Book by Jerome Weidman
Music & Lyrics by Harold Rome
adapted from Jerome Weidman’s novel of the same title.

INFO:

Opened at the Sam S. Shubert Theatre March 22, 1962 300 performances
Original Director: Arthur Laurents
Original Choreographer: Herbert Ross
Original Producer: David Merrick
Original Leads: Harry Bogen: Elliot Gould    Miss Marmelstein: Barbra Streisnad    Maurice Pulvermacher: Jack Krushcen    Mrs. Bogen: Lilian Roth   Ruthie Rivkin:  Marilyn Cooper:     Martha Mills: Sheree North
Cast Size: Male: 4    Female: 5    Ensemble: At least 16.    Total Cast Size: At least 25.
Orchestra: Unknown, I’d assume about 18-20. Could be done with a small jazz-oriented grouping of 5, and probably to good effect, say piano, 2 keyboards, drums, bass.
Published Script: Random House
Production Rights: Tams Witmark
Recordings: The original Broadway production, with that stellar cast! (The show in which Streisand was discovered.)
Film: None.
Other shows by the authors: Rome: Fanny, Destry Rides Again, Pins & Needles, Wish You Were Here Weidman: Fiorello!

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

An interesting show, it’s petty adult. Will work for Little Theaters (rather well, I would think), colleges and universities could try it. It isn’t strong or unique enough today for Broadway, or for most professional theaters to revive, but it could do well being presented by an encores type of program.

Be Warned:

The lead character is pretty vile. A destructive view of the American Dream is presented. And there’s sex at least implied. Not for kids or for very conservative audiences or theater groups.

THE STORY:(Outline form the liner notes, by Curtis F. Brown)

ACT ONE: In New York, just south of Times Square, lies the teeming heart of the city, the Garment District, a hard, sweaty, get-rich-quick world of high fashion and low finagling. After the propulsive, pounding “Overture” the curtain rises on a snarled and snarling street scene clogged with boys pushing racks of dresses and furs, sweaters and skirts from one to the other of hundreds of dress firms that line the narrow byways. But this is 1937, and so amidst the delivery boys, pickets carry signs reading “We Want $15 a Week,” and labor organizers are signing up the shipping clerks. When some resist, a fistfight starts, dresses are destroyed and the non-union clerks who continue to work are denounced as “scabs.” The riot soon brings the cops.

In the office of dress manufacturer Maurice Pulvermacher (Jack Kruschen), the bristling boss tries, between munching pills and calling his doctor, to cope with the chaos caused by the strike. Jangling phone calls bring still more jangled nerves as important customers cancel orders that have remained too long undelivered. To his harried secretary, Miss Marmelstein (Barbra Streisand) – a combination office manager, confidante, nurse and general factotum – he proclaims in apoplectic frustration that “I’m Not a Well Man.” Midst pressures and paralysis, one of the striking shipping clerks, brash young Harry Bogen (Elliott Gould), barges in. Distraught Pulvermacher is in no mood to arbitrate and is about to throw Bogen out, when Harry tells him he only wants to do him a favor. Settle the strike? No, better that that; tell the strikers to go jump in the lake and hire Harry’s company, The Needle Trades Delivery Service, to do his shipping for him. The reluctant Pulvermacher, over a barrel, signs the contract. Harry Bogen, ex-shipping clerk and betrayer of his co-workers, is on his way to parlaying his talents into a fortune.

In the street, Harry jubilantly shows the signed contract to his partner, Tootsie Maltz (James Hickman). Tootsie reminds him that there is no such company as The Needle Trades Delivery Service. “So,” says Harry, “we’ll form one!” But that takes money, and Harry is broke. Unfazed, he knows he can talk someone into lending him some. He is tired of being poor, and this is his chance to go places. In “The Way Things Are” he pours forth his bitter, cynical philosophy. In this dog-eat-dog business, either “you’re the diner or the dinner.” If you are rich everyone knuckles under to you and nobody asks you how you got your money.

Harry slithers up to the Bronx to visit his one-time girl friend, pretty Ruthie Rivkin (Marilyn Cooper). To Harry, Ruthie is only a reminder of the drab, underdog world which he wants to escape, but she loves him deeply. She has always hoped he would go to law school, but Harry is in a hurry. In “When Gemini Meets Capricorn” Ruthie tells him that their meeting just now was written in the stars. Her warmth, her love and faith in him are all the more touching, because she does not know that this meeting is not the result of astrology but of cold calculation. With wide-eyed seeming innocence, Harry has no trouble in conning Ruthie into lending him the money he needs.

In the simple but homey kitchen of an apartment on the other side of the Bronx, Mrs. Bogen (Lillian Roth) in housedress and apron prepares dinner for her Harry. When he bursts in with the news, she can hardly believe that in one day he has gone from twelve-dollar-a-day shipping clerk to businessman. She is proud of her boy, and delighted with a new hat he has bought her. He sweeps her into a lilting dance and tells her there is nobody like his “Momma, Momma,” and he will not marry until he finds her equal.

As his delivery service rapidly becomes a monopoly, his gifts to his mother become more lavish. In a montage of passing time he gives her a dress, coat and finally a fur stole – delivered to her together with the announcement that he is starting his own dress business.

In the Club Riorhumba, Harry has made a date with Martha Mills (Sheree North), Broadway showgirl. Hotshot Harry bribes the bartender to page him and impress Martha. But she is not fooled by his ploy. Like Harry, she is on the make, harder than the diamonds that befriend her. He becomes ten thousand dollars richer when he sells out his share of the Delivery Service to the delighted Tootsie. Score one for Harry: he has sold Tootsie half of nothing since growing competitors in their once-monopolized field will soon make the business worthless. Martha’s view of Harry takes on a new color, the color of greenbacks, as she sees in him a kindred heel. To “The Sound of Money” Harry celebrates his doll and dollars, as they do a dance while a crystal ball revolves above them casting silver-dollar reflections on stage and audience.

Bent on forming his own firm, Apex Modes, Inc., Harry capitalizes on Momma Bogen’s gemütlichkeit and gefilte fish to win over two of the best men in the business, Meyer Bushkin (Ken Le Roy), Pulvermacher’s chief dress designer, and Teddy Asch (Harold Lang), crackerjack salesman. In “Family Way” all is loving trust, with Harry, Teddy, Meyer and his wife Blanche (Bambi Linn), Harry’s mother and the ever-faithful Ruthie (the latter invited to the Bogen flat for the evening as window-dressing to impress the partners). A Cossack-like kazatske, traditional dance of joy at European celebrations, solemnizes the new partnership. Although Harry remains single and Ruthless, his marriage to money is now complete. When the men leave, Ruthie tells Mrs. Bogen she is sure Harry will propose now. But Momma warns Ruthie not to count on Harry “Too Soon.”

Before Ruthie’s house, Harry fends off the broad hints about marriage which she conveys in “Who Knows?,” a description of her Mr. Right. Taking the shortest route to his heart, she tells him of the ten-thousand-dollar dowry her future husband will get from her father. But Harry, with Tootsie’s ten thousand safely in his hands, doesn’t need her money now, and incapable of giving her the love she needs, turns her down.

The great day has arrived, the first showing of Apex Modes’ line of dresses to the big wholesale buyers. All is wild confusion-hem pressings, fittings, lunch orders. In the midst of it all is Miss Marmelstein, who has also left Pulvermacher for Harry Bogen. Momma Bogen is amazed at all this activity and Harry assures her they will soon be rich. Asch is appalled at Harry’s extravagance – quarts of expensive perfume to the buyers, cases of champagne. Every cent they own has been spent and they have yet to sell a dress! Harry calls Teddy and Meyer small-time penny-pinchers, afraid of money, while he, Harry, is having a romance with it. Underneath, however, he is as jittery as they. If the buyers are impressed, they are made; if not, they are ruined.

Meyer and his wife Blanche have a romance too – with each other, after all their years of marriage. Swept along though they are by Bogen’s pursuit of the purse, within them is a calm center of love (“Have I Told You Lately?”). As the excitement and anticipation mount, the entire ensemble breaks into the “Ballad of the Garment Trade.” All hold their breath as the tournament of the poses starts in an elegant parade of models, while behind the scenes mayhem and suspense reign as the girls wriggle in and out of dresses. The star model is Harry’s showgirl doxie, Martha, on the payroll at three hundred dollars per week. When the buyers buy, Harry Bogen is made. So is Martha – in exchange for a diamond bracelet, she tosses him the key to her apartment. At last, Harry has all that money can buy.

ACT TWO: Harry has moved to the top of the world – a penthouse apartment. Hosting a lavish bar mitzvah for Blanche and Meyer’s son, Sheldon (Steve Curry), Harry gives the boy a check to cover his first year’s college tuition (“A Gift Today”). Teddy, however, soon discovers what we have known all along: that Harry is a crook. Not only has he used company funds for the party, but for the “generous” gift of money too. And there is also a little matter of Martha’s diamond bracelet. Harry, brazen as ever, blames Miss Marmelstein for drawing the checks on the company’s account instead of his own. His assurance that all will be corrected fails to impress Teddy, who tells Meyer that Harry is robbing them blind. Teddy resolves to check the books further.

At the office, Miss Marmelstein, overworked and undervalued, laments her anonymity. Why doesn’t anyone call her Yetta or boobala or Passion Pie? Why must she always be merely “Miss Marmelstein”?

Teddy, ashen with anger, has uncovered the full extent of Harry’s crookedness. “From now on,” he says, “I sign all the checks!” When gullible Meyer stands by Harry, Teddy quits the firm. Once more, Harry hears “The Sound of Money” as he tells Meyer how they can milk the company and put the money in another bank account. With Bogen’s usual calculation (“just to show my honesty”), he sees to it that the account will be in Meyer’s name. Naive and not-very-bright Meyer agrees.

Things begin to close in. Miss Marmelstein warns Meyer that their accounts are in bad shape. Ruthie warns Harry that his creditors have hired the lawyer she now works for. She also tells him her boss has proposed to her (“A Funny Thing Happened”), but Harry is unmoved.

With Harry sheared of his golden fleece, Martha Mills takes it on the lam, and finds greener pastures with Teddy Asch. At the Club Oasis, in the hard-driving dance duet, “What’s In It For Me?” they drive a hard bargain: Martha gets more diamonds, and Teddy joins her private key club.

Bankruptcy! Apex Modes, Inc. is stripped to the walls, while Teddy contemplates Harry’s worthless IOU’s for his share of the business. Miss Marmelstein and the staff, still blinded by Harry’s charm, watch in agony as the workmen lug off dummies, tape-measures and cloth, dresses and desks (“What Are They Doing to Us Now?”)

All injured innocence, Harry tells his mother about the bankruptcy and Meyer’s bank account. He is unrepentant as Meyer faces prison, but while Momma Bogen urges him to “Eat a Little Something,” she realizes her own guilt in taking Harry’s gifts.

With his usual gall, Harry puts the bite on Pulvermacher for the money to save Meyer from prison. Not in order to ease his own non-existent conscience, mind you, but to please his mother. In his shekel-skin shell, Momma is his one Achilles’ heel, but he remains a heel nonetheless. Pulvermacher does more than lend him the money, he gives him a job.

His present taken care of, tinhorn Harry plans for the future with a sour note. He accepts Ruthie’s proposal – and her father’s ten thousand dollars.

THE SONGS:

“I’m Not a Well Man”, “The Way Things Are “, “When Gemini Meets Capricorn”, “Momma, Momma, Momma”, “The Sound of Money”, “The Family Way”, “Too Soon”, “Who Knows?”, “Have I Told You Lately?”, “Ballad of the Garment Trade”,”A Gift Today”, “Miss Marmelstein”, “The Sound of Money (Reprise)”, “A Funny Thing Happened”, “What’s in It for Me?”, “What Are They Doing to Us Now?”, “Eat a Little Something”, “Epilogue”

Hits include Miss Marmelstein

MY OPINIONS:

As always, feel free to skip or ignore my opinions and rating. And if your production ends up looking like you bought it wholesale, well, you get what you pay for.

Wholesale is an interesting musical. It is a truly dark look at and makes a pointed attack on the American Dream. It shares numerous qualities with How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Pal Joey and particularly with What Makes Sammy Run, all shows with absolutely vile leading male characters. Wholesale is a better written show than What Makes Sammy Run, which is a very unlikeable portrait of a self-possessed, self-involved man who does not mind throwing others under the bus. Matter of fact, Sammy Glick and Harry Bogen are at least second cousins in a spiritual sense. Both shows are rather noxious portraits of such the sort of man your mother warned you about. Pal Joey is equally difficult given the nasty folk that populate it. These three grim shows can really only be done by a company with an exceedingly, inherently likable leading man. (How To Succeed is in a league of its own, is actually a Musical Comedy unlike these other shows, and is a much finer entertainment.) Still, these are all shows with an anti-hero while sporting a superior score and book, and they’re all worthy of consideration.

Yes, Wholesale’s score is superior, easily the best score Mr. Rome composed, in my opinion. (He did do a musical version of Gone With The Wind that ran something like 9 hours when it opened in Japan, and 4 hours when it opened in Los Angeles. I had the great misfortune to see it in L.A., where as I recall, a train and several horses got most of the applause. I had the great good fortune to miss it in Japan. I have the album. Want to hear it? I didn’t think so.) Generally, when in Rome, I look for the exit. He is pretty far removed from my favorite writer of Musical Theater. I find much of his work trite, and even boring. His version of Destry Rides Again gets a vote as one of the most dull, flat scores ever written. But not so Wholesale. Though the score is not gold, it is at least silver and shiny.

The music here is more creative and melodic than his other scores. It’s true, there’s a bit too much Jewish in this score, and some of the more ethnic material is fairly trite and stereotypical. A little goes a long way, and some of the “Jewish” material might be edited. It would help the show. (“Family Way” could vanish easily, I would think, and is somewhat embarrassing, speaking as someone raised in the Jewish faith.) Some of the songs truly stand out, and the material Mr. Rome developed for Barbra Streisand in what was effectively her Broadway showcase served her very well indeed! “Miss Marmelstein” is a delight, but so is her other material. “Eat A Little Something” is passionate and heart-breaking. And I really do enjoy “Not A Well Man”, it’s clever in construction and makes me laugh out loud. There are neat counterpoints and some nicely aggressive dance pieces. Some of the score sounds like Fiddler On The Roof, which would not be authored for a few years yet. All in all, a reasonably impressive and fun score. (Cut “Too Soon” if you can, the low point in the score and inexplicably, coming from Harry’s mother. A real misstep.)

Today, no one much remembers the NYC garment district life style of the 50s. Which makes the book an interesting surprise. Just as is true with Mr. Weidman’s other (and better) musical, Fiorello, the man took a subject recalled from his own youth and wove a compelling story and characters that manage to speak eloquently about America and the American Dream to this day. Weidman had a real gift for evoking a period in NYC history, and in telling a tale in musical theater terms. It’s a gift apparently passed down to his son John, who authored very able libretti for Pacific Overtures (one of my favorite shows), Assassins, and Anything Goes (the fine revival). Now, there’s a talented family!

And look at that Original Cast Album! One of the most star-studded casts in Musical Theater history! Streisand as her career is starting, joined by Elliot Gould (they married in real life), Lillian Roth, Jack Kruschen, Marilyn Cooper, Sheree North, Bambi Linn, and Kiss Me Kate‘s Harold Lang. Well worth a listen. A lot of top talent (Laurents, Ross, and the abominable showman himself, David Merrick) believed in this show, and I can see why. But to make it work today, a little less of the Jewish feel may be needed, less concern about the garment industry and more about the man, Harry, and his feverish grasping at the American Dream gone wrong. The garment industry needs to been seen as a stand in for all American (or International) business and money-making schemes, and Harry Bogen viewed as a prototype, the kind of self-involved, take no prisoners, spend-other-people’s-money executive that caused the crash of 2008. As long as such pigs live and glut, carefully hidden amongst the human population, shows like Wholesale will remain unfortunately timely.

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)

 

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

Rome’s score is somewhat complex, with rich rhythms and interesting harmonic and melodic variations. A fine musician will be required to play and teach the score. It will help if the have a good grasp on typical musical theater forms, Yiddish music, and the idea that character comes before a pretty sound. Get an experienced Musical Director for this one.

Harry – Baritone with an energetic, well-controlled voice capable of some expression of emotion, or none when called for.

Mrs. Bogen – Mature mezzo, not too hard a role to sing, but does a lot of singing.

Miss Marmelstein – Mezzo with a warm, full belt, high notes that open up. Will be compared as a performer to Barbra Streisand. Good luck with that.

Ruthie – Alto, full middle register, sings with fine control and emotion.

Blanche – Mezzo, emotional, a fine belt.

Teddy – Baritone with a fairly large range, clean top notes, some warmth.

Meyer – Lyric baritone, a character-driven voice with good control and a decent mid-register.

Martha – Mezzo with a sexy, warm voice, a decent belt.

Pulvermacher – Baritone.

Ensemble – All must sing well, do some belting, harmonize.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

The show could support some real choreography. The larger “ethnic” numbers will need the energy provided by movement to help them along. So will some of the numbers about the garment trade. Movement will need to be fun to watch, and entertaining. The dance, in the case of this show, should be something the audience talks about, to help counterbalance the dark book. This is not really a Musical Comedy, but rather a Musical Play, and the dance is needed to lighten up the evening.

A Choreographer for Wholesale will need to be comfortable with ethnic “Jewish” dance, as well as Broadway forms. You’ll need an ensemble that can sing a bit, dance a lot, and act.

Numbers that a Choreographer may need to stage include “Momma, Momma, Momma”, “The Sound of Money”, “The Family Way”, “Ballad of the Garment Trade”, “A Gift Today”, “What’s in It for Me?”, and “What Are They Doing to Us Now?”

The “ethnic” songs included in your chores are “Momma, Momma, Momma”, “The Family Way”, and “A Gift Today.” For me, this is too much of a good thing. You’ll need to make each of these numbers feel unique.

“Momma, Momma, Momma” is basically a solo for Harry, sung to his mother. He should dance with her, celebrate her. It will be important to establish early in the show that he’s got some kind of heart, even if this number is just another con. He could dance with her, with a scarf held in the air between them (a traditional type of movement), and then even take her in his arms. The feel should be simple and ethnic rather than athletic, it’s a hard song to sing, a patter verse. Let him sing, and allow the movement a more leisurely, sweet intimacy.

“The Family Way” is a display of salesmanship. It is a man using his ethnicity to sell others of his ethnicity. It is anything but heartfelt on Harry’s part, as he will later throw all these people under the bus. But it is high energy and pretty ethnic. If you’ve ever attended a Jewish wedding, you’ll know the sort of movement you need here. (And it is as if these characters are all getting married.) If you have never attended a Jewish wedding…where have you been all your life, and why are you doing this musical?

“A Gift Today” is the after-party between “friends” and partners, celebrating a young mans bar mitzvah. They each offer the boy their blessing. I think it’s meant to show us that they are all a tight-knit group, with a snake in the center they are unaware of. The number feels like an odd way to open an act, being rather low key. You’ll need to provide a sense of impending doom about the proceedings to make this interesting.

“The Sound of Money” is a sort of jazzy, somewhat aggressive celebration of, well, everyone’s favorite piece of paper. I’d keep it disproportionately tongue-in-cheek, as light as a feather. Don’t allow this to feel too serious or heartfelt, it won’t hold up.

Then, the Miss Marmelstein numbers. “Ballad Of The Garment District”, “Miss Marmelstein” and “What Are They Doing To Us Now” all focus around this able and willing secretary who, in her own way, will do almost anything to succeed. She suffers long and loudly. “Garment District” ends Act II, and it an up-tight, pressure-cooker of a number ending with triumph. Keep the pressure going as lomng as possible – will they succeed and their line be a hit – because when it ends, it’s all anti-climax thereafter. Movement should give way for story-telling here. Make sure the story points are very clearly presented, and work closely with your Director on this one.

“Miss Marmelstein” is the comic gem of the score. But it must be really sung, so the movement can’t get to physical. The famous shot of Streisand leaning back in an office chair provides a clue as to how this can be done. The chair can turn and wheel about, so she can face new demand as they rapidly pile up from every corner…and perhaps get dizzy in the process. Just keep her as the entire focus of the number, don’t bring on anyone else, they’re just voices.

“What Are They Doing To Us Now” is a big 11:00 number, the number meant to wake the audience up just before the end of the show. It is a comic and guttural cry of agony, a complaint issued to the Gods. Make it almost religious in a primitive man sort of way. And make it fun.

This show calls for a rather expert Choreographer who knows how to sustain character development through movement, while creating some real movement, perhaps with a lot of non-dancers.

CASTING CONCERNS:

A general note – Nearly every character must be comfortable with Yiddish and some Hebrew.

Harry – In his 20s-30s. Charming, a schmoozer, a salesman. Only this salesman doesn’t die, he kills everyone in his way instead. A man with a destiny, at least in his own mind. Relentless, heartless, almost reptilian, but able to hide all of that below a veneer of humor and charm. A truly dangerous man. Requires a very fine actor with quite a range, who can pick the few spots where vulnerability might be called for and deliver them. Must sing very well. Cast for acting, voice, type, movement, some Yiddish and Hebrew, in that order, but should be good at everything. A star.

Mrs. Bogen – 50s ish. Harry’s Yiddisha mamma. (Don’t get that reference? You shouldn’t do this show, then!) Adores her son, but is not blind to his failings. She, too, wishes to have a destiny of comfort and wealth, and it misleads her. A great cook, and she knows it. Must perform with genuine feeling, and a real sense of the Jewish qualities of the character, no contrivances there. Cast for acting, voice, type. Get someone very strong for this role.

Miss Marmelstein – 20s-30s. The eternally ignored, incredibly capable secretary. She’s pretty ethnic, folks, you can’t get around it in casting. Requires a very gifted comic actress who can mug with the best, who can really sing, and who moves well. A terrific role for a character actress.

Ruthie – Around Harry’s age, and in love with him quietly for a long time. Like Harry’s mom, Ruthie sees both sides of Harry – but she never stops believing in him, even to the bitter end. She is persistent, bright, loving. He does not deserve her. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement.

Blanche – In her 30s-40s, Meyer’s wife. A good and honest soul, completely supportive of her husband and his artistry. Likable, direct. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement.

Teddy – In his 40s-50s, a salesman like Harry, with just a touch more honest. Smart, clever, sweaty, with a sense of urgency. Cast for acting, voice, type, some movement. Get a strong actor.

Meyer – In his 30s-40s, a clothing designer with real skill and flair. Pragmatic, dryly amusing, a worry-wort. A gentle and likable man. Quite ethnic. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Martha – 20s, a delicious, sexy woman with a great figure, who knows how to use it. A man trap. Cast for type, voice, acting, some movement.

Pulvermacher – 40s-60s, an experienced executive who suffers long and loudly, but who is honest and trustworthy. Cast for acting, type.

Ensemble – All must sing and move well enough., and be right for the garment district in NYC, 1930s.

SETS:

There are many sets indicated in the script. This is a rather large show in that regard. You will want to create the feel for 1930s NYC – the garment district, apartment buildings, the whole schmeer. (Don’t know what that means? You’re in trouble again!) Offices and clothing factories are busy, messy, possibly even dirty. They’re crowded with machines and people running and boxes of buttons and you name it.

Apartments are small, cozy, clean, with sweet and inviting furniture, and lots of Judaica on display, including a mezuzzah at each door. (What’s that, you ask? Do another show!) Family photos everywhere. Everything kept up as well as it can be given often limited funds.

The look of this period and place is easily researched in photos and film. You’ll need to do understand it well.

I suggest that this show may require something I don’t like much – drops or dropped sets, and hence, a well-developed fly system. There’s just too many locations called for, and a unit set isn’t likely to work going back and forth from the three main “settings”, a clothing factory, apartments, and a showroom where the clothes are marched out for clients. Not to mention the nightclub scenes.

There are 17 scenes indicated in the script. Some are street scenes, and these could be played out on the apron, “in one.” That takes care of Act I, scene 1, 3, 4 and 8. A streetlight rolled on, or a stoop of a few steps. Keep these very simple.

The office of Pulvermacher is used twice, at the start and end of the show. It is a busy, crowded place, but I’d keep that set small, isolated to a corner of the stage and easy to remove. A desk, a few chairs, perhaps a door with a name on it, a fan overhead moving slowly. Must be easily removed.

Mrs. Bogen’s kitchen is the set for Act I scenes 5, 7, and Act II, scene 6. A small dining table, the implication of a stove, an oven, even an icebox from the period. But I wouldn’t go to real with the kitchen stuff unless you have a great designer. This set must be a push on, something brought on on a cart and pulled off, basically. Too many other scenes. Oh, and she keeps kosher. (Don’t know what that means? Do Hello, Dolly!) Probably need to roll this on and off.

The Acme Modes Inc factory is used for Act I scenes 9, 10 (a runway into the house perhaps for 10), and Act II, scenes 2, 3 and 6. Another busy, crowded factory like the one in scene 2, the opening of Act I, but a bit more upscale and new. Use the same boxes and elements. Have the fan work better. This set might take up a lot of the stage, toward the back, with playing area (and a runway) downstage.

For Harry’s Penthouse, which opens Act II, I’d drop a backdrop of some sort mid stage, hiding Acme behind it, so it can be raised and reveal the factory for scene 2. Bring in a long, comfy and expensive couch, perhaps a raised level for the young man to make his speech.

Two more scenes are in the Club Rio, backstage. A small, dumpy backstage with an artist’s entrance and a few chairs – keep this VERY simple and easy to bring on and off.

All in all, a large job requiring almost everything to be built. You’ll need an excellent designer with an eye for the period, and practicality in terms of moving sets on and off quickly and expertly.

COSTUMES:

Research the period well, it’s easy. This is a heavy costume show. The characters make clothes for a living, and there’s a fashion show of sorts at the end of Act I that should reflect the more “advanced” tastes of the 1930s. You’ll be renting some of the costuming, certainly. But you may well have to build some pieces. No job for a novice!

PROPS:

All the pins and needles and boxes of buttons and material needed to make us believe these businesses exist. In each apartments, a mezzuzah, other Judaica, family photos, plates for food, food, gift-wrapped presents for the bar mitzvah, etc. A big job for an experienced Prop Master.

LIGHTING:

Realistic rather than theatrical, whenever possible. This is more a play than a musical comedy, keep things looking fairly real, even a bit gritty. Apartment life should be warm and inviting. A job for an experienced Designer who knows how to get a real look while having it work as theater.

MAKE-UP:

Unobtrusive and simple, please.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Prop Master, Harry, Mrs. Bogen

MY THOUGHTS:
An interesting show with a message as timely today as it ever was. We’ve all known a Harry Bogen or two. He’s running your local bank, or business. He leaves a trail of broken lives and unhappiness behind him. A fine portrait of a bad man, and a challenge for a talented actor. Lots of good roles here, by the way, very rewarding show for the actors.