Ross Carter


Madame Buttermilk

Barter Theatre Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights, 2016 Winner

Full Production, Barter Theatre 2018

Ticket information for Madame Buttermilk

Carly Speranza’s dream is to sing the title role in Carmen. Trouble is, despite her talent and her conservatory training, she can’t seem to land a role in anything.

Then one day the phone call comes. Mezzo-soprano—lost her voice—Carmen—performance tomorrow—can you come right away?

It’s a dream come true! Until she is taken to a state fair to sing for a country music band called The Car Men. Her stage name is Pinto Packard.

You know the Car Men, don’t you? Their song “Clutch Me” was a big hit down at the VFW Hall.

Carly knows that if she breaks the contract, she will never be hired again. And if she goes through with the show, she will never be taken seriously.

Madame Buttermilk is a family-friendly musical comedy with marvelous original music and truly funny dialogue. There are roles for 2 sopranos, 1 alto, 4 baritones, and one female who does not sing. An ensemble of four actors sing harmony with the Car Men and play various small roles. The time is the present. The play is easily performed without a static set. No dancing is required. The script is 128 pages; performance time runs about 2 hours. There are 20 songs including a few reprises.

Wouldn’t you like to take a moment now and read the first 15 pages?

Even better, wouldn’t you like to listen to the songs?

If you would like a full script for perusal, or you wish to inquire about performance rights and royalties, email ross at

Here is Act 1 Scene 3. Carly has just arrived at a radio station for an interview before she is taken to the first rehearsal. She still thinks she is singing Carmen.

Scene 3

Setting: A radio station.

Lights Up: Table and two chairs.


ART And this is our little studio. Our radio station might be small, but we have a big audience. Now you two just sit at this table. We don't have an engineer here tonight, so I'll be up in the booth running the controls.

ART points to the imaginary booth located somewhere out toward the audience.

ART But you can hear me in these headphones and we can all talk just like we're sitting around the table together. All right?

CARLY Yes, sir, Mr Flanagan.

FORD Sure thing.

ART OK, let's do it.

ART exits. CARLY and FORD put on headphones. While they wait for Art to start the show, CARLY smiles pleasantly at FORD, who responds with a big grin. She becomes increasingly uncomfortable as his grin persists.

From this point on, we hear ART's voice through the speakers.

ART OK guys, here we go.

Music up and fade. ART changes his voice to a big, broad radio style.

ART Well, a big good evening to our radio listeners and welcome to Arts Showcase with your host yours truly, Art Flanagan. Tonight on Arts Showcase we have two incredibly talented singers and performers. We have Miss Carly Speranza (Carly beams), professional opera singer, soprano, who will be making a special appearance tomorrow night. And we also have Mr Ford Fairlane, bandleader and singer for the top country music band in this region--I think we can safely say you're the top band, can't we Ford?

FORD Well, that's mighty nice of you, Art. I'm just happy to be part of the band that plays for the wonderful Miss Pinto Packard.

ART Now tell us, Ford, a little about the band. Let's start with the name. How did that come about?

FORD Well, I had been singing and playing professionally for a few years under the name Ford Fairlane, and when my girlfriend started singing as Miss Pinto Packard I thought, hey, Ford and Packard, that's two cars! So we decided right then that we'd start a band called the Car Men.

CARLY looks worried.

ART And we've got a big night coming up for the Car Men. Tell us about it.

FORD Well, of course, everybody knows and loves Earl Conway.

FORD nods to CARLY, who is blank.

ART Country music recording artist. Legendary artist, I should say.

FORD Well the legendary Earl Conway is going to perform at the state fair this year. And we--that is, Pinto Packard and the Car Men--are going to be the opening act.

ART That's quite a break for your band.

FORD That's right, Art, this is the biggest show we've ever done. They're expecting a record crowd. People will be coming from all over to hear Earl Conway. We're totally excited and honored to be chosen to open the show for him.

ART And when is the big show?

FORD Tomorrow night.

CARLY squirms in her chair.

ART Tomorrow night at the state fair, opening act for Earl Conway, Pinto Packard and the Car Men. Now your fans are going to see something different tomorrow night, aren't they?

FORD Yes, Art, Pinto--or Dody, that's her real name--

ART Dody?

FORD Yeah, Dody had to have some emergency surgery this week and it has affected her singing voice.

ART I'm sorry to hear that. I hope it wasn't too serious.

FORD It was just a tonsillectomy. Of course it means she can't sing for a while. Or talk, even.

ART So you had to find a replacement.

FORD That's right. I called every singer I could think of. Now it takes a very special singer to stand in for a talent like Dody. I interviewed a mess o' sopranos--

CARLY (aside) Mezzo-soprano!

FORD --and none of them worked out. Then somebody recommended a young lady who's going to work out real well for us. She's sung at the Grand Ole Opry!

CARLY (aside) Grand opera!

FORD Not only that, she already knows all the Car Men songs!

CARLY Aughhh!

ART Well, let's meet her right now. Carly Speranza, appearing at the state fair as Miss Pinto Packard!

CARLY's looks could kill.

ART Let me start with your name. Carly. Now that's a perfect name for the Car Men, isn't it? Is Carly your real name?

CARLY Yes. Well, it's short for--for--

ART Short for what?

CARLY (wincing) Carlotta.

FORD Car Lot--. Hey! That's--

CARLY Excuse me, Art, do you have a five-second bleep filter?

ART Yes we do, why?

CARLY Because what the—

The next word is drowned out by the sound of a mobile phone ringing. Lights fade.

© 2015 Ross Carter