By Lee Summers, Ben Blake & Lon Hoyt.
The Broadway-bound funky story of a reluctant Master of Funk and the Disco Villain who tries to stop him, featuring an Original Book and Score, inspired by the Music of Parliament-Funkadelic and other unsung heroes of funk.
TWO-ACT MUSICAL WITH AN INTERMISSION
16 ROLES (11 MALES, 5 FEMALES)
Circa 1977, in an exaggerated, blaxploitation-animated world of Harlem, U.S.A., we enter the Funky Diner, the premiere Catfish Surprise haven. It is filled with patrons at the height of the breakfast rush as owner Oscar P. Funk beams as he shares an inner monologue of proud ownership, “Real Good Funk.” The sequence extends, on a funky groove, to the small, tattered single room of a brownstone where George Preston, a youthful mop boy/musician awakens. Landlady Mrs. Coleman dons her robe and hair rollers and scolds him to quiet his overnight one-man jam sessions, saying, “And something’s funky in that room!” He takes us through the Harlem street (beckoning images of his R&B band mates along the way) to his survival gig as a mop boy at the diner, where we now meet Mr. and Mrs. Funk’s only daughter, their waitress Simone.
As the soul food flows, rumors infiltrate the diner about a grocery snatching perp in the neighborhood. There are also rumors that legendary funk musician Freddie Nelson, a.k.a. “The Uncle of Funk,” may possibly return this Friday night at the Apollo Theatre Funkfest to pass the funk torch. The latter rumor prompts Mrs. Funk’s inner confessional, “Nothin’ but the Funky Truth,” wherein she laments about her secret affair with Nelson that happened decades ago. It is possible that Nelson is the true father of her daughter Simone. Soon we meet Dick, Abdul and Angel, Simone’s quirky college classmates who have come to pick her up to go to class. We learn that mop boy George has a crush on Angel.
Enter Reverend Stankley, a super-sized man ordering his usual Catfish Surprise and promising vigilance against the grocery-snatching attacks on the diner. He is on his way to preach a sermon of a future “Sedentary Nation” on the Harlem sidewalks.
Ordered to take out the trash, George finds Old Charlie, a homeless old Jewish man digging through the diner’s sidewalk trash cans. George goes back inside the diner and returns with his own lunch and gives it to Old Charlie – just as Reverend Stankley’s sermon begins. A meager sidewalk congregation consisting of four multi-cultured teenagers has gathered.
We learn that George has dreams of being a great R&B musician, although this funky Harlem community only recognizes the masters of the genre of funk. Mr. Funk teases and taunts George to “Let His True Funk Free,” which prompts an angry George to put down his foot (and his mop) and let the diner know he has his own non-funk, R&B dreams to see his name up on the “Apollo Marquee.”
We move to a nearby dark lair and again meet the four multi-cultural teens, now called Disco Rainbows. They are in rehearsal to perform disco at the Apollo Funkfest. They complain of exhaustion to their unseen boss, The Big Bad Man. Eventually they inform him of George’s incredible, defiant R&B performance in the Funky Diner earlier that day, before going back to slavishly rehearsing.
We find George on his way to his band’s rehearsal. He bumps into Simone and Angel. With his awkward crush on Angel and his desire to impress her, he inadvertently lies, promising that he’ll be performing at the Funkfest and that he will give them both tickets. George has painted himself into a corner and now must pretend to be an authentic funk musician.
We arrive at George’s Harlem brownstone stoop and meet the R&B Masters, George’s rag-tag R&B band, who were once a signed, polished choreographed R&B group. They are now quite older and unkempt but still “Stickin’ Wid It.” They are not on board with George’s sudden plan to audition for the Funkfest. We begin to learn the subtle differences between funk and R&B and the roads upon which they meet.
Back at the diner, Mr. Funk, now overcome with newfound excitement, collides with Mrs. Funk, who is now overcome with guilt about the returning Freddie Nelson. In “Wrong Funks to Funk With,” their duet philosophy that has taken them from sidewalk food cart to Harlem’s Catfish Surprise haven, they manage to keep the pot from boiling over.
Meanwhile at the Big Bad Man’s secret lair, he appears dressed as a black Colonel Sanders. He motivates the Disco Rainbows by giving back-story on his evil plan for food-fed-fried-funky revenge on Colonel Sanders in “Ballad of Bubba Sanders.”
On his way home from band rehearsal, George bumps into Simone and sees her truly for the first time – beyond the weight of a girl raised on soul food – and he falls in love. Later that night he has a dream where he is told that Simone is his bliss and that he must follow it – and that he is actually John Travolta, locked out of his own funk. But then, with Old Charlie appearing as a “Bootsy Collins-esque” ringmaster, he receives a premonition of non-conforming, raw, nasty music and lyrics in the form of the “Funkentine Rapture.”
Next morning at the diner, George confesses his love to Simone in, “U Do It 4 Me.” She clearly feels the funk too; he even lets her touch his lucky locket. She gives him a few funky soul food tips using her mother’s Catfish Surprise recipe as a metaphor. The Big Bad Man’s multi-cultural minions, who have been ordered to secretly search the diner for Mrs. Funk’s Catfish Surprise recipe, overhear this and report it to their boss.
On the day of the audition, we see Reverend Stankley trying to convince the Funksters that George will ditch them and go solo. He recommends that they not show up for the Funkfest audition. We see a plan is in action – as all uptown agrees, “(Funk’s) My True Desire.” We are now aware that the Big Bad Man’s plan is to dominate the world with disco.
George is stood up by his band. He is devastated.
The sequence extends to the diner where Simone, now in love with George, daydreams of his success. Meanwhile, the Funks just want to be the Funks as the Big Bad Man’s Disco Rainbows arrive at the Apollo.
Reverend Stankley bumps into George, knowing that he missed the Apollo audition; he insinuates that it is Simone who told his band to betray him. George is further devastated.
George and Mrs. Funk share a moment of unspoken commiseration, he for Simone and her for past infidelity, in “High Hopes of a Dream Believer.” George later encounters Old Charlie, a now more mystical homeless man. Old Charlie uplifts him with, “Show Biz and Adversity,” encouraging him not to give up.
Inspired by pep talks from Old Charlie and Mrs. Funk, George decides to tell Mr. Funk he needs to take the rest of the day off to go after his band. He enters the diner, sees Simone and reacts coldly, leaving her devastated. She has gone from having a crush on Dick to falling in love with George, both unsuccessfully. She sings “The Wrong Mr. Right” in a Billie Holiday style (Lady Sings the Blues is a current influence in 1977) which morphs into a Donna Summer disco beat (Donna Summer is a current influence in 1977).
When Mr. Funk arrives back at the diner, the rumors of the return of long lost Uncle of Funk Freddie Nelson reach a boiling point. He is downright giddy, while Mrs. Funk decides to plead her case in, “A Woman Has Her Reasons,” accepting her fate that Mr. Funk will be told that Freddie is Simone’s true biological father. Somehow, Mr. Funk is not affected by her over-performed confession attempt.
George learns from his band that it was Reverend Stankley who convinced the band to break up. In the song, “Funk is All I Wanna Do,” the R&B Masters and George are reunited. Old Charlie tells them to be at the Apollo stage door on the night of the Funkfest.
Since the recipe to Catfish Surprise is a key cog in the Big Bad Man’s diabolical plan, the Disco Rainbows corner and kidnap Simone in “Next Best Funk.” The next day, the Funks are in a panic that Simone is missing. Reverend Stankley enters the diner with instructions from her kidnappers.
Cut to the Friday night Funkfest. The Apollo Emcee is introducing bands; George and his newly-named Funksters wait and wonder why Old Charlie has asked them there. We learn that Old Charlie is Freddie Nelson’s former manager. Charlie sends the Funksters onstage to cover for a Freddie, who is late.
Stankley has brought Mr. and Mrs. Funk to the Apollowest, beneath the Apollo Theater, which is the lair of the Big Bad Man. Stankley reveals that he is the Big Bad Man; he further reveals that he has Simone bound and gagged over a humongous deep fryer. He threatens to fry Simone unless Mrs. Funk makes a pot of Catfish Surprise, stealing her recipe to finance his rule over Sedentary Nations while using disco to win the Harlem Funkfest as revenge on the Harlem culture of Funk. He also seeks revenge on Colonel “Bubba” Sanders for stealing his own mama’s fried chicken recipe.
The Big Bad Man has access to all wiring and cables that connect to the Apollo stage, so George and the Funksters, who are performing on stage, hear Simone’s muffled cries for help in the distance through the sound system, blasting throughout the Apollo. George leaves the stage, telling the audience to “Funk Amongst Yourselves,” following Simone’s voice to the Apollowest where we find the Big Bad Man, Mr. and Mrs. Funk and Simone all bound and gagged.
George comes to the rescue, saves Simone, briefly reprises “Still, She” and reveals that Dick and Abdul are gay. Just as the Catfish Surprise boils, George throws his lucky locket into the batch, ruining the surprise, but unleashing the FUNK.
A chase ensues onto the Apollo stage. George and the Big Bad Man find themselves onstage before a brutal Apollo crowd. They have a Funk-Off. George reprises “The Funkentine Rapture,” the Big Bad Man does a disco version and then gives George a near-fatal blow by referencing George’s deceased mother.
A la Parliament Funkadelic, a spaceship lands; the spirit of George Clinton appears, but it is actually an unexpected character we’ve come to love. Brownstone landlady Mrs. Coleman has a deep message from George’s dead parents. George is revitalized and therefore defeats the Big Bad Man in “Yo mama” jokes and funk. The crowd goes wild as good wins over evil; funk wins over disco.
We learn that Old Charlie is also an undercover detective. His team is Angel, Dick and Abdul. They’ve uncovered that the Big Bad Man – a.k.a. Reverend Stankley – is really the janitor at the Apollo and that Mr. Funk has been Freddie Nelson, “Uncle of Funk,” all along. He gave up his career for Mrs. Funk when she got pregnant with their daughter Simone. Freddie Nelson – a.k.a. Mr. Funk – passes the torch and the prize money to the new Funkmaster, George Preston. Then he goes onstage to duet with George, reprising the opening number, “Real Good Funk.” They kill. George and Simone end up together; the Big Bad Man and the Disco Rainbows go to jail. The Funky Diner and the prized recipe are safe. From the start-up funds from George’s prize money, Mrs. Funk will open a chain of Catfish Surprise franchises. Old Charlie mystically moves on, and George and his Funksters become true funk masters and let their true funk free from that day forth. Old Charlie returns to turn off the lights in the Apollowest, causing the New York City blackout of 1977.
An African American R&B singer and guitar player who dreams of performing at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. By day he’s an earnest mop boy, clueless that his call to action will be from the funk.
Age: 21 – 35
Vocal Range top: C4
The daughter of Oscar and Gladys; nurtured on soul food with a full-figure to verify. She now hungers for love. Her heroines are the black divas of disco and R&B of the seventies. Due to the single generational wealth of her parents, she’s a college girl.
Vocal Range top: C4
African American; husband of Gladys, father of Simone and owner of The Funky Diner. His secret past fuels him to fight for the future of funk.
This actor also plays:
The long lost Uncle of Funk. A legendary artist whose music career spanned rock and roll and R&B and, just as things were getting funky, he walked away from it all. Freddie was peer to George Clinton and Booty Collins before disappearing 18 years ago. Rumor has it he may return for the Apollo Funkfest this Friday.
African-American; wife of Oscar and mother of Simone. Cooking is her passion; her specialty is Catfish Surprise. She is secretly unnerved at the thought of Freddie Nelson’s return, as it could destroy her family. The 1950’s/1960’s music of her youth fuels her voice as she prepares for the worst.
The extra-large African American beloved neighborhood evangelist who preaches of a promised land of fast food and sedentary lifestyles.
This actor also plays:
The Big Bad Man
A super-sized diabolical disco villain who will do anything to get his American Dream of ultimate riches. In a battle of genres, he denies his own innate funk and instead wields disco as his weapon. Underneath it all, he is evidence that hurt people can hurt people.
A young Jewish man from New Jersey who has a shockingly soulful voice. Although he is brainy as one of the Big Bad Man’s reluctant henchmen, Disco Rainbows, he is naive to the world and to show biz.
Old Charlie Mills
A homeless old Jewish man who is later revealed to be a black music connoisseur; and even later revealed to have a background in law enforcement.
An Asian male actor/singer who reluctantly dons a cultural stereotype in order to reach his show business dreams. He is also one of the Big Bad Man’s reluctant henchmen as part of the Disco Rainbows.
A milk toast blonde white girl who is smarter than she appears. She is also one of the Big Bad Man’s reluctant henchpersons as part of the Disco Rainbows.
A sexy black girl with a soulful range who was born Southern but speaks with a fake French accent. She is also one of the Big Bad Man’s reluctant henchpersons as part of the Disco Rainbows.
This actress also plays:
Aged 70, an elderly African American control freak; a Harlem busy body (think “Helen” from “227.”) She is possibly a secret alcoholic who either wants to relive the peace and quiet she once knew in the South; or maybe she is just hung over. She proves she knows George better than we realize.
Angel Dust Gonzales
A Rosie Perez Latina prototype; Simone’s new best college friend. Is she also looking for love, or just keeping an eye on Simone? Angel is revealed to have deeper connections to Old Charlie.
Has a fake East Indian accent and a comedic flair; is revealed to have deeper connections to Dick and Old Charlie and an even deeper connection to Barbra Streisand.
This actor may double as:
Aged 30, An African American bassist for the R&B Masters (who become the Funksters); Ronny is older and George inspires him to run the final mile of his career.
African American drummer for the R&B Masters (who become the Funksters); Floyd is usually concerned about getting paid.
A Taye Diggs prototype with a Caribbean accent; revealed to have deeper connections to Abdul and Old Charlie.
This actor doubles as:
Aged 30, an African American pianist for the R&B Masters (who become the Funksters); Jimmy is usually hungry.
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: REAL GOOD FUNK
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: NOTHIN’ BUT THE FUNKY TRUTH
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: APOLLO MARQUEE
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: SEDENTARY NATION
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: SOMETHING ABOUT HIM
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: LET YOUR TRUE FUNK FREE
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: DISCO RAINBOW
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: STILL SHE/HE
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: STICKIN’ WID IT
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: WRONG FUNK’S TO FUNK WITH
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: DISCO RAINBOW
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: THE BALLAD OF BUBBA SONDERS
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: YOU DO IT FOR ME
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: (FUNK’S) MY TRUE DESIRE
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: HIGH HOPES OF A DREAM BELIEVER
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: SHOW BIZ AND ADVERSITY
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: THE WRONG MR. RIGHT
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: I’VE GOT MY REASONS (TO SEE FREDDIE NELSON)
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: FUNK IS ALL I WANNA DO
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: NEXT BEST FUNK
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: FUNK AMONGST YOURSELVES
THE FUNKENTINE RAPTURE: STAR CHILD
Lee Summers hails from Nashville Tennessee, where he was raised in the Baptist church against the musical backdrop of Motown while Memphis’ Stax records was just a few miles away. By the time he was in high school the genre of funk music had gained prominence in his social circle. Artists such as the Brothers Johnson, Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic had become the score to his adolescence and teenaged years. Fast forward a few decades and Summers has performed in the original Dreamgirls on Broadway and year later, he and first time producer Ben Blake, who was a recent Johns Hopkins graduate dipping his toe into show business, are deep in the trenches of securing song rights for their Off Broadway producing debut: Summers’ From My Hometown on Theatre Row. One Saturday, as they spoke over the phone, Summers’ radio blasting funk music and he said to Blake, “Hear that? We wouldn’t need song rights for a funk musical, I could write those songs in my sleep.” They decided to collaborate on a draft vowing to make each other laugh while dealing with the stresses of producing. That first draft became The Funkentine Rapture. When Blake asked Summers who should sing the first demo they were walking along Eighth Avenue. Summers said, “The best singer would be my friend, Billy Porter” and seconds later they ran right into him on the street.
The following acknowledgement shall appear on the table program flyers and on publicity materials distributed in connection with performances of the Play. Said billing shall be in a type size no less than 50% (fifty percent) of that of the title, and will appear on a single line right below title. Billing shall be in substantially the following form:
The Funkentine Rapture
Lee Summers & Ben Blake
Music & Lyrics By
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In advertisements of ¼ page size or less where only the title of the play, performance dates and venue are provided, the following “shortened billing” is permissible.
The Funkentine Rapture
Music Publishing Credits:
Music and Lyrics by Lee Summers, Butterfly Theatricals LLC Musical Publishing, ASCAP
Butterfly Theatricals Billing
In accordance with the Dramatic Performing Rights License, all publicity materials (posters, programs, etc.) MUST include the following credit:
The Funkentine Rapture
Is presented through special arrangement with Butterfly Theatricals (BT)
All authorized performance materials are also supplied by BT.
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited.
Item Quantity Included
KEYBOARD – CONDUCTOR SCORE 2
LIBRETTO/VOCAL BOOK 10
BASS ELECTRIC BASS
DRUMS COWBELL, DRUMKIT, SKAKER, WINDCHIMES, WOOD BLOCK
GUITAR ACOUSTIC GUITAR, ELECTRIC GUITAR, NYLON ACOUSTIC ROCK GUITAR
KEYBOARD/SYNTH ORGAN, HORN SECTION, STRINGS
Butterfly Theatricals LLC – Copyright 2020
The Funkentine Rapture is a delightful romp through an era and it’s music. Truly original, it evokes the spirit of Funk and Harlem of the 70’s as well as any jukebox musical ever could. In fact better. I highly recommend it.