Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Show Tunes and Broadway in 1956

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In 1956 my grandfather, Carl Ericke, was working at Carpenter Steel in Detroit as a regional manager. Based on this letter I found in his archives, he was planning a visit to New York in the summer of 1956 for both business and pleasure. His escort, of course, was my grandmother, Sally.

My grandfather requested a co-worker (and New Yorker) to buy him a couple of tickets for three Broadway musicals. The content of the letter is typed below, in case you can't read it clearly. The total cost for the six tickets was $78. More than half of that was for My Fair Lady, which meant the other plays were between $8–9 a seat. Less than a movie costs today! I wanted to know what shows they took in, so I did a little research and this is what I discovered:

My Fair Lady, Mark Hellinger Theater, August 14, 1956

My Fair Lady opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1956. This musical production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, produced by Herman Levin and directed by Moss Hart, ran for 2717 performances. Rex Harrison, who had never acted in a musical before, was cast as the phonetics professor, while young Julie Andrews was cast as Eliza Doolittle. My Fair Lady won the 1957 Tony Award for Best Musical. In the same year, Rex Harrison won the Tony Award for Best Actor and Julie Andrews received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress. My Fair Lady received seven Tony Awards in 1957 and three nominations.

No Time for Sergeants, Alvin Theater, August 17, 1956

The stage production of the comedy No Time for Sergeants, written by Ira Levin, opened at the Alvin Theater in New York in 1955 and ran for 796 performances. Based on a book by Mac Hyman, the play recounts the misfortunes of a country redneck who gets drafted into the Army during World War II. Andy Griffith received a 1956 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor, and later reprised this role in the 1958 movie of the same name. This musical also starred Roddy McDowall and Don Knotts in his Broadway debut. No Time for Sergeants won a 1956 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design.

The Most Happy Fella, Imperial Theater, August 16, 1956

The Most Happy Fella opened at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway in 1956, and ran for 676 performances. This was a musical version of Sidney Howard’s 1924 Pulitzer Prize winner, They Knew What They Wanted, the story of a Depression-era Italian winemaker in Napa Valley, California, who finds himself a bride through the mail. The Most Happy Fella was nominated a Tony Award in 1957 for Best Musical, with a total of six nominations (and no wins).

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