by Andrew Steven Ross and Barry Gordon
The place - Madison Square Garden. The time - August 2000. Dorian Gray, a rock superstar, is concluding his farewell concert, performing the song that made him a star thirty-five years before, (“ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FOREVER.” ) Backstage, Dorian, a man in his fifties who still looks like he’s twenty-three, and his British, white-haired record producer/manager Henry Wotton, greet the press. Dorian begins to reminisce about the beginnings of his career, “…a much simpler time.”
We flash back to 1965. A political rally is taking place in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse. Dorian’s best friend, Bessie Hallward, a promising young photographer, introduces him to a youthful Henry Wotton, an up-and-coming record producer. When Henry hears Dorian sing a protest song, (“EYE OF THE STORM,”)he is immediately impressed by Dorian’s talent as a singer and songwriter and invites him to record a demo. Dorian declines Henry’s offer. Later that night, the young idealist and a group of fellow protesters travel to Selma, Alabama to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge towards Montgomery. Reverend Arthur Vane and his two children, seventeen-year-old Sybil and nineteen-year-old James, begin to lead the group across the bridge (“CROSSIN’ OVER”), but they are beaten back by state police who assault the protesters with dogs and tear gas.
In her New York loft apartment, Bessie struggles with her unspoken love for Dorian and her loyalty to her husband Bill, and infant daughter, Annie (“TODAY”). Unknown to Bessie, back in Alabama, Dorian and Sybil have fallen in love. Dorian asks Sybil to return to New York with him, but she tells him that she needs to be there for her father in his struggle for equal rights. Besides, she hasn’t told her father about their blooming love. “You’re white,” she says, and that’s a problem. Dorian says that he doesn’t care what other people will think and pledges his love in (“WHITE KNIGHT,”) a song he has written for her.
Shortly after his return from Alabama, Dorian and Bessie are in Washington Square Park. Henry shows up and persists in his attempts to lure the reluctant Dorian into the recording studio. He reminds Dorian that a rock star has “…five, maybe ten years at most” in the limelight and warns Dorian that (“TIME”) is fleeting. Dorian finally agrees to give it a shot. Henry hands Bessie an antiquated box camera and tells Bessie to take a picture of Dorian to “…record this moment for posterity.”
A few weeks later, at Bessie’s loft, Henry tries to dissuade Dorian from marrying Sybil, but Dorian is resolute and says nothing is more important to him. “Not even your first single as a Regal Records artist?” Henry replies, revealing a brand new pressing of the record. Bessie then emerges from her darkroom with a framed, poster-sized photograph of Dorian – the picture she shot with Henry’s camera. The three of them are awestruck as they gaze at this amazing and haunting photograph; an image that captures all of Dorian’s innocence; his magnificent potential. Staring at the picture, the Narcissus-like Dorian impulsively makes a wish that he stays young forever while the image ages. “For that, I would give… …my soul!” he whispers (“THE WISH”).
Dorian’s first record rockets up the charts. He is slowly being seduced by his status as a rock star and Sybil, to Henry’s delight, is becoming a distant memory. Meanwhile, in Alabama, James has returned home from boot camp only to find his melancholy sister at the piano singing “White Knight.” She is not only still in love with Dorian – she is also five months pregnant with his child. When Reverend Vane overhears this, he insists that she give the baby up for adoption. Sybil, crushed by this demand, runs off to New York to find Dorian (“WHEN I FIND MY MAN”) tracking him down at Henry’s Regal Records office. At first, he is thrilled to see Sybil, but, after assessing the situation, he opts for a life of stardom and cruelly rejects her. Sybil rushes out of the office in tears. She makes her way down to a subway station… and throws herself in front of an oncoming train.
Dorian, now home in his new palatial townhouse, is desperately trying to locate Sybil to apologize. Suddenly, he notices that The Photograph has somehow changed, subtly reflecting his recent cruelty. He begins to realize that the wish he made may well have come true (“THE CHANGE”). As he vows to make it up to Sybil, the one person who can redeem his goodness, Bessie rushes in, followed by Henry, to tell Dorian the tragic news – Sybil is dead. Utterly distraught, Dorian decides that since his lost love can no longer help him, he is destined for a life of sin and he may as well enjoy the ride (“DOWN, DOWN, DOWN”). Through this musical montage, more than twenty years fly by. The ageless star immerses himself deeply into 60s drug counterculture, then into the high-flying, ‘” anything goes” world of rock ‘n’ roll. Along the way, he begins to alienate old friends like Bessie Hallward, who approaches him at one of his parties, tearfully explaining that her husband has left her and their daughter. When a stoned-out Dorian offers no support of any kind, she angrily storms out. As Dorian’s personal life deteriorates, his professional life ascends to the heights of superstardom.
Veteran’s Day, 1999. A clearly strung-out James Vane is amongst a crowd visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. (“FORGOTTEN MEN”). Seeing James’s desperate condition, Doctor Kramer, a fellow veteran, invites him to the rehab clinic he operates. James turns the doctor down but keeps his business card.
The following Christmas Eve, Dorian’s assistant, Vicki Blair, receives an unexpected telephone call at the star’s home. It is Bessie Hallward, now a world-famous photographer, whom Dorian hasn’t spoken with for more than twenty years. Dorian, not knowing how to respond, refuses to take the call. Bessie decides to walk across town to see him in person. As she makes her way towards Dorian’s townhouse, she and Dorian, who’s gone out for a walk in order to clear his head, recall the lost opportunities they had to become something more than friends (“THINGS I NEVER SAID”). When Bessie arrives, the two of them begin, awkwardly at first, to explore their connection, past and present, until Bessie asks about the photograph. “It was defaced,” Dorian answers evasively. He then changes his mind, deciding to share his secret with her. He takes her to his basement recording studio, where the photograph, now depicting the image of an aging, debased, insane-looking Dorian, is hidden beneath a tarp. She cannot believe this is the same photo as the one she took in Washington Square Park. Dorian explains about his wish, telling her it came true. Bessie is now truly frightened for Dorian and tries to calm him, but Dorian grabs her. As she tries to pull away, she accidentally falls, hitting her head and gravely injuring herself. Dorian kneels at her side and rises with blood on his hands. He begins to dial 911 in a last-minute attempt to save her but hangs up before anyone answers.
While a desperate Dorian contacts an old mobster friend, Al Di Campo, to help dispose of Bessie’s body, Henry and his fellow guests are worried about Bessie’s failure to show up for drinks at The Palm restaurant (”WHERE’S BESSIE?”). During the number - the two scenes interlaced - the concern reaches a fever pitch and ends with the entrance of Annie Hallward, now 35, who has flown in from England to help investigate her mother’s disappearance. When Dorian and Annie meet unexpectedly at the police station, Dorian is stunned by her amazing resemblance to Bessie. Annie hugs Dorian and asks for his reassurance. He is overwhelmed by feelings of guilt.
A month later at the rehab center, Doctor Kramer is trying to keep James from leaving prematurely. Looking for some assistance in his effort, he has summoned the elderly Reverend Vane from Alabama. James is shocked and infuriated by his father’s arrival. He vows vengeance against the man who ruined his sister, identity, as yet, unknown to him and blames his father for his sister’s death. James can’t escape the image of Sybil sitting at the piano “…singing that song – always that song.” (“GONE IS THE LIGHT”).
Meanwhile, the police investigation into Bessie Hallward’s disappearance has turned up very little. Lieutenant John Mayfair is still curious about phone records that indicate the call Bessie made to Dorian the night of her death. Mayfair discovers, in an interview with Henry, that the singer did not mention the call to his long-time manager. The next day, Annie drops by, unexpectedly, at Henry’s office. When she reveals her growing feelings for Dorian, Henry, his suspicions raised by his meeting with Mayfair, tries to steer her away from any further involvement with the star. But Annie tells Henry about her last phone call with her mom, which took place on the night she disappeared. “My mother told me that if I ever found the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I shouldn’t let anything stand in the way.” She breaks down and Henry, in an effort to console her, sings (“IT GETS OLD”).
The next evening, at Dorian’s townhouse, Annie confronts Dorian about his unwillingness to commit to their relationship. Dorian, without admitting his role in Bessie’s death, confesses to Annie that he’s done terrible things: things he cannot go back and change. Annie tells Dorian that everyone deserves a (“SECOND CHANCE.”) She walks out, leaving him to confront his demons.
A few months later, James, still sober, flicks on the radio, and hears Dorian Gray singing “White Knight” – “…that song!” Enraged and immediately focused on his prey, James knows what he needs to do (“GONE IS THE LIGHT- REPRISE”).
The scene shifts to Dorian’s dressing room, backstage, after his farewell concert, where Henry and Dorian are having a discussion. Dorian has decided to enter a new phase of his life: He will leave show business and marry Annie. When Henry hears of Dorian’s intentions, he is incensed and reveals that his camera was, indeed, the source of the enchanted photograph. Dorian, now equally furious, blames all of his self-destruction on Henry and, in a cathartic moment, admits to his involvement in Bessie’s death (“SHOWDOWN”). When a stunned Henry tells Dorian “This nightmare has to end,” Dorian challenges, “And how are you going to do that, old man?” Dorian walks out of the dressing room as James, disguised as a roadie, approaches and shoots him. James is then gunned down by Dorian’s bodyguards. Dorian is pushed back into his dressing room from the impact of the bullets. Henry, barking orders, sends everyone away and picks up the gun from James’ lifeless hand. When Henry returns to the dressing room, Dorian, with no wounds and perfectly fine, is amazed at the proof of his invincibility. “They can’t kill me,” he says. Henry replies, “Wrong target,” and shoots the photograph. Dorian collapses and dies.
At a memorial service in Central Park the following evening, a huge, loyal crowd of fans says its last good-byes (“FINALE”). The tortured life of Dorian Gray has ended – but his shining legend lives on (“YOU CAN’T KILL A LEGEND”).
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DORIAN GRAY: A great looking, incredibly talented rock star. He appears to be in his early 20s.
HENRY WOTTON: A British rock entrepreneur. Dorian’s manager. Ages from his 30s to his 70s.
BESSIE HALLWARD/ANNIE HALLWARD:
BESSIE is a talented, then world-famous photographer. Ages from her early 20s to mid-fifties. Doubles as:
ANNIE, her daughter, who teaches at England’s Oxford University. 35 years old.
REVEREND ARTHUR VANE: An African American minister; a civil rights worker and political activist. Ages from his mid-40s to early-80s.
JAMES VANE: Reverend Vane’s son. A Vietnam veteran. Ages from late teens to mid-50s.
SYBIL VANE: Reverend Vane’s daughter, age 17.
(EACH ACTOR PLAYS MULTIPLE ROLES)
AL DI CAMPO and others
MASON TRENT and others
DETECTIVE JOHN MAYFAIR and others
BILL HALLWARD and others
DETECTIVE MAUREEN SELBY and others
CHRISTINA RAINES and others
RUSTY LAKE and others
JANET and others