Paint Your Wagon is a 1951 Broadway musical comedy, with book and lyrics by Alan J. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, set in a mining camp in Gold Rush-era California.
Popular songs from the show included "Wand'rin' Star", "I Talk to the Trees" and "They Call the Wind Maria". (While the name in this title is pronounced as the currently popular spelling of "Mariah," the original spelling is indeed the classical spelling of "Maria.") De Mille later restaged the dances as a stand-alone ballet, Gold Rush.
In the California Wilderness in May 1853, a crusty old miner, Ben Rumson, is conducting a make-shift funeral for a friend. Meanwhile his 16-year-old daughter Jennifer discovers gold dust. Ben claims the land, and prospectors start flocking to the brand new town of Rumson ("I'm On My Way"). Two months later Rumson has a population of 400, all of whom are men except for Jennifer. Prospector Jake Whippany is waiting to save enough money to send for Cherry and her Fandango girls ("Rumson"), while Jennifer senses the tension building in town ("What's Going On Here?"). Julio Valveras, a handsome young miner forced to live and work outside of town because he is Mexican comes to town with dirty laundry and runs into Jennifer, who volunteers to do his laundry. They also talk to each other ("I Talk to the Trees"). Steve Bulmarck and the other men ponder the lonely nomadic life they lead in the song ("They Call the Wind Maria").
Two months later the men want Ben to send Jennifer away, and he wishes her mother was still alive to help him ("I Still See Elisa"). Jennifer is in love with Julio ("How Can I Wait?"), and when Ben sees Jennifer dancing with Julio's clothes, he decides to send her East on the next stage. Jacob Woodling, a Mormon man with two wives, Sarah and Elizabeth, arrives in Rumson where the men demand Jacob sell one of his wives. To his surprise, Ben finds himself wooing Elizabeth ("In Between") and wins her for $800 ("Whoop-Ti-Yay"). Jennifer is disgusted by her father's actions and runs away, telling Julio that she will be reunited with him in a year's time ("Carino Mio"). Cherry and her Fandango girls arrive ("There's a Coach Comin' In"). Julio learns his claim is running dry which means he has to move on to make a living and that he will not be there to greet Jennifer when she returns.
A year later in October, the miners celebrate the high times in Rumson now that the Fandango girls are around ("Hand Me Down That Can o' Beans"). Edgar Crocker, a miner who has saved his money, falls for Elizabeth and she responds, although Ben does not notice since he thinks Raymond Janney is in love with her (he is). Another miner, Mike Mooney, tells Julio about a lake that has gold dust on the bottom and he considers looking for it ("Another Autumn"). Jennifer returns in December, having learned civilized ways back East ("All for Him"). Ben tells his daughter that he will soon be moving on since he was not meant to stay in one place for long ("Wand'rin' Star"). The next day as Cherry and the girls are packing to leave they tell her about Julio leaving to find the lake with a bottom of gold. Raymond Janney offers to buy Elizabeth from Ben for $3,000, but she runs off with Edgar Crocker.
Word comes of another strike 40 miles south of Rumson and the rest of the town packs up to leave except for Jennifer, who is waiting for Julio to return, and Ben, who suddenly realizes that Rumson is indeed his town. Late in April, Julio appears, a broken man. The now dying Ben welcomes him and Julio is amazed to see Jennifer is there. As they move toward each other, the wagons filled with people move on.
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