Hallelujah, Baby!

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Hallelujah, Baby!
Hallelujah, Baby! 1967 OBC Recording.jpg
Original cast recording
Music Jule Styne
Lyrics Adolph Green and Betty Comden
Book Arthur Laurents
Productions 1967 Broadway
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony for Composer and Lyricist

Hallelujah, Baby! is a musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden, and a book by Arthur Laurents. The show is "a chronicle of the African American struggle for equality during the [first half of the] 20th century."[1]

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1967 and made a young Leslie Uggams a star. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Synopsis[edit]

Georgina is a talented, beautiful and ambitious African American woman, determined to have a career. Overcoming many obstacles, she rises to stardom. She makes her way through the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginning of the civil rights movement. Her mother advises her to "keep her place" as a maid on a South Carolina estate, but Georgina negotiates the blocks to stardom from her negative and opportunistic mother. She encounters the racism that pervades society and show business.

Two men vie for Georgina's attention. Harvey, who is white, is able to provide opportunities for her. Her fiancee Clem, who is a black train porter, cannot help her on her journey. By the 1950s, she is a successful singer in an expensive night club. However, Clem has become an Army captain and then a civil rights activist and challenges Georgina's life goals.

Musical numbers[edit]

"Witches Brew" had a tune that was recycled from "Call Me Savage," a song from a prior musical Fade Out – Fade In and was originally sung by Carol Burnett.

Productions[edit]

The musical opened on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on April 26, 1967 and closed on January 13, 1968 after 293 performances and 22 previews. It was directed by Burt Shevelove, choreographed by Kevin Carlisle, with scenic design by William and Jean Eckart, costumes by Irene Sharaff and lighting by Tharon Musser. The cast featured Allen Case as Harvey, Robert Hooks as Clem, Leslie Uggams as Georgina, and Marilyn Cooper as Mrs. Charles, Mistress, Ethel, Dorothy. The production won five Tony Awards (out of nine nominations), including Best Musical, and Uggams won the Tony for Best Actress for her performance.

The George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey presented the musical in October - November 2004. Additional lyrics were written by Amanda Green. The cast featured Suzzanne Douglas as Georgina and Ann Duquesnay as Momma.[2]

The Arena Stage, Washington, DC production ran in January and February 2005.[1]

Laurents' recollections[edit]

Arthur Laurents felt that "the original production was too soft in its take on black social progress during the first six decades or so of the twentieth century. It was originally written with Lena Horne in mind. When the steely Horne opted out of the project, it was rewritten to suit the more youthful and bubbly Leslie Uggams." In the 2004 production, Laurents attempted "to add levels of darker intensity.... However, the music and lyrics are in the infectiously bright and bubbly style of musical comedy, and his efforts in this area reduce the charm and good spirits of the show without adding much of significance in the way of depth or insight."[3] According to Laurents, after Lena Horne declined to do the show, "What we should have done is abandon the show.... Instead it was rewriten for a woman who is one of the nicest women I have ever met in the theatre, Leslie Uggams,--and, God knows, she has a beautiful voice ... she was good, but it wasn't that original show. The show lost its edge, and I must say I lost interest in it."[4]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1967 Theatre World Award Leslie Uggams Won
1968 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Composer and Lyricist Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Robert Hooks Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Leslie Uggams Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Lillian Hayman Won
Best Direction of a Musical Burt Shevelove Nominated
Best Choreography Kevin Carlisle Nominated
Best Producer of a Musical Albert W. Selden, Hal James, Jane C. Nussbaum and Harry Rigby Won
Best Costume Design Irene Sharaff Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Chastang, Carol. "Review: 'Say Hallelujah!'" seeingblack.com, January 7, 2005
  2. ^ Siegel, Naomi. "Of Its Moment: 1967"The New York Times, October 24, 2004
  3. ^ Rendell, Bob. "Arthur Laurents Retools His Hallelujah, Baby!" broadwaytalk.com, c. October 2004, accessed September 3, 2009
  4. ^ Bryer, Jackson R. and Richard Allan Davison (2005). The Art of the American Musical: Conversations with the Creators, Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-3613-8, p. 133

External links[edit]