite sure if this love is real, wants to find a way where the two of them can test their love. Acting on an impulse, Harry stomps on her foot and then promptly asks her if she still loves him. Walking to him with a pronounced limp, she confesses that she does indeed love him still. Ellen then punches Harry in the stomach – to test his love for her – and finds that he does! He loves her until the end of time. They continue to test each other. Harry rips her dress. Ellen undoes his belt so that his pants fall to the ground. Harry even takes her mink coat and throws it over the bridge railing. She still agrees that she loves him. However, Ellen decides that the ultimate proof of his love would be if Harry jumped off of the bridge. He prepares to jump ("Yes, Yes, I Love You").

Suddenly, Milt runs on and tries to stop Harry. Ellen tells Milt that Harry and she are actually in love. At first, Milt is upset that his friend would "steal" his wife behind his back. Ellen steps in and asks Milt to understand, and eventually he does ("Finale – Act I"). Harry and Ellen run off together. Mission accomplished! Now, Milt pulls out a picture of Linda and runs off joyously to find her.

Act Two

Ellen is leaning on a lamppost in a world-weary pose. Smoking a cigarette, she sits down on a bench to read. Suddenly, Milt, who has been lying on the other side of the bench, pops up. It has been a year since they've seen each other, when she ran off with Harry. Is she happy? For his benefit, she fakes that the last year has been great ("What a Life"). She is Harry's wife, and everything appears to be great! The same is true for Milt... or so it seems. Linda has brought out an erotic side in him that he never knew existed. Finally, he breaks down and confesses that he's depressed, because Linda has not turned out to be what he thought. She's put on forty pounds in six months and is even growing a mustache. Eventually, Milt breaks down and begins to sob. What's worse, is that he didn't even get the chance to end the marriage; Linda walked out on him.

Milt suddenly confesses that he has actually fallen in love again. Ellen laughs at this hysterically; however, Milt simply pulls out a picture of his new love and proceeds to tell of his undying devotion ("Lady"). He finally shows the picture to Ellen – it's a picture of her! After spinning her around madly in his arms, she ultimately becomes putty – until she catches herself and tells him that it is too late. She is Harry's wife now, and there is nothing more that they can do! Milt presses her to say that she really does love Harry, but she can't say the word; in actuality, Harry is driving her crazy. She often thinks about what it would be like if Harry stopped being ("If Harry Weren't Here"). Finally, Milt and Ellen end up in each other's arms and are kissing passionately. What can they do now, with Harry in the picture? If Harry were to kill himself, though, that would be okay – wouldn't it? It wouldn't be murder, since he tried to kill himself one year ago; it was Milt who stopped him. Milt and Ellen hide as they hear Harry entering, talking to his little paper bag that he wears over his head to use as a sort of security blanket. Harry talks to the bag and tells it that it's time that he stands on his own and faced the world without anything standing in the way. However, just as he is about to throw the bag away, he puts it over his head once again ("My Brown Paper Hat").

While Harry wanders around with the bag on and off his head, Milt and Ellen appear in disguise and look for a way to push him off of the bridge. Ellen would rather just put Harry into a sanitarium, but Milt thinks that their "suicide" plan would be the best of all. Unfortunately, just as Milt rushes to push Harry off the bridge, Harry steps aside and Milt goes over, himself. Neither Harry nor Ellen sees this. Harry was looking in the other direction, and Ellen had her eyes closed so that she never saw what happened.

Ellen and Harry talk for awhile. Harry confesses that he actually wanted to come to the place where they met one year ago – Ellen has made Harry so happy. Unfortunately, Ellen tells him that she isn't in love with him anymore. She tells him that it would be best if they end it now. Harry starts having a spell again and can't hear her. She eventually screams that she loves Milt, and Harry freezes. Suddenly, Milt appears – soaking wet. He's ready to throw the catatonic Harry into the river and wants some help from Ellen. If she really loves him, she'll do it. Yes, she loves him and as she tells him so ("Yes, Yes, I Love You"), she accidentally pushes Milt off the bridge once again.

Harry comes out of his spell and notices that Milt is drowning in the river below. He and Ellen make sure that he's safe in a rowboat before resuming their conversation. Ellen is determined to show Harry – in as logical a fashion as possible – that the two of them don't belong together. She takes a small paper roll out of her bag, upon which she has drawn a graph of their four months of marriage, depicting the sexual encounters that they have had. Unfortunately, there isn't even a line on the graph that depicts their sexual encounters; that's how bad things have been. No "normal" husband would have acted this way. Ellen concludes that the only real person with whom Harry is in love is Milt. As he ponders the situation, Harry is quite confused but concludes – after some prompting from Ellen – that, yes, he does love Milt ("Do I Love Him?"). He suddenly stops once again – this time, more determined than ever to have Ellen realize that he is in love with her.

A sopping Milt re-enters once more. Harry tells him that he's deeply in love with Ellen. Milt tells Harry that maybe they better let her decide. She chooses Milt, but Harry says that he won't let her go. Ellen tells him that she does not want him in any way; she finds him utterly obnoxious and repulsive. Harry threatens to kill himself and swings around on the cables of the bridge like a monkey. Ellen and Milt kiss, and as Harry tries to get their attention, he inadvertently steps off of the bridge and falls ("Harry's Resolution"). Poor Harry! He had so much promise. In fact, Ellen and Milt decide to have a baby and name it after Harry. They walk off, asking just how much each loves the other.

Harry re-enters, soaking wet, and spots his brown paper bag, which he proceeds to throw over the railing. He's ready now to start over on his own and survive. Milt and Ellen, too, enter one last time to say that maybe marriage won't be berries and cream, but they are ready to give it a try. ...For, in whatever shape it comes, they all believe in love ("I Believe In Marriage – Reprise").

Casting

Casting

Cast Size: Small (Up to 10 performers)
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Harry Berlin
A neurotic who fallen on hard times. Has slipped into a deep depression and occasionally suffers from psychosomatic paralysis. A connection to another weathered soul in Ellen gives him a burst of happiness.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 45
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Milt Manville
A Wall Street broker, Ellen's husband, and Harry's old classmate. Energetic and passionate, but harbors a dark resentment towards his wife. He eventually transitions into another loveless marriage.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 45
Vocal range top: F4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Ellen Manville
Milt's wife, a highly educated and extremely talkative woman. Her husband's two-timing has left her skeptical of men. She is a secret romantic, and falls into a love triangle with Harry and Milt.
Gender: female
Age: 20 to 40
Vocal range top: Eb6
Vocal range bottom: G3
Full Song List
What About Luv?: Opening Act One/Reunion/Poly Arts U
What About Luv?: Paradise I
What About Luv?: Carnival Ride
What About Luv?: The Chart
What About Luv?: Harry Meets Ellen
What About Luv?: Starlight/Lesbian
What About Luv?: Paradise II / Election Stats
What About Luv?: I Believe in Marriage
What About Luv?: Love Theme/Somebody
What About Luv?: The Test/Yes, Yes I Love You
What About Luv?: Finale Act One
What About Luv?: Opening Act Two
What About Luv?: What a Life
What About Luv?: Lady
What About Luv?: If Harry Weren't Here
What About Luv?: My Brown Paper Hat
What About Luv?: Yes, Yes I Love You (Reprise)
What About Luv?: Do I Love Him?
What About Luv?: Harry's Resolution
What About Luv?: I Believe in Marriage (Reprise)

Show History

Inspiration

What about Luv?, with a book by Jeffrey Sweet (Jelly's Last Jam), music by Howard Marren and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Triumph of Love), is a musicalized version of the play, Luv by Murray Schisgal. Both the play and the musical are a mix of absurd dark humor and traditional Broadway comedy in the vein of Neil Simon.

Productions

What about Luv? opened Off-Broadway in April of 1984 at the Audrey Wood Theatre in New York City under the original title, Love. It starred Tony winner Nathan Lane as Harry, Stephen Vinovich as Milt and Judy Kaye as Ellen. The musical was subsequently revived Off-Broadway at the York Theatre from December 6, 1991, to January 19, 1992; it also had international runs in Vancouver, London and Tokyo.

Trivia

  • The original Off-Broadway production of What about Luv? won two Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical and Best Score.

Critical Reaction

"[A] bouncy... score."
– The Chicago Reader

"An odd little musical comedy nugget about depression, infidelity and suicide. ...There is a nice balance between the misery of their characters and the humour from Jeffrey Sweet's text and Susan Birkenhead's lyrics."
– Gay Vancouver

"Howard Warren's catchy tunes work with Jeffrey Sweet's book and Susan Birkenhead's lyrics to celebrate the story's cartoonish qualities."
– Straight.com

"Rollicking good fun... a stupendously silly ode to all that we love about musical theatre."
– The Vancouver Observer

"A quirky little musical comedy... The classic love triangle with some funny twists.... The dialogue is cleverly written with several surprises, and the song lyrics are funny.... This unpredictable little musical with a few surprises provides an entertaining evening."
– Entertain This Thought

"A happy musical about being unhappy that has more fun with human nature, especially the mating urge."
– The Sun Sentinel

"Smart and bitingly funny.... The beauty of What about Luv? is in its simplicity. All of its elements come together into a neatly-wrapped quirky gem of a show.  This is definitely a must-see."
– Musicals in Vancouver

Connect

Billing

Based on the play by Murray Schisgal

Requirements

You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
WHAT ABOUT LUV?
 
Based on the play by MURRAY SCHISGAL
 
Book by
JEFFREY SWEET
Music by
HOWARD MARREN 
Lyrics by
 SUSAN BIRKENHEAD

 

Originally Produced by Haila Stoddard, Jay Klein and Maggie Minskoff in
association with John Kenley, Vincent Curcio and Tarquin Jay Bromley
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included
LIBRETTO/VOCAL BOOK6
PIANO CONDUCTOR'S SCORE2
SONG PACKET1

Production Resources

Resource
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON-10/CS
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON?
OPTIONAL SONGPAK
PRODUCTIONPRO
REFERENCE RECORDING

STANDARD ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
PERCUSSIONBELL TREE , BELLS , BONGO , CABASA , CASTANETS , COWBELL , FINGER CYMBAL , GONG , MARIMBA , MARK TREE , TAMBOURINE , TEMPLE BLOCKS , TRIANGLE , VIBRAPHONE , XYLOPHONE
REED 1CLARINET , FLUTE , PICCOLO , SOPRANO SAX
TROMBONE