A Musical Mess
“I declare this Saturday ‘Francie Day’ in River Heights!” Mayor Strong told the crowd in front of the River Heights Theater.
Eight-year-old Nancy Drew cheered along with Bess Marvin and George Fayne. The girls and the people of River Heights had good reason to celebrate. The national tour of a real live Broadway musical called Francie was in town for two whole weeks!
“This show is practically famous!” Nancy said excitedly. She knew the show was about a farm girl who travels all over the country to find the owner of a lost dog named Sammy.
“I have the CD of the show music,” Bess said proudly. “I taught myself all the songs!”
“I hope you taught yourself how to sing, too,” George joked.
Nancy giggled as Bess rolled her eyes. Her two best friends are cousins. They are always teasing each other, probably because they are so different.
Bess has blond hair, blue eyes, and a room full of fashion-forward clothes. George, with her dark hair and eyes, likes clothes too—as long as they have tons of pockets for electronic games and computer parts!
“Just think,” Nancy said, “we’ll get to see the whole show this afternoon—from the front row!”
“Thanks to my mom,” George reminded them proudly.
Mrs. Fayne ran her own catering company. Later she would cater a big after-show party for the cast and crew of Francie to celebrate opening night.
“And now,” Mayor Strong announced as
music from the show blared in the background, “I’d like to introduce the director of the show, Blair McIntyre!”
Nancy smiled as a tall woman with curly black hair stepped forward. Seeing the director was exciting, but the person Nancy really wanted to meet was Kira Swain, the ten-year-old actress who played Francie.
“I want to meet Sammy the dog!” Bess said. “He’s the real star of the show.”
Nancy gasped as the stage door began to open. Who was coming out next? Was it Kira? Sammy?
“It’s just the Star Squad,” George, a bit disappointed, said as a bunch of kids filed out the door.
The Star Squad was a summer acting camp in River Heights. This summer they had been asked to play Francie’s farm friends in the show.
Nancy recognized some friends from school, like Nadine Nardo, the class actress. There was also Marcy Rubin and her little sister, Cassidy. But who was the kid in the big heavy cow mask?
Her thoughts were interrupted when someone in the crowd shouted, “Boooooo!”
“Did someone just say ‘Boo’?” Nancy asked.
“Maybe the cow said ‘Moo,’ ” Bess suggested.
“I’m pretty sure it was ‘Boo,’ ” Nancy said. “But who could be so mean?”
She got her answer as the girls turned around. Standing behind them was a group of people wearing costumes.
“Boooooooo!” a tall man dressed as a pirate shouted again. The music was too loud for anyone to hear—anyone but Nancy, Bess, and George!
“It’s not nice to boo,” Nancy told the man.
“Who are you guys, anyway?” George asked.
The pirate puffed out his chest and declared, “I am Winslow Minty, the director of the Croaking Frog Players theater company.”
The other actors with him took sweeping bows.
“Are you here to see Francie?” Bess asked.
“I should say not!” Winslow scoffed. “We are here because Francie has taken over our theater!”
“Each summer the Croaking Frog Players performs at the River Heights Theater,” an actress wearing a long flowing dress explained. “Because of Francie, we have to perform in the old cookie factory!”
Nancy saw that some of the actors were holding up signs that read FRANCIE, GO BACK TO BROADWAY!
“They can’t go back now,” Nancy said. “The show opens today at three o’clock.”
Winslow narrowed his eyes. “Not if I can help it,” he muttered. But then he threw back his head and began to sneeze.
The girls stepped back as Winslow sneezed over and over again.
“Ahhhh-chooo!” Winslow sneezed. He turned to the actors and said, “We had better leave now. Ahhh-choooo!”
Nancy, Bess, and George watched as the Croaking Frog Players quickly left.
“Maybe they should change their name.” Bess giggled. “To the Sneezing Frog Players!”
“Who ever heard of a sneezing frog?” someone with a familiar voice asked.
The girls turned to see their friend from school, Shelby Metcalf. But she wasn’t alone. Shelby and a college-age girl were grasping the leashes of six dogs.
“Are all those dogs yours, Shelby?” Nancy gasped.
Shelby grinned as she shook her head. “They’re from the Rollover Rescue Shelter,” she explained. “It’s where I’m volunteering this summer.”
“Neat!” Nancy said. She noticed that Shelby was wearing a yellow Rollover Rescue T-shirt. So was the girl with her.
The dogs wore yellow scarves around their necks. Each scarf had the words ADOPT ME printed in black letters.
“I read online that Sammy was adopted from a shelter,” George said.
“You mean Sammy, the star dog?” Shelby asked.
“I also read that Sammy has his own dressing room with a canopy doggy bed,” George went on, “crystal treat jars, and a flat-screen TV for watching dog movies.”
“I didn’t know that,” Nancy admitted.
Shelby’s eyes grew wide as she said, “Neither did I!”
The crowd suddenly went wild as Kira Swain burst from the stage door. She was wearing Francie’s famous blond wig and blue dress.
“It’s Kira!” Nancy gasped.
“Hi, everybody!” Kira told the crowd. “And let’s give a Broadway bark for my four-legged friend and costar, Sammy!”
Bess cheered so loudly, Nancy had to cover her
ears—especially as the sandy-colored Airedale terrier ran to Kira’s side. Holding Sammy’s leash was a short man with dark hair.
“That’s Sammy’s trainer, Carlos Arroyo,” Nancy said. “I saw a picture of him and Sammy in my dad’s newspaper.”
A few of Shelby’s shelter dogs began to bark. Carlos frowned as his eyes searched the audience.
“Uh-oh.” Shelby sighed. “I’d better go before these dogs upset the diva dog.”
Nancy said a quick good-bye to Shelby, and then she, Bess, and George squeezed through the crowd toward Kira and Sammy. As the girls got closer Nancy noticed a white mark on Sammy’s front leg. It was shaped like a star!
A star for a star! Nancy thought.
Mayor Strong handed Kira a microphone. She smiled as she began singing the hit song from the show: “I Never Give Up.” Sammy got into the act too, jumping up and licking her face at just the right moments.
For the big finish, Kira sang the last words of the song, then kneeled down next to Sammy, who howled along with her last note before licking her again.
“I may like dogs,” Bess said as they clapped, “but dog spit is way gross.”
When the song was over, Kira traded her microphone for a pen.
“Kira will now sign a few autographs,” Mayor Strong announced. “Sammy has already signed a few pawtographs!”
Carlos held up a piece of paper. On it was a black print of Sammy’s paw.
“I want one of those!” Bess said.
The girls were about to line up for autographs and pawtographs when—
The earsplitting scream came from Kira, who was shrieking as ink from her pen gushed up in her face!
“Heeeeeeelp!!!” Kira sputtered. “Make it stop! Make it stooooooop!!!”