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Theatre / When Midnight Strikes

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When Midnight Stikes is a musical by Charles Miller (music) and Kevin Hammonds (book and lyrics). First produced in 2007, it has been performed in venues including London and New York but has not had long runs.

Set in a New York apartment, it takes place in something close to real time at a party held to celebrate the coming of the new millennium as 31st December 1999 becomes 1st January 2000. The party hosts and guests are an odd assortment of people, particularly since three of the characters weren't supposed to be at the party in the first place. The party unravels as first the audience and then the rest of the characters find out that the hostess, Jennifer, has discovered a letter which proves that her husband, Christopher, has been having an affair. Added tension/angst comes when a spot of coincidence and handwriting analysis reveals that the other half of the affair is at the party. The mystery of who this person is maintained for most of the show. The characters are:

  • Jennifer, the hostess. The perfect wife.
  • Christopher, her husband. Described as a 'brilliant showman'.
  • Josephina, an out of work actress who is the waitress for the party.
  • Zoe, a friend of Jennifer. An alcoholic New Ager.
  • Greg, Christopher's younger brother. Not supposed to be at the party.
  • Nicole, the femme fatale. Childhood friend of Christopher and Greg.
  • Edward, Christopher's nervous, nerdy boss.
  • Rachel, Greg's ex-girlfriend and a friend of Jennifer.
  • Twyla, Jennifer's sister.
  • Bradley, Twyla's gay flatmate.
  • Alex, Bradley's colleague who had nowhere else to go.
  • Murial, the grumpy woman next door who comes to complain about the noise and gets locked out of her apartment.

Word of God says that the show is based on a real New Year's Eve party, but it is unclear quite how much of the plot is Based on a True Story.

This play contains examples of:

  • BSoD Song: 'Little Miss Perfect', 'Like Father, Like Son' and 'It's Not a Party 'Til Something Gets Broken' all have elements of this.
  • Butt-Monkey: Greg. Gets slapped, has a fork stuck in his leg, is the subject of humiliating jokes from both Rachel and Nicole.
  • Counterpoint Duet: 'Party Conversation', a comic variant of the trope, for Edward and Murial. Murial tries to seduce Edward. Edward tries to get away. They sing their songs in counterpoint and then, naturally, one of the two gets their way.
  • Dark Reprise: Jennifer and Christopher's argument, 'It's Not a Party 'Til Something Get's Broken' reprises the music of Jennifer's 'Little Miss Perfect'. And the climactic song, 'Up in Smoke', reprises a snatch of almost everyone's songs from earlier, often with radically different meanings.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Murial. Makes her entrance as an aggressive, angry woman who hates most people and certainly hates men. Softens as the evening goes on, becoming friends with Jennifer and falling in love with one of the guests.
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: Christopher West sings 'Like Father, Like Son' wherein the same chorus (which includes the title words) occurs three times with three different meanings (Triple Meaning Chorus?) - an affectionate observation from a loving mother, a vow from a beareaved son that he will follow in his father's footsteps, and finally a disgusted realisation that he has done so in ways that he never intended.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Christopher. A third of the cast of characters are/were in love/lust with him.
  • False Friend: One of the first people Jennifer tells about Christopher's infidelity, Twyla, Jennifer's sister, is the guilty party. In trying to cover for herself, she goes so far as to accuse Nicole of having an affair with Christopher...when only she and Nicole are in the room.
  • Idiot Ball: It takes Christopher far too long to realise that Jennifer knows about his affair. And he has apparently not noticed that Nicole has been in love with him for years.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Josephina's advice to Edward, who is very nervous. However, he looks straight at her, provoking a disgusted "Dude, not me!".
  • I Never: Played by all the characters except Jennifer and Christopher. Used to reveal a variety of past indiscretions, humiliate Greg and move Edward/Murial and Rachel/Greg closer to coupledom.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Greg. He may have had a poor attitude to women. He may have dumped Rachel by leaving a message on her answering machine. But he has a heart of gold and goes to extraordinary lengths to win her back.
  • New Year's Resolution: Unsurprisingly, given the setting, referred to many times, both literal resolutions and metaphorical ones. In the song 'Resolutions', Greg vows to grow up, Christopher to give up smoking, Edward to exercise, Josephina to eat less, Nicole not to sleep with strangers and Zoe to give up drinking. Bradley's claim to be giving up smoking leads to the show's one production number, 'Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em'. Following the revelations about Christopher, Jennifer suggests that her New Years resolution is "to get rid of all the garbage."
  • Parlor Games: Christopher suggests playing Charades to break the tension after Rachel slaps Greg. Serves a plot function as when Jennifer opens her slip of paper, she recognises the handwriting as being the same as in the letter which proves Christopher is having an affair. Cue an awkward, rapid end to the game.
  • Really Gets Around: Nicole. Has slept with Greg, has a reputation as a heartbreaker, has had a string of handsome men, tries to seduce Alex and naturally is top suspect as the person who Christopher has been having an affair with.
  • Red Herring: Almost every character could be the person that Christopher has been having an affair with. Nicole admits she loves him. He is alarmed to see Murial at the party. Bradley is implied to be attracted to Christopher. And so on. The clues are there, if you look hard enough, but the red herrings obscure them completely. Even the letter is a red herring - it turns out that Bradley wrote it, but it was actually about Christopher's affair with Twyla.
  • The Reveal: Christopher tries to get a moment alone, but Bradley confronts him about the contents of the letter. "Did you get my note?" "Yes, I got your note. And so did Jennifer." However, as the conversation continues, it becomes apparent that the person Christopher was actually having an affair with is Twyla. The reveal is made by having Twyla appear behind the two of them and sing an emotional song about the effect Christopher's love has had on them.
  • Stepford Smiler: Jennifer, 'Little Miss Perfect'. On the inside, she's falling apart, but on the outside she's the perfect wife and hostess.
    Meet little miss perfect, little miss wife.
    The perfect hair, the perfect life.
    With her style she pretends that her life is thrilling her.
    With a smile, she pretends that it isn't killing her.