Directors' Choice Award Winner
Concept, Book & lyrics: Abra Bigham, Music: Roger L. Nelson
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Act One: On a stormy day in 1865, the young widow and author Mary Shelley (nee
Godwin) unexpectedly encounters her stepsister Claire Clairmont. Waiting out the storm, the estranged sisters take shelter in a tea shop, where they reminisce about “the year without a summer,” spent in beautiful Switzerland (“Geneva.”)
The song ends with a thunderclap; we are now in Lord Byron’s Villa Diodati in Geneva, during the summer of 1816. Mary, just 18, is grieving the loss of her baby by the married atheist poet Shelley. Claire is madly pursuing Byron, with whom she’s had an affair. The planned summer lark is spoiled by unseasonable storms and, worse yet, Byron has brought along a fifth wheel, the physician Polidori. Mary is haunted by dreams of her dead baby William (“Lullabye.”) The three male “geniuses” debate philosophy and science (“Eternity.”) Night falls. Claire tries to get Byron alone, but Polidori prevents access (“What Sort of Things?”) Shelley tries to comfort the sleepless Mary with a vision of a sunny future (“Blue Sea.”)
Next morning, after the men depart for a sailing outing (“Roll On!”), Claire reveals to Mary she is pregnant and desperate to see Byron; Mary agrees to help her stepsister (“Sister’s Eyes.”) Mary approaches Byron on Claire’s behalf, but he attempts to seduce her (“Flying Falling.”) Shelley laughs it off; Mary is a free woman and may do as she likes. Angry, Mary threatens to leave (“I Could Go.”) But when Byron suggests a new diversion – a ghost story writing competition – she decides instead to compete with the men (Reprise: “I Could Go.”) As Act One curtain falls, Byron and Mary share a kiss observed by Shelley, who pretends not to care.
Act Two: The gloomy weather continues, and the ghost story competition begins. Polidori reads first (“The Skull-Headed Lady”), but it is rather a flop. Mary’s turn is next; she begins shyly, but gains confidence as the Frankenstein story comes to life – with Shelley taking on the role of the mad scientist and Byron as the doomed Creature (“Creation.”) Mary’s companions are enthralled, and Shelley’s attraction to Mary is rekindled; they remember how they fell in love, at her mother’s graveside (“Free.”) Liberated from grief by her task and encouraged by Shelley, Mary continues to write Frankenstein (“Cast Out.”). Claire assumes the role of an innocent boy murdered by the Creature/ Byron (“Pirate William.”) In parallel action, Byron violently breaks off with Claire once and for all. Despairing, she is on the verge of suicide, but Polidori stops her; the two rivals come to an understanding (“There Is Madness In Love.”)
Back in the tea shop in 1825, we learn that Mary and Claire are the only members of the young Geneva quintet who remain alive; even Claire’s baby did not survive long (“Allegra.”) Embittered, Claire leaves her sister alone; but supported by her memories, Mary S. once again transforms her grief, this time into The Last Man, an apocalyptic novel about the 21st Century (Reprise/Finale: “Eternity.”)
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