Read the Revised Scene From Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Pacific Overtures for Shinsai Benefit

By Adam Hetrick
06 Mar 2012

B.D. Wong in the 2004 revival of Pacific Overtures
B.D. Wong in the 2004 revival of Pacific Overtures
Photo by Joan Marcus

A newly-revised scene from Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's 1976 musical Pacific Overtures will debut as part of the March 11 Shinsai: Theatres for Japan benefit. The authors have allowed Playbill.com to share their work with readers. 

As previously reported, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer-lyricist Sondheim and Tony-nominated book writer John Weidman are among more than a dozen theatre writers who are contributing material to the benefit that will be staged by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza) at the Great Hall at Cooper Union at 3 PM and 8 PM.

Click here to read Playbill.com's coverage of the event that will feature Patti LuPone, Richard Thomas, Angel Desai, Ann Harada, Ken Leung, Jennifer Ikeda, Jennifer Lim, Paolo Montalban and more.

Below are the new lyrics and text for "Four Black Dragons"/"Next," which were written exclusively for the Shinsai benefit.



*

RECITER/ANNOUNCER
July eighth, eighteen hundred and fifty-three. Four American steamships, a type of ship hitherto unknown in Japan, approach the east coast of Honshu.

(Lights up on a FISHERMAN)

FISHERMAN
I WAS STANDING ON THE BEACH
NEAR THE CLIFFS
AT OSHIMA.
I WAS SPREADING OUT THE NETS
FOR THE MORNING SUN.
IT WAS EARLY IN JULY
AND THE DAY WAS GETTING HOT,
AND I STOPPED TO WIPE MY EYES,
AND BY ACCIDENT I TURNED
AND LOOKED OUT TO SEA...

AND THERE CAME,
BREAKING THROUGH THE MIST,
ROARING THROUGH THE SEA,
FOUR BLACK DRAGONS,
SPITTING FIRE.
AND I RAN,
CURSING THROUGH THE FIELDS,
CALLING THE ALARM,
SHOUTING TO THE WORLD,
"FOUR BLACK DRAGONS,
SPITTING FIRE!"

AND THE EARTH TREMBLED,
AND THE SKY CRACKED,
AND I THOUGHT IT WAS THE END OF THE WORLD.

RECITER/ANNOUNCER
March eleventh, two thousand and eleven. An earthquake measuring nine point zero on the Richter Scale occurs forty-three miles off the east coast of Honshu.

(Lights up on a SHOPKEEPER)

SHOPKEEPER
I WAS SWEEPING UP THE GLASS
IN OUR SHOP IN MIYAKO.
WITH THE CHILDREN HOME FROM SCHOOL
FOR THE AFTERNOON.
THOUGH THE GROUND WAS SHAKING STILL,
IT HAD STARTED TO SUBSIDE,
WHEN I HEARD A DISTANT HUM
AND LOOKED OUT TO SEA ...

AND THERE CAME,
BREAKING THROUGH THE MIST,
RISING THROUGH THE SEA,
THICK BLACK MOUNTAINS
CHURNING WATER.
AND WE RAN,
FAST AS WE COULD RUN,
HIGH AS WE COULD GO,
WATCHING THEM UNCOIL –
GREAT BLACK MOUNTAINS
CHURNING WATER.

FISHERMAN
I HAD SEEN
DRAGONS BEFORE –
NEVER SO MANY,
NEVER LIKE THESE!

SHOPKEEPER
(Simultaneously)
AND THE EARTH TREMBLED
AND THE SEA BUBBLED
AND THE BOATS SHATTERED
AND THE BIRDS DROWNED ...

BOTH
AND I THOUGHT IT WAS THE END OF THE WORLD!

RECITER/ANNOUNCER
Waves thirty meters high propelled water six miles inland, obliterating towns and villages along four hundred miles of coastline. Sixteen thousand people died. A month later, four thousand people were still missing.

(During the above, an ENSEMBLE OF SINGERS appears)

FISHERMAN, SHOPKEEPER, ENSEMBLE
(Softly)
THE END OF THE WORLD…

SHOPKEEPER
(In silence)
BUT IT WASN’T.

(VAMP of "Next" begins)

MEMBER OF ENSEMBLE
Within two days, Japanese Defense Forces had cleared all the debris from the town of Hakozaki and emergency supplies were being delivered to the townspeople twice a day.

ENSEMBLE MEMBER
SKIES ARE CLEARING,
THINGS ARE MOVING –
NEXT!

ENSEMBLE MEMBER
Within a month, the Sendai Airport, washed away by the tsunami, was rebuilt and reopened to commercial aircraft.

FISHERMAN
SKIES ARE CLEARING,
AIR IMPROVING,
FIELDS APPEARING –
NEXT!

ENSEMBLE MEMBER
Within two months, the nation’s industrial output had increased by a record six percent, the largest increase in the history of Japan.

SHOPKEEPER
WATERS THINNING,
RUBBLE BURNING –

FISHERMAN
A NEW BEGINNING –
NEXT!

SHOPKEEPER
FLOWERS BLOOMING,
ENGINES CHURNING –

BOTH
LIFE RESUMING,
HOPE RETURNING,
NEXT!

ENSEMBLE MEMBER
On November third, the first of seventeen thousand cherry trees was planted at the point where the land had finally pushed the water back.

ALL
TOWER TUMBLES,
TOWER RISES –
NEXT!


ALL
TOWER CRUMBLES,
MAN REVISES.
MOTOR RUMBLES,
ENERGIZES
ENTERPRISES –
NEXT!

ALWAYS STRIVING,
SOMETIMES FAILING,
NOT YET THRIVING,
NOT YET SAILING,
STILL SURVIVING
AND PREVAILING –
NEXT!
NEXT!

RECITER/ANNOUNCER
March eleventh, two thousand and twelve. Thousands gather in theaters in the United States and around the world to support and celebrate the resilience of the people of Japan.

ALL
KEEP REPAIRING,
PERSEVERING –
NEXT! NEXT!
NO DESPAIRING,
SKIES ARE CLEARING –
NEXT!
NEXT!
NEXT!