Tin Pan Ali
Show Essentials
+ Ensemble

Full Synopsis

Act One

We begin in a scene right out of Arabian Nights. The Sultan snores, and The Executioner anxiously waits as Princess Scheherazade finishes her thousandth tale. The Executioner is ready to do his job on the Princess, but the Sultan tells him that he must wait until she has run out of stories. The Princess then launches into the tale of Ali Baba.

The action has now switched to the streets of Prohibition-era Chicago. Ali Baba, a street sweeper, sings to himself as he works. The street then comes alive with all of the usual vendors and characters who join Ali in their daily toil ("Ali Baba Doupa").

Charlie Risenshine reads in the paper that the dreaded Haroun Al Carooni and his Spottie Bowtie Brigade, the Chicagorillas, have pulled off two more big robberies, stealing $70,000 worth of goods, including the famous diamond, the Stonefeller Rock. Carooni's guard, Sesame, enters and takes his post outside of the warehouse. He clearly is not part of the regular crowd. Someone runs in and gives the warning that some Spottie Bowties have been seen on their way. Everyone but Ali flees and hides.

Two teams of gangsters appear and are trying to outdo each other ("We Are Carooni's Boys"). Prince ("Who is Prince?") informs the guys that Carooni is due any minute, and sure enough, he arrives right on time. Carooni makes a grand entrance with his girl, Doll, showing who is "the boss." All of his men join him in dancing and singing his praise ("Start the Action"). The two teams show off their spoils and move in to get Sesame to open the warehouse and give them access to the hidden cave. Sesame does as he is instructed, revealing a hidden staircase and the cave where all of the treasure is hidden. Ali Baba witnesses all of this and moves in to "befriend" Sesame. He tells Sesame that he would share the wealth if he would let him into the cave. Ali stands at the entrance and debates the pros and cons of doing just that. He decides that sharing a little wealth would bring great happiness to many people ("Maybe I Can").

The scene then fades back to The Sultan and The Princess, who continues her tale.

The action now takes us to the chaos of Fatimoma's kitchen, where she is preparing dinner for Grandma, Grandpa and many other family members. Fatimoma is Ali's mother, and we learn that his father is not around. We also learn that Ali has a brother, Kassim, who turned to crime, became very wealthy and is estranged from the family. Ali shows up with a cart, filled with jewels and treasure, showering the whole family with gifts, Fatimoma basks in the glow of her new fortune, as does the whole family ("The Pride of Old Chicago Town"). Ali has sent for Morgiana, one of his brother's servants, with whom he is in love. Now that Ali is rich, he hopes to win her over.

Unexpectedly, Kassim has followed Morgiana. He demands to know the treasure's origins and wants some of his own. Ali tells Kassim everything that he needs to know before sending him on his way. Ali and Morgiana sing a love song in which she says that she loves him, not his fortune ("What Really Matters Most Is You").

The scene cuts back to the Sultan and Princess, who continues her story tirelessly.

We now find ourselves back on the street where Kassim is approaching Sesame and the cave. After going back and forth, Kassim is let into the cave, but Sesame thinks that he is a cop, so he closes him inside. Sesame mourns his life and as Ali approaches, he tries to cheer him up ("Sesame, Sesame"). Ali describes Kassim, and Sesame insists that he has not seen him. He then lashes out, thinking that Ali squealed to the police.

Carooni and his men come back to the cave where Kassim is imprisoned. The men find out that he is in there and move in to kill him. Carooni realizes that Sesame has been letting people in and finds out that there is a lot of treasure missing, including the Stonefeller Rock. Under pressure, Sesame tells all about the street sweeper that he admitted. Carooni sends a bunch of men, undercover as street sweepers, to find Ali. Carooni is pleased with himself and sings and dances with Doll ("Oh Yeah!").

Ali and Morgiana show up in search of Kassim. They walk in and see the thieves getting into their street sweeper disguises. None of them knows how to do the job, nor do they know Ali. Ali seizes this chance and teaches all of them how to be street sweepers ("The Dust-cart Rag").

Act Two

This act opens again with Princess telling her tale. It then cuts to a huge, elegant housewarming party. We learn that Ali and his family are moving into a new house with their newfound fortune ("Move Along"). There are waiters present whose captain is clearly Carooni in disguise. The whole family is present, including Ali's love, Morgiana. Ali sings a song to entertain his guests ("The Dancing Song"). We slowly realize that all of the waiters are Carooni's men in disguise, and that they are working the crowd in an attempt to get leads on what happened to their treasure.

Morgiana informs Carooni that it is also Fatimoma's birthday. Morgiana finds his behavior strange and is a bit suspicious. Fatimoma seems to think that she has seen him somewhere before, as well. They all sing "Happy Birthday" and "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow." Then, the men wheel out a cake that we know has a spy hidden in it. Before they can keep her from doing so, Fatimoma grabs a knife and thrusts it into the cake to cut it. A loud, agonizing scream is heard, and the thieves are sure that they are about to be exposed. Grandpa speaks up and laughs, thinking that it is just a trick cake, and the men are relieved that they are off the hook. Ali has given Fatimoma a gift, which ends up being the Stonefeller Rock. Only one of the men notices, but Carooni will not listen, because he is too nervous. Carooni jumps in and tries to keep everyone distracted by doing the Conga.

The men have all changed back and are ready to take off, certain that they are making no headway. Morgiana sees them and is confused. Carooni then realizes that his street-sweeping gang has shown up to the party. They tell him that they have discovered on the street that this party is a housewarming for a street sweeper who moved into his late brother's home. The party starts to break up, and Carooni finds out that Ali is the guy who taught his men how to be street sweepers. Sesame confirms this for him, now having betrayed Ali, who was his "friend." Carooni mobilizes his men to block all of the entrances, turn out the lights and get their revenge.

Sesame is disgusted with himself and decides that he is going to help Ali, not Carooni ("Sesame's Song"). Morgiana happens upon Sesame and tells him that she is engaged to Ali and finds out that he is the man that let Ali into the cave of treasures. She urges him to join them, professing that Ali would love to see him. He says that Carooni's men are there, hiding and waiting to attack. Carooni enters disguised as an Arabian oil tycoon and says that he is a cousin of Ali's. Morgiana has the plan down, informs Ali and gets the family ready for battle. She instructs Ali to act naturally and not show that he knows that is Carooni to whom he is speaking.

Ali and Morgiana sing another love song ("Ali Baba, Morgiana") to give everyone time to fall into place and to make Carooni think that they are clueless about what is happening. Carooni has Sesame turn out the lights, and as soon as this happens, Morgiana sends the family in to battle. Sesame throws on the lights. The family is victorious and they sing a victory song ("The Repercussion Blues"). Fatimoma finds something very familiar in their banter, as does Carooni. She slowly realizes that Carooni is her long-lost husband: Ali's long-lost father. Everyone seems happy, except for Sesame, who is still alone. Ali works his magic, gestures toward the house, and with a cry of "Open Sesame," the magic staircase is revealed – as is Princess Scheherazade, our storyteller – and Sesame walks off with his Princess. Everyone lives happily ever after.

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Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Princess Scheherazade
A storyteller who is forced to tell stories to the Sultan. A quick and flowery talker who eventually finds herself with Sesame.
Gender: female
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G4
The Sultan
The fat and bejeweled leader of the land. Gluttonous, foolish, and always in want of a good story.
Gender: male
Ali Baba
A poor Chicago street-sweeper, he remains happy and cheerful. A popular fixture in town who turns to entertaining the idea of stealing riches because of his love for Morgiana causes him to debate stealing riches.
Gender: male
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: Ab3
Kassim's pretty servant girl, she becomes Ali's secret love. Pleasant, confident, and quick on her feet.
Gender: female
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Minnie "fatimoma" Baba
Ali's mother and the head of the Baba household. She is always moving around, but continues to keep an eye on everything...and everyone.
Gender: female
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Grandma Emily Baba
Grandpa's faithful wife. Amused by the antics of her family and always one to keep a leash on her husband.
Gender: female
Age: 50 to 70
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Grandpa Zachariah Baba
The seasoned war veteran. Disgruntled with the misbehaving of his grandkids and not afraid to speak his mind. Constantly looking for a drink and a younger woman.
Gender: male
Age: 60 to 75
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: B3
The janitor of a warehouse and new recruit in Carooni's gang. Loud and boorish, he lives a meager life and regrets his involvement in crime. He feels alone and down on himself.
Gender: male
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Oscar Haroun Al Carooni
The cocky kingpin of numerous city of Chicago gangs. He holds a mysterious past and an imposing presence, who has no trouble keeping his cronies in line.
Gender: male
Vocal range top: F#5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Prince Tiny
Leader of the Tinies and a rival to Freddie the Fiddler. The most skilled known thief around. Mouthy and mocking.
Gender: male
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Doll The Moll
Carooni's girlfriend. An extremely dolly, but equally dumb broad. Walks through the world wide-eyed and always looking to dance.
Gender: female
Vocal range top: Eb5
Vocal range bottom: C4
The Heavies (Kneecaps, Hunky, Jem, Legs, Buster, Micky, Periscope Pete); The Tinies (Small Fry, Big Ears, Skinny, Blue Eyes, Four Eyes, Smiler); Ali's Siblings (Owls, Claude, Tootsie, Billie); Party Guests; Street Vendors
Full Song List
Tin Pan Ali: Ali Baba Doupa
Tin Pan Ali: We Are Carooni's Boys
Tin Pan Ali: Start The Action
Tin Pan Ali: Maybe I Can
Tin Pan Ali: The Pride Of Old Chicago Town
Tin Pan Ali: What Really Matters Most Is You
Tin Pan Ali: Sesame, Sesame
Tin Pan Ali: Oh Yeah!
Tin Pan Ali: The Dust-Cart Rag
Tin Pan Ali: The Dancing Song
Tin Pan Ali: The Repercussion Boogie Blues

Show History


Tin Pan Ali is a musical comedy with book and lyrics by Jeremy James Taylor (founding artistic director of the National Youth Music Theatre) and music by David Nield. It is an adaptation of the classic story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, one of the more notable parts of the chronicle, One Thousand and One Nights. However, Taylor and Nield moved the story to the setting of Prohibition-era Chicago, making the titular character a street sweeper and the thieves a group of inept gangsters. They also include a somewhat "meta" element of Ali Baba's story being told by Princess Scheherazade to forestall her execution. The title of the musical is a pun on "Tin Pan Alley," the collection of New York music publishers and songwriters in the late nineteenth century.


Tin Pan Ali premiered with the National Youth Music Theatre (then known as the Children's Music Theatre), under its original title of The Sesame Street Racket. The theatre put up a production in 1979 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, (with which it consistently performed its original material). British playwright and actor Ray Cooney then asked Jeremy James Taylor to bring the musical to the West End, at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Subsequent productions of the musical occurred in 1982 and 1997.


  • Celebrities who have performed in Tin Pan Ali include: Jamie Bell, Sheridan Smith, Mike Jibson, Malinda Pariss, Tim McMullen, Charlotte Riby, Philip Cumbus and Delroy Atkinson.

Critical Reaction

"Music that would appeal to any generation."
– The Daily Telegraph

"Children's Theatre at its best."
– Times Educations Supplement



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