The Very Strange Story of

THE VANISHING HITCHHIKER

A New Musical

Book and Lyrics
by

Dennis Tracy Quinn

 
Music
by

Bill Parsley

Synopsis

 

 
US 6    
 
 

Act One

We are on a charter bus, taking passengers to a ski vacation in Vermont. It is the Winter Solstice, at twilight, during a blizzard. This bus once belonged to a rock group and is configured like a luxury RV rather than a conventional bus. Jakob, a graduate film student at NYU, is attempting to write a screenplay on his laptop as his fellow Passengers are kept amused by Charles, a grade-school teacher from New York, who leads them in a sing-a-long: THE FOLK SONGS  Through this musical exposition, we are introduced to each of the Passengers. Suddenly, a man in the middle of the road is flagging them down. The Bus Driver, in an attempt to avoid hitting him, swerves and skids off the road into a ditch. They are stuck.

 

 
 

Wilson Bentley, a crusty old Vermont character, boards the bus and turns the Passengers’ anger into gratitude when he informs them: “The Mad River Bridge—up ahead—it’s out!” MaryAnne pulls her fiancé Charles aside and confides she has a funny feeling about Mr. Bentley—that he’s not who he says he is. Charles reassures her he’s simply a Good Samaritan who saved their lives.

 
 Severe Storm Area

The storm reminds Bentley of a famous story locals tell, about a little girl who saved her mother’s life by struggling through ‘the blizzard of 1909’ to fetch a doctor. MaryAnne thinks it’s a bit far-fetched, but Bentley’s story gives Charles an idea. To keep everyone occupied until help arrives, he proposes they each tell a story. “Totally Chaucerian, professor...” says Jakob.

Severe Storm Area
Interstate 1
 

Lynette goes first. As her story comes to life, we meet Ashley, the ‘bridesmaid from hell’, who decides to upstage the bride by acquiring a perfect TAN  She visits multiple tanning salons with disastrous results: NOW YOU’RE COOKIN’  

No Right Turn

Back on the bus, MaryAnne argues that a tanning salon could not possibly cook one’s internal organs. Ever the peacekeeper, Charles calls for another story.

Pedestrians Crossing
No Left Turn
Fallout Shelter

Matthew tells of a legendary incident that happened at his high school back in the 1950s. In a classroom, we find Sister Joseph Regina recounting the inspirational tale of Maria Goretti––recently elevated to sainthood––who, when faced with the choice, chose death over defilement. THE STORY OF MARIA GORETTI   Virginia, one of the students, finds herself on a date with James, a boy with ‘one thing’ on his mind. Listening to a classical music station on the radio in a parked car on a deserted hilltop, they express the LITTLE PANICS  they each feel before yielding to temptation. Sister Joseph Regina springs to the rescue, doing battle with the Devil for Virginia’s honor. In the process, she saves the teenagers from the clutches of the legendary ‘Hooked Hand’: PRAYERS

 
No Parking Any Time
No Parking
No Right Turn

MaryAnne thinks the story is ridiculous and argues why it couldn’t possibly have happened. Undaunted, the Passengers continue with their stories.

No Left Turn
Porsche Logo
Speed Limit 50

Jakob relates the tale of Walter Neff, who saw an ad for a brand-new Porsche—for only $50.00—while reading THE CLASSIFIEDS   Phyllis Dietrichson, the woman who is selling the car, assures him fifty bucks is all she wants for it. But at Walter’s prodding, she confesses her reason for the low price in THE BIMBO FROM YUCAIPA

End Speed Limit 50
No Parking
 No Right Turn

The Passengers are impressed by a Porsche for $50.00 . . . everyone except MaryAnne, who says it’s just a male fantasy trip. Feeling spunky, MaryAnne turns her attention to Mr. Bentley and begins probing his background. When the Bus Driver puts in her two cents, MaryAnne challenges her to tell a story.

 
 

The story the Bus Driver tells is of three teenage boys, driving around one Halloween night, who come across a mysterious Girl hitchhiking on a lonely road. They take her to a dance where, during a Karaoke contest, she mesmerizes everyone with her rendition of CAN YOU HEAR MY VOICE?   While driving the Girl home, the spirit of Halloween fills them and they sing A FEAST FOR THE DEAD   After the Girl disappears into her house, they discover she has taken a jacket belonging to one of the boys. They ring the doorbell only to learn, from the Girl’s father, that this is impossible—the Girl “died one year ago tonight.” The boys go to the cemetery, where they find the jacket draped over the Girl’s tombstone.

 

MaryAnne asks what Mr. Bentley thinks of this story only to discover Bentley has disappeared, leaving his jacket behind—just like the vanishing hitchhiker!  With mounting concern, the Passengers search for Bentley as the curtain falls.

INTERMISSION

   
 
Winding Road

Act Two

With a perfectly plausible explanation, Mr. Bentley turns up and the Passengers resume telling stories, this time in song. Graciela relates the saga of THE KILLER IN THE BACK SEAT  followed by Matthew’s account of THE KILLER BED   Realizing they are becoming drawn to one another, the two cap off their musical interlude with a rousing rendition of KILLERS

Winding Road
 
 
 
 

David wonders if anyone knows the story of Chenille Curry, a promising young singer who was part of a 1960s girl group called “The Bayonnets.” We follow the group—in true Hollywood biopic fashion—as their hit single THE WEB OF LOVE carries them all the way to The Ed Sullivan show, before disaster strikes.

 
No Right Turn

MaryAnne says she never heard of “The Bayonnets.” Charles takes her to task about constantly challenging everyone’s stories. As Charles’ admonition sinks in, MaryAnne wonders, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH ME?

 

No Left Turn
 
         
 
Cantina Sign

Sydney tells of Jane Ennui—a spinster schoolteacher—and her adventures south of the border. While visiting Tijuana, Jane is romanced by Ernesto Hidalgo, who turns out not to be the answer to a maiden’s prayer: TIJUANA MOON  Dejected, Jane finds a stray Chihuahua TINY DOG FROM THE SKY  and smuggles it back to her home in California, with unfortunate results:  KISSUMS

I Love My Chihuahua
Dining
 

After an evening of putting everyone’s stories down, a challenge from Mr. Bentley forces MaryAnne to tell one of her own. She tells of her great-great Aunt Peggy, whose visit to this part of Vermont in 1908 has become a family legend. On her journey, Peggy stopped off in Troy, New York, to visit her college roommate Nora, where Peggy’s love of ragtime music gets her in trouble with Nora’s fanatically anti-ragtime father. THE BEELZEBUBBLE RAG

That night, Peggy's dreams are filled with disjointed images ending in a terrifying premonition of a hearse––full of corpses––whose driver bids her, "Get in. There's room for one more!"  A LITTLE NIGHTMARE MUSIC  

 
         
 

Upon arriving in Vermont, Peggy attends a Fourth of July picnic where, during a sudden storm, the dream’s premonition is fulfilled.

As dawn is breaking, the passengers agree MaryAnne’s story is the best of the evening and everyone is sad that their storytelling has come to a close: ONE MORE STORY   However, fate has one final surprise in store that propels the Passengers themselves into the realm of urban legend.