Time To Go: Reasons for Leaving in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA

Time To Go: Reasons for Leaving in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA

At the beginning of Frank Loesser's sprawling masterwork, THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, two characters are getting ready to move on.  For Joe, traveling is a way of life; he'll stay in one place for a few months, working in the fields, and then quit and go somewhere else.  Amy, however, is a waitress who isn't satisfied with her job, but has friends and is fairly well settled in San Francisco.  Joe prepares to leave the family he currently works for in Napa Valley because he has no reason to stay, while Amy finally leaves because she now has a reason to move.

Joe describes himself as one of the wind's "ramblin' kin" - someone never meant to stay in one place for too long.   He explains to his employer:

"Like a perfumed woman,
The wind blows in the bunk-house...
Smellin' of where she's been.
Smellin' of Oregon cherries
Or maybe Texas avocado
Or maybe Arizona sugar beet."

The possibility of the unknown is what tempts Joe; he finds nearly impossible to sleep knowing there are areas of the country he hasn't explored.  He can even feel the wind pulling on him, with its promises of new people and experiences.  In contrast, Joe makes very sure that there's nothing holding him where he is.  He knows when it's time to leave when

"the bunk I've been bunkin' in
Gets to feelin' too soft and cozy,
When the grub they've been cookin' me
Gets to tastin' too good,
When I've had all I want of the ladies in the neighborhood."

Right when Joe starts to feel a part of the community - once there's a chance he might start forming obligations to the people around him - Joe packs up and moves on.

Amy leaves her home for entirely different reasons.  While Joe seems content with his job and location of the moment, Amy has a tiring, thankless job, and is pursued by a coworker she has no interest in.  "Now go away, clammy hands!" she orders after he asks her something impertinent.  Life as a waitress is otherwise mundane.  When one of Amy's customers has left her a note and a nice tie pin, Cleo details the remains she usually finds:

"...seven million crumbs and a gravy spot,
Teaspoon stuck in the mustard pot,
Napkin on the floor, ashes in the cup,
And one Canadian dime-"

Amy might wish for a better life, but it's not until she reads the love letter a customer left her that she realizes things could be different.  "This is real," she tells Cleo.  "I shouldn't have made fun of it.  A real love letter."  This unexpected declaration of love from a stranger who looks at her and sees "kind of young lady I want to marry" is exactly the reason Amy needs to drastically change her life.  "We've been going home every night kinda wanting something," she points out to her friend, "but wanting what, Cleo?"  The same newness that keeps Joe on the road is what causes Amy to ultimately move to Napa Valley to marry the letter's author - he even addresses her as "Rosabella," so moving would allow Amy to be an entirely different person.

While the thrill of something new drives both Joe and Amy, Amy seeks a stability that Joe has never wanted:

"Now I'm lucky that...
Somebody lonely wants me to care
Wants me of all people to notice him there
Well, I want to be wanted
Need to be needed
And I'll admit I'm all aglow
'Cause somebody somewhere wants me and needs me...
And that's very wonderful to know."

Amy leaves because she wants to be tied down; she wants the obligations that Joe tries so desperately to avoid.  With the knowledge that somebody wants to marry her, Amy finally has a reason to leave her less-than-satisfactory life behind.

Jo Sullivans Amy finds happiness as Rosabella in the original Broadway production of THE MOST HAPPY FELLA

Jo Sullivan's Amy finds happiness as Rosabella in the original Broadway production of THE MOST HAPPY FELLA

Ultimately, Joe lingers a bit too long in Napa Valley, causing his life and Amy's to intersect - which in turn causes all sorts of problems.  But in the end, Amy finds the love and stability she seeks in her new life as Rosabella.  And Joe, true to his nature, moves on...only this time, it's not without regret.

To license THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, visit its MTI show page. Discuss this article and view production photos on THE MOST HAPPY FELLA's MTI ShowSpace page.