SOUTHERN RAIN: A New Musical

Synopsis

Forty-five-year old Lana Karras, a ‘has been’ pop superstar, has the floor at a Twelve Step meeting in New York City. Having recently hit rock bottom for the third time in ten years, both professionally and personally, her now-complete fall from Grace has driven her to firmly commit to sobriety. Whether it is the weight of lost years or simply the reality of middle age setting in, along with her new convert’s fervency and overzealousness, lies an earnest sincerity and determination. 

Lana has learned that the best friends she’d ever had (old flame Nick and girlfriends Sue and Carol - fellow Brats, children of career military personnel, with whom she’d spent the final two years of high school) – will be gathering for a benefit event honoring generations of Brats who had lived on base at Mercer Naval Air Station in Savannah, Georgia. Jumping ahead of herself and ahead of the well-travelled and time-proven Steps, Lana is hell-bent on joining them and making amends for twenty-five years of hurtful and self-centered missteps: from leaving her friends behind with a trail of broken promises when her singing career took off to ignoring their attempts at reaching out and offers of help when things began to fall apart for her.

Convinced that she is prepared to handle this, Lana calls Sue to tell her that she will be with them for the benefit in Savannah. Sue does her best to be the ever-gracious Southerner on the phone; but when she hangs up, it becomes clear that there is much water under the bridge and that reconnecting  will be much more difficult than Lana is imagining. But back in her small New York City apartment, Lana is lost in nostalgia as she digs through the contents of her memory box and recalls the last peaceful, contented days she ever had – with those people, in that place. A flashback to the morning of their high school graduation reveals the incredible bond which these friends once shared.

Lana arrives at Sue’s house. She joins Sue and Carol on the wraparound porch, and the girlfriends relive old memories and “catch up.” For the moment being together again is surprisingly wonderful. [HAS IT REALLY BEEN ALL THESE YEARS]

As the girls share in the reverie, Nick boards an early evening train bound for Savannah. A confident, self-made man, he finds himself somewhat unsure of how to handle seeing Lana again. Ultimately, though, this is the chance he has been waiting for: to confront Lana face-to-face and address all the unfinished business between them and the deep-rooted romantic feelings he has never been able to shake. [WHAT AM I GONNA DO]

Nick arrives to find the three ladies and Sue’s husband, Ed (a “civilian” who had gone to high school with these base Brats), embroiled in conversation with Lana at the center of it. There are welcoming hugs all around, and there is still an evident spark between Nick and Lana. The reuniting evening is filled with fun, Lana's old rock ‘n roll war stories, misteps and discoveries. (Carol is a long sober alcoholic, Lana's sarcasm about the south, the years past that Lana was not a part of) Moving on to discuss the benefit, Lana promises to sing at the event, prompting Sue to alert the local press.

It is late, and everyone except for Nick and Lana heads to bed. Finally alone with her, Nick makes his first easy move. [LOVE WILL SAVE THE DAY] Always over-the-top, Lana reacts in a manner too forward and inappropriate for the Adult moment; but Nick lets it slide and tenderly says good night.

Saturday morning, on the grounds of Mercer Naval. Being back on the base as a group for the first time in twenty-seven years is intense, and memories for each are ignited in a way they haven’t been for decades. In front of Lana’s old house, Lana and Nick talk seriously about their break-up. [FOR NOW] When Nick asks why Lana had never responded to the dozens of letters he’d sent in the aftermath, Lana pulls a stack of letters from her bag as if to prove something to him; but Nick is not impressed that she’d kept his outpourings of love and concern but never had the decency to reply. Lana throws the papers at him, and they scatter. Nick storms off; and as Lana hurriedly gathers up the letters, she seriously considers quitting this misadventure and going back to New York.

Throughout, flashbacks to the eighteen-year-old Brats illuminate Adult Lana’s present-day struggle to truly understand the significance of all the hurt she had caused; and Adult Lana is gradually haunted – and mentored - by the softer, more aware spirit of her younger, teenaged self.

As Act Two begins – Lana’s efforts to “make amends” become repeatedly sidetracked and threatened. She becomes overwhelmed at the enormity of her misdoings as her friends and "being home" insinuates. Tho tempted, instead of packing her bags and splitting, Lana goes to the Roadhouse where she will be performing on Sunday to rehearse.  The bar manager excitedly tells Lana that the press coverage of her appearance has been outstanding and that the place will be mobbed. The reality of it has Lana spooked and visibly shaken. The manager offers her a drink to calm her nerves, and we see a real moment of indecision.

Back on the Base, Nick has taken a walk to cool off. Passing again by Lana’s old house, Nick finds one stray letter that Lana had left behind. Reading it, he realizes that these weren’t his letters. They were ones she had written back to him but hadn’t had the courage to actually send. The letter is an honest and emotional account of the thrill ride of her career, the beginnings of her uncontrollable substance abuse and the emptiness of a lonely and frightened young girl. Nick realizes that he might have been – but can still be – a meaningful friend to this girl instead of the jilted teenage boy he was. Lana returns to find Nick, letter in hand. Nick tells her that he wants to slow things down and work on renewing their friendship. Reactive Lana just hears “romantic rejection” but manages not to make a scene. She exits with them both misunderstanding one another.

Back at Sue’s house that evening. As the others get things ready for dinner, Lana walks in. Thinking that she’s simply honoring her sober boundaries, Lana tells them she has to back out of her commitment to sing. They are not happy and she is bombarded with the years of her letting them all down: reneging on her promise to stay in Savannah to help single mother Sue through her teen pregnancy, treating Nick like a hanger-on when the New York entertainment elite started taking her in, not showing up as promised at various Brat events over the years, ducking her friends’ phone calls once she became famous and unknowingly making blind drunk calls to them when her career plummeted. Just to stop the attack and get everybody off her back, Lana yells that she’ll sing the damn song and slams the screen door on her way out to the porch. Her friends feel badly for coming down on her so hard, but they know it all had to come out some time. Carol joins Lana outside and offers some unsolicited advice as a longtime Twelve Stepper. She convinces Lana to take it easy – on herself and on her old friends – and to come back inside, have dinner and watch some home movies that Carol had preserved and restored.

They all retire to the den to see themselves as they were at eighteen. Witnessing their innocence and bonding eases the tension in the room. A clip of Lana’s mom, who had died just weeks after graduation, elicits warm comments and bittersweet smiles. When the movies end, the lights are turned back on…and Lana is gone.

It is five a.m. on Sunday morning. Nick can’t sleep as he worries for Lana who has not returned. [LOVE WILL SAVE THE DAY reprise]

On Sunday afternoon, the day of the event, the Roadhouse buzzes with excitement. Lana is still a no-show, and her friends vacillate between real concern for her and anger at her screwing up at their expense once again.  As it turns out, Lana is at the cemetery where her mother is buried. She has never been back since the funeral; but its time mostly to let go of the pain she has carried for so long. Both "Lana's" - present and past- close this chapter together and a merging takes place bewteen them. After a last goodbye, Lana hurries to the Roadhouse and rushes past the Brats to the stage. She rocks the house with a powerful anthem of personal redemption and determination. [ONE MORE DAY] As she sings, Nick is reminded of the intense authenticity and passion Lana possesses, and her friends – not to mention the entire crowd - are all overjoyed.

Lana bounds offstage and expresses her gratitude for the opportunity to experience singing again – not for money or fame or acceptance – but for the pure joy of it.. Maybe, she begins to realize, these people – and perhaps even this part of the world – had more to do with that than she could ever have imagined. She still has much to lay on the table and apologize for, but she has opened the door by her actions, by following through.

As a Southern squall moves in, Lana and the gang embrace the storm, uniting on the "tracks", stand their ground and celebrate this precious link they share – the time they spent here. [SOUTHERN RAIN]

It is Monday morning on Sue’s porch, and a few packed suitcases await the return trip home.  With a bit of newfound grace, Lana tells Nick that, despite the feelings she still has for him, she knows that his desire to rekindle their friendship and leave it at that is the way to go. She wants to be the friend that she feels he never stopped being to her. Nick takes her in his arms and kisses her – passionately. Several decades and a couple of lifetimes down the line, he lets her know very clearly that he wants another shot at love, too.

Sue, Ed and Carol join the new/old couple, and the five friends enjoy the last moments of the reunion, knowing that this will not be their last. [LOVE GROWS HERE]