Judge Dunne imposes a news blackout on a crush which killed 173 people sheltering in Bethnal Green Underground Station during WW2. Eric, a journalist, Zelda, orphaned by the accident, and witnesses protest. (‘No Other Word for it’) Pre-tragedy life for commuters and shelterers is seen through the eyes of Zelda and her parents, David and Paula. (‘Eastbound’). Workers express concern to the Station Warden, Triggle, about the stairwell. (‘Central Line Blues’) An inspection team dismisses them (‘Inspection Song’). Triggle shares his recurring nightmare of a crush on the stairwell. (‘The Premonition’)
Locals clear up after the crush. Zelda and David collect Paula’s belongings, including her red coat, symbolically hung up in her memory. (‘Inside my Heart’). Intimidated by a bowler-hatter govt official, (Fake News) David descends into an alcoholic stupor. He reprimands Zelda for her performance in court and insists she gets a job. Zelda reluctantly starts work at a factory. Workers fantasise about living the high life (‘Keep on Dreamin’). Zelda meets Esther and they resolve find the truth (‘Starting Today’).
Prompted by a sinister government official (Fake News 1), David tries to persuade Zelda to stop asking questions. She refuses and, along with Esther, visits the pub where Eric has been questioning witnesses (‘Last Orders’). Two government officials threaten Eric (‘Fake News 2’). In his office, Eric reluctantly follows their instructions. Zelda and Esther persuade him to change course. (‘The Truth Stops Here’).
As their relationship begins to grow, Zelda and Eric are mocked by the govt officials (Fake News) but agree that the truth must out (‘Centre Stage’). As more government officials hover, (‘Fake News 3’) David reminisces about his wife. (‘Inside My Heart - Reprise’). Furious that the government is being blamed for the disaster (It’s a Disaster), the Home Secretary meets his officials. One of them suggests they blame the Jews (‘Fake News 4’). Factory girls undergo gasmask training (There’s nothing like the gas’). Triggle reveals that the baby boy was rescued by a lady wearing the red coat, sacrificing herself for him during the crush (A Miracle You Can Believe). As Esther enters unseen, she realises this was Paula. Officials attempt to block Esther from entering the newspaper office but she forces her way past, revealing the truth about Paula to Eric. They add a new front page devoted to her (The Truth Starts Here’).
Morrison is relieved that Eric’s newspaper leads with Paula’s story rather than the disaster and resolves to bury the facts. (‘The Official Secrets Act’). Commuters congratulate a bemused Zelda. David, Eric and Esther arrive, bringing Paula’s red coat with them. Zelda leads the cast down the station steps (‘19 Steps’) and embraces Eric (‘Centre Stage – Finale).