Shlemiel Crooks
Shlemiel Crooks – Script
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Shlemiel Crooks

A boy and his dog stop the ghost of Pharaoh from ruining Passover in this whimsical, warm-hearted family musical based on the children’s book.

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Shlemiel Crooks

A boy and his dog stop the ghost of Pharaoh from ruining Passover in this whimsical, warm-hearted family musical based on the children’s books Shlemiel Crooks and Chicken Bone Man by award-winning author Anna Olswanger.


Authors:    Sean Hartle & Bob Kolsby

Composer:    Scott Ethier

Lyricist:    Clay Zambo

Additional Music and Lyrics by Berl Olswanger

Based on Shlemiel Crooks and Chicken Bone Man by Anna Olswanger

Synopsis:

     A boy and his dog stop the ghost of Pharaoh from ruining Passover in this whimsical, warm-hearted family musical based on the children’s books Shlemiel Crooks and Chicken Bone Man by award-winning author Anna Olswanger.
     Narrated by Jerry, the family dog, and featuring a couple of dimwitted crooks named Burt and Ernie, this hilarious new musical is about the importance of family loyalty and the need to follow your dreams.

Shlemiel Crooks

SHLEMIEL CROOKS

The Musical 


Book by Sean Hartley & Bob Kolsby

Music by Scott Ethier

Lyrics by Clay Zambo

Additional Music and Lyrics by Berl Olswanger

Based on Shlemiel Crooks and Chicken Bone Man by Anna Olswanger


Shlemiel Crooks

 Copyright 2011  

by 

Sean Hartley, Bob Kolsby, Scott Ethier, Clay Zambo, Anna Olswanger and Berl Olswanger

All Rights Reserved


CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that SHLEMIEL CROOKS is subject to a royalty.  It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, the British Commonwealth, including Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union.  All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, and the rights of translation into foreign language are strictly reserved. 

The amateur live stage performance rights to SHLEMIEL CROOKS are controlled exclusively by Drama Source and royalty arrangements and licenses must be secured well in advance of presentation.  PLEASE NOTE that amateur royalty fees are set upon application in accordance with your producing circumstances.  When applying for a royalty quotation and license please give us the number of performances intended and dates of production.  Royalties are payable one week before the opening performance of the play to Drama Source Co., 1588 E. 361 N., St. Anthony, Idaho 83445, unless other arrangements are made. 

Royalty of the required amount must be paid whether the play is presented for charity or gain, and whether or not admission is charged.  For all other rights than those stipulated above, apply to Drama Source Company, 1588 E. 361 N. St. Anthony, Idaho 83445.

Copying from this book in whole or in part is strictly forbidden by law, and the right of performance is not transferable.

Whenever the play is produced, the following notice must appear on all programs, printing and advertising for the play, “Produced by special arrangement with Drama Source Co.”

Due authorship credit must be given on all programs, printing and advertising for the play.


No one shall commit or authorize any act or omission by which the copyright or the rights to copyright of this play may be impaired.


No one shall make changes in this play for the purpose of production without written permission.


Publication of this play does not imply availability for performance.    Both amateurs and professionals considering a production are strongly advised in their own interests to apply to Drama Source Company for written permission before starting rehearsals, advertising, or booking a theatre.


No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means, now known or yet to be invented, including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, videotaping or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Cast of Characters:


(in order of appearance)

JERRY, a dog

BERL, a boy

GERTIE, his older sister

REB ELIAS, their father

RABBI

MISS STOOTS, a voice teacher

PHARAOH, a ghost

BURT, a crook

ERNIE, a crook


PLUS various Neighbors, Dogs, Police and Ghost Police


Musical Numbers:


“Olive Street”  Chorus

“In Eigenblick” Miss Stoots

“Chicken Bone Man” Berl

“Berl’s Blues” Berl

“Don’t Back Down” Jerry

 “When Pharaoh Comes To Town” Pharaoh

“When Pharaoh Comes …” (reprise) Pharaoh

 “It’s All For You” Miss Stoots and Gertie

“The Chase” Instrumental

“Chicken Bone Man” (reprise) Berl and Gertie

“Don’t Back Down” (reprise) All


Premiered on April 10, 2011

At Merkin Concert Hall

New York


SHLEMIEL CROOKS

(Olive Street, St. Louis, 1919. Three storefronts line the back wall: A bakery, a fish store, and in between, Reb Elias’s Kosher Wine. Stage right represents the interior of Miss Stoot’s parlor, with a (nonworking) piano that can be played by Berl. Stage left has a few crates or maybe a bench.


At rise, the CHORUS is milling about the street, getting ready for Passover. MOTHERS are shopping and stopping to talk on the street. CHILDREN are playing hopscotch and other games on the sidewalk. Two POLICEMEN are strolling around, keeping an eye on things. Two CHILDREN run on and accidentally bump into one of the MOTHERS, spilling the contents of her basket. The MOTHERS pick up the contents, while one of the POLICEMEN gives the CHILD a talking-to. In general, this is life as usual on a busy city street in 1919.


 (JERRY enters. HE is a dog. HE addresses the audience.)


JERRY

Well, hello there. Welcome to 1919, the year so nice they named it twice. Here we are in Olive Street. What? You’ve never been to Olive Street before? It’s a great street. All the Jews in St. Louis live here. Come on, I’ll show you around … 


(SONG: OLIVE STREET)


ALL OF US ARE NEIGHBORS,

ALL OF US ARE FRIENDS,

PEOPLE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO MEET.

COME ON, YOU’RE PART OF THE FAM’LY—

ALL OF US ON OLIVE STREET.


WELCOME TO ST. LOUIE!

MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME,

COME AND TAKE A COMFY SEAT.

SEE THE PARADE THAT GOES BY HERE—

ALL OF US ON OLIVE STREET.


EVERYTHING THAT YOU COULD ASK FOR,

ALL IN A FEW SHORT BLOCKS,

HERE IS WHERE YOU PICK UP YOUR BAGELS,

AND HERE’S WHERE YOU GET YOUR LOX!


Of course, you don’t buy bagels today—everyone’s cleaning house, getting rid of the chametz —  what, you don’t know what chametz is? Chametz is bread, cereal, anything made with flour. We gotta get rid of it all before Passover, on account of Moses and Pharaoh and I don’t really remember the whole story but I’m doing my part by eating all the dog biscuits I can find. Anybody got a biscuit they wanna get rid of? No? Just checking.


NEIGHBORS 

SWEEP OUT EVERY CUPBOARD,

ALL THE CHAMETZ GOES!

EVERY BIT OF LEAVENED WHEAT!


MRS. GOLDBERG

OATS! BARLEY! SPELT! OR RYE!


NEIGHBORS 

WE’RE GETTING READY FOR PESACH—

ALL OF US ON OLIVE STREET.

(BERL enters from stage left, carrying some music books.)


JERRY

See over there! That’s the kid I hang out with. Hey, Berl! 


BERL

Hi, Jerry!

(JERRY lets BERL pat him.)


JERRY

He loves me. Everybody loves me around here, but with Berl, it’s something special.


BERL

Don’t bark so loud, Jerry, you’ll annoy the neighbors. 


JERRY

That’s good, right behind the ear there. Yeah, that’s the spot.

(GERTIE enters.)


GERTIE

Come on, Berl, we’re gonna be late. Do you have the music? 


JERRY

Yeah, sure, but I gotta ask you something …


GERTIE

Ask me on the way. I don’t want to be late.


(BERL follows her down the street.)


JERRY

That’s his big sister, Gert. She’s studying to be a collatura. You know what a collatura is? That’s a dame who sings so high even cats can’t stand it. She’s on her way to her lesson now, and my kid has to pound the piano for her. 


(JERRY goes to follow BERL, but passes MRS. GOLDBERG, who stops to pat him.)


MRS. G

There’s my Jerry. Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?


JERRY

I’m a good boy!


MRS. G

No barking, Jerry! The baby is sleeping. 


JERRY

Well, you asked me … 


MRS. G

Here, Jerry, I got something for you, what do you think? A cookie!


JERRY

Gee thanks, Mrs. G.

(JERRY gobbles it up as MRS. G exits.)

That’s the way it is around here – we all look out for each other. 


NEIGHBORS

I LOOK AFTER YOUR KIDS,

YOU LOOK IN ON MINE,

GIVE THE CAT A BITE TO EAT.


JERRY

Cat? Where’s a cat?


ALL

WE TAKE GOOD CARE OF EACH OTHER,

ALL OF US ON OLIVE STREET.



SOME NEIGHBORS

SEE THE PRETTY STOREFRONTS,

SEE THE WINDOWS SHINE?

EVERYTHING IS NICE AND NEAT.

WE’RE GETTING READY FOR PESACH—

ALL OF US ON OLIVE STREET!


SOME NEIGHBORS

GET YOUR ROAST FROM MR. BIRNBAUM,

GROC’RIES FROM FINKLESTEIN,

LEPKIN’S SILVER BRIGHTENS YOUR TABLE,

BUT WHAT MAKES A SEDER SHINE?


ALL NEIGHBORS

REB ELIAS’S KOSHER WINE!



(REB ELIAS enters, carrying a crate of wine.)


JERRY

Oh, look over there, That’s my kid’s father, Reb Elias. He owns the store where they sell kosher wine. And you know what you need kosher wine for, don’t you? The seder. So he’s hoping to do good business this year, right Reb E?


REB ELIAS

Stay out of the way now, Jerry. I don’t want to drop these bottles. You see this, everybody?

(HE holds up a large crate)

Those bottles came all the way from the Land of Israel. 


MRS. RUBIN

The Land of Israel? You don’t say?


(The RABBI enters and starts to walk by.)


MRS. PERLMUTTER

Hey, there’s the rabbi. Maybe he should say a blessing?


REB ELIAS

Good idea. Rabbi …


RABBI

What is it, Reb Elias?


REB ELIAS

Would you like to say a special blessing for my new wine from Israel? 


RABBI

BLEST ARE YOU. LORD OUR GOD, 

WHO HAS BROUGHT US FORTH FROM THE EARTH.

BLEST ARE YOU WHO HAS NURTURED US

FROM THE MOMENT OF OUR BIRTH.

BLEST ARE YOU, ALMIGHTY,

WHO CREATES THE FRUIT OF THE VINE

AND BLEST OUR FRIEND REB ELIAS,

WHO PROVIDES OUR PASSOVER WINE.


ALL

Amen.


JERRY

I tell you it’s a great place to live.


ALL

NEW YORK MAY BE BIGGER,

PHOENIX HAS MORE SUN.

MAYBE WE CANNOT COMPETE.

STILL, YOU COULD DO WORSE THAN TO JOIN US,

JOIN US FOR THE SEDER!

PULL UP TO THE TABLE!

EVERYBODY’S WELCOME!

ALL OF US ON OLIVE…


I LOVE, YOU LOVE—

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

ALL OF US

ON OLIVE STREET!


IT’S PASSOVER ON OLIVE STREET!


(GERTIE and BERL enter again.)


GERTIE

Come on, Berl. You know Miss Stoots hates it when we’re late. 



BERL

Just wait a minute, Gertie. I gotta ask you something. Tomorrow night is Amateur Night at Loew’s Palace. 


GERTIE

Loew’s Palace? That vaudeville house?




BERL

Aw, it’s great! You remember how we used to sneak in and see the acts? Princess Rajah and Her Snakes. 

(JERRY imitates a snake dance.)

Debutante Darla and Her Dancing Dogs. 

(JERRY does a dance)

I was thinking maybe you and me could sing one of my new songs.


GERTIE

I don’t sing jazz any more, now that I’m studying with Miss Stoots.


BERL

Yeah, but I was thinking just this once …


GERTIE

And besides, tomorrow night is Miss Stoots’ student recital. 


BERL

She has a recital every month. Couldn’t we miss it just this once? It’s really important, Gert. I’ve got a feeling about it. We’re gonna win this year’s Amateur Night, and they’re gonna give me a real live job playing piano for the shows. It’s all I ever wanted in life. Please?

(MISS STOOTS enters. SHE is a very snooty grande dame voice teacher.)


MISS STOOTS

Ah, there you are, Gertrude, darling. Come in at once, there’s a chill in the air, and we don’t want you to catch cold. You, too, Berl.

(SHE lets them into her studio but keeps JERRY out.)

Jerry, you stay out here.


JERRY

(talking through the screen door)

Hey, kid, it just so happens I’m friendly with a frosty blonde by the name of Hortense. She’s one of the dancing dogs down at the Vaudeville Revue. You want me to get her to talk to the owner about you? I figure she goes woofle-woofle in the right party’s ear, you’re a shoo-in at the Amateur Night auditions.


MISS STOOTS

Stop that barking immediately! 


BERL

I think he just wants to come inside, Miss Stoots.



MISS STOOTS

That mangy dog will never enter my nice, clean parlor. Now begin your warm-up, Gertrude, and remember: pear-shaped tones, pear-shaped tones.


GERTIE

Mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi. 


MISS STOOTS

That was banana shaped, Gertrude. I want pear-shape.


GERTIE

Mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi. 


MISS STOOTS

Better. Now try again, like this.

(SHE sings)

Mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi. 

Proceed.


GERTIE

Mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi. 


MISS STOOTS

Lovely, lovely, breath support, breath support – 

(BERL starts improvising in a jazz idiom on the piano.)

Berl, pay attention, where’s your mind this morning?


BERL

Sorry, Miss Stoots. I was just thinking about Amateur Night. 


STOOTS

And what, I shudder to ask, is Amateur Night?


BERL

It’s a tryout, down at the Loew’s Palace Vaudeville Revue.


STOOTS

That den of vulgarity, where they perform jazz?

BERL

Aw, gee, Miss Stoots, jazz is swell. All the young kids today are crazy for jazz.


STOOTS

Opera, Berl, that’s the only real music. Verdi, Puccini, Wagner and the greatest of them all … von Gluckenpuper!


JERRY

Here we go again.


STOOTS

Gertrude, you may rest your vocal chords a moment while I rhapsodize about Herbert von Gluckenpuper.


GERTIE

Yes, Miss Stoots.


STOOTS

As I may have mentioned to you before, I once sang the lead role of Little Inka in the world premiere of von Gluckenpuper’s magnum opus, Die Bluckenstockershmerz. 


BERL

Yeah, I think you did mention it …


JERRY

About a thousand times.


STOOTS

We performed his opera for one night only, at the Knights of Columbus Banquet Hall. There were some minor problems with the scenery for act nine, when the castle exploded. But none of the audience members who made it through the entire eleven hour performance will ever forget it. As Little Inka, I was transplendent. 


GERTIE

I’m sure you were Miss Stoots. 


STOOTS

I believe I remember a bit of Inka’s final aria, as she is about to jump into the crocodile pit. Berl, if you please …

(SHE takes out a huge accordion of music and puts it on the piano in

front of BERL.)

We’ll begin at measure six thousand, nine hundred and eighty seven.


JERRY

(to the audience)

I’d cover my ears if I were you. This could get ugly. 


(Reluctantly, BERL begins to play a teutonic dirge. MISS STOOTS

begins to sing in a wobbly soprano.)


MISS STOOTS

IN EIGENBLICK! IN EIGENBLICK!

EIN RICKENBLUCKEN BESHMERZ!

GEVALT, GEVALT, GEVALT, GEVALT!


GERTIE

Oh, Miss Stoots, that was wonderful. How could I ever sing like that?


JERRY

Stick your finger in the electric socket.


BERL

Yeah, that was real interesting, Miss Stoots, but like I said, there’s this Amateur Night tomorrow night and I want to enter. I got a new song I wrote. You wanna hear it?


GERTIE

I don’t think that’s a good idea, Berl.


BERL 

It’ll only take a minute. I wrote it about Princess Rajah. I read in the paper that she charms her snake with an old-timey rag on the piano. And what do you think she feeds her snakes? Chicken bones! 


(HE plays and sings: CHICKEN BONE MAN)


BERL

I DON’T LIKE SOUP BONES IN MY SOUP,

OR HAM BONES IN MY HAM.

WHEN THE COFFEE’S MAKIN’, DON’T FIX ME BACON.

I’M THE CHICKEN BONE MAN.

I DON’T WANT RABBITS IN MY HAIR,

OR SARDINES OUT OF THE CAN.

GIMME WHAT’LL CACKLE

WITH A CRUNCH AND A CRACKLE.

I’M THE CHICKEN BONE MAN.


Come on, Gertie, join in.


GERTIE

I’ll sit this one out.


BERL

I DON’T LIKE T-BONES IN MY TEA, 

OR LAMB CHOPS ON THE LAMB.

I WON’T AD LIB WITH A BARBECUE RIB

I’M THE CHICKEN BONE MAN!


I DON’T WANT OYSTERS ON THE SHELL,

OR FROG LEGS IN MY HAND.

I JUT MY CHIN AND I DIG RIGHT IN.

I’M THE CHICKEN BONE MAN.


A BREAST, A WING, A THIGH, A LEG—

YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE, 

DON’T MAKE ME BEG.

I’M THE CHICKEN BONE MAN!


(BERL finishes.) 

So what do you think?



MISS STOOTS

I shudder to think what Maestro von Glickenpuper would have said. Tomorrow evening, when you accompany your sister in her recital … 


BERL

But that’s what I’m trying to tell you. Tomorrow night is Amateur Night. 


STOOTS

You will not play in this Amateur Night, you will accompany your sister in my student recital. 


BERL

But,  Miss Stoots …


STOOTS

Enough! Ein blickenstick! I have spoken. The lesson is over!


(SHE exits dramatically. GERTIE and BERL gather up their music and exit her parlor toward center stage.)


GERTIE

Oh, Berl. Why did you play “Chicken Bone Man” for Miss Stoots? You knew she wouldn’t like it.


BERL

Because I think it’s good. 


JERRY

It is good!


GERTIE

You’ll never convince Miss Stoots.


JERRY

Who needs her?


BERL

Yeah, but I didn’t think I’d have to convince you. Oh, come on, Gertie, you have lots of recitals. Amateur night comes only once a year.


JERRY

That’s right, kid, stand up for yourself. 


GERTIE

Jerry’s driving me crazy with his barking. 


BERL

Why don’t you come with me? With the way I play and the way you sing, we could win big!


GERTIE

I don’t sing blues anymore. And if I did, I wouldn’t sing about chickenbones!


BERL

Oh, yeah? Well then, who needs you?


GERTIE

I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you ask Jerry to sing with you? It couldn’t sound any worse.

(SHE exits.)


JERRY

That was a low blow.


BERL

(calling after her)

You leave Jerry out of this. He’s got more taste for music in his front paw than you and Miss Snooty Stoots put together. 


JERRY

That’s telling her. 


(THEY cross the stage angrily.)


(SONG: BERL’S BLUES)

THAT STUPID MISS STOOTS!

SHE MAKES ME SO MAD!

MY DUMB SISTER GERTIE

IS THREE TIMES AS BAD!

THE MUSIC I PLAY,

IT COMES FROM MY SOUL!

I MIGHT AS WELL THROW MYSELF

INTO A FORTY-FOOT HOLE!


JERRY

Wait a minute! Are you giving up on account of that snooty dame? 


 (SONG: DON’T BACK DOWN)


JERRY

DON’T BACK DOWN

WHEN THEY TELL YOU “DOWN, BOY!”

DON’T STAND STILL

WHEN THEY TELL YOU, “STAY!”

BUDDY, YOU GOTTA

CHASE YOUR DREAM!

GET THAT DREAM!

DON’T BACK DOWN, KID,

DON’T LET IT GET AWAY.


GOT THE SCENT? 

PURSUE IT!

THAT’S THE WAY WE’RE BORN AND BRED.

GET THE BONE,

GRAB HOLD AND DON’T LET GO,

DON’T ROLL OVER AND PLAY DEAD!


NO, DON’T BACK DOWN,

WHEN THEY CALL YOU “BAD DOG!”

DON’T SLOW UP,

WHEN THEY TELL YOU, “HEEL!”


SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA

MAKE A FUSS,

CHASE A BUS

AND TAKE THE TOWN!

GET UP AND GO!

OH, DON’T BACK DOWN


(HE howls and a chorus of DOGS enter from everywhere: the house, stage right and stage left. )


Look, here are some of my friends!


DOGS, JERRY

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

WHEN THEY TELL YOU, “DOWN, BOY!”

WOOF! ARF! GRRR!

WHEN THEY TELL YOU, “STAY!”

BUDDY, YOU GOTTA                                  BUDDY, YOU GOTTA

CHASE YOUR DREAM,                               CHASE YOUR DREAM

LIKE A RABBIT!GET THAT DREAM!       GET THAT DREAM!

RUN AND GRAB IT!


DOGS, JERRY

DON’T BACK DOWN, KID,

DON’T LET IT GET AWAY!


JERRY

GOT THE SCENT? 

PURSUE IT!


DOGS

roof! roof!


JERRY

THAT’S THE WAY WE’RE BORN AND BRED.


DOGS

ar

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