The Unsinkable Molly Brown
This legendary American original rises above her impoverished beginnings and proves that you can't keep a good woman down.
Show Essentials
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Full Synopsis

Act One

We meet the Tobin family outside of their shack in Hannibal, Missouri. The time is the early 1900s. Molly, a headstrong tomboy, is wrestling with her three younger brothers. The village priest enters and expresses some concern with Molly's freeness with the boys, but Shamus Tobin, the clan's patriarch, assures him that everything is as it should be. Molly confirms this, and we begin to understand just what an inimitable force she is ("I Ain't down Yet"). After the colorful display, the priest leaves as Shamus puts the boys to work. He leads them in an old-fashioned Irish drinking song ("Belly up to the Bar, Boys").

Weeks later, we are now in the small mining town of Leadville, Colorado, which is in the middle of a boom. Outside of the Saddle Rock Saloon, we see several drunken miners with their giggling prostitutes. Up the boardwalk, Johnny Brown struts into the scene ("Colorado, My Home").

A few more weeks later, we are inside of the Saddle Rock Saloon. The brawling miners engage in what seems to be a typical fracas. As they leave to find some racier entertainment at The Nugget, Molly enters the saloon with a "Boy Wanted" sign in her hand; she intends to apply for the job. Although bar owner Christmas Morgan is reluctant to give the job to a girl, Molly uses her spitfire charm to convince him to take a chance. Molly spends all night trying to figure out how to play the piano. At sunrise, the miners come in to find Molly banging away on the keys and jubilantly singing "Belly up to the Bar, Boys." They all join in. Raucous dancing ensues, and Molly is thrilled to be at the center of it all. The miners and prostitutes in the saloon leave, as they hear that Old Davy has just panned a huge nugget; Johnny slips in and watches Molly. He grabs her from behind, and she responds like an exploding firecracker. Christmas formally introduces them, and Johnny confidently declares that she's the girl that he's going to marry.

Three weeks later, outside of the Saddle Rock, the locals are parading happily along Main Street. Johnny continues to flirt with Molly, but she has made it perfectly clear to him that she won't settle. For her, money is the answer to her prayers and so she continues to reject his earnest advances. Johnny, however, won't take no for an answer ("I've Already Started In").

About a month later, Molly and Johnny arrive at Johnny's modest log cabin. Molly has finally agreed to visit Johnny's small abode. She is not terribly impressed, even though Johnny says that he built it for her. However, when Johnny shows her the extra room that he built for her Pa, she is clearly touched. Johnny goes on to promise her that she will have whatever she wants, whatever she needs, whatever she asks for ("I'll Never Say No"). Still not convinced, Molly wanders into the bedroom and is entranced by the bed ("My Own Brass Bed"). Finally softened, she agrees to marry Johnny.

Three weeks later, the townspeople are reflecting on the beautiful wedding. Christmas is on his way to visit the newlyweds. To his shock, Molly confides that she hasn't seen her husband since they got married. He has mysteriously vanished, and she is heartbroken. Christmas agrees to give her her old job back. Night falls as Molly softly weeps on the porch. Suddenly, Johnny returns. Molly is furious but she lets her husband talk. Johnny explains that he felt guilty about not getting her a wedding present, so he went off with the boys, found a claim and sold it to some men from New York for $3,000. Molly is ecstatic. Johnny takes off for the bar, and while he is gone, Molly finds a hiding place for the money in the pot-bellied stove. Johnny returns from his swim with the boys. Shivering and still quite drunk, he lights the stove to warm up. Molly wakes to the smell of the money burning. She is absolutely horrified, but Johnny assures her that there's plenty more money to be made.

Six months later, we are in Denver. Manicured lawns line Pennsylvania Avenue, the grandest street in the city. Three policeman are walking the beat ("The Denver Police"). We shift to the terrace of Mrs. McGlone's mansion, where we meet Denver's elite. They speak of the desired location for a new cathedral – Pennsylvania Avenue has been all bought up by the Browns, who have seemingly relocated to Denver with considerable wealth. Molly bursts onto the terrace – she is dressed to the teeth, bejeweled to extreme. She introduces herself to the hordes of Denver's upper crust and says that they need no introduction ("Bea-u-tiful People of Denver"). Mrs. McGlone is a bit undone by the brashness of her uninvited guest but does her best to compose herself.

Johnny is extremely uncomfortable in this world, but Molly doesn't notice. Upon meeting the Monsignor, Molly spontaneously donates $5,000 to the new church and challenges her husband to put in another ten. Evidently, Mrs. McGlone has not made her contribution yet. Molly takes it upon herself to see that this is remedied by passing around Johnny's hat and leading the whole crowd in a rollicking revival ("Are You Sure?"). The Monsignor is very impressed; he praises Molly. Even Mrs. McGlone is in awe but she won't have her thunder stolen any further. She relays through her attendant that there is no room at the table for two more people. The Browns say goodnight to everyone else and graciously leave the premises.

One month later, we are in the garish Red Parlor of the Browns' Denver mansion. It is the evening of their housewarming party, and the Monsignor is the only guest. Molly is at a loss about why nobody else showed, seeing as she invited the whole town. The Monsignor tells Molly that her personality is too strong for a young society to handle. The Monsignor suggests that the Browns go to Europe for some culture and grooming. Johnny wants to return to Leadville, where they belong, but Molly refuses.

Act Two

The second act opens in the Browns' Parisian salon. It is a spring afternoon, years later. An international set of Princes and Princesses file in to throw Molly a surprise birthday party ("Happy Birthday, Mrs. J.J. Brown"). Molly talks to her royal European friends, admitting that – back in the States – she's seen as vulgar but in France, she's seen as entertaining. She loves the opportunity to learn about everything, especially languages ("Bon Jour – The Language Song"). However, even as the darling of royalty, she is unable to forget how she had been snubbed in Colorado. Determined to avenge herself, she invites all of her highborn friends to come home to America with her, where Molly plans to throw another party. Johnny is elated to go back to Colorado ("If I Knew").

Months later, in the Browns' Denver mansion, everyone is setting up for the big party. Shamus, Molly's father, questions if his daughter is struggling to hold her marriage together. Then, Molly and Johnny get into a fight over Johnny inviting the boys from the Saddle Rock Saloon. Molly stubbornly refuses to get dressed until Johnny uninvites them ("Chick-a-pen"). Later in the evening, Molly greets her guests. This time, the cream of Colorado society shows up at the party; they are impressed by the distinguished foreign visitors. However, some of the less-desirable elements in Colorado break in on Molly's party. One of Johnny's friends punches a Denver socialite after he insults Molly's piano-playing. A rowdy free-for-all ensues, and the party disintegrates into a fiasco.

Following the drama, Molly and Johnny decide to separate, but Johnny refuses to get a divorce, because his Irish-Catholic religion forbids it. Johnny drowns his sorrows at the Saddle Rock Saloon and laments his failed relationship ("Keep-a-hoppin' / Leadville Johnny Brown – Soliloquy"). Molly, meanwhile, decides to go back to Europe in the company of the Prince de Long to try to escape her sorrows ("Up Where the People Are").

In Monte Carlo, Prince de Long begs Molly to divorce Johnny and marry him ("Dolce Far Niente"). Molly hesitates, because she has not forgotten Johnny and is still madly in love with him ("I May Never Fall in Love with You"). The memory of Johnny, and her desire to be with him, sends her back home. She books passage for the Titanic on its maiden voyage.

When the Titanic collides with an iceberg on April 14, 1912, sending almost 1,500 passengers to their deaths, Molly somehow manages to survive, being one of the 700 carried to safety in lifeboats. Back in Colorado, she finds Johnny waiting for her, and her friends are ready to salute her courage ("I Ain't Down Yet – Finale").



Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Older Roles
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Molly Tobin
A country girl and tomboy who leaves home in search of a life of riches. She is stubborn, independent, determined, and unabashedly herself always. A continual outsider looking in, but always with spirit and kindness at her core.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 30
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Shamus Tobin
Molly's father. A strong man full of Irish-catholic sensibilities. Loves his daughter and encourages her to set out for something more, but warns her of being too in love with worldly desires.
Gender: male
Age: 45 to 65
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Christmas Morgan
A big, happy man and the owner of the Saddle Rock Saloon. Helps Molly get on her feet when she first sets out and plays a big part in pairing her up with Johnny.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Johnny "leadville" Brown
A handsome bull of an Irishman with a sweet temperament and a great sense of humor. A man of endless luck and wealth, but a simpleton at heart, happy to embrace the small-town roots from which he came.
Gender: male
Age: 28 to 35
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Mrs. Mcglone
One of Denver's high society. She is second-generation wealth, and does not like to be reminded of the rogue-ish ways of her family before her. Stuffy and cold, particularly to Molly.
Gender: female
Age: 50 to 60
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: D4
Monsignor Ryan
An honorary member of the Denver society, he is the local Priests. A short, pixie-like man with a great sense of humor. When he is unexpectedly swept off his feet by the Browns' spirit, he befriends them and offers Molly advice.
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: A3
First Mrs. McGlone's and then Molly's butler. A man of an impeccable sense of duty, who seldom lets his personal opinions or thoughts show.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 45
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Princess Delong
A true sophisticate, she is elegant and kind. Befriends Molly taking her under her wing to show her the ways of high society.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Prince Delong
He is charming and handsome, if not a bit conceited. Completely enchanted by Molly. He continually tries to win her affections, but is also a good friend to her.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Prostitutes, Denver Policemen, Singers, Dancers, Maids, International Set (Duke And Duchess Of Burlingame, Grand Duchess Maria Nicholaiovna, Count Feranti, Countess Ethanotous, Baron Of Auld), Gigolos
Full Song List
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Overture
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: I Ain't Down Yet
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Belly Up to the Bar, Boys
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: I've A'ready Started In
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: I'll Never Say No
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: My Brass Bed
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: The Denver Police
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Bea-u-tiful People of Denver
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Are You Sure?
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Finale - Act One
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Happy Birthday, Mrs. J.J. Brown
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Bon Jour (The Language Song)
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: If I Knew
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Chick-a-Pen
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Keep-a-Hoppin'/Leadville Johnny Brown (Soliloquy)
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Dolce Far Niente/I May Never Fall in Love with You
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Finale

Show History


The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown, who infamously survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and her wealthy miner-husband. The legend of Molly Brown was born in the 1930s by writers who sensationalized actual events – and completely fabricated others – in order to sell their work. Since then, such legends have become the source material and jumping-off point for countless stories, including this 1960 musical.


With a book by Richard Morris and music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, The Unsinkable Molly Brown opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on November 3,1960, and closed on February 10, 1962, after 532 performances and one preview. Directed by Dore Schary and choreographed by Peter Gennaro, the new musical starred Tammy Grimes as Molly and Harve Presnell as Johnny.

The first West End production had Abi Finley and Sean Pol McGreevy in the leading roles and opened in May of 2009.

Earlier in 2009, a revised version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown began to undergo work by Dick Scanlan, who previously adapted another of Richard Morris' works, Thoroughly Modern Millie. The retooled version continued to be developed, debuting in a full production at the Denver Center Theatre Company under the direction of Kathleen Marshall in late 2014.

Cultural Influence

  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown was made into a movie musical in 1964 that starred Debbie Reynolds, which garnered her a nomination for an Academy Award.
  • An original Broadway cast album was released by Capitol Records on vinyl – and later on CD – on September 23, 2008.


  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown was the second hit from Meredith Willson, the Midwestern bandleader and radio personality who also wrote The Music Man.
  • Harve Presnell, who originated the role of Johnny in the Broadway company, is the only person to reprise his role in the film adaptation. He later went on to reprise the role again in a 1989-1990 tour with Debbie Reynolds.
  • Meredith Willson was a flutist with John Phillip Sousa in the 1920s.

  • Broadway's Titanic is the second time that the great ship has sunk in a musical on the Great White Way. The original production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown included a lavish depiction of the sinking of the ship, as well as Molly rallying the troops in her lifeboat.

  • Molly Brown's home in Denver, Colorado, continues to play host to thousands of tourists each year.

Critical Reaction

"Indigenous American musical comedy. It is the kind of thing we do better than anybody else in the world and when we do it well, as in this instance, it is a time for rejoicing."
– New York Journal American

"Delectable at the start, middle and finish"
– New York World-Telegram and Sun

"Has Meredith Willson come anywhere close to matching The Music Man? The answer is yes."
– Newsweek

Tony® Award

1961 - Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Winner (Tammy Grimes)
1961 - Musical Actress -- Supporting, Winner (Tammy Grimes)

Academy Award

1964 - Best Actress, Nominee (Debbie Reynolds)




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