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8.120873-74 - BEST OF BROADWAY
BEST OF BROADWAY
Oklahomawas the product of the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and opened on Broadway in March 1943, running for 2,212 performances, and winning its writers a Pulitzer Prize (the Tony awards only began in 1947). A film version was released in 1955 starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.
It is 1906 and the cowboy, Curly, opens singing Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin' [CD 1 / Track 1] as he strolls through the countryside. Curly loves the farm girl Laurey and she returns his affections but they have never admitted as much to each other, flirting with each other but both too shy to act on their feelings (The Surrey With The Fringe On Top [1/2]). The somewhat sinister farm hand, Jud Fry, however, also fancies his chances with Laurey and a rivalry between Curly and Jud develops.
Determined to win, Jud asks Laurey to the Box Social and Laurey accepts, thinking this will motivate Curly to make his affections public. Motivate Curly this does, and at the social (The Farmer And The Cowman [1/3]) Curly outbids Jud for the right to a picnic with Laurey. Frustrated and angry after the dance Jud forces himself on Laurey who promptly declines and dismisses him from the farm; Curly is there to comfort her afterwards and the two declare their affections and agree to be married.
On the day of the wedding Jud storms in with a knife, seeking revenge for Laurey. In a struggle with Curly, Jud falls upon the knife himself and is killed. A quick trial is held during which Curly is acquitted of any wrong-doing and the couple are finally married.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's second collaboration, Carousel pushed the boundaries of musical theatre into the ethereal. The themes explored, including crime, suicide and hell, are unlikely contenders for a musical, particularly for the period. Nevertheless the show received 890 performances in its first run, opening in April 1945. The movie, made in 1956 starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.
It is 1873 and two mill workers in New England, Julie Jordan and Carrie Pipperidge, visit the local carousel after work [1/5] where they meet the carousel barker, Billy Bigelow. Both girls enter into an argument with the proprietress, but Billy jumps to their defence, resulting in the loss of his job. Julie stays out late with Billy causing her to lose her job also and all the while, both deny their love for one another (If I Loved You [1/6]).
One month passes, Billy and Julie have now married and it is time for the first clam-bake of the season (June Is Bustin' Out All Over [1/7]). Julie, however, arrives distraught: Billy has slapped her through frustration with his unemployment, and has disappeared with an obnoxious friend, Jigger Craigin. Carrie reveals that she is engaged to marry a fisherman called Enoch Snow and Enoch comforts Julie. Billy arrives to the news that Julie is pregnant and, desperate to provide for his future child, goes along with a robbery attempt orchestrated by Jigger. The robbery is botched and whilst Jigger escapes, Billy is cornered by the police and decides to take his own life rather than be arrested. Julie is distraught and, in an attempt to cheer her up, her cousin, Nettie, sings You'll Never Walk Alone [1/8].
Fifteen years on Billy is returned to earth for one day (having spent the elapsed time in purgatory) in order to remedy the consequences of his actions. He returns to find his daughter completely miserable; she has been ostracised by the community because of the shame brought upon the family by Billy before she was even born. He is able to instil her with his love and gives her confidence to go on with life, allowing her to graduate from high school filled with new found courage. Redeemed through his kindness and understanding, he is allowed to enter heaven.
South Pacific opened on Broadway in April 1949 to immense critical acclaim. Its initial run was 1,925 performances and it scooped nine Tony awards. In the aftermath of World War II one can only imagine the emotional effect this storyline would have had upon its first audiences. A film version followed in 1958 starring Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor.
A profound comment on Western bigotry at the time, South Pacific is set in the Solomon Islands at the height of World War II. Whilst the war rages in Europe, troops here sit in preparation for the Japanese onslaught from the north. During this waiting game U.S. Navy nurse, Ensign Nellie Forbush, meets and falls for the French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (Some Enchanted Evening [1/9]). At the same time Lieutenant Joe Cable of the U.S. Marine Corps, restlessly awaiting orders to begin an undercover mission, travels to the mystifying nearby island Bali Ha'i [1/10] where he meets the native, Bloody Mary, and falls in love with her daughter, Liat.
Proposals are made and engagements occur, however, both Nellie and Cable have reservations about their prospective spouses. Cable worries about the social implications if he marries the island native, Liat, and Nellie has concerns regarding Emile as he has children by his previous wife, a Polynesian lady who has since died (I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair [1/11]). Both are forced to weigh the pressures imposed by Western society against their love, and initially decide that they cannot proceed with the unions.
Cable commences his dangerous undercover mission, for which Emile is recruited for his local knowledge and apparent lack of allegiance to either side. Feeling they now have nothing to lose (This Nearly Was Mine [1/12]), both throw themselves into the operation during which Cable is killed. All is not lost however, when Emile returns to find that Nellie has decided to ignore society's prejudices and marry him after all.
The King and I
The King and I opened on Broadway in 1951 and ran for 1,246 performances winning five Tonys in 1952, including the award for Best Musical. The film version was released in 1956 and starred Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. Both were nominated for Oscars but it was only Brynner who triumphed, winning Best Actor in the same year.
It is 1860 and Anna Leonowens, an English school teacher and widow, is recruited by the King of Siam to teach his many children and instil his kingdom with some Western culture. Despite her misgivings (I Whistle A Happy Tune [1/13]) Anna travels with her son to Siam to take up the post. She settles in swiftly getting on well both with the children (Getting To Know You [1/14]) and the King who is not as infallible as he would like the outside world to believe; shown through various exchanges with Anna.
Meanwhile, a sub-plot involving a slave to the King called Tuptim develops. She is literate and learns about western ideals through Anna, reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and longing to run away with her only love, Lun Tha, who must soon return to Burma forever. Anna sympathises with her desperate situation.
Believing Siam to be uncivilised, the government send several envoys to decide whether or not the country should become a protectorate of the Empire. Anna, who has first hand knowledge that there is no barbarism under the King, convinces him to entertain these visitors with a ball and ballet. The ballet is an adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin devised by Tuptim who uses the story as an allegory to subtly voice her hatred of slavery. Despite these undertones the evening is a complete success and the envoys are convinced that the Kingdom is quite civilised. Anna's Western influences in Siam can be seen clearly when both Anna and the King ball-room dance in celebration (Shall We Dance [1/15]).
This is all undone, however when Tuptim attempts to escape with Lun Tha. The latter is killed in the attempt and Tuptim is whipped despite Anna's attempts to implore the King to show mercy. This behaviour is too much for Anna and she is about to return to England when the King falls gravely ill. She decides to stay in Siam to help his heir, one of her many beloved pupils, when he accedes the throne.
Showboat, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, premièred on Broadway in November 1927 and ran for one year and a half. The story spans quite a lengthy period of time. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the Show Boat 'Cotton Blossom' has a new passenger, Gaylord Ravenal, an attractive young gambler who falls for the Captain's daughter, Magnolia. She falls for Gaylord also and asks the ship hand, Joe, what he thinks she should do; he responds by telling her to ask the Ol' Man River [1/16] who "must know something, but don't say nothing". Julie, one of the show's stars, gives Magnolia some more useful advice, advising her to make sure that the man is worthy of her affections Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man [1/17].
Julie has entered into an interracial marriage with her husband, Steve, (the other star of the show) and this causes problems with the local law enforcement as miscegenation is outlawed. The Captain is forced to release the two from his show and Magnolia and Gaylord quickly fill in the rôles. After the show the two declare their love and Gaylord proposes.
The story then jumps several years. Magnolia and Gaylord are now married with a daughter, Kim, and living in Chicago. They are down and out as Gaylord has irresponsibly squandered their money gambling. It is not long before he cowardly deserts them forcing Magnolia to find a job singing at the Trocadero, kindly offered to her by none other than Julie, who has found work in Chicago after her dismissal from the show boat. At the Trocadero Magnolia is more popular than ever but in the end her father arrives to take her and Kim back to the 'Cotton Blossom' where a contrite Gaylord awaits.
Kismet hit Broadway in December 1953 and ran for 583 performances in its initial run. Based on music by Russian composer Alexander Borodin, the critics disapproved of the haphazard nature of the composition. It was fortunate, therefore, that a paper strike at the time prevented any criticism being made public during the show's few opening evenings, allowing the audience to decide for themselves – and they loved it. In 1955 the musical was made into a film starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray and Vic Damone.
A poor poet is mistaken for a man called Hajj when he is found begging on the streets of eleventh century Baghdad and, as a result, is kidnapped and bundled off to the camp of an elderly criminal called Jawan. Jawan believes this poet to be the man who cursed his son many years previously, causing the son to be taken away; he demands that 'Hajj' remove the curse. Whilst the poet is not Hajj, he is an opportunist and tells Jawan that the curse can only be reversed using his free will – this, he says, can be bought, and Jawan obliges.
Now a wealthy man, the poet returns to his daughter, Marsinah, giving her half the money he has acquired by impersonating Hajj. She uses this to buy fineries from the bazaar (Baubles, Bangles And Beads [1/18]). During this display of wealth the Caliph watches Marsinah from afar, admiring her beauty. He later goes to see her at her house and, together, they sing Stranger In Paradise [1/19].
Unfortunately the evil Wazir, in search of the outlaw, Jawan, arrests Marsinah's father for possessing the stolen coins given to him by Jawan. He is tried and sentenced just as they capture Jawan and, in a cruel twist of fate, it transpires that the Wazir is in fact the long lost son of the old thief. Disgusted with his newly discovered parentage he sentences his own father to death, believing all this is a result of the curse, orchestrated by the poet who is still pretending to be Hajj.
Upon discovery that the Caliph will marry Marsinah the Wazir panics as he needs the Caliph to marry one of the princesses Ababuh – if the Caliph does not, the Wazir will be ruined. The poet and now fully affirmed 'magician' offers to help in exchange for a pardon. The Wazir's wife of wives, Lalume, falls for the poet and helps him to escape the Wazir. He rushes to warn his daughter of the danger they're in, but she can only think of the Caliph and refuses to leave with her father. She runs away, infuriated, and when the Caliph arrives for their marriage she is nowhere to be seen.
Delighted at the disappearance of Marsinah the Wazir sets about forcing the princesses of Ababuh on the Caliph who is so heart-broken he cannot resist. The Wazir then marries Marsinah himself. Upon discovering this the poet drowns the Wazir, allowing the Caliph to marry Marsinah and happily accepting banishment for the murder as this allows him to spend the rest of his life with the now unattached Lalume.
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess is one of those rare hybrids which mixes both popular with traditional musical styles to create an artwork which bridges the gap between music theatre and opera. Its Broadway début was in October 1935 and received 124 performances. This work, however, is equally at home on the opera stage, where it has been performed on numerous occasions.
Set in the 1930s, the show opens on Catfish Row, a fictitious suburb of Charleston, South Carolina to the sound of Clara singing Summertime to her baby [1/20]. Bess is married to Crown, a no good Stevedore, who picks a fight with a gentleman called Robbins after losing a game of craps, killing Robbins and abandoning Bess to deal with the consequences. The community shuns her, but the beggar and cripple, Porgy, offers to take her in; they fall in love.
Porgy witnesses an altercation between a local couple where the wife asks her husband to stay home from work and come to the local picnic; he says he cannot because they have no money and this allows Porgy to observe that he, himself, doesn't need money; he's perfectly happy with just his Lord, his Girl (Bess) and his Song, and sings I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' [1/21]. At the picnic the local cocaine dealer, Sportin' Life extols his anti-religious views (It Ain't Necessarily So [1/22]) and tries to convince Bess to come with him to New York. Crown appears to claim Bess back but she refuses, and Porgy promises to protect her from Crown. Upon Crown's return a fight ensues in which Crown is killed by Porgy.
When Porgy is arrested Sportin' Life tells Bess that she will never see Porgy again and convinces her to come with him to New York. When Porgy returns he has become wealthy by playing craps with loaded dice, but discovers Bess has left – the show finishes as he rides off to New York to reclaim her.
Opening on Broadway in October 1930, and running for 272 performances, Girl Crazy is most famous for the discovery of Ethel Merman (then Ethel Zimmerman – she later dropped the 'Zim' part), an unknown stenographer from Astoria, Queens, who stopped the show cold by holding one note seemingly forever in I Got Rhythm [2/1] as the character Kate Fothergill.
Much to his father's distaste, Danny Churchill lives the playboy lifestyle in Manhattan. In an effort to curtail this behaviour and encourage Danny to worry about the more serious aspects of life, his father ships him off to an all-male university in the South-West. There he meets the dean's grand daughter, Molly Gray, and they fall in love. Danny goes on to save the financially dwindling institution by making it co-ed.
Call Me Madam
Call Me Madam is a satirical musical designed to lampoon the popular socialite Perle Mesta, who in 1948, through her money and contacts, had managed to inveigle her way into the Truman administration and gain the position as ambassador to Luxembourg. This was too good a comical opportunity for writers Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to miss. They enlisted the now flourishing leading lady, Ethel Merman, to front the show, who in turn brought along Irving Berlin. The show's playbill rather audaciously noted that Merman's character bore no resemblance to anyone, living or dead, when in fact it was this parallel which made the show such a success when it opened in October 1950. It ran for 644 performances and won four Tonys in 1951 and 1952. The film version, also starring Merman, was released in 1953.
Sally Adams, the daughter of a rich Oilman in Oklahoma (much like her real-life equivalent), famous for her lavish soirées (The Hostess With The Mostes' [2/2]), has been named Ambassador to the fictional European Grand Duchy of Lichtenburg and here she meets the foreign minister Cosmo Constantine with whom she becomes romantically involved. At the same time, her assistant, Kenneth Gibson, also becomes infatuated with the princess, Maria (It's A Lovely Day Today [2/3]).
Cosmo, however, wants to avoid any U.S. influence upon his poor, but proud, duchy and thus, refuses the aid offered by Sally on behalf of the U.S. In a shrewd move by one of Cosmo's subordinates who wants to gain the position of foreign minister, Sally is persuaded to provide the loan under the misconception that this will bump Cosmo up the ladder to become Prime Minister. Cosmo discovers what has taken place before the deal is complete and resigns in protest, fracturing the fragile coalition and forcing a general election. During the election Sally backs Cosmo for Prime Minister, necessitating her withdrawal from Lichtenburg for interfering with its politics.
All is not lost however; Kenneth marries the princess and solves the duchy's economic issues by building a hydro-electric plant, and the newly elected Prime Minister Cosmo Constantine travels to Washington to propose to Sally (You're Just In Love [2/4]).
Annie Get Your Gun
Irving Berlin's most popular musical, Annie Get Your Gun, made it onto Broadway in May 1946, running for 1,147 performances starring Ethel Merman in the title rôle. The film version was released in 1950 and was originally to star Judy Garland, but she was forced to withdraw when she fell ill; Betty Hutton took her place alongside Howard Keel in the rôle of Frank.
The star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Annie, is an excellent shot, but quite a simple girl (Doin' What Comes Natur'lly [2/5]). To her disappointment she is discovering that her natural abilities, however, do not stretch to attracting men, as You Can't Get A Man With A Gun ([2/6]), somewhat philosophically adding that "a man may be hot, but he's not when he's shot". Nevertheless, she finds rival wild west show performer, Frank Butler, quite appealing and at least they have their profession in common (There's No Business Like Show Business [2/7]).
Their romance is somewhat impeded, however, due to their professional rivalry, but all is resolved when the two shows merge and Frank and Annie become colleagues, rather than contenders. There is still, however, a healthy level of competition between them (Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better [2/8]), which helps to keep life interesting!
High Button Shoes
High Button Shoes opened on Broadway in October 1947 and ran for 727 performances, winning its choreographer, Jerome Robbins, a Tony in 1948. It was adapted for television in 1956.
Set in the early 20th Century, in the world of the Model T Ford and Keystone Cops, the story revolves around conman, Harrison Floy, who returns to his hometown of New Brunswick in New Jersey believing there to be at least a few people he hasn't yet swindled. He targets his ex-girlfriend, Sara Longstreet, and her husband Henry (Papa, Won't You Dance With Me? [2/9]) convincing them to let him sell some of their valueless property. Floy gambles the winnings in Atlantic City, losing the lot.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had been around in one form or another for almost 25 years before it opened on Broadway in December 1949, beginning life as a magazine serial in 1925, before winning enough popularity to justify a full novel followed by a movie in 1928. With the two main characters as flappers the story epitomised 1920s culture. It was almost with nostalgia that it was resurrected for the stage at the end of the 40s. The second movie starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, however, deserves the credit for this musical's longevity.
Two gold-digging ex-Follies girls, Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw embark on a cruise to Europe. Lorelei is engaged to Gus Esmond, the son and heir to America's Button King, but with the invention of the zipper, Gus has been forced to stay behind for an important button conference.
Left to their own devices, the two girls milk the gentlemen on the cruise for all they've got. Lorelei acquires a diamond tiara from one of the older men on the ship (Diamonds Are A girl's Best Friend [2/10]) and meets her fiancée's rival Josephus Gage, the Zipper King. All is well in the end, however, when Lorelei marries Gus and arranges a merger between the Zipper and Button companies.
Brigadoon opened on Broadway in March 1947 running for 581 performances and winning the Tony for best choreography the year before High Button Shoes. The work made it onto the big screen in 1954 and starred Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse.
Whilst on holiday in the Scottish Highlands, New Yorkers Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas discover a mysterious town called Brigadoon. Everything is very traditional, from the dress to the lifestyle and Jeff and Tommy slip right into this vibrant village with great ease, taken in by the McLaren family whose youngest daughter, Jean, is about to be married to a gentleman called Charlie. Jean's older sister, Fiona, however, is unmarried and incredibly beautiful; she and Tommy venture into the hills to pick heather for the wedding (The Heather On The Hill [2/12]) and grow more and more attached to one another. Tommy returns to tell Jeff about Fiona, saying It's Almost Like Being In Love [2/13].
It is only then that they discover Brigadoon's secret: the town only appears for one day in every 100 years, preserving its natural beauty by reducing the influence of the outside world. However, the town will only continue to survive in this way if all its residents stay inside. Tommy discovers it is possible for him to stay if he loves someone within the town enough to give up his outside life and stay forever. Tommy plans to stay, but Jeff convinces him otherwise and they return to America.
Four months later Tommy cannot forget his love for Fiona and jilts his own fiancée to return to the place where they found Brigadoon to discover, of course, that it has disappeared once again. Tommy laments: why don't people understand what they have until it's gone, only to see Brigadoon appear once again to welcome him back in.
On the Town
Opening on Broadway in December 1944 and boasting Jerome Robbins as choreographer, On the Town's initial run lasted for 462 performances. MGM made the musical into a film starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in 1949; unfortunately, a number of Bernstein's songs were dropped in the motion picture.
On the Town follows the 24 hour New York shore leave of three American sailors during the Second World War. Whilst visiting the theme park on Coney Island one of the three, Gabey, falls in love with the picture of 'Miss Turnstiles' (who is in fact Ivy Smith); they all set out on the town to find her. In their adventures they each hook-up with a girl, Gabey eventually finding Ivy just before the 24 hours are up. Lamenting that they have barely had time to fall in love Gabey and Ivy sing Some Other Time [2/14], before the sailors head back to sea.
Opening on Broadway in February 1953, Wonderful Town ran for 559 performances scooping five Tonys the same year.
Sisters Ruth, a writer, and Eileen, an actress, arrive in The Big Apple seeking to make a life for themselves in 1930s New York. They move into a small basement together and are soon out to conquer the town. Eileen's natural beauty allows her to meet the local men quickly, whilst Ruth struggles initially, constantly finding herself rebuffed by publishers. Eileen invites three of her new acquaintances over for dinner but the evening is a disaster. One gentleman, Bob Baker, is over-critical of Ruth's work and is asked to leave (A Quiet Girl [2/15]) and another, Chick Clark, tricks Ruth into leaving so he can be alone with Eileen. Ruth returns with a troop of Brazilian sailors from the docks in a conga line and Eileen is arrested for disturbing the peace.
Bob bails out Eileen and Ruth writes a story about the events involving the Brazilian sailors, which Bob takes to his editor for publishing. Unfortunately Baker and his editor do not agree on the story's merits and Bob loses his job whilst fighting Ruth's corner, demonstrating a complete reversal of his attitudes over dinner. Fortunately Chick Clark likes Ruth's story, offering her a job, Bob admits his love for Ruth and local night-club owner, Speedy Valenti, offers Eileen a job dancing at the Village Vortex.
Kiss Me, Kate
Kiss Me, Kate opened on Broadway in December 1948, going on to win five Tonys in 1949. Its initial run lasted 1077 performances. MGM released the film version in 1953.
Based on The Taming of the Shrew, Kiss Me, Kate utilises the common Shakespearean theatrical device of a play-within-a-play to tell the story of two couples who fall in love whilst on the set of the 'New Musical', 'The Shrew'. Fred and Lilli, exhusband and wife, play Petruchio and Katherine (the shrew) respectively. Lois and Bill, their costars, play Bianca and Lucentio. Bill has a gambling problem and, before the show, has racked up a hefty IOU, but in Fred's name. Fred is currently pursuing Lois, although there is still some residual feeling between Fred and Lilli evidenced by the reminiscences of shows past. Fred buys Lois some flowers which are mistakenly intercepted by Lilli; assuming that they are for her she sings So In Love [2/16], falling for Fred once again.
The curtain rises on the opening night of 'The Shrew' and the play-within-a-play begins. Lucentio (Bill) cannot marry his love Bianca (Lois) until her older sister, Katherine (Lilli) is married.
Fortuitously, Petruchio (Fred) arrives and is not scared off by Katherine (as is usually the case). Lilli walks off stage to discover the flowers given by Fred were intended for Lois and refuses to go back on stage; at this point the gangsters also arrive to collect the IOU from Fred. Fred tells them he'll be able to pay them if they keep Lilli on stage; this they do by donning costumes and joining in.
All is undone, however, during the interval when the gangsters are called off due to the death of their boss, and Lilli is allowed to leave before the second act. Lois and Bill declare their love for one another (Always True To You (In My Fashion) [2/17]) and Lilli returns at the end to be reunited with Fred.
The Boy Friend
The Boy Friend opened on Broadway in September 1954 and ran for 485 performances. Uniquely in this collection of musicals, this show was first staged in the West End. The Broadway version included Julie Andrews as Polly in her New York début. The 1971 film version starred Twiggy and Christopher Gable.
Written in the early 1950s, The Boy Friend is a satire of both a bygone and present age where privileged young ladies believe they will do anything for love. These attitudes are depicted to highlight their naivety of the outside world. Particularly ironic is the song A Room In Bloomsbury [2/19] in which Tony and Polly claim that "one room's enough for us, though it's on the top floor, life may be rough for us, but it's troubles we'll ignore" which they sing whilst enjoying a carefree afternoon 'sur la plage', whiling away the days until the end of year ball. It is a story designed to ridicule the upper-classes.
Set at a finishing school on the Riviera in the 1920s, The Boy Friend revolves around the young ladies who attend the school and their preoccupation with acquiring a boyfriend. The end of year ball is fast approaching and the girls are all eager to find a date. Maisie has little trouble, successfully attracting the visiting American, Bobby, but Polly, who's not quite so forward struggles to meet someone she likes. Her visiting father, Percy, however, is frantically pursued by the Head Mistress of the school, Madame Dubonnet. Fortunately for Polly, an English page boy called Tony (who has recently run away from Oxford in the middle of the term) arrives to deliver her dress for the ball and they are attracted to each other immediately singing I Could Be Happy With You [2/18].
They rendezvous again in the second act on the beach where they sing A Room In Bloomsbury [2/19]. Unfortunately Tony has to leave very swiftly when his parents, Lord and Lady Brockhurst, arrive in search of their son. Polly, of course, jumps to all the wrong conclusions.
When the ball arrives, all the girls, including the Head Mistress, have dates but not Polly. She is naturally very upset; fortunately Tony arrives and they are reconciled. All the boys propose to the girls and everything ends happily, each girl having acquired that 'must-have': the boyfriend.
Where's Charley? opened on Broadway in October 1948 and ran for 792 performances and won one Tony in 1949. The film version was made by Warner Brothers and was released in 1952.
Set at Oxford University at the end of the nineteenth century, two students, Charley and Jack, prepare to woo their girlfriends, Amy and Kitty. Unfortunately, the girls cannot visit without a chaperone, so Charley offers to fill in this rôle temporarily, as he is due to play an old woman shortly in a university production, and has the outfit. With Charley pretending to be his rich aunt, Donna Lucia, the two girls are able to come over for lunch with Jack.
Amy's guardian and Kitty's uncle, Stephen Spettigue, arrives to collect the girls but Charley, still as Donna Lucia, stalls Spettigue, going out to lunch with the old man and his own father, Sir Francis, who has also arrived at the end of the university term; both men pursue Donna Lucia for her fortune and this allows Jack and Kitty some time alone. Following this deception Charley escapes the two men's affections, removes his disguise and woos Amy (Once In Love With Amy [2/20]).
Unfortunately neither Jack nor Charley can marry the girls without Spettigue's consent, and so Charley has to don the Donna Lucia disguise again and convince Spettigue to grant the unions, which he exchanges for Donna Lucia's hand in marriage. When they announce the engagements Charley reveals that he is Donna Lucia and Spettigue leaves in a fury, unable now to withdraw his consent. The remaining characters enjoy a summer ball.
Guys and Dolls
Set in and around Time Square in the early '50s Guys and Dolls embodies the spirit of Broadway on many levels. Its initial run opened in November 1950, and lasted 1,201 performances, later winning five Tonys, including the award for Best Musical in 1951. The piece was made even more famous in 1955 with the release of the film version starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons.
The musical opens with Nathan Detroit, a local gambler, who is trying to fix a location for a game of dice which he runs on a regular basis – The Oldest Established [2/21] permanent floating crap game in New York. Unfortunately he has the cops breathing down his neck and the only place which will risk hosting the game, the Biltmore Garage, wants $1,000 upfront. His fiancée of fourteen years, Miss Adelaide, a local hot box girl (A Bushel And A Peck [2/23]) wants him to go 'straight', which he promises to do, but keeps putting it off, much like his marriage.
Fortunately high roller Sky Masterson is in town and 'good old reliable' Nathan spots an opportunity to make the cash he needs to keep the crap game and his reputation; betting Sky $1,000 that he can't take a girl (of Nathan's choosing) out on a date to Havana. Sky accepts, and Nathan chooses local prude, general do-gooder and member of the Salvation Army, Sister Sarah. Nathan believes he's already won as these two could not be less suited, Sky, a gambler, and Sarah, a reformer of gamblers who believes only in true love (I'll Know [2/22]). Fortunately, Sky finds something to offer Sarah in exchange for the date: one dozen genuine sinners, which he promises to round up and deliver to the mission on their return from Cuba.
Falling in love, however, is not Sky's plan, nor is it Sarah's. Nevertheless, the two, of course do fall for each other. This is all undone when they return to find that Nathan has used the mission house and Sarah's absence to run his crap game. Convinced the date was just a ruse to distract her, Sarah casts off Sky who, ridden with sorrow, refuses to accept that he's won Nathan's bet. Sky realises that the only way to get Sarah back is to make good on his promise to deliver a dozen sinners; this he does by making a wager against the idle crap gamers' souls, asking Luck Be A Lady [2/25] before rolling the dice and winning their attendance at Sarah's prayer meeting. All renounce their former sins (Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat [2/26]) and both couples marry in the mission house.
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