Original Cast Recording
|Book||Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee|
|Basis||Jean Giraudoux's play The Madwoman of Chaillot|
Dear World is a Broadway musical with a book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. With its opening, Herman became the first composer-lyricist in history to have three productions running simultaneously on Broadway. It starred Angela Lansbury, who won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical in 1969 for her performance as the Countess Aurelia.
Based on Jean Giraudoux's play The Madwoman of Chaillot as adapted by Maurice Valency, it focuses on the Countesses Aurelia, Constance and Gabrielle, who deviously scheme to stop businessmen from drilling for oil in the Parisian neighbourhood of Chaillot. The forces of idealism, love and poetry win over those of greed, materialism and science.
Productions and background
The musical had a notably troubled preview period that included multiple changes to the script and score. Lucia Victor, Gower Champion's assistant and a director of several revivals, including Hello, Dolly!, was hired as director, but resigned shortly thereafter, due to "artistic differences" with the musical's star, Angela Lansbury, and the authors, according to The New York Times. Peter Glenville was then hired, however, he resigned following negative reviews during tryouts in Boston, Massachusetts. Producer Alexander H. Cohen stated (in an article in The New York Times of November 19, 1968) that "there was no friction between Mr. Glenville and Miss Lansbury, the composer, the authors or the producer... an advance arrangement had been made with Mr. Glenville to direct the show through last week only." The show's final director, Joe Layton, was then hired, also replacing the choreographer Donald Saddler.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on February 6, 1969, and closed on May 31, 1969 after 132 performances and 45 previews. Directed and choreographed by Joe Layton, Scenic Design was by Oliver Smith, Costume Design was by Freddy Wittop and Lighting Design was by Jean Rosenthal.
Originally conceived as a chamber musical, Dear World fell victim to a massive production that effectively overwhelmed the simplicity of the original tale. After the Broadway closing, Herman, Lawrence, and Lee rewrote the show, "putting back the intimacy that had been undermined on Broadway."
A revised version was produced at Goodspeed Musicals in November–December 2000, with Sally Ann Howes as Aurelia. This version had a revised book by David Thompson plus three songs written after the musical closed. A concert version was staged by 42nd Street Moon, San Francisco September 6–24, 2000. This production used the revision by Herman, Lawrence and Lee.
The Canadian premiere of this revised version was presented by the Toronto Civic Light Opera Company in May 2012. Directed by Joe Cascone, the production starred Barbara Boddy as Aurelia, David Haines as the Sewer Man and featured Elizabeth Rose Morriss and Daniel Cornthwaite as the young lovers.
The musical had its UK premiere at London's Off-West End Theatre The Charing Cross Theatre from February 4 through March 16, 2013. The production was directed and choreographed by Gillian Lynne and starred Betty Buckley as Aurelia and Paul Nicholas as Sewerman. Set design by Matt Kinley, costumes by Ann Hould-Ward, lighting by Mike Robertson, musical direction by Ian Townsend, sound by Mike Walker, and orchestrations by Sarah Travis.
A corporation has discovered oil under the streets of Paris, directly under a bistro. The Countess Aurelia (known as The Madwoman of Chaillot) lives in the bistro's basement, driven mad because of a lost lover and reminiscing about her past. When the corporation decides to blow up the bistro to get the oil, a young executive, Julian, helps to foil the plan because he has fallen in love with Nina, the bistro's waitress. Aurelia lures the corporation executives to the underground in the sewer system.
† Added in the Goodspeed (2000) and Sundance (2002) versions
Characters and cast
- Countess Aurelia (The Madwoman of Chaillot) – Angela Lansbury
- Gabrielle (The Madwoman of Montmartre) – Jane Connell
- Constance (The Madwoman of the Flea Market) – Carmen Mathews
- The Sewerman – Milo O'Shea
- Julian – Kurt Peterson
- The Chairman - William Larsen
- Nina – Pamela Hall
Awards and nominations
- Best Actress in a Musical – Angela Lansbury (winner)
- Best Scenic Design – Oliver Smith (nominee)
The show received mostly negative reviews, with critics seemingly "personally offended" by selling tickets to the troubled show. "All the critics came down hard on the book and especially on Herman's score. 'Time' magazine incomprehensibly called the songs 'a total zero'... Martin Gottfried, noting that the plot line had been cut to ribbons, found 'the story impossible to follow'".
Walter Kerr wrote that the musical: "... is in the main quite charming... the actress [Lansbury]... is endearing throughout the evening and at her commanding best here...." Her song, "I Don't Want to Know" is "a song surprised by its own unexpected passion. The effect doesn't always work out for composer Jerry Herman... 'Dear World' is attractive when it is staying close to its addled Good People... it is in trouble whenever it turns to the Bad People... Oliver Smith's settings are perfect." Clive Barnes in The New York Times gave Lansbury a positive review: "The minor miracle is Miss Lansbury... no connoisseur of musical comedy can afford to miss Miss Lansbury's performance. It is lovely."
According to Steven Citron (p. 181), "[Sally Ann] Howes and the majority of critics now believe that with a rewritten libretto it could be turned into a successful musical."
In the 1980s, Liza Minnelli incorporated the song "I Don't Want to Know" into her musical act.
- Zolotow, Sam. "Peter Glenville Taking Over Angela Lansbury's 'Dear World", 'The New York Times October 24, 1968, p. 54
- Zolotow.Sam."GLENVILLE YIELDS 'DEAR WORLD' POST; Interim Director Going to a Previous Assignment" The New York Times (abstract), November 19, 1968
- Mandelbaum, Ken. Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops (1992), p. 150, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-08273-8
- Connema, Richard."Regional Reviews. 'As Thousands Cheer' and 'Dear World'" talkinbroadway.com, accessed May 29, 2012
- Jones, Kenneth."Sun Sets on Goodspeed's Dear World Revival Dec. 10," playbill.com, December 10, 2000
- Jones, Kenneth."Dear World Marches in San Fran Concert Revival Sept. 6-24," playbill.com, September 6, 2000
- Jones, Kenneth."Jerry Herman's Musical, 'Dear World', Spins Anew in Revised Version, June 27-Aug. 17", playbill.com, June 27, 2002
- Gans, Andrew. "Paul Nicholas, Anthony Barclay and More Will Join Betty Buckley in 'Dear World' at London's Charing Cross Theatre" playbill.com, December 14, 2012
- Citron, Stephen. "Chapter:'Dear World'" Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune (2004), (books.google.com), pp.180-181, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-10082-5
- Kerr, Walter. "When Angela Sings 'I Will Not Have It'", The New York Times, February 16, 1969, p.D1
- Barnes, Clive. "Theatre: 'The Madwoman of Chaillot' Set to Music", The New York Times February 7, 1969, p. 33