John & Jen
An intimate look at the complexities of familial relationships in a changing America.
Show Essentials
2
Roles
PG13
Rated
2
Acts

Full Synopsis

Act One

Six-year-old Jen Tracy welcomes her newborn brother, John, into the world with a warning about the way that things work and a promise to protect him from Dad ("Prologue / Welcome to the World"). As they grow, Jen does her best to shield John from life's disappointments, including a painful Christmas Eve fight between their parents ("Christmas 1"). Not long after John's seventh birthday, Jen discovers a bruise on his face. "It was my fault," he tells her, "I broke a glass." Jen vows that Dad will never hurt John again, and she and John make a deal always to be there for each other ("Think Big"). As Jen grows older, she becomes more interested in boyfriends than in brothers ("Trouble with Men"). But, when it's time for Jen to go off to college, John begs her not to leave him alone ("Hold down the Fort"). Jen is determined to break free, however, deal or no deal. "I can't hold your hand forever," she tells John. "Grow up."

Jen embraces the world of the '60s in groovy New York City, where she blossoms into a drug-dabbling hippie, while John's life goes in the opposite direction ("Timeline"). Without Jen there to protect him, John falls under his father's influence and decides to join the Navy ("It Took Me a While").

When Jen returns home from New York, she and John see how much they've changed and how far apart they've grown ("Out of My Sight"). Learning of Jen's plans to move to Canada with her draft-dodging boyfriend, John accuses her of rejecting everything he and Dad stand for, and they part in anger ("Run and Hide"). After John leaves, Jen unfurtls an American flag, drapes it over a coffin and reveals that John has been killed in Vietnam. "I'm sorry, little brother," she whispers as Act I ends. 

Act Two

Now living in Canada 26-year-old Jen is the mother of a newborn baby boy, whom she names John ("Old Clothes"). But this John is not the naîve child of the '50s whom his mother expects him to be. When Jen moves back to the United States, leaving her failed marriage behind, she prepares to spend Christmas alone with seven-year-old John. Her gift to her son is an old baseball glove, which she proudly tells him belonged to his uncle. But John rejects the gift, complaining, "I'll be the only kid in school with a crappy old glove!" ("Christmas 2").

Jen gets her son to play his uncle's favorite sport, but her obnoxious behavior at games only succeeds in morifying him ("Little League"). Visiting her brother's grave on what would have been his 32nd birthday, Jen remarks on the similarities between the two Johns and vows that she won't fail her son ("Just Like You"). But when it's time for the twelve-year-old to go off to camp, Jen finds herself barely able to say goodbye ("Bye Room").

In a montage spanning John's high school years, John and Jen take turns as mock talk show hosts, covering topics that reveal Jen's growing dependence on her son and John's struggle for freedom ("Talk Show"). Later, when John discovers that his mother has hidden his acceptance packet from Columbia University, it becomes clear that Jen is terrified that she'll lose John "again," and she is no longer able to differentiate between her brother and her son ("Smile of Your Dreams")

Finally realizing how desperately his mother needs him, John decides to forgo Columbia in favor of a local community college ("It tooke Me a While – Reprise"). Disturbed to see him changing his plans for her sake, Jen ridicules his decision. John is deeply hurt by his mother's reaction and he bitterly mocks her influence on his life ("Graduation"). As their argument escalates, Jen slaps her son.

Shaken by the parallels to her abusive father, Jen retreats to her brother's grave, where she finally accepts that it's time to move on ("The Read Ends Here"). Jen returns home, where she asks John's forgiveness ("That Was My Way"). Jen is fianlly able to let her son go, and they take their first steps into the world on their own ("Every Goodbye Is Hello").

Casting

Casting

Cast Size: Small (Up to 10 performers)
Cast Type: Star Vehicle Female
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Jen
Protective and controlling, yet deeply loving. This character arcs from a wide-eyed new sister to a free-loving hippie and finally a mother accepting her son growing up.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: F3
John
Fun, energetic, fresh, and exciting. The character arcs from a newborn brother to a high school graduate going off to war and finally a young son challenging his loving mother as he grows.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: C5
Vocal range bottom: Ab2
Full Song List
John & Jen: Prologue
John & Jen: Welcome To The World
John & Jen: Christmas 1
John & Jen: Think Big
John & Jen: Trouble With Men
John & Jen: Hold Down The Fort
John & Jen: Timeline
John & Jen: It Took Me A While
John & Jen: Transition: Reunion
John & Jen: Out Of My Sight
John & Jen: Run And Hide
John & Jen: Old Clothes
John & Jen: Christmas 2
John & Jen: Little League
John & Jen: Just Like You
John & Jen: Bye Room
John & Jen: Talk Show
John & Jen: Smile Of Your Dreams
John & Jen: It Took Me A While - Reprise
John & Jen: Graduation
John & Jen: The Road Ends Here
John & Jen: That Was My Way
John & Jen: Every Goodbye is Hello

Show History

Inspiration


John & Jen is an original musical that looks at the complexities of relationships between brothers and sisters, as well as parents and children, and is set against the background of a changing America between 1950 and 1990. Certain events from American history during that time, including the Vietnam War, are present in the musical.

Productions


John & Jen opened off-Broadway at the Lamb's Theater on June 1, 1995. The two-person cast consisted of Carolee Carmello and James Ludwig as the brother and sister exploring their relationship over a forty-year period. Future Tony winner, Michele Pawk, was a cast replacement. The production was directed by Gabriel Barre.

The musical was revived in January of 2006, playing again at the Lamb's Theatre. It starred Matte O'Brien and Louise Stewart.

Cultural Influence

  • The original cast recording, first released as an audio cassette in 1996, was released in digital form by Ghostlight Records in 2012.

Trivia


  • The orchestrations for John & Jen were done by author/composer, Jason Robert Brown.
  • Original director, Gabriel Barre, wrote the following director's note in September, 1996: "This is a play about a sister and a brother, a mother and a son, about Jen's journey. It is not about abuse, the Vietnam war, talk shows or single parenting. In telling this story, simpler is better. The show, as it evolved in readings, workshops and productions, became simpler and more suggestive – leaving more to the audiences' imagination. For instance, we found that it was not necessary to relay to them in which year each scene was taking place – the dialogue and material is enough. The physical production should also be simple. Two small boxes down left and right, a larger one up center, and two chairs up right and left are sufficient for the entire show. The three boxes contain most of the props for the show. The costumes should be basic, with pieces added on to help establish this period and ages of the characters, and the lighting should move with the show and isolate the action wherever possible. One thought regarding style: We found that the material worked best when little or no effort was made to 'play' a seven-year-old or a nine-year-old or etc. Again – honest, organic moment to moment acting is much more important. The singing, too, should be effortless and relaxed, nothing pushed or forced that makes the audience aware of the fact they are singing. When in doubt – true and unsentimental."

Critical Reaction



"A powerful family affair"
– Matthew Crowley, "The Post-Star"



"There's something wonderful about returning the musical theatre to an art form that tells stories about real people with real emotions."
– Toronto Star

Connect

Billing

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.
JOHN AND JEN
(100%)
 
Music by
Book by
Lyrics by
ANDREW LIPPA

(50%)

TOM GREENWALD & ANDREW LIPPA

(50%)

TOM GREENWALD

(50%)

Originally Produced By Goodspeed Opera House
Michael P. Price, Executive Producer
(10%)
 
Originally Produced in New York City by The Lamb's Theatre Company, Ltd.
Carolyn Rossi Copeland, Producing Director
(20%)
 
***If the expanded string orchestration is used in your performance, you must use the following credit:
Original Orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown
Additional Orchestrations by Andrew Lippa
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included
LIBRETTO6
PIANO CONDUCTOR'S SCORE4

Production Resources

Resource
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON-10/CS
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON?
PRODUCTIONPRO
REFERENCE RECORDING
TRANSPOSITIONS-ON-DEMAND

STANDARD ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
CELLO
PERCUSSION

ALTERNATE ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
ALT: BASS
ALT: CELLO
ALT: FULL SCORE VOL 1 OF 4
ALT: FULL SCORE VOL 2 OF 4
ALT: FULL SCORE VOL 3 OF 4
ALT: FULL SCORE VOL 4 OF 4
ALT: PERCUSSION
ALT: VIOLA
ALT: VIOLIN 1
ALT: VIOLIN 2