Some musicals promote class warfare. Les Miserables is one of those, denigrating landlords and elevating the poor to a station of sainthood. The Debt Collector aims to unite us all in understanding of rights and responsibilities. The enemy is not our neighbor, our landlord or someone who has money. The enemy is not the debt collector or the welfare mother who lives down the street. The enemy is that which seeks to divide us into classes and make us believe that for some of us to thrive, others must be brought down.
Nobody in The Debt Collector is a saint, but nobody is irredeemable. Take Lottie Lark, the welfare mother. When one of her children shoplifts, Lottie reprimands the child and explains that it is not necessary to steal, because the law already provides them with everything they need at other people’s expense. The Larks are law abiding people.
“Law Abiding People” is the third song in the musical. We actually have two versions of it: the one with Mindy Pack as Lottie, included above, and another earlier demo with Victoria Trestrail as Lottie, shown below.
But the same system that protects Lottie and her family from landlords and debt collectors and allows them to live at taxpayer expense is the system intent on stealing her children, and in time, Lottie comes up against the social welfare system.
Victoria Trestrail as Lottie does an excellent job of conveying the despair of the poor woman hounded by social workers who want to dictate to her how to raise her children and who stand poised to snatch them away if she does not comply.
The social workers also want Lottie to divorce her husband who drinks, and they are planning to force him to go to work so they can garnish his wages for non-payment of child support — and the money will not go to Lottie. It will go to pay for the welfare checks she has been getting. But Carl Lark has no intention of going along with that plan. He is determined not to work for “the Man.”
Eventually, the Lark’s daughter Sophie is removed from the home and placed in the hands of a dangerous foster parent who wants to adopt her. This woman is so liberal that she does not believe in spanking, so every time Sophie gets out of hand, she “humanely” ties and gags her in the basement, leading to a very real possibility of asphyxiation.
When their son, Dexter, who has been visiting his sister in secret, informs the Larks of the danger to Sophie, they decide to ask the Debt Collector to help them rescue their daughter. But in order to reach the Debt Collector, the Larks have to speak with their former landlady, Mrs. Hauser. And that’s when they realize that the enemy is not the person who gave them a place to live. That’s when Lottie apologizes to Mrs. Hauser.
Eventually, when everything turns out for the best, the Lark children sing a song about Landlords and Tenants and how they all need each other. And rather than relying on the police to keep the peace, they all depend on the The Debt Collector, a private citizen who helps keep the books balanced with only a ten percent charge on the debts he collects.
Free enterprise rules!