Happy New Year (musical)
|Happy New Year|
|Basis||Holiday by Philip Barry|
Happy New Year is a musical with a book by Burt Shevelove and music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
Based on Philip Barry's comic 1928 play Holiday and its subsequent 1930 film adaptation and better known 1938 remake, it focuses on hedonistic young Wall Street attorney Johnny Case who, driven by his passion to live life as a holiday, contemplates abandoning his career for a carefree existence by marrying wealthy upper class Julia Seton.
Porter successfully had transformed Barry's The Philadelphia Story into the musical film High Society, so Shevelove pored through the composer's catalogue in search of tunes that would fit Holiday's plot. When the show previewed at the Stratford Festival in Canada, the score consisted of lesser-known Porter songs, and Shevelove decided to eliminate most of them in favor of music more familiar to audiences. He also opted to replace much of Barry's original repartee with songs that suited neither the characters nor the situations, and replaced the gaps with a narrator whose purpose was to explain what was missing from the plot, a device that ultimately proved to be clumsy and confusing.
The Narrator introduces the Seton family, who in December 1933 live in a five story townhouse on Fifth Avenue in New York City. He relates their story.
Successful Wall Street lawyer Johnny Case has become engaged to Julia Seton. Julia and her sister Linda celebrate the engagement ("At Long Last Love"). However, Johnny has decided to abandon his well-paid career and instead live a life of pleasure, using Julia's money. Julia's banker father Edward is very upset and her willful sister Linda is fascinated. Johnny begins to realize that he loves the unconventional Linda, and they become a couple, disregarding the "old money and values" of others for a life together.
† from Red, Hot and Blue **from "Out of This World," one of Porter's late-career flops, an adaptation of "Amphitryon."
The Broadway production opened at the Morosco Theatre on April 27, 1980 and closed on May 10, 1980, after 17 performances and 27 previews. Directed by Shevelove and choreographed by Donald Saddler, the cast include Michael Scott as Johnny, Kimberly Farr as Julia, William Roerick as Edward, and Leslie Denniston as Linda, with John McMartin as the narrator and Richard Bekins and Lara Teeter and Tim Flavin in supporting roles.
Mel Gussow (The New York Times) wrote that the musical "turns out to be a musical bouquet of gentle charm and piquancy." He noted that the tryout at the Stratford (Ontario) Festival during the summer of 1979 "seemed like a good idea gone awry." Since that time, more than half the songs were replaced, the enitire cast was replaced, and there was "considerable rewriting."
- Gussow, Mel. "Stage: Happy New Year, a Burt Shevelove Musical", The New York Times, April 28, 1980, p. C13
- Simon, John. "Theater:Bread, Circuses, and Then Some", New York Magazine, May 12, 1980, p. 59