In Happyville, everyone is genetically edited, except for one headstrong young woman who upsets the belief that only perfection brings happiness and compels the town to embrace imperfection.
- Concept development Started in June 2011
- TEST – Book and lyrics February 2014
- Composition and arrangement September 2014
- Workshop I – sing-through September 25, 2014
- Workshop II – staged run-through January 9, 2015
- Final product March 2015
- First public performance February 20, 2016 at Scala Basel
The show begins with Luke, whose life has been extended to 130 years thanks to genetic optimization, committing suicide. When he ascends to the terrace of the Gods, the Gods send him back to find out why humanity is procreating in mysterious ways. Luke goes to Happyville, where he meets the young and headstrong Sophie, the only person in the town who has not been genetically optimized. She is an expert hacker, which is her way to escape the overly happy town and its optimized inhabitants. Sophie tells Luke that she wants to get out of Happyville and see what the real world is like. Luke realizes that Sophie could be useful in helping him to discover who is behind the genetic optimization. Meanwhile, the genetically optimized twins Tony and Alex both fall in love with Sophie. Alex loves her secretly, ashamed to declare his love. Tony, the more dynamic of the two twins, openly declares his love for her. Sophie falls for Tony, though she has some doubts. Meanwhile, the spiked-haired Tina laments the death of her brother Tim, who grew up in a medical bubble in a hospital because he had a rare genetic disease. As a savior sibling, she was unable to save her brother.
In the second act, Sophie runs away from her father, who is not happy about the love story between her and Tony. The town sends out a search party to find her, and from her hiding place Sophie observes that Alex finally declares his love for her as well. Luke, meanwhile, finds Sophie, and she helps him to hack into the computers of Dr. Cunningham, who is behind the genetic optimization in Happyville. Luke and Sophie discover that Dr. Cunningham’s success rate was very low, and that no one in Happyville was actually optimized. They only believe they were. Sophie reveals this information to the town, and the citizens react by sending Cunningham into exile. Sophie now decides to leave Happyville, but before she does she hands Alex her necklace, indicating her love for him. Thanks to Sophie, the people of Happyvile realize that they can be happy without optimization as they learn to embrace imperfection.
SOPHIE – the organic girl – early twenties
Sophie is a headstrong yet obedient family girl who works with her father at his organic vegetable stand. She is not shy, but she has a fierce independence streak that has kept her from making many friends. She prefers to go deep into her computers (she is an adept hacker) rather than deep into human relationships. She and her father are the only non-genetically manipulated persons in Happyville. She hates the überhappiness of Happyville. The computer is her only way out. She hacks other computers around the world. She is intrigued by the rest of the world’s misery and battles, and by fame and power. She wants to learn more about the glory and grandeur of the world, as well as about the dark, mysterious adventures offered by life.
TONY – designer baby – male – mid-twenties
Tony was designed to be perfect. Good-looking, a perfect body, good social skills, intelligent and a winning athlete, he is also a good, trusted friend. He is idolized and envied, but is also under tremendous pressure to be perfect and meet expectations. Deep inside Tony suffers. It’s hard to be the Golden Boy, living his perfect life for perfecting the life of others. Tony has always felt lonely, in spite of a large circle of friends and numerous girlfriends. He feels he is loved only due to his “perfectness”; no one is interested in his weaknesses, fears or sorrows. His secret dream is to be“normal” – with flaws and weaknesses, loved as who he is – like his identical twin brother. Tony arrives back in Happyville after a successful stint in Hollywood. But he only wants to find his “home,” ideally back in Happyville.
ALEX – designer baby – mid-twenties
Alex is Tony’s identical twin brother. While designing their dream child, Tony and Alex’s parents decided they wanted to have two of them “since it’s good to have a spare.” Alex was brought up exactly like Tony, but chose early on not to fulfill the role of a Golden Boy. He is a rougher version of Tony. He is a quiet, introverted tough guy, but a good-hearted, honest young man. Alex works at Sophie’s father’s organic vegetable store. He is secretly in love with Sophie. But she sees him only as an old and trusted friend of hers. Alex is afraid that Sophie will reject him. He has chosen not to confess his love. His aloneness, toughness and withdrawal from the Happyvillers are his protective layer for his melancholic heart. The big step he needs to take is to let the whole world – and especially Sophie – know that he loves her.
BUBBLE BOYS – gene therapy targets – male –20 to 30 years old
The Bubble Boys are three young men who suffered from X-SCID (immunodeficiency). They have lived most of their lives in bubbles in a hospital, protecting them from germs and viruses. These bubbles were placed next to each other in the same room, giving the boys the chance to keep each other company. They are best friends, lovable and nice guys. Gene therapy helped them get out of the bubble when they were in their early 20s. They are eager to learn what is going on in the world to compensate for their years of isolation. They started their own business – a newsstand and Internet café called “The Bubble Boys News” – on the busiest street corner in Happyville. The Bubble Boys Newsstand is the central location of the play. The Bubble Boys are excellent a cappella singers, as they learned to imitate all instruments, compose their own songs, and sing them throughout the long nights in their bubbles.
Ron – the strongest of the three. Body builder, volunteer fireman, does the heavy work at the newsstand. Happy-go-lucky, no major ambitions – just happy to be “out.”
Kevin – the intellectual, the brain of the business. Thick glasses, bad posture, bad breath. An observer, the quiet guy.
Tim – the smallest and the liveliest. The best promoter of the newsstand, he knows everybody and everybody knows him. He always has time for a chat with customers or people walking by. But he is also the weakest. He has a terminal cancer due to the side effect of the gene therapy – statistically 1 out of 3 of cured “bubble boys” get sick with cancer. He is getting weaker every day. But it doesn’t scare him, nor slow him down. His younger sister Tina was supposed to be his savior sibling. She was not able to save him. But Tim loves his sister deeply.
TINA – the savior sibling – female – early twenties
A retro-punker, Tina was born to donate bone marrow to help her brother Tim, one of the Bubble Boys, now sick with cancer. She is angry at the world for the injustice of his brother’s condition – and mostly angry about her own failure to save Tim’s life. (Of course, her parents say that they would have had Tina anyway. She wasn’t conceived just to save Tim, they say). Rough outside but inside caring, she is a fragile young lady, looking for a way to belong and find a new purpose in life after losing Tim. She acts aggressively and is a cynical smartass. Only Tim is aware of her soft side and her confusion.
LUKE the drifter – has had his life extended – male – 130 years old but looks younger
Luke is a relic of an earlier generation of rockers and bluesmen. He has a moody, lonely heart. To pay off his gambling debts, he participated in an experimental medical trial and received gene therapy to live forever. For him, this life extension is a curse. Luke is tired of being sentenced to an indefinite, miserable life, and he wants out. He kills himself with an overdose of pills and liquor, and enters heaven and the terrace of the gods. Luke is sent back to earth by the gods to observe what is going on and to report to the gods on what is happening to humans, who now procreate “in mysterious ways,” beyond the control of the gods.
DR. CUNNINGHAM – male – 60+ years
He is the leading person of Happyville and the owner of several franchise businesses: legal advice, health insurance, pawn shop services, real estate, import-export, buying and selling anything. Dr. Cunningham is a lovable wheeler-dealer, the Father of the Town. He looks like a gentle country doctor. He is loved by the Happyvillers: thanks to Dr. C they are as happy as can be. He introduced all the various gene therapies to the town people. Thanks to his contacts, the Best Child was designed, the Bubble Boys cured and the Savior Sibling tested. But he has a dark secret: the test results of his optimization experiments are not as optimal as he pretends them to be.
CONSTABLE – human clone – female – 40 years old
The Constable is the nicest character. She is caring, everybody’s dream community policewoman. She manages the town with a strong and fair hand. Totally, inhumanly incorruptible, she makes sure the people and town are managed by law and order. She carries a whip and a carrot instead of a baton and gun. She is a clone, which is only revealed in the latter part of the play. Is her remarkable fairness and incorruptibility based on the fact that she doesn’t have a “human heart and soul?”