- Li'l Abner (musical)
Li'l Abner Music Gene De Paul Lyrics Johnny Mercer Book Norman Panama
Basis Al Capp's comic strip
Productions 1956 Broadway
Based on the comic strip Li'l Abner by Al Capp, the show is, on the surface, a broad spoof of hillbillies but is also a pointed satire taking on any number of topics, ranging from an incompetent United States federal government to standards of masculinity.
The hillbilly town of Dogpatch USA has been declared the "most unnecessary town" in the U.S. and is set to be turned into a nuclear testing site. At the same time, the baby tonic (Yokumberry Tonic) that Li'l Abner has been fed all his life by his mother, Mammy Yokum, is discovered to be a potion that makes men strong and handsome, but also utterly uninterested in romance. But that fact does not deter Daisy Mae, who is determined to win the handsome--but uninterested--Li'l Abner at the Sadie Hawkins Day race. Appassionata von Climax also has her sights set on Li'l Abner, but Daisy has hired the beautiful Stupefyin' Jones to help her win the race, while von Climax brings in Evil Eye Fleagle to distract the men. The men, meanwhile, take part in an experiment that makes them all good-looking but not interested in women.
The town is ultimately saved when Pappy Yokum finds a plaque, declaring that its local hero and Town Founder, the Confederate General Jubilation T. Cornpone was, by virtue of his incompetence, so instrumental in the defeat of his own army as to be a hero of the Republic. The race commences, with surprising results. Although Earthquake McGoon captures Daisy Mae, she and Li'l Abner wind up getting married (by Marryin' Sam).
- Act I
- A Typical Day - Dogpatchers
- If I Had My Druthers - Li'l Abner and Cronies
- If I Had My Druthers (Reprise) - Daisy Mae
- Jubilation T. Cornpone - Marryin' Sam and Dogpatchers
- Rag Offen the Bush - Dogpatchers
- Namely You - Daisy Mae and Li'l Abner
- Unnecessary Town - Li'l Abner, Daisy Mae and Dogpatchers
- What's Good for General Bullmoose - Secretaries
- The Country's in the Very Best of Hands - Li'l Abner and Marryin' Sam
- Sadie Hawkins Day (Ballet) - Dogpatchers
- Act II
- Oh Happy Day - Dr. Finsdale, Dr. Smithborn, Dr. Krogmeyer and Dr. Schleifitz
- I'm Past My Prime - Daisy Mae and Marryin' Sam
- Love in a Home - Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae
- Progress Is the Root of All Evil - Gen. Bullmoose
- Progress Is the Root of All Evil (Reprise) - Gen. Bullmoose
- Put 'Em Back - Wives
- Namely You (Reprise) - Daisy Mae
- The Matrimonial Stomp - Marryin' Sam and Dogpatchers
- Finale - Entire Company
The Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Michael Kidd and orchestrated by Philip J. Lang, opened on November 15, 1956 at the St. James Theatre where it ran for 693 performances. The original Broadway cast starred Peter Palmer in the title role and Edie Adams as Daisy Mae. The cast included Howard St. John as General Bullmoose, Stubby Kaye as Marryin' Sam, Tina Louise as Appassionata von Climax, Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones, Charlotte Rae as Mammy, Carmen Alvarez as Moonbeam McSwine, Ted Thurston as Senator Jack S. Phogbound, and Tony Mordente as Lonesome Polecat. Some of the original ensemble members, such as Jeanette Scovotti, went on to have successful careers in the performing arts.
Alvin Colt designed the costumes for which he received a Tony nomination for Best Costume Design. The wardrobe is on display at the Costume World Broadway Collection in Pompano Beach, Florida.
A film based on the stage musical was made by Paramount and released in 1959, with most of the Broadway cast reprising their roles. Paramount had bought the rights to the Capp comic, planning to make the stage musical first, and then the film. The film was shot to resemble a stage set, with the buildings and surroundings in two-dimensions, giving the sense of a "proscenium dividing audience and performer".
According to Philip Furia, the score was generally praised, and some compared it to Guys and Dolls because of the use of "slang idioms" and the speech of a specific region. Especially praised were the dance numbers of Michael Kidd, which gave the musical a "fast and funny pace." However, Furia noted that Brooks Atkinson wrote that the book did "not have the lightness, simplicity, and speed of the Dogpatch folks...Mr. Kidd has caught the spirit of Dogpatch civilization brilliantly enough to suggest that ballet is a more suitable medium than words for animating Al Capp's cartoon drawings".
The New York Times review of the Goodspeed production noted that the musical "was largely a political satire", and wrote "...the musical is cartoonish by definition and hardly one of Broadway's great treasures, but the show grows on you."
Awards and nominations
- 1957 Tony Awards
- Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical - Edith Adams (WINNER)
- Tony Award for Best Costume Design - Costume Design by Alvin Colt (nominee)
- Tony Award for Best Choreography - Michael Kidd (WINNER)
- 1957 Theatre World Award - Peter Palmer (WINNER)
- 1958 Theatre World Award - Wynne Miller (WINNER)
- ^ 'Li'l Abner' at Goodspeed goodspeed.org, accessed August 14, 2009
- ^ Gans, Andrew."Reprise! Li'l Abner — with Martsolf, Burkhardt, Rigby and Willard — Begins Feb. 5" playbill.com, February 5, 2008
- ^ "Li'l Abner (1959)" tcm.com, accessed August 14, 2009
- ^ Furia, Philip. Skylark: the life and times of Johnny Mercer (2003), Macmillan, ISBN 0-312-28720-8, p. 198
- ^ Gates, Anita."Those Backwater Folks in Dogpatch"The New York Times', May 28, 2006
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