Billion Dollar Baby
|Billion Dollar Baby|
|Lyrics||Betty Comden and Adolph Green|
|Book||Betty Comden and Adolph Green|
Billion Dollar Baby is a musical set on Staten Island and in Atlantic City during the late 1920s. It follows the adventures of an ambitious young woman, Maribelle Jones, in her quest for wealth during the Prohibition era. Betty Comden and Adolph Green, fresh from their success with On the Town, wrote the book and lyrics; Morton Gould provided the score. Indeed, the production team was something of an On the Town reunion: once again, George Abbott directed and Jerome Robbins choreographed.
The show's original Broadway production opened at the Alvin Theatre on December 21, 1945 and ran for 220 performances. Billion Dollar Baby was not well-received, although Robbins' choreography—which included two dream ballets, a Charleston, and a gangster's funeral procession -was widely praised. (Decades later, Robbins incorporated the Charleston number into Jerome Robbins' Broadway.) The production starred Joan McCracken as Maribelle, Mitzi Green, William Tabbert, and David Burns; early in the run, McCracken was replaced by Virginia Gorski (later Virginia Gibson). James Mitchell was Tabbert's dance double. Other dancers in the cast included Danny Daniels, Shirley Van, Helen Gallagher, and Arthur Partington. The musical director was Max Goberman.
There is no original cast recording, although there is a recording of the 1998 York Theatre Company Mufti Series concert version with Kristin Chenoweth, Debbie Gravitte, Marc Kudisch, Michael McCormick, and Richard B. Shull.
The show gained notoriety for an event that happened in rehearsals: Robbins, walking backwards as he ranted at the dancers, failed to realize how close he was to the orchestra pit—and fell into it. 
- Although the story has been attached to a number of other Robbins musicals, both Greg Lawrence and Deborah Jowitt have traced it to Billion Dollar Baby. Lawrence, Dance with Demons: The Life of Jerome Robbins (New York: Berkley, 2001), 101-2; Jowitt, Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 116.