Anyone Can Whistle

Anyone Can Whistle

Infobox Musical

name=Anyone Can Whistle
caption=Original Cast Recording
music=Stephen Sondheim
lyrics=Stephen Sondheim
book=Arthur Laurents
productions= 1964 Broadway 1995 Carnegie Hall concert

"Anyone Can Whistle" is a musical with a book by Arthur Laurents and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The story concerns a corrupt mayoress, an idealistic nurse, a man who may be a doctor, and various officials, patients and townspeople, all fighting to save a bankrupt town. This musical was Angela Lansbury's first stage musical role.


Eager to work with both Laurents and Sondheim, Angela Lansbury accepted the lead role, despite her strong misgivings about the script and her ability to handle the score. Also signed were Lee Remick and Harry Guardino. Following several weeks of rehearsal in New York City, the company moved to Philadelphia for a pre-Broadway tryout period. The reviews were brutal and the audiences hostile, talking back to the cast and walking out in droves. Director Laurents, ignoring criticism about the show's message being trite and its absurdist style difficult to comprehend, poured his energies into restaging rather than dealing with the crux of the problem. Also hampering the production was the fact that Lansbury was being overshadowed by actor Harry Lascoe (whose sudden death of a heart attack on stage resolved that problem in an unexpected way).

After multiple revisions, the show opened on Broadway on April 4, 1964 at the Majestic Theatre, where it closed after nine performances, unable to overcome the generally negative reviews it had received. Choreographer Herbert Ross received the show's sole Tony Award nomination. The show has become a cult favorite, and a truncated original cast recording released by Columbia Records sold well among Sondheim fans and musical theater buffs. "There Won't Be Trumpets," a tune cut during previews, has become a favorite of cabaret performers.

On April 8, 1995, a staged concert was performed at Carnegie Hall as a benefit for the Gay Men's Health Crisis. The concert was recorded by Columbia Records, preserving for the first time musical passages and numbers not included on the original Broadway cast recording. (For example, the cut song "It's Always A Woman" was included at this concert.) Lansbury served as narrator, with Madeline Kahn as Cora, Bernadette Peters as Fay, and Scott Bakula as Hapgood. Additional cast included Chip Zien, Ken Page, and Harvey Evans, the only original cast member to reprise his role.

In 2003, Sony reissued the original Broadway cast recording on compact disc. Two revivals were staged that year, one in London, at the Bridewell Theatre, and one in Los Angeles, at the Matrix Theatre. [ Sondheim Guide]

On January 11th, 2008, [ Talk Is Free Theatre] presented the Canadian professional premiere (in concert) at the Gryphon Theatre in Barrie, Ontario, with a fundraiser performance on January 13th at the Diesel Playhouse in Toronto, Ontario. It starred Adam Brazier as Hapgood, Kate Hennig as Cora, Blythe Wilson as Fay, and Richard Ouzounian as Narrator, who also served as director. Additional cast included Juan Chioran as Comptroller Shub, Jonathan Monro as Treasurer Cooley, and Mark Harapiak as Chief Magruder. Musical direction was provided by Wayne Gwillim.

Plot synopsis

Set in an imaginary town that has gone bankrupt, it focuses on the unpopular, manipulative and corrupt mayoress, Cora Hoover Hooper and the practical but idealistic nurse, Fay Apple. Mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper together with her political cronies fakes a miracle--water flowing from a rock -- that they think will attract tourist dollars ("Miracle Song"). They find themselves challenged by skeptical Fay Apple, a nurse at the local sanitarium, the "Cookie Jar", who intends to use her patients to disprove the claim. The patients from the "Cookie Jar " mingle with the townspeople, creating chaos and confusion ("A-1 March"). J. Bowden Hapgood, a patient mistaken for a psychiatrist, divides the town into two groups, the sane and the loony, but refuses to divulge which is which. Nurse Apple, determined to learn the truth about the "miracle", disguises herself as a French verifier ("Come Play Wiz Me"). She becomes romantically involved with Hapgood but fears letting go ("Anyone Can Whistle"). Ultimately, Nurse Apple exposes the greed and cynicism of the elected officials and she and Hapgood are united ("With So Little to Be Sure Of").

The story's point is that "normal" is a euphemism for self-control, conformity, and order, and its moral is that the true miracle simply is being alive.

Musical numbers

"(From the Broadway production");Act I
*I'm Like the Bluebird -- Company
*Me and My Town -- Cora Hoover Hooper and Boys
*Miracle Song -- Cora Hoover Hooper, Treasurer Cooley, Townspeople, Tourists and Pilgrims
*Simple -- J. Bowden Hapgood and Company ;Act II
*A-1 March -- Company
*Come Play Wiz Me -- Fay Apple, J. Bowden Hapgood and Boys
*Anyone Can Whistle -- Fay Apple
*A Parade In Town -- Cora Hoover Hooper
*Everybody Says Don't -- J. Bowden Hapgood ;Act III
*I've Got You to Lean On -- Cora Hoover Hooper, Comptroller Schub, Treasurer Cooley, Chief Magruder and Boys
*See What It Gets You -- Fay Apple
*The Cookie Chase
*With So Little to Be Sure Of -- Fay Apple and J. Bowden Hapgood
*Finale -- Company

*"There Won't Be Trumpets" was cut from the original production but included on the Original cast recording;

*Added in the 1995 concert: "There Won't Be Trumpets"--Fay Apple; "There's Always A Woman"--Fay Apple and Cora

Critical response

Steven Suskin wrote: The "fascinating extended musical scenes, with extended choral work, ... immediately marked Sondheim as the most distinctive theatre composer of his time. The first act sanity sequence ... and the third act chase ... are unlike anything that came before." [ [ "Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers" (2000), Steven Suskin, p. 278, ISBN 0195125991] ]

Howard Taubman in his "The New York Times" review wrote that Laurents' "book lacks the fantasy that would make the idea work, and his staging has not improved matters. Mr. Sondheim has written several pleasing songs but not enough of them to give the musical wings. The performers yell rather than talk and run rather than walk. The dancing is the cream." ["New York Times", Howard Taubman, April 6, 1964, p. 36]


"Balancing Act, The Authorized Biography of Angela Lansbury" by Martin Gottfried, published by Little, Brown and Company, 1999

External links

* []
* [ MTI shows listing]
* [ Live, Laugh, Love: Anyone Can Whistle-A Fan Site]
* []

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