Book by Ben Elton. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Ben Elton. The original West End (London) production of The Beautiful Game ran from 26 September 2000 – 1 September 2001 for a total of 391 (?) performances. The show was directed by Robert Carsen, with choreography by Meryl Tankard. The show never transferred to Broadway and has since been revised as The Boys in the Photograph.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
The Beautiful Game opens on an empty, black stage. A group of boys come onto the stage, kicking a can around (OVERTURE). The girls watch them; this group of teenagers live for football (THE BEAUTIFUL GAME). Father O’Donnell, the Catholic team coach, arrives to talk to his players. In particular, he admonishes John, the team’s star striker, for spending too much time watching Mary Maguire, and orders him to clean the kit as punishment. Another player, Del has his eye on Christine; the problem is that he is a Protestant. On one side of the lockers, Thomas and his cronies intimidate Del so that he will quit the team. They threaten to harm him if he should ever return.
Alone in the changing room after the others have left, John dreams of becoming a professional footballer (CLEAN THE KIT). Mary comes into the changing room and overhears John. She tells John that he is just deluding himself and that he will never amount to anything. They argue and – in spite of themselves – realise that they do like each other after all (DON’T LIKE YOU). A few months later, Daniel is chased into the changing room by a few of his team mates. He missed a match because he was busy stealing a car radio. He offers to buy them all a drink to make up for it. John decides to break his promise to go to a protest march with Mary so that he can drink with his friends. After an argument with Mary, he leaves. Mary thinks about her love for Ireland in spite of the terrible things that are happening (GOD’S OWN COUNTRY). Her thoughts are echoed by a young Protestant girl. John changed his mind and returns, leaving with Mary to attend the march.
The Catholic team qualifies for the final. As they celebrate in the changing room, they hear drums in the distance, and knowing that the Protestant marchers are nearby, they flee. The Protestants arrive, throwing sticks and stones (GOD’S OWN COUNTRY – PROTESTANT MARCH). They wreck the changing room and blow up the wall before leaving. After the chaos subsides, Christine and Del dream of a day when they can be together in peace (LET US LOVE IN PEACE). The team wins the final (THE FINAL – A GAME OF TWO HALVES), and go off to celebrate (OFF TO THE PARTY / THE CRAIC). At the party, Del is threatened and then thrown out by Thomas and his friends. Bernadette and Ginger get together (DON’T LIKE YOU – REPRISE). However, on his way home from the party, Ginger is viciously attacked. The next day, Chistine visits Mary and talks about her relationship with Del (OUR KIND OF LOVE). John, Thomas, Bernadette and Daniel arrive to tell them that Ginger is dead. They all attend his funeral (LET US LOVE IN PEACE – REPRISE).
Some time later, Mary and John are married (THE HAPPIEST DAY / TO HAVE AND TO HOLD). The wedding night comes complete with the usual jitters (THE FIRST TIME), but the couple affirm their love for one another. Their happiness is soon shattered by a phone call. Thomas has joined the IRA and is on the run. He needs John’s help to get to safety. John argues with Mary about whether he should go, then leaves to help Thomas. Thomas explains his philosophy to John (I’D RATHER DIE ON MY FEET THAN LIVE ON MY KNEES). A few months later, John and Daniel have the opportunity to try out for the football team Everton. John and Mary are hopeful, as John has a good chance of being selected. Mary has another reason to be happy: she has discovered that she is pregnant although she has not yet found the right time to tell John. Their joy is short-lived when, instead of being selected for Everton, John is arrested for helping Thomas escape (THE SELECTION) and sent to an internment camp (DEAD ZONE).
Mary has her baby, Sean, while John is imprisoned. Daniel visits them and is tracked down by a group of terrorists, one of whom Mary recognises as Thomas. They charge Daniel with treason, accusing him of turning John in to the authorities. They shoot him in the knee, crippling him for life. Mary is horrified (IF THIS IS WHAT WE’RE FIGHTING FOR). When John is released, he meets up with Thomas, he relates his theory of how he landed in the internment camp. He believes that Thomas betrayed him and that Daniel was innocent. John kills Thomas and then leaves to join the IRA. Before he goes, he gives Mary a present for his son – his old football and football shirt (ALL THE LOVE THAT I HAVE). Ten years later, Sean is a keen footballer. Mary hopes that the future will be brighter for her son and his team, more so than the team she once knew (FINALE).