Albums

The Happy Time – 1968

The Happy Time – 1968

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Synopsis

The action takes place in the past in Jacques Bonnard’s studio; and, earlier still, in his home in a small town in Canada. Jacques Bonnard (Robert Goulet) is a prize-winning photographer who takes us on a journey through his recollections. As he sings the show’s swirling title tune, recalling the happy time of visits back home to St. Pierre, life-size photographs of members of his family flash on a full-stage screen behind him – and one of these serves to carry us back to the moment when he shot the nostalgic picture. The Bonnard family greets him, not without mixed feelings, in the comic round He’s Back. Apparently, the infrequent visits of the prodigal son stir trouble among his brothers and father, who loves but little approves his artistic son’s ways. This time, Jacques’s desire to show his adolescent godson, Bibi (Mike Rupert), a bit of nightlife brings a clash between the boy and Philippe Bonnard (George S. Irving), his father and one of Jacques’s brothers. Nevertheless, Bibi furtively meets his uncle in a club where the Six Angels offer a cartwheeling presentation of the seductive Catch My Garter. Grandpère Bonnard (David Wayne), a personable old man with an irrepressible urge to live, also joins his son and grandson in the evening’s festivities and in the singing of the melodically infectious Tomorrow Morning. On their return home, Bibi, inebriated by what he has imbibed and by what he has seen, pleads with his uncle not to leave St. Pierre in the eloquent Please Stay. The backdrop flashes with photographs of a beautiful girl as Jacques tries to recall Laurie Mannon in the wistful love ballad I Don’t Remember You. When Jacques goes to see Laurie, now Bibi’s teacher, he is charmed by the school glee club’s singing of the French folk-like tune St. Pierre. Laurie (Julie Gregg) has not forgotten Jacques – or his hurtful departure after a previous visit, when he left town without saying goodbye. There is no hiding the current of feeling that passes between them now. To help his godson overcome difficulties with his bullying schoolmates, Jacques offers to use Bibi as his assistant during three days of shooting pictures around St. Pierre. Imbued with a new sense of confidence, Bibi leads his classmates in the lusty marching song Without Me, which turns into the type of stunning production number for which Gower Champion has become famous. But Bibi’s excitement is short-lived as his father refuses his permission to remain away from school. When a sharp verbal exchange leads to Philippe slapping his sensitive son, the seams of the Bonnard family split wide open. Act II opens with Jacques in his studio ruminating over the memories aroused by various pictures he is developing, enlargements of which appear on the backdrop as they emerge from the developer. The reflective waltz Among My Yesterdays accompanies his thoughts as he recalls that Bibi vengefully played hooky after being struck by his father. And then comes the moment when he cannot resist Laurie’s urging and promises to remain in St. Pierre. It is just before Grandpère decides to give himself a surprise birthday party as a way of reuniting the family. Grandpère feels that he is The Life Of The Party and does not hesitate to advertise it in a boom-boom-boom, old-style bounce number. At the party Grandpère suffers a heart attack, stirring Bibi to confess that it was he who had stolen a set of nude photographs treasured by the old man and that he spent the day of his truancy hanging them in the hallways of the St. Pierre school. Uneasy about making an apology before the school assembly, as demanded by his father, Bibi agrees to do so only after Jacques promises to take him away from St. Pierre on a long trip. As I Don’t Remember You was the song in which Jacques and Laurie came together, Seeing Things is the ballad that marks their parting. Their love has not died, but they agree that Laurie’s sober realism and Jacques’s errant romanticism are irreconcilable. When Bibi returns the pictures he has stolen to Grandpère, the irresistible old man makes a show-stopping toast (A Certain Girl) to the joys of loving one girl as opposed to the empty sporting with many. He is joined in the lively song by Jacques and Bibi, who urges the old man to come with them when they leave. Outraged that Jacques is trying to take something away from his home as a substitute for remaining, Grandpère disillusions Bibi about Jacques – “he came to St. Pierre on a picture assignment for a magazine” – and Jacques cooperates by pretending that this was his only motivation. He thereby earns the accolade of approval he has long sought from his father and persuades Bibi to remain home and finish school. His life’s work complete, Grandpère dies. Bibi is deeply disturbed by his grandfather’s death, but Jacques tries to make his nephew understand that the important thing is to live life to the full – as his Grandpère has done, and as he has tried to do. – Arnold Shaw

Credits

Jacques Bonnard: Robert Goulet Suzanne Bonnard: Jeanne Arnolo Philippe Bonnard: George S. Irving Bibi Bonnard: Mike Rupert Louis Bonnard: Charles Durning Annabelle Bonnard: Gena Page Gillie Bonnard: Julane Stites Nanette Bonnard: Connie Simmons Felice Bonnard: June Squibb Grandpère Bonnard: David Wayne The Six Angels: Lizette: Jacki Garland Dorine: Gail Laverenz Sylvie: Tammie Fillhart Monique: Mary Ann O’Reilly Bella: Vicki Powers Grace: Susan Sigrist Laurie Mannon: Julie Gregg Foufie: Jeffrey Golkin Ganache: Dallas Johann Students of St. Pierre Boys’ School: Dancers: Ron Abshire, Jovanni Anthony, Quinn Baird, Andy Bew, Blake Brown, Leonard Crofoot, Ron Crofoot, Wayne Dugger, Joe Giamalva, Dallas Johann, Gene Law, Steve Reinhart, Jon Simonson Swing Dancer: Sammy Williams Singers: Marc Anthony, Alan Blight, George Connolly, Tom De Mastri, Paul Dwyer, Scott Gandert, Eric Hamilton, Gary Hamilton, Jeffrey Hamilton, Kevin Hamilton, Mark Lonergan, Brandy Wayne, Teddy Williams, Marc Winters