Common Sense

Stage production for Common Sense musicalWacky Mr. History sings to Angela that “HATS ARE FAT!” and bets her that he can prove that the “pen is mightier than the sword,” that writing is actually doing something. To do so, he time travels with her back to Philadelphia, December 10, 1775, where Mr. History sets himself up as barkeep and Angela as barmaid in a tavern populated by Dickinson, Paine, Wheeze, and Franky.

Wheeze keeps sneezing Angela’s hat off her head-and without her history hat, she reverts to her present-day self, which causes much humorous confusion. Franky wants Wheeze and him to head west, but Wheeze remains loyal to his employer, John Dickinson. When Paine begins to pontificate, Wheeze ridicules his “crazy ideas”-such as the notion that women mean just as much to society as men, or the idea that slavery is “an outrage against humanity.” Dickinson challenges Paine to a public debate in one month’s time, but Paine hesitates: the penalty for treason is hanging. Dickinson, Wheeze, and Franky mock him in the song, “YOU’RE A PAIN, PAINE!”

Paine is dejected, but Mr. History and Angela cheer him up with the words of “COMMON SENSE,” and Paine goes off to accept Dickinson’s challenge. Trying to put his ideas into words, however, proves to be harder than Paine thought, until Angela has the idea of letting him wear her hat for inspiration. With hat off, of course, she reverts to her present-day self, so Mr. History once again has to sort things out. Finally, Paine finds inspiration and begins to write furiously.

Mr. History runs into Franky and Wheeze in the street-or, rather, Franky runs into him, trying to avoid McSneeze’s powerful sneezes. The poor Scotsman explains his plight in “THE CURSE OF THE AH-CHOO,” complete with a Hallelujah-like chorus of sneezes. If only he could get Dickinson to promote him to valet, he could get out of the stable and away from the horses, which cause his affliction. Then McSneeze remembers the reward money for turning in a traitor and he and Franky dash off to Paine’s house.

Angela beats them there and hides Paine’s manuscript, so the debate can go on as scheduled. Using quotes from his famous essay, Paine’s arguments against Dickinson, who favors submission to England’s will, convince McSneeze that his true loyalty lies with those patriots who are not afraid of change. Because of the power of Paine’s words, McSneeze quits his job as Dickinson’s stable master and joins the patriot cause. It is, as they all sing, only “COMMON SENSE.”


  • ANGELA: Hip, cool, tough, girl with street savvy. Age 12. African-American.
  • MR. HISTORY: Totally zany showman, combination of Robin Williams and Chris Rock. Age doesn’t matter, except that he’s older than the kids are.
  • WHEEZE MCSNEEZE: Fat, humorous bully. Scottish accent.
  • FRANKY HANKY: Small and weak, fast talker, carries a large handkerchief to protect himself from McSneeze’s affliction.
  • JOHN DICKINSON: Well-dressed businessman, powerful speaker, a bit snobbish.
  • TOM PAINE: Bad dresser, excessive drinker, overly argumentative-but not obnoxious.