Joan & Bette Bette & Joan
An Original One-Woman Musical
based on the lives of
Joan Crawford and Bette Davis


Chicago-3-show-flyer-early-July-2017 Background/Synopsis Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, iconic superstars of the silver screen from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond, find themselves in Purgatory…IN THE SAME BODY! They were involved in a real and manufactured feud for most of their screen careers which culminated in their making one film together, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The actresses defend their lives to the powers that be. Comedic rapidfire exchanges and attacks drag out all the skeletons from each others closet…including: their disdain for each other, their professional jealousy, their failed marriages (each of them had four), their sexual peccadillos, their competition for the same men, their troubled childhoods, and their eldest daughters who both wrote scathing books attempting to destroy them. Exhaustively researched, this innovative one-woman musical presents fourteen songs with hilarious, brilliant lyrics. Fireworks!

Incidental music, primarily from the classical repertoire, is used to represent the communications from the Lords of Karma in Purgatory.


Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Cast: Jillann Gabrielle as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. (Character change is achieved through posture, vocality and attitude with each rapid fire exchange.)

Setting: Purgatory. Somewhere in eternity.

Story: Dressed elegantly in attire from the 1960’s, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford discover they are in purgatory…sharing the same body! What the Hell are We Doing Here?

Joan is able to understand the communications from the powers that be in Purgatory and serves as translator as the powers pronounce that Joan and Bette’s lives and sins were so grievous and so much alike the only way they will be able to atone for them is by learning from each other…in the same body!


Bette Davis in The Private Lives of
Elizabeth and Essex

Bette denies any similarity and declares herself Queen of the Movies!

Joan goes on the defense by bringing up her achievements as the first Queen of the Movies in 1937 and starring in both silent and talking pictures while Bette was still cutting her teeth in her little theatricals on Broadway. They continue exchanging verbal blows about Joan’s sordid past and her use of Joan expresses her contempt for a former rival as she dances and sings So Long, Norma Shearer.

Bette throws it in Joans face that she, Bette, just acted everyone else off the screen and had to fight for everything she got at Warners. And that her mother, Ruthie, and her New England heritage held very tight reins on her sexually. She was a virgin till she married her first husband as she recounts her four husbands in The Lonely Life.

Bette Davis in All About Eve

They wrangle over who had the better sex life and Bette’s hard luck with men. Joan pines for her fourth husband Alfred Steele, the love of her life. Bette remembers fondly her love for her favorite director, William Wyler, and his effect on her acting. Joan attacks Bette for her alleged involvement with the death of her, Bette’s, second husband.

Franchot Tone and Joan Crawford

They recall Joan’s first husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Joan laughs about his sexually assaulting Bette. Bette then attacks Joan for stealing Franchot Tone from her and making him her second husband. Again, Joan laughs, and proceeds to brag that her marriage to Franchot was a “true marriage of artists.” They both studied opera for quite a while with a Metropolitan Opera coach. Joan boasts of The Career that Never Was,

a comic light opera piece.

Bette Davis in Jezebel

Bette derides Joan’s singing and acting talents and blames her witchy-ness on her distant relative who was burned at the stake at the Salem witch trials. Then she recounts some of her film portrayals in I was Born a Yankee Lassie but I Played Southern Bells.

Clark Gable and Joan Crawford

Joan gets under Bette’s skin when she brags that she, Joan, almost starred opposite Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind. She and Gable were a “steamy” major team for Metro on AND off the screen. But Bette’s not having it… and calls her a cheap flapper who likes to get laid. Joan denies that she’s cheap and proudly recounts her sexual escapades in I Slept My Way to the Top.

Bette declares Joan a tramp. Joan says she’s just jealous. Bette brags about her many amours with the young service men in WWII at the Hollywood Canteen, in which she served as President. Then accuses Joan of being lazy and not helping out at the Canteen like she should. Joan returns the venom when she explains how much work it took to become a glamorous

Joan Crawford in the 1940s

star and maintain it in The Crawford Look or Piss Elegance (with Bette).

Then they both attack the body they were given in Purgatory for her looks.

Bette takes us back to her childhood: her absentee father (from divorce), her doting stage mother, and her overshadowed sister. Her survival of a Christmas tree fire and how Ruthie saved her face from scarring and then bathed her regularly into her late teens as a result. Joan takes note. Bette explains her artistic seduction into theatre and her first meaty role as Mildred in Of Human Bondage. And finally her disappointment in not being cast as Scarlett in Gone with the Wind in the tango Yes, She Was Mine! Scarlet Was Mine!

Bette Davis in what is considered her worst picture, Beyond the Forest, but she still gave a great performance.

Bette continues dominating the conversation with her lawsuit for breaching her contract at Warners for not wanting to act in substandard films. She lost, but returned home to the greatest years of her career. But she couldn’t stop herself from battling. Creation is Hell!

Joan pushes her way back to center stage with tales of her deplorable childhood and her sexual relationship with her stepfather. Bette pounces immediately, but Joan punches back with Bette’s account of her mother bathing her into her late teens.

Joan Crawford in the 1960s

Joan continues with more details of her severely injured foot and her fight for recovery and return to the stage as a dancer, the loss of her stepfather, her working her way through school, and finally her life as a “dancer” and her “path” to Hollywood, and her name changes through the years. Who am I?

Bette derides Joan’s acting performance. Joan brings up Bette’s overshadowed sister Barbara and how she used her. They go tit for tat and end up discovering that they both supported their bloodsucking families…including their eldest daughters who both wrote scathing books trying to destroy them. Mommie Dearest/Mother Goddam

Joan Crawford and her daughter Tina.

Bette Davis and her daughter B.D.


Bette accuses Joan of stealing her third Oscar which should have been awarded her for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and all hell breaks lose in a hate fest. You’re a Phony!

The hammer finally comes down from the Lords of Karma in Purgatory and Joan and Bette are forced to realize how much they really did/do have in common. They become more civil to each other and even laugh a bit. The Lords of Karma are pleased and report that they are moving in the right direction. You’ll Never See the Likes of Us Again

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during rehearsal for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?


Jillann Gabrielle as Bette Davis and Jillann Gabrielle as Joan Crawford


Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a publicity shot for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?


Jillann Gabrielle as Joan Crawford


Bette Davis, Jack Warner and Joan Crawford around the time of Baby Jane.


Jillann Gabrielle as Bette Davis


Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a publicity shot for Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte which Joan was fired from.


Jillann Gabrielle as Bette Davis


Crawford and Davis in a rare quiet moment during Baby Jane.


Jillann Gabrielle as Joan Crawford