Book by Neil Simon
Music by Burt Bacharach
Lyrics by Hal David
adapted from the film The Apartment, by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

INFO:

Opened at the Sam S. Schubert Theatre    December 1, 1968    1,281 performances (plus revivals)
Original Director: Robert Moore
Original Choreographer: Michael Bennett
Original Producer: David Merrick
Original Leads: Chuck: Jerry Orbach   Fran: Jill O’Hara   Sheldrake: Edward Winter
Cast Size: Male: 7   Female: 7 (some can double)   Ensemble: 8-8    Total Cast Size: 20-30
Orchestra: 19, 5 of which are “optional”. Could even be done with pit trio.
Published Script: Random House
Production Rights: Tams Witmark
Recordings: The original Broadway, pictured above, certainly communicates the strengths and weaknesses of Bacharach on stage.
Film: None, but you could watch Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment”, with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, which this is based on, and it’s a fantastic film.
Other shows by the authors: Simon: Little Me, Sweet Charity, They’re Playing Our Song
Awards:The original production won two Tonys, one for Orbach.

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

Promises Promises is a hip, cool show…for 1968. It doesn’t get done often today, and there are interesting reasons. But it has a lot to recommend it. A script by Neil Simon that is adapted from a terrific film by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, three pretty brilliant writers. Music by the darling of the 1960s, Burt Bacharach. A subject that is certainly contemporary to some extent – businessmen who sleep around, we’ve certainly heard enough about this kind of thing over the past 20 years ion our Congress. (In fact, moving the story to politics from Big Business might help contemporize it.)

The songs are not particularly hard to sing, especially for theater. They are, of course, more pop circa 1966 than theater, and so the ranges are on the small side, the technical vocal demands marginal. The acting roles offered could be fun and interesting, especially the three leads who all have their dark side. These two facts combined might make this a very good show for Colleges, Little Theaters, and Dinner Theaters.

Be Warned:

This show has a particularly dated feel thanks to its score, and to a lesser extent its subject matter. The sleeping around stuff might be offensive to an audience that belligerently doesn’t approve, The Apartment, upon which the musical is based, is definitely a fairy tale for adults. Way too risque for kids, younger performing groups, and maybe some pro groups in certain parts of the country.

More. Women in this show are often objectified by the men in the show. The lead role, Chuck Baxter, doesn’t do this much, he’s an outsider to the Executive Boy’s Club drooling over Miss Della Hoya and Miss Wong. But even Chuck goes for a drunken bar tryst in Act Two, when he gets lonely and down enough. Written at the height of the Summer of Love, this show may have just a little too much love for the world, or at least parts of the world. (Sorry, had to mention another Bacharach song, “What The World Needs Now”.) There are certainly some women who will find this offensive. (And Bacharach and David never avoided a certain amount of male chauvinism in their work, as can be seen by their song, “Hey, Little Girl”.) So, free love and chauvinism? I can see a modern producer having some serious second thoughts. But, hey…sex sells, and it was the age of the mini-skirt…

All of this more or less forces you to present the show as a period piece, almost a curiosity. I believe that’s how it was done in its Broadway revival in 2010.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: Chuck Baxter, a working stiff in a large corporation, lets us know that he feels puny and ignored at work and in life, that he’s “Half As Big As Life”, but that someday, he’s going to be a big man. He let’s us know that a great girl, Fran Kubelik, notices him at work, and we see that she does, though she does not actually know his name or really talk to him. He lets us know that after work, he hangs out in bars. We discover why as he sits in one, and a Vice President from work, Mr. Dobitch, gets the key to Chuck’s apartment so he can have an affair. Chuck’s apartment “Upstairs”, it turns out, is shared by numerous execs at work for their extra-marital activities, and that is Chuck’s plan to rise up the corporate ladder.

But weeks later, no promotion. The man in the neighboring apartment, Dr, Dreyfuss, is grimly amused by all the sex he hears going on next door, and somewhat concerned for Chuck’s health. (He is obviously unaware that Chuck isn’t having any sex.) Another V.P, Vanderhof, shows up and begs for the apartment. Chuck’s about to turn him down when the man promises him a promotion to Jr. Executive in his department. Chuck doesn’t trust promises, promises anymore, but he has nothing to lose, really. It starts to rain as he steps from the building, just his luck.

At the business, Consolidated Life, Chuck, after a miserable night locked out of his apartment, confronts Vanderhof, who says he’s spoken to Mr. Sheldrake in personnel about Chuck, and then demands the apartment for the next Friday. Chuck runs into Fran, and in the fantasy in his mind, she longs to be with him. Then we see reality, she’s barely interested in him. She has received a promotion, hostess in the Executive Dining Room. But she has a cold, and Chuck suggests it could be stress-induced. (Shades of Adelaide’s Lament from Guys And Dolls.) They talk about ways to cheer her up (“You’ll Think of Something”), and he hopes the way she selects is to think about him.

Chuck is called in to meet Sheldrake. The man is friendly enough, and suggests a promotion is ready for Chuck…if he’ll play ball. He wants use of the apartment tonight, and sole use of it when he needs it, excluding the lesser V.P.s. Chuck leaves the key on the man’s desk. (Why Chuck never makes copies of the key is mysterious, by the way…) And the whole thing is to be “Our Little Secret”.

Later, in the lobby, Chuck sees Fran and lets her know he’ll be seeing her in the Exec Dining Room, as he’s been promoted. He mans up and asks if she likes basketball, and she seems to be a bit of an expert in it, living with her father and brother. He invites her to see the Knicks play that night, but she has an appointment with someone who she used to be serious about. Chuck thinks anyone rejecting Fran must be crazy. She decides that whatever the other relationship is, it’s not worth the evident pain, that she’ll beg off and meet Chuck that night at the game. He’s thrilled. (“She Likes Basketball”) Fran heads off to break her date.

In a small restaurant, Fran meets Sheldrake. He wants to continue the affair he’s had with her, and he has a place to take her where they will be alone. She insists she has another date, that it’s not important, but that she is going. He’s married, and she hates being the other woman. She wonders why she doesn’t get that “Knowing when To Leave” is now. Meanwhile, Chuck waits in front of the stadium and can’t believe his good luck. And then, she never shows… he misses a great game. Fran and Sheldrake head off to the apartment.

Pushed out, the other V.P.s seek an alternate love nest with increasing desperation. (“Where Can You Take A Girl”) In the Exec Dining Room, Chuck takes a seat. Fran serves him, and she apologizes for not showing, she has no excuse. He’s so nuts about her, he doesn’t care. He asks her out Thursday, but she’s busy every Thursday, apparently. (Of course, he would be free each Thursday because that’s when the apartment is used by Sheldrake.) The V.P.s beg Chuck, but he turns them down because he has a deal with Sheldrake. He sees Sheldrake, and returns something that was left in the apartment, a woman’s compact. The mirror is broken, and Sheldrake says it’s because “she” threw it at me. He says he envies Baxter, a bachelor, free to do whatever he wants. Chuck wonders why everyone envies him except himself. Sheldrake, alone, wonders if he will ever be able to stop “Wanting Things.”

It is holiday time, and Fran asks Sheldrake’s secretary, Miss Olson, where the party is in the building. Olson, a bit drunk, lets Fran know that she was Sheldrakes last affair, before Fran. She suggests Fran run for her life before Sheldrake destroys it. Fran is shaken.

On the 19th floor, “It’s Turkey Lurkey Time,” as the party rages and various women in different departments perform a number for those in attendance. (A really bad number, by the way, and the first ensemble number in the show, right at the end of Act One, rather dubious musical theater construction. You could go out of your way to make it poorly done, unprofessional, the work of secretaries trying to get some attention.) Chuck sees Fran, and shows her his new executive hat. Her attention is on what Olson has just told her, and she tries to be polite but is shaky. He asks if the hat really works, and she offers him her compact so he can take a look. He recognizes the compact, and now he knows that it’s Fran sleeping with Sheldrake. He gets a call, and asks Fran to leave him, it’s personal. It’s Sheldrake on the phone, and Chuck lets him know that the apartment is all decorated for a little Christmas tryst, as requested.

ACT TWO: In a bar, rightfully drunk, Chuck picks up a woman named Marge, equally drunk, and takes her to his apartment. (“A Fact Can Be A Beautiful Thing”) At the apartment, Fran and Sheldrake have had a row, he’s left her with her Christmas present, money. (Like she’s a whore.) She is stunned. (“Whoever You Are”) Takes a lot of pills and lies down. Chuck and Marge arrive to find her unconscious. He gets rid of Marge, and gets Dr. Dreyfuss from next door, lying to protect Fran and Sheldrake by claiming she’d had the fight with him (Chuck). They get her on her feet and walking off the pills. A day goes by, it’s Christmas. Fran and Chuck talk a bit, and she is mortified to discover it’s his apartment. The Dr, drops by and tries to cheer her up. (“A Young Pretty Girl Like You”, another awful song.) Alone with him, Fran finally gets to know Chuck, they play cards, and an almost domestic scene ensues. She decides “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, and he agrees. She sleeps.

Her big brother Karl arrives at Chuck’s door, and convinced (since Chuck keeps the lie up to protect Fran) that she’s tried to kill herself for Chuck, beats the hell out of him. Dreyfus shows up to take care of Chuck, now, but is not unhappy that a guy he perceives as a rat has gotten beat up. Fran is moved by Chuck’s efforts to protect her, and kisses his cheek s she leaves with her brother.

At work, Miss Olson, who has seen Sheldrake destroy enough lives, rats him out to his wife and quits.

At the little restaurant, Chuck meets Sheldrake. Sheldrake’s marriage is over. He imagines Chuck thinks he’s a heel, but now he plans to wed Fran…at some time in the unforeseen future. He asks for the key, and Chuck gives him one – the key to the executive washroom. He quits, and alone, swears he will not listen to anymore “Promises, Promises”.

Chuck goes home to pack, planning on leaving town. Dreyfuss next door is having a party, and is disappointed in a way that Chuck is leaving. They pop a cork on a bottle of champagne, and Fran rushes in, worried that Chuck might be committing suicide with a gun. (It’s a stretch…) She wonders why he never called, and suggests that he should. He “calls”, wishing he luck with Sheldrake, and she says “who?” It’s over between them, she has ended it. Chuck admits that he loves her. She tells him to shut up and deal the cards.

THE SONGS:

“Half As Big As Life”, “Upstairs”, “You’ll Think Of Someone”, “Our Little Secret”, “She Likes Basketball”, “Knowing When To Leave”, “Where Can You Take A Girl”, “Wanting Things”, “Turkey Lurkey Time”, “A Fact Can Be A Beautiful Thing”, “Whoever You Are”, “A Young Pretty Girl Like You”, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, “Promises, Promises”

Hits include “Knowing When To Leave”, “Wanting Things”, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, “Promises, Promises”

MY OPINIONS:

Feel free to ignore or skip my opinions and rating.  Go ahead, see if you can live with the promises, promises that this show…um…promises.

Overall, though the show offers interesting rewards and can certainly be funny at times and entertaining, I tend to believe that its time may have come and gone. Even the terrific film that the musical is adapted from offers moral ambiguities uniquely accepted at the time it came out, and though we are inundated in the news today with affairs and sexual hi-jinks and amoral behavior, I’m not sure an audience will consider it good entertainment. In fact, I doubt it.

I think this show is a real mixed bag. Some of the score is memorable, fun, there are even a number of hit songs. And some of the songs rank among the worst that show music has to offer, such as “Our Little Secret”, “Where Can You Take A Girl”, and “Turkey Lurkey Time”, an all-too appropriately named number. I have to admit to not being a fan of Bacharach’s music, which sounded dated to me when he wrote it, so you do need to take that into account before taking me too seriously.

The show violates some of the “rules” of Musical Theater, which may or may not be to its benefit. It starts out with a solo as its opening number, which is unconventional to some extent, and which serves to focus the audience’s attention on the plight of our somewhat amoral hero, Chuck Baxter. He is a man trying to make it up the corporate ladder through dubious means, at least on a moral level, and as is true of the original film of this story, that makes him hard to like. Billy Wilder cast the most likeable actor on earth, just about, in Jack Lemmon, which helped the film over this hurdle, and if you do the musical, you will really need to follow that example and find the most innately likeable actor possible. Wilder cast Shirley MacLaine as the “other woman” in Sheldrake’s life, and Chuck’s love interest, a woman willing to sleep with a married man. We get why men would be interested in Fran when played by MacLaine, who was sexy and vulnerable and interesting, so that works. Wilder cast an actor who had played numerous conflicted bad guys as Sheldrake, in Fred MacMurray, who is overall likeable, and that was also wise because we need to understand why Fran would fall for him.

In other words, the way you cast your three leads is likely to make or break the production. You really need to get three performers that the audience will seriously warm up to, and quick, for these proceedings to work at all. Because the characters as written are pretty yucky. It’s not enough to “want things,”and then to be hurt by the fact of wanting and sometimes getting the things they want, as they each do, and which seems to be what drives the entire piece as a theme. How you go about getting the things that you want tells the world (and you) who you are. The Apartment is a very modern fairy tale, dealing with modern morality. Promises Promises follows its story and character development pretty closely, but because of a little bit of a smutty musical comedy sensibility injected over the story, it feels somehow smarmier and more morally lost than the film, which itself teeters on amorality. (And I like the film a lot, by the way, more than the musical.)

This is probably not a musical you’d do outside of places where audiences can tolerate stories like this one. The Mid-west, the South, big ‘family value” towns, I’d skip it.

Under the last section, “My Thoughts,” I’ll cover some ways you might improve this show, and I’ll do more in the other sections below. But unless you are fairly expert at the musical theater thing, this isn’t a good show to tackle.

MY RATING:  (An average show – but better than most shows not represented in this book. A good match for certain groups.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:
Bacharach does go in for erratic rhythms that change suddenly, and sometimes the odd note or melody turn. These can make the score a bit of a workout for the Musical Director and his cast. This is both part of the charm of some of the score, and what largely dates the poorer songs and renders them ineffective. This show requires a talented M.D. With a good feel for the music of the 60s-70s. Playing this stuff can be a pain, by the way. Original orchestrations were by perhaps the best orchestrator in Broadway history, Jonathan Tunick, and they make the songs better than they often deserve to sound.

You’ll notice the same note below, repeatedly. The roles are actor first, singer second. This is largely because it’s going to take some mighty good acting to make the show and some of these numbers interesting. It’s also because the ranges and vocal demands are minimal when compared to most other shows. Listen to the original cast album – the singing is overall very poor. And the show was a hit.

Chuck – Baritone (not sure why, though, the role would work better if placed for a character tenor.) A fair amount of singing, should be actor-driven, though. Singing would be your second concern for this role. Must sing well enough, though.

Fran – Mezzo/alto with a bit of a belt., a fair amount of singing but again, actor-driven. And she must sing well enough.

Sheldrake – Baritone. Only one song, really, but it is a big, emotional ballad.

Dreyfuss – A mature character voice, must be able to carry a tune but that’s about it. Probably lyric baritone is best.

The V.P.s – Dobitch, Vanderhof, Eichelberger, Kirkeby, all middle-aged character types with reasonably strong voices, an ability to harmonize, but again, actor-driven, acting and a look comes first.

Marge MacDougall – Middle-aged, drunk on Christmas Eve and alone in a bar, again an actor-driven role who must sing okay. Mezzo-alto.

Miss Olson – Spoken role. Should double and sing in ensemble.

Various Secretaries – Miss Gilhooley, Miss Della Hoya, Miss Polansky, Miss Wong. Usually cast for look first, dance second, singing third.

Back-up Vocals – Women singing in the pit or backstage, miked for the “oohs” and “aahs” of Bacharach’s very dated arrangements. Should be existing cast members.

Various others – A lot of small roles which should be doubled and tripled up. Cast decent singers of various ranges with more pop-oriented voices, rather than going for legit voices.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

Strangely enough, there’s not a lot of dance outside of “Turkey Lurkey Time”, since almost all the other numbers are solos and duets. “Where Can You Take A Girl” has the four V.P’s doing a bit of movement, so cast them to move moderately well. But that’s really it. None of your leads need to dance much if at all. Not a big show for a choreographer.

CASTING CONCERNS:

With all the real roles, cast for acting first, singing second. Your best casting note is to treat this like a play with songs in it, rather than a musical where music takes precedent.

Chuck – Must be inherently likeable, in his mid-late twenties. Somewhat worldly, at least pragmatic. There is about him the air of a man destined to fail, a man who gets in his own way with his foolish schemes. But he has some nobility. He stands up and lies for Fran to protect her, and takes punishment for it, which is what finally open her eyes to the fact that, at least for her, Chuck is a far better man than Sheldrake, who is all take and little give. Chuck has some other good qualities, including tenacity. And he has a breaking point, where enough is enough, and he becomes intractable, dry, unwilling. You’ll need a good, emotionally flexible, likeable, skilled actor with fine comic chops.

Fran – Early-mid twenties, has been around in that time. Fran needs to be quite attractive for the premise of the show to work. Falls for the wrong men, leads with her heart. She is capable of producing a veneer of professionalism at work. She cares about what she cares about, what impinges, and little else. She is easily lost in her own dreams, her woes, and can be overcome by them. For her to attempt suicide with pills in Act II, we must believe that there is something fragile about her in Act I. She does indulge in a degree of self-pity, which can help define that fragility.

Sheldrake – A mature man, in his 40s. A man accustomed to getting everything he wants, and who is not opposed to using his position of power to hand out perks and to manipulate others, in order to get what he wants. There is an almost undeserved likeability to the man. He sometimes seems to be trying to be “one of the boys” when talking to Baxter…and then he’ll suddenly pull rank. We do need to believe that he’s respected at work, so there must be a professional sensibility about his actions. He’s fooled his wife for years, so he is a capable liar. He’s juggled old girlfriends into silence and high positions in the company, so he has executive skills. And Fran loves him, we must see why.

Dreyfuss – A typical Neil Simon character role, seemingly Jewish New York, wry, dry, skeptical, but with a warm heart. In his 50s-60s, a bit world weary, pragmatic. In the end a warm and fuzzy curmudgeon trying to get along and lead a decent life, and just a little bit critical of others.

The V.P.s – Middle-aged men with professional looks, nice suits, and randy dispositions. Make them as different, as Mutt and Jeff as possible from each other. Go tall, short, thin, fat., bald, long-haired, but make them different. Their sexual needs are barely suppressed while at the office or with family, they still stare at women’s legs as surreptitiously as they are capable.

Marge MacDougall – A good comedic role. Middle-aged or so, maybe on the younger side of it, drunk, randy, friendly, willing, perhaps more so than she would believe if she saw herself sober.

Miss Olson – Sheldrake’s exec secretary and former flame. Early-mid 30s. Contained, professional, but deeply angry and bitter. An acting role, no singing. Her looks must make us believe Sheldrake was the last woman he risked his marriage for.

Various Secretaries – Cast for looks first, dance second, singing third, and if they can read lines well enough, good enough.

Back-up Vocals – Not acting roles, though they should double as small roles and ensemble.

Various others – Many types, per the script, but generally the kinds found in an office building.

SETS:

The apartment is your most important set, and it should be nothing special at all. That’s part of the whole point of the thing – it’s any apartment, any port in a storm. The fridge, the couch, the chairs and table and record player are all run-of-the-mill, worn, waiting for retirement. The paint is flat and boring and marked in places. The door has a decent lock on it, though. Some personal effects of Chuck’s might be seen, such as ties, take-out leftovers. And the bed, well, it’s getting a workout. It should be a single, that’s funny and it’s right.

I think all the scenes in the office should take place on one sort of unit set, white, featureless, chairs and other needed furniture pieces wheeled in and out quickly by secretaries as if a part of their jobs, and choreographed ion to give the show more of a sense of movement, of choreography. There’s the various V.P.s offices, hallways, the office medical room, Sheldrake’s office, and the party scene on the 19th floor, probably a big, open conference room, perhaps with a conference table rolled on and on which the girls can go-go dance during Turkey Lurkey Time. You could also drop streamers and balloons from the ceiling as this scene begins. Since this effectively ends the act, you’ll have time to strike it during intermission.

There’s Lum Dings Chinese Restaurant, and this may need a set. It focuses on a single table, with appropriate lamp and decorations around it, and could be tucked into a corner to be trucked on and off at need. It does not need to be a large set, but it does need to feel like its own universe. It’s used twice and important action happens there, so it must be clearly visible and look right.

So basically, you have three sets. You do not want to stop the show while they go back and forth – office – Chuck’s apartment – Lum Ding’s… So consider having the Apartment perhaps elevated, as it is “upstairs” per the song. Up a rickety old building flight of stairs, perhaps overlooking the office which would generally occupy the stage, and where 8 of the 14 scenes take place. The Apartment accounts for 3 scenes. Lum Ding’s is two scenes. The last scene is the bar where Chuck picks up Marge, and I’d play it with a few stools, say six, four filled by ensemble playing holiday drunks, two for Chuck and Marge, all facing front as if the barkeep had his back to the audience, and played in front of the drape on the apron, or in some such isolated “in one” situation that allows the stage to be the apartment and offices, for the next two scenes.

The street outside the basketball game can be a streetlamp, lit, and some passer-bys going into or leaving the game, and the sound of the roaring crowd distantly, within. This can be placed in a corner of the stage, even on the apron.

As to the look and feel of the sets, the period you place the show in will dictate these. If it’s in the late 60s or so, the things found in Chuck’s apartment, the appliances and bedspread and artwork, would reflect New York low budget at that time. The office is as they were, some wood paneling, white walls, photos of execs of the walls, a company logo. Chinese restaurants have not changed much.

I do believe this show may need some real construction on the stage, if the apartment is to be suspended over the rest of the action, which is one approach. Regardless, set changes must be nearly instant, as this show relies on energy and pacing more than a lot of other shows. Not believe that Promises! Promises! will support a multi-media approach, or even a unit set that would embrace the apartment, office and restaurant, generally, as the show lacks any kind of “experimental” feel to it. I think you need to go conventional sets, and arrange them to allow the action to keep moving.

COSTUMES:

The period will tell you what to do, generally. Hair in the 60s was longer, except in the corporate world. It’s easy to see hair styles in films made at the time. Suits for the office, for the men, perhaps improving in quality as they move up the corporate ladder. Chuck will need a fancy hat to show off to Fran at the end of Act I. When people head off to the party, keep them dressed as usual, perhaps with goofy paper hats.

The waitress or waiter at the Chinese restaurant will need to be dressed accordingly.

As to the secretaries, including Fran, well, look at photos and films from the period for “professional” women in office environments, but remember that sex sells, and that is certainly a part of what the show relied on in its original incarnation. When the girls dance at the end of Act I, think go-go, and appropriate costuming, perhaps hidden under reserved office clothing which gets “ripped away” as the number starts. It’s the period. And this number will fall flat without great choreography and some showing off of the women performing it.

Marge will need a faux-cheap fur, and too much faux jewelry.

You’re going to either do a lot of shopping in thrift stores and the like, use costume shops (which will be of limited help for this show), or build period-correct clothes with patterns and cuts that work. Since there really is almost no dance (unless you’re going to dance on sets as I suggested), clothing does not generally need to be designed with dance in mind.

PROPS:

The key to the apartment. Liquor bottles, glasses for the bar, the apartment, the party. (This show is big of that stuff.) Party paraphernalia like hats, balloons, confetti. Maybe a basketball poster or two in the apartment, he likes basketball. Stick to the Knicks, if so, in period – Walt Bellamy, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBussherre, Walt Frazier. Period telephones for the apartment and office, right for their supposed usage. A typewriter or two for secretary’s desks. Maybe a dictation machine for Sheldrake’s desk. He could sing “Wanting Things” into it, and then erase it. A medical black bag for Dreyfuss. Bottles of “pills”. A stethoscope. Fran’s compact with the broken mirror. All in all, not too tough a job.

LIGHTING:

I’d work to keep the lighting about the entertainment value of the show. Bright, theatrical, musical comedy lighting. You have a lot of solos and duets and the temptation will be to go heavily in for follow spots, but I would not do it. You’ll be using the follow spot all night once you establish it. Try to not us it until, maybe, “Whoever You Are” in act II, perhaps again in “Promises! Promises!”, and that’s it.

This is a musical adapted from a movie, and the film has a lot of intimate qualities and moments. The whole film feels as if the audience is eavesdropping on very private issues. Simon tried to open this up to the live audience with Chuck’s direct discussion with them, violating the 4th wall, and he does this immediately and often. These moments should somehow be isolated, so we get that they are not a part of the flow of the action, almost outside of the play.

Also, Chuck has fantasies in which Fran says everything he wants. These should be lit differently, noticeably so, so that the audience is in on it when, in Act II when she really says what he’d wish she’d say, the lights remain normal. The audience gets it, but Chuck does not and believes it’s just another fantasy.

MAKE-UP:

Keep it in period and generally unobtrusive. Also has to work for musical comedy, and I think the lighting should overall be hot for this show, so keep that in mind when you powder.

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

Director, Music Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Chuck, Fran, Sheldrake

MY THOUGHTS:

The structure of the piece is odd in some ways. The solo opening number doesn’t tell us anything about the location, and not much about the situation, it is entirely driven by the character and his needs, which really isn’t enough to pull us in since we have no reason yet to pull for him. The end of Act I is almost bizarre, with the first “big” number, a horrible number sung by scantily-clad women, is sung and then there’s more dialogue. The dialogue scene at the end of Act I is much stronger than the number, and works well as a plot reveal and a “surprise,” leaving the audience a reason to come back for Act II, and that’s a good thing because the score does not. To me, some of the songs feel shoved into an already crowded story. They do not all feel organic, or even useful, like “Our Little Secret,” which the audience understands is so before they sing the song. And really, “Turkey Lurkey” has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and is a dreadful excuse for what is the only ensemble number in this very odd show.

If I were going to do this show, I’d seriously look at some interesting moves. I’d eliminate much of the ensemble, get the cast down to maybe 16 or so, mostly men, with Fran, Olson, a few other women. I’d consider cutting many of the lesser numbers, and in fact, perhaps all but the hits and one or two others. And then, I think if I had the rights, I’d mine the Bacharach/David catalog for stronger numbers that might replace some of the others. After all, they wrote many, many hits, including “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, “The Look Of Love” (the execs, about the women they want to have affairs with, replacing “Where Can You Take A Girl”, perhaps, “I Say A Little Prayer” (Chuck could sing it about Fran, Fran about Sheldrake…), “Always Something There To Remind Me” (Fran after first blow-up with Sheldrake, Chuck about Fran)“This Guys In Love With You” (for Chuck, of course), “Walk On By” (For Fran), “One Less Bell To Answer” (After Fran’s heart is broken), and “Only Love Can Break A Heart” (same). “Wives and Lovers” would fit right into the smarmy male chauvinist feel of the overall show, as well. Seriously,. Inserting 3-4 of these would help make your production a pretty large hit. And the music composed for the score is no different in style than these, Bacharach was not a theater guy, and did not possess a theatrical music vocabulary.