Scene 1 – Time Passing
Morris Phist, aka the Devil, adores the relentless passage of time. Just a tick and a tock, a tick and a tock, is all it takes, to be music to his ears. Time Passing provides Phist with countless opportunities to capture souls. His victims will give anything to delay the inevitable. “At these beautiful points in time,” he relishes, “souls… become mine! Ha!”
Dancers mechanically present Phist’s vision of the futility of life.
Phist invites the audience to visit his rock club, The Devil’s Club, to witness the tragedy of his next client.
Scene 2 – Outside the Devil’s Club
The company performs Out of Here. Edward Darnell is busking an original song called Knife-Edge. His song is interrupted by the arrival of an ambulance. The head paramedic is Michaela Archer, a guardian angel. Michaela and her team go into the Club. Gretchen Wilder, a music journalist, arrives. She is on assignment to review a band she really dislikes. Gretchen and Edward, in song, reveal that they are depressed about their lives. Michaela and her paramedic team come out of the Club with a girl on a stretcher, an overdose victim. The ambulance drives off. Edward continues his song. Not in a rush to go inside, Gretchen listens to him. She likes what she hears. They chat briefly. Edward, totally smitten, has difficulty putting coherent sentences together. Gretchen has to get working. She tosses a few coins into his guitar case and goes into the club.
Scene 3 – Inside the Devil’s Club
Inside Phist’s club, Freddie Hyde, front man for the band Fastlane, and the Phist’s current ‘deal’, is in bad shape. His girlfriend and bandmate Peg tries to help him with the words to the song, Let’s Go Down to Hell, but Freddie is such a mess that it hardly helps. Phist watches. He has run out of patience with Freddie and resolves to look for a replacement. Just then, Edward enters the Club, hoping to continue his conversation with Gretchen. He is a fish out of water in this place. He sets his stuff down and tentatively makes his way towards Gretchen’s table. Before he can muster up enough courage to approach her, one of Gretchen’s male friends arrives and starts chatting her up. Edward returns to his seat, only to find that a couple of drunks have stolen his guitar. A fight breaks out. To add to the chaos, Freddie Hyde is having a shouting match with a heckler in the audience. The bouncer intervenes and the drunks say it was Edward’s fault. Edward and his guitar are tossed onto the street. Phist wants to get to work on Edward right away. He closes the Club and sends the grumbling patrons away.
Scene 4 – Stickland Bridge
Edward wanders onto the Strickland Bridge. He sings None of the Above.
Presently, a drunk Freddie and an angry Peg arrive in a heated argument. Freddie is verbally abusive and drives Peg away. Thinking he is alone on the bridge, Freddie climbs onto the railing, holding his aching head. He is about to jump to his death. Edward tries to shout “Don’t do it!” but Phist arrives abruptly. “Save your breath, Edward.” With a gesture, Phist freezes Freddie in mid leap.
Phist offers Edward the Deal of a Lifetime! In exchange for his soul, Edward can take over Freddie’s life (including his body), and become a rock star, an instant celebrity. All the while, Freddie is in suspended animation. Edward turns down the offer. He asks Phist if there is an escape clause. Taking a cue from a passing mobile fire and brimstone preacher, Phist says “Sure. The day I sing with a country gospel band, the deal is null and void.” Edward is not impressed. “Not much chance of that.”
Phist points out that currently, Edward is living a life of failure. To demonstrate, he first calls up a vision of Bob Guttman, Edward’s boss. Guttman boasts about his plans to ‘trim the fat’ and fire Edward.
Next Phist presents Edward’s parents. Perched upon Ethel Darnell’s, lap, like a ventriloquist’s dummy, is Edward’s late father, Wally, now a skeleton in a fedora. They rant about Edward being Such a Disappointment.
Phist asks Edward, “Really Edward, why would you not want to leave all this behind?”
Edward still is not interested.
Phist tries another tactic and offers Edward a 15-minute trial, what he calls the Wharhol special, a kind of test drive with a soul-back guarantee. Phist slyly adds that journalists will be clamouring to interview him, including the one he just met outside the Club. Thinking of Gretchen, Edward reluctantly agrees to try the Deal. “But just for 15 minutes!”
Suddenly, a veritable army of make-up artists, plastic surgeons, personal trainers, and communications consultants converges from out of a portal in the ground. At blazing speed, they do an extreme makeover. When they stop, Edward looks like another Freddie Hyde.
Phist compares Edward to the frozen Freddie. Satisfied, he snaps his fingers. Freddie screams and completes his leap off the bridge. Edward stammers, stunned by Freddie’s demise. “He already jumped. There was nothing I could do.” explains Phist.
Quickly changing the topic, Phist proclaims, “Edward Darnell, prepare to meet thy maker.”
The pavement heaves and crumbles. From out of the misty ground, a glorious electric guitar majestically rises.
“This is a Hellcaster!” shouts Phist. “It’s got VOLTAGE!”
“Edward, you are getting a new life!!! Do you know how long that is? I’ll tell you!”
Phist sings Two and a Half Billion Heartbeats.
Edward quickly gets sucked into the power of Phist’s Hellcaster. With ease, he plays some earth-shattering solos.
In the middle of the song, Phist halts the music and unplugs Edward. “Eddie, your fifteen minutes are nearly up! Do you want to go for it?”
The intoxicated Edward throws all caution to the wind and takes the Deal. The fine print doesn’t faze him. He agrees to answer only to the name ‘Freddie’ and to keep the Deal secret or go straight to Hell!
“I’ll take it! I’ll take the Deal! Plug me back in! I want to sing the next verse!”
“Be my guest.”
While Edward sings the final verse of Two and a Half Billion Heartbeats, Phist and his entourage slip away through the portal. At the end of the song, Edward—-now Freddie—-plays and sings, the Hellcaster screaming like a wild animal. He collapses in a heap, totally spent and satisfied.
When Peg and Rick arrive, they help the disoriented “Freddie” find his way home.
Scene 5 – Freddie & Peggy’s Apartment
Later, in Freddie & Peg’s Apartment, Freddie is at the piano. He is trying to learn the Chopin Prelude in E minor. Peg is confused. This is so out of character. She wonders Who is This Stranger That I Love?
Scene 6 – Rehearsal and Interview
Later, Freddie is leading his band Fastlane in an intricate 5/4 arrangement of Knife-Edge, the song that he busked earlier.
During the interview, Edward is evasive when Gretchen asks why details of his past are so contradictory. Freddie really doesn’t seem like the same guy she interviewed in the past. He is charming and there is chemistry between them. Suddenly, Gretchen remembers where she heard the song before: the busker outside the Devil’s Club! Since both Edward, the busker, and Freddie, the rocker, claimed they wrote the song, he has to come up with an explanation. Freddie tells her is was a co-write. Gretchen is excited to learn that Freddie knows the busker. She went back to the Club several times to find him. Freddie is thunderstruck. “God! She fell for a busker!… Me!” he laments, stunned to realize that he didn’t need to sell his soul to get to know her.
Scene 7 – Monologues & Dialogues
Freddie and Gretchen begin a romance: They go for walks, dine out, watch shows, dance, make love. We also see Gretchen interviewing Peg and Freddie rehearsing with his bass player, etc. At the end of the song, they lie together. (Fade to black.)
Phist makes a cynical comment about the blossoming love affair and assures the audience that things will change.
Scene 8 – Clouds Gather – Gretchen’s Apartment
It is morning. Edward comes out of a bedroom. He writes a note and slips away quietly. Soon, Gretchen comes out of the room. She is slowly waking up. She reads the note and breaks into song. As she sings Cloud Nine and Seventh Heaven, she dances around her apartment.
When Gretchen finishes her song and dance, someone is at the door. But it’s not Freddie. It is Peg. She arrives to set the record straight about her former lover. Gretchen tries to send her away, but Peg hands her some disturbing photos of Freddie. Peg says she found them after Freddie moved out and thought that Gretchen should see them.
When Freddie returns, he can’t explain the disgusting images—but has to admit they are of him. Since it would be fatal to disclose that Freddie’s past life was not his own, due to the ‘Deal’, he stammers and sounds flaky in his answers. Gretchen tells him to get out.
Scene 9 – Darker Days – Band Rehearsal Room
Edward rehearses a melancholy jazz ballad called Slightly Fatal Bliss.
Phist tells him his fans won’t like it. “They want something upbeat!”
Edward’s relationship with his manager Phist becomes more and more strained. Edward repeatedly cancels shows and Phist threatens to find a new front man. Edward says he wants to tell Gretchen everything. Phist sings Secrets, warning Edward to keep his mouth shut or he will crash and burn.
Scene 10 – Handwriting
Gretchen looks at the note Freddie sent her along with a signed promotion photo. Something is wrong. She wonders who Freddie really is. She sends the items to a handwriting analyst.
Scene 11 – The Warning
Freddie continues to deteriorate. He wants to cancel everything. Phist goads him for his drunkenness and cajoles him to perform that night.
While Freddie is getting ready, Phist contemplates his next step. “Cancel everything? Ha! It’s time I cancelled you, Edward.”
The phone rings and Phist intercepts a message for Freddie, from Gretchen. She has found out that Freddie’s signatures don’t match. She wants to meet him. Phist chuckles, as he considers his move. He rapidly edits the voicemail, making it appear that Gretchen is about to kill herself at the Stickland Bridge. He puts Plan “D” in action.
Scene 12 – Mad Dash & Accident
When Freddie hears the edited message, he makes a Mad Dash to the Bridge:
At the bridge, Freddie pushes Gretchen out of the path of an erratically-driven vehicle, only to be struck himself. Michaela and her paramedic team take the injured musician away in an ambulance.
Scene 13 – Timeless Despair
At the hospital, Phist makes some empty statements to the press and exits. The unconscious Edward is attached to monitors that flash and beep. Edward has an out-of-body experience. He leaves his unconscious body in the bed and walks to a nightmarish place. He is surrounded by Dust-Eaters, desperate, grasping souls in limbo.
Phist enters the nightmarish dimension with a chaotic musical burst. “You will join them soon.” he says. After Phist leaves, again in a burst of noise, Michaela appears and tells Freddie not to lose hope, “You need to recover.” Freddie returns to the hospital bed.
Michaela sings Scattered Grace. “So many cry out for justice or love, but there never is enough to go around.” Freddie is in intensive care, fighting for his life.
Like a magician, Michaela makes a Stetson hat appear. She smiles and dons the hat, playfully pretending to be a wild west hero. She exits.
Scene 14 – Outside the Devil’s Club
The next morning, Phist arrives at the Devil’s Club to see a workman changing the sign. ‘Fastlane! Raise a Little Hell Dude!’ is now ‘Hop on the Fastlane to Paradise… Friend’. Phist is outraged to find that his band would allow such a thing. The Fastlane band members now wear suits and impervious smiles. To make matters worse, his office has been redecorated with items of questionable Bible Belt taste. Michaela invites Morris to hear Peg, now in full country regalia, sing the title track from the band’s new CD Fastlane to Paradise.
Phist hates the song. He tries to get them to sing one of his tunes, by shouting overtop. Bit by bit, though, Phist gets drawn into the melody of the country gospel tune. Mercifully, for Phist, the song is nearly over. Peg does a kind of lacklustre “Hallelujah”. “That’s terrible!” shouts Phist. The band members coax the Devil: “Come on Morris! Show us how it is done!” Phist launches into a fantastic vocal display on the word “Hallelujah”. Everyone cheers. For a couple of seconds, Phist bathes in the lime light. Then suddenly, he is aghast to realize what he has done. Edward has been freed from The Deal!
Michaela’s team brings in an enormous hand basket. When Phist asks what it is, she replies, “We thought you would like to go home in it.” Phist is incensed. He climbs into the hand basket and begins to turn bright red. He gets hotter and hotter until he explodes and leaves in a puff of smoke in a sulphurous explosion!
The band members congratulate each other for a great performance, toss their cowboy hats into a prop trunk, and exit.
Scene 15 – Stickland Bridge
Later, Edward and Gretchen are walking arm-in-arm on the Stickland Bridge. Edward is hobbling with a crutch and one leg in a cast. They greet Michaela and Peg, now a couple. In spite of his disability, Edward breaks into song and dance. He tells her that crutches should never hold you back and sings Stay Alive. Edward does an energetic, athletic dance, spinning on his crutch. Gretchen, Michaela, Peg and the rest of the company join in.
Phist enters, now in a beautifully tailored 3-piece suit. He discounts the enthusiasm of the rest of the company and puts a positive spin on his defeat. “So what if one of them got away! There are so many others who didn’t: Niccolò Paganini, Giuseppe Tartini, Robert Johnson—just to name a few. But now, I’m back in a profession I know so well. In fact—as you may have heard—I wrote many of the details.”
Phist hums the melody of Time Passing. He stops when he sees his next prospect approaching. He tells an earnest young woman that articling at his firm will be infinitely rewarding. “Over lunch, I’ll tell you all about something I call the Deal of a Lifetime.”
Scene 16 – Near the Stickland Bridge
We move to an earlier time. In mime, Edward, with his acoustic guitar, is busking outside the Devil’s Club. It is daytime. Edward finishes a song.
We hearEdward play and sing the opening of the denouement music, Life Can Go On.
Gretchen walks toward Edward. She sings to his accompaniment. Other instruments join in.
Phist arrives at his Club. He makes a dismissive gesture in the direction of Edward and Gretchen.
Nearby, Michaela and her team are dealing with a minor crisis. A stretcher is at the ready. They comfort the patient, a young woman who is recovering from what ever happened. They return the empty stretcher to the ambulance. The young woman is dazed, but gesticulates that she is fine.
Edward, Gretchen, Phist and Michaela sing the final verse as a quartet.
The company sings a wordless coda. Other characters are in mime. Edward finishes busking. Gretchen gives him a thumbs up and mouths “That was so good!” Edward smiles and mimes a thanks. As he puts puts his guitar in its case, the camera slowly rises to give a bird’s eye view of the scene. Phist enters the Devil’s Club. Gretchen takes Edward’s arm and they go off together. Freddie Hyde, Peg and other people walk by. Michaela watches Edward and Gretchen walk away. Peg waves to Michaela. Then Michaela climbs into the ambulance and it drives off.
Fade to Credits
Copyright Doug Jamieson © 2008-2023
Some of the above illustrations are by Set Designer Murray Kimber, from his earlier work The Highwayman. Murray designed the sets, poster and graphics for Fastlane to Paradise. Visit www.murraykimber.com to see more of his work.
Various singers perform on the above demos: Michael Calladine, Aryn Sheriff, Stelio Calagias, Bessy Wapp, Noémi Kiss, Emma Chart, Shadell Permanand, Eva McKimm, Doug Jamieson and Marshall Warkentin.