Evening Primrose (musical)

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This article is about the television musical. For the plant called evening primrose, see Oenothera.
Evening Primrose
EveningPrimroseCastRecording.jpg
Original television soundtrack recording
Music Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics Stephen Sondheim
Book James Goldman
Basis John Collier's short story
Productions 1966 US television series ABC Stage 67

Evening Primrose is a musical with a book by James Goldman and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. It is based on a John Collier short story published in the 1951 collection Fancies and Goodnights.

Written originally for television, the musical focuses on a poet who takes refuge from the world by hiding out in a department store after closing. He meets a community of night people who live in the store and falls in love with a beautiful young girl named Ella. Bizarre complications arise when the leader of the group forbids their relationship.

Synopsis[edit]

Poet Charles Snell takes refuge from the world by hiding out in a department store after closing ("If You Can Find Me, I'm Here"). Once there he finds a secret group who have lived in the store for years. The leader of the group, Mrs. Monday, permits Charles to stay after he convinces her that he is a poet.

Charles meets and is smitten with a beautiful young girl, Ella Harkins, Mrs. Monday's maid. Ella, who is now 19, has lived in the store since she was separated from her mother at age six, falling asleep in the women's hat department. Ella is unhappy and wants to leave, but is afraid of the "Dark Men." Should someone try to return to the outside world and risk revealing the group's existence, the Dark Men take them away and another mannequin appears in the clothing department.

Charles realizes Ella has not seen the sun for thirteen years, but she replies that she remembers ("I Remember"). Charles has fallen in love with Ella; as he plays cards with members of the group, he has a quiet duet with Ella ("When"). Ella finally decides to leave with Charles ("Take Me To The World"). Charles is initially reluctant to leave his now-comfortable life, but then understands that he loves Ella more than poetry. Mrs. Monday and the others hear their plans, and they call the Dark Men, as Ella and Charles try to escape.

The ending provides a Twilight Zone-like twist. The store opens the next morning with a couple on the sidewalk who resemble Ella and Charles from behind, but turn out to be strangers when the camera pans to their faces. They're looking at a window display in which Ella and Charles are now mannequins dressed as a bride and groom, with the night watchman acting as their minister.

Productions[edit]

Anthony Perkins as Charles Snell; Charmian Carr as Ella Harkins

Written specifically for the television anthology series ABC Stage 67, it aired on November 16, 1966.[1] It was directed by Paul Bogart, set design by John Ward, set decorated by Budd Gourmen, costume design by William McHone, and lighting design by Walter Urban. The cast starred Anthony Perkins as Charles Snell, Charmian Carr as Ella Harkins, Larry Gates as Roscoe Potts, Dorothy Stickney as Mrs. Monday, and Margaret Bannerman, Margaret Barker, Leonard Elliot, Mike Meola, Dorothy Sands, and Margaretta Warwick as store people. The one-hour program was taped on an early Sunday morning at the now-defunct Stern Brothers department store in Manhattan.[1]

The Evening Primrose telecast was in color, but the original master tape has never been found. Black-and-white (b&w) versions are available for viewing at the Museum of Television & Radio branches in New York City and Beverly Hills. A newly discovered pristine b&w 16-millimeter copy was used for DVDs which were released commercially for the first time on October 26, 2010.[1]

The first professional theatrical production was staged in London as part of the Lost Musicals series. It opened at the Lilian Baylis Studio on July 3, 2005 and closed on July 24. Directed by Ian Marshall Fisher, it starred Betsy Blair as Mrs. Monday, Michael Matus as Charles Snell, Jennifer Higham as Ella Harkins, James Vaughan as Store Doorman/Night Watchman, and Gary Raymond as Roscoe, with Sylvia Seymour, Martin Gaisford, Myra Sands, David O'Brien and Andrew Beavis in supporting roles.[2]

On October 22, 2010, the St. George's Society in New York City had a one night only semi staged performance at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The show was directed and designed by Tony Walton, musical supervision and orchestration by Sean Patrick Flahaven, and musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell. The cast had Carmen De Lavallade (Mrs. Billbee) --she also directed some choreography, Jessica Grové (Ella), Sean Palmer (Charles), Candice Bergen (Mrs. Monday), John Cunningham (Roscoe Potts), Sondra Lee (Augusta), and William Duell (Billy).[3]

The DVD was commercially released for the first time on April 20, 2010, by E1 Entertainment and the Archive of American Television.[4]

The 2010 DVD release is broadcast free online through Hulu.[5]

Musical score[edit]

  • If You Can Find Me I'm Here
  • Charles Meets Mrs. Monday (instrumental)
  • Charles And Ella (instrumental)
  • Check List (instrumental)
  • The Basement (instrumental)
  • I Remember
  • When
  • Take Me To The World
  • The Ball (instrumental)
  • Roscoe And The Guard (instrumental)
  • The Ball, Part 2 (instrumental)
  • Escape (instrumental)
  • Take Me To The World (Reprise)
  • Final Credits (instrumental)

Recordings[edit]

An official soundtrack recording was never released commercially until 2008, when Kritzerland, Inc. issued it in a limited release of 3,000 copies.[6] Previously, the four vocal selections had been recorded by Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters for his 1990 Dress Casual album. Patinkin sang "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here," Peters sang "I Remember", and the other two were performed as duets. In 1997, Liz Callaway and Gary Beach recorded them for a Varèse Sarabande release entitled Sondheim at the Movies. A studio recording with Neil Patrick Harris as Charles and Theresa McCarthy as Ella was released by Nonesuch Records in 2001.[7] They recorded "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here", "I Remember", "When?", and "Take Me to the World".

"I Remember" has been recorded by David Kernan on the recording of the musical revue Side By Side By Sondheim, Sarah Brightman, Judy Collins, John Pizzarelli, Mark Murphy, Cleo Laine, Maureen McGovern, Betty Buckley, Julia Migenes, Dianne Reeves, Myrra Malmberg, Madeline Eastman, and Barbra Streisand. Dawn Upshaw included "Take Me to the World" on her 1994 musical theatre album I Wish It So.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Piepenburg, Erik. "'60s Sondheim TV Show Is Now on (Legal) DVD," ''The New York Times'', Monday, October 25, 2010". Nytimes.com. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  2. ^ "Casting confirmed for Lost Musicals "Evening Primrose" londontheatre.co.uk, 14 June 2005
  3. ^ Portantiere, Michael (2011). "Back into the light". The Sondheim Review (Sondheim Review, Inc.) XVII (3): 44. ISSN 1076-450X. 
  4. ^ "Take me to the world". The Sondheim Review (Sondheim Review, Inc.) XVI (4): 5. 2010. ISSN 1076-450X. 
  5. ^ http://www.hulu.com/watch/370480
  6. ^ Suskin, Steven. Sondheim's "Evening Primrose" and Kelli O'Hara's "Wonder in the World", playbill.com, May 12, 2008
  7. ^ Suskin, Steven. The Frogs, Evening Primrose, Subways", playbill.com, October 18, 2001

External links[edit]