Georgina is a talented, beautiful and ambitious African American woman, determined to have a career. Overcoming many obstacles, she rises to stardom. She makes her way through the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginning of the civil rights movement. Her mother advises her to "keep her place" as a maid on a South Carolina estate, but Georgina negotiates the blocks to stardom from her negative and opportunistic mother. She encounters the racism that pervades society and show business.
Two men vie for Georgina's attention. Harvey, who is white, is able to provide opportunities for her. Her fiancé Clem, who is a black train porter, cannot help her on her journey. By the 1950s, she is a successful singer in an expensive night club. However, Clem has become an Army captain and then a civil rights activist and challenges Georgina's life goals.
Arthur Laurents felt that "the original production was too soft in its take on black social progress during the first six decades or so of the twentieth century. It was originally written with Lena Horne in mind. When the steely Horne opted out of the project, it was rewritten to suit the more youthful and bubbly Leslie Uggams." In the 2004 production, Laurents attempted "to add levels of darker intensity.... However, the music and lyrics are in the infectiously bright and bubbly style of musical comedy, and his efforts in this area reduce the charm and good spirits of the show without adding much of significance in the way of depth or insight." According to Laurents, after Lena Horne declined to do the show, "What we should have done is abandon the show.... Instead it was rewriten for a woman who is one of the nicest women I have ever met in the theatre, Leslie Uggams,--and, God knows, she has a beautiful voice ... she was good, but it wasn't that original show. The show lost its edge, and I must say I lost interest in it."