During an Intermedio, a medley of tunes form the show, a large billboard is displayed in front of the curtain: "Las Leandras, modern college of education for women, superior instruction. Girls of 15-17, preparation for convent entry, mothers in a few months, 10AM - 8PM. On parle français, Speach Inglis, S'parla catalá."
Act 1 (Scene 1) - June afternoon in the hall of the hotel in suburbs of Madrid. Leandro, kitted out in mortarboard and gown, and his assistant Aurora are giving the "pupils" an extremely dubious lesson in arithmetic, political economy, and urban transport, packed with entendres which are too overt even to qualify as double. (Dúo comico y coro: "A dar lección"). Porras hasn't managed to convince Don Cosme to reconsider the sackings, and agress to act as College Porter, a job he feels considerably beneath his dignity. To Concha's distress Leandro has admitted some real students - including a Canon's daughter, a little academe in uniform and pigtails with a morbid interest in human physiology called Clementina. Manuela Morales, a wealthy if somewhat vulgar woman from Colmanarejo with a canary-dealer for a husband, comes in with Leandro and her slow-witted daughter Fermina. She is to come to the school to learn cookery and other wifely duties, whilst preparing for marriage with her cousin. Leandro explains that they also prepare for widowhood, as witness the lesson in progress - Concha and the girls, dressed as widows, and running through a sequence from her new revue. (Solo y Coro: "Ay qué triste ser la viuda"). Señora Morales is impressed by all this elegance, and agrees to return with the money to enrol Fermina in the school. Leandro is impressed by the girls well-developed figure, and by her money.
The short-sighted Postman arrives with some mail for another Concha, surnamed Martinez, director of the Beauty Parlour formerly based in the hotel. Leandro learns from him that this "Beauty Parlour" was nothing other than a high-class brothel. One of the letters to Concha Martinez is postmarked "Colmenarejo", and soon Francisco Morales (canary-dealing husband to Manuela) turns up with his nephew Casildo, a sexually inexperienced booby. Francisco is sure the letter he has sent to Concha - to whose professional services he is no stranger - will ensure Casildo some good experience before the wedding; and when Porras emerges, he tells Francisco that indeed the letter to Concha from her "Uncle Francisco" has arrived. "The Canaries?", checks Porras. Precisely. The farce is underway.
When Concha appears and greets him effusively, "Uncle" Francisco is understandably baffled, but doesn't look the gift horse in the mouth. "And this must be the nephew you mentioned in your letter?" Yes, indeed. Wanting to put her "cousin" off by giving him the impression of being free and easy, she launches into a number in praise of the new divorce laws, in which the men join (Trio cómico: "Ahora es casarse cosa de juego"). Francisco is further confused when Concha present the Director, Leandro, but assumes this is a new regime who've taken over the old clientele when Leandro asks how The Canaries are doing. Cochas takes Francisco away to talk to her companions, a delight he willingly undertakes, whilst the jealous Leandro detains Casildo to confirm his marital intentions. Casildo is surprised Leandro seems to know of his marriage plans, but tells him that this Concha business is all his uncle's idea, which fires Leandro's jealousy further. Meanwhile the lubricious Francisco has met Clementina, a fresh vision in uniform and pigtails. Assuming she's one of the dishes on offer, he is happy to be pretend he's a visiting Professor of Physiology, come to give the girl a special lesson in bones; and when she tells him about living in Ireland with the Canon for six years, his enthusiasm knows no bounds. Time for the next lecture - which is about Pichi, a boy doll popular at the time, who featured in a series of magazine stories. The doll presents himself in a sexily ambiguous Chotis, sung by Concha and the girls (Chotis: "Pichi".)
Leandro bullies Casildo into admitting the "truth" - that he's only marrying his cousin on his uncle's orders, though everyone knows she's no better than she should be. The incensed Leandro tells Francisco that Concha's morality is doubtful - no news to Francisco about his Concha, of course - before leaving in a jealous fury. Finally Porras takes Francisco and Casildo to see another tableau in their honour, this time with Concha as Clara Bow being entertained by sailors of different nationalities in the port of New York (Final: "Clara Bow, gentil star").
Act 2 (Scene 2) - A telephone lobby off the main hall, later in the afternoon. Aurora and Porras are scandalised by the behaviour of "Uncle" Francisco, currently chatting up one of the dancing girls in the hall, in his capacity as Visiting Professor. Even Leandro is shocked, though Porras points out that at least "Uncle" is hardly in a position to object to Concha's morals, and may well sponsor the new revue himself. Manuela turns up with the money to enrol Fermina, although her daughter again begs her not to give her away to the odious Casildo. Porras ushers in another visitor, a highly respectable gentleman also called Don Francisco - the real one this time - come to visit his niece. Whilst waiting to meet Headmaster Leandro, he uses the telephone to ring the Canaries Club, and tells his nephew Ernesto that having found the college he'll shortly collect him so they can both meet Concha. "Uncle" Francisco bounces in, and introduces himself to his fellow "client", going on to complain that he's been here for two hours without being given a proper seeing-to. He is confused in his turn when Don Francisco tells him that, if he wasn't a widower, he would have sent his wife instead. The verbal exchange that follows is completely at cross purposes. How's the music here? Worse than it was, they've moved the pianola. Much beating? Francisco hopes so. Don Francisco leaves to collect Ernesto, well satisfied with moral standards at the college. Casildo and "Uncle" are taken off to watch a tableau of steamy tropical love, which Concha and the chorus perform in honour of The Canaries (Canción Canarías: "El bailar el tajaraste").
Aurora and Porras report that Concha has asked "Uncle" to sponsor the new revue, and look forward to a bright theatrical future - especially if Concha will give her some solo work, and let her marry Casildo instead. The two of them work on Francisco, who thinks they are talking about charges for the "house service" rather than a theatrical production, and misunderstands when Aurora offers her services as a solo act! After some further discussion, she goes off with Casildo to "discuss business". Porras goes on to ask Francisco what sort of women he prefers - meaning, of course, for the chorus of the revue. After some thought, Francisco says his absolute favourites are the flower girls at the Apolo Theatre, which transports Porras to his seventh heaven - just imagine, a revue production at the Teatro Apolo ...
(Scene 3) Porras's fantasy zarzuela scene. First, a well-known local
celebrity, the Man with the Bowler Hat, delivers a poetic prologue
painting the scene outside the theatre, with its florists, rose sellers, its
streetwise boys and girls spending money and making love, on this
verbena (festival) night of San Antonio. The curtain rises, and we see
the street outside the Teatro Apolo, on the Calle de
Alcalá, filled with a motley collection of tradesmen including
Aurelia, a lovely young flower-seller - Concha again - and a young dandy
(El Gomoso). A scene in comically stilted verse follows, with
Aurelia rejecting the advances of El Gomoso. She loves only
Paco el Garboso ('Elegant') - who looks amazingly like Leandro. The
lovers launch into the Habañera
dúo: "Dile al gomoso ... la verbena de San Antonio" which
parodies lovers' banter in earlier zarzuelas such as La
revoltosa, and ends with them agreeing to go off to the verbena.
Paco has asked for money, but as soon as Aurelia gives him some,
he starts making excuses not to go. Furiously, she tells him she will go to the
verbena by herself and storms out, leaving him to go off to San Antonio
by himself. The music strikes up, and Aurelia marches back on at the
head of a troop of flower girls, who conclude the scene with the famous
"Pasacalle of the Roses", Pasacalle de
los nardos: "Por la calle de Alcalá", in praise of the
erotic power of the roses they sell on Madrid's favourite street.
(Scene 4) The terrace of the hotel. After a scene in which Porras flirts with two of the young pupils, "Uncle" Francisco reappears, frantically trying to get him hands on at least one of them. He is discovered by his surprised wife and daughter, and when Manuela explains that Fermina is to learn wifely duties here for the few days before her marriage, he finds himself in a difficult position. What sort of "college" do they think this is? His wife shows him the newspaper advert for Las Leandras, which incenses him even more, and he chases them off. Casildo has realised all is not as it seemed, and has at least unravelled the confusion over the "Canary Uncle". Francisco, finally accepting his mistake, gets Casildo to fetch the wife and daughter back, and tells Concha to keep her distance. Thinking her "uncle" has discovered all, she begs histrionically that he will forgive her, and throws herself into his arms at the very moment Leandro reappears. He too has discovered the truth about "uncle", and immediately accuses Concha of taking advantage of the situation to cavort with the old canary-seller. Matters come to a head when the real Don Francisco reappears with his nephew Ernesto, the spruce young Naval Officer. Another "uncle" is too much for Leandro and he violently attacks the newcomer, who is being defended by Ernesto and Concha as Manuela, Casildo, Fermina and Porras reappear. The curtain falls on a scene of total mayhem.
(Scene 5) After an Intermedio based on the dance music for the "widows", Casildo tells Francisco that Concha's uncle is furious with her, and with Leandro. Francisco in turn reveals that they've been fooled by a lot of theatrical types, and Casildo is equally appalled. Concha comes in with her heavily bandaged uncle, who reveals that "something in the bank" meant just that - an offer to get her a job in a bank, as a typist! Sponsoring an artistic career for her is quite out of the question. Calling him a Scrooge, she goes off in tears, pursued by Ernesto. Leandro meanwhile has had enough of Concha's "uncles" and has decided to marry Fermina - to everyone's relief, including his own. Fermina is such a fool that he needn't be jealous any more, and is a changed man. Before Francisco can say anything, he leaves with Fermina and her mother. The canary-seller consoles Casildo - at least he'll escape close contact with her mother. Porras announces that the girls have prepared a final tableau for everyone, and the curtains open to reveal a glittering throneroom. The Girls play flexitones, as Concha and Ernesto mount the steps to the throne, finishing in an embrace - to the undisguised delight of the whole company (Apoteosis, Coro: "El beso de una mujer".)