The Apple Tree
|The Apple Tree|
The Diary of Adam and Eve
Frank R. Stockton's The Lady or the Tiger?
Jules Feiffer's Passionella
2006 Broadway revival
The Apple Tree is a series of three musical playlets with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and a book by Bock and Harnick with contributions from Jerome Coopersmith. Each act has its own storyline, but all three are tied together by a common theme (someone who believes that they want something, but once they get what they wanted they realize that it wasn't what they wanted) and common references, such as references to the color brown. The first act is based on Mark Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve; the second act is based on Frank R. Stockton's The Lady or the Tiger?; the third act is based on Jules Feiffer's Passionella.
The musical opened on Broadway on October 18, 1966 at the Shubert Theatre and ran for 463 performances, closing on November 25, 1967. It was produced by Stuart Ostrow, directed by Mike Nichols and starred Barbara Harris, Alan Alda, and Larry Blyden. Harris won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The Apple Tree also received several other major Tony nominations: Bock and Harnick for Best Composer and Lyricist, Nichols for Best Direction of a Musical, Lee Theodore for Best Choreography, and the show itself for Best Musical.
The Roundabout Theatre Company mounted a revival that ran from December 14, 2006 until March 11, 2007 with Kristin Chenoweth in Harris' roles, Brian D'Arcy James in Alda's roles and Marc Kudisch in Blyden's. The consensus of reviews was that the playlets themselves are all creaky with age, the music interesting but not inspired, and Chenoweth's performance a marvel and the evening's only important attraction. It ran for 18 previews and 99 regular shows for a total of 117 performances.
This musical is popular for high school productions because of its ease of presentation.
- The Diary of Adam and Eve
In the first story, Adam awakes to find that he is required to name all of the animals. He names them simply: flyers, swimmers and crawlers. He enjoys being the "sole and single man" on Earth. Then, he meets Eve, the "long haired creature", in the garden. Eve greatly enjoys her time "Here in Eden", and begins to name everything with more detailed names: cows, ducks, horses, etc. Adam becomes annoyed with Eve and she hurts his feelings when he discovers that she thinks she is superior to him. Eve doesn't think that Adam appreciates her and he makes her feel put out, but she begins to have some "Feelings" for him. Adam builds a shelter for himself, but when he sees Eve sitting in the rain he invites her in, where she immediately begins redecorating which Adam hates. Although Adam is annoyed, he too begins to have Feelings for "Eve." The two get into another argument, this time about cutting the grass around their house. After the fight, Adam storms away and Eve decides to go to a pond, where she thinks her reflection is someone just like her and that they are best "Friends". Soon, a snake appears. It seems to know everything, and tells Eve that she can know everything, too, as long as she eats the apples from the tree over the hill - the tree that Adam told her was forbidden. The snake tells her that Adam is wrong and that the apples are not "Forbidden Fruit". She eats an apple, but suddenly Adam realizes that something has happened to his "Beautiful, Beautiful World". Once the couple is out of Eden, they become closer. They now need each other more and have come to tolerate each other's weaknesses. Soon, Eve has their first child, Cain, but Adam thinks that "It's a Fish". Eve sings the baby a "Lullaby", and soon they have another son, Abel. After the boys grow up, Cain kills Abel and Eve reflects on her life, including her feelings for Adam. She tells Adam that she wants the two of them to die together, or at least have her die first because she needs him more than he needs her (to which he protests). She then reflects on "What Makes Me Love Him". Eve dies and Adam, who always hated flowers, begins to water her garden, because she loved the flowers so much.
- The Lady or the Tiger?
The second story takes place in a somewhat barbaric kingdom. The story, told by a balladeer, is about love and jealousy ("I'll Tell You a Truth"). He introduces King Arik and his daughter Princess Barbara entering a great banquet that is being held ("Make Way"). They show a traditional trial: the prisoner is put into a large arena with two doors. Behind one door is a beautiful woman - if the prisoner chooses that door, he is innocent and is required to marry the woman. Behind the other door is a ravenous tiger. If the prisoner chooses that door, he is deemed guilty and the tiger will kill him. After the trial, the King's Captain Sanjar returns from a long battle that they have won. The captain collapses, but the King and his court leave him there and decide to celebrate. A slave, Nadjira, stays behind to comfort him, but Princess Barbara comes back and orders that she leave. It is then discovered that Barbara and Sanjar are in love, but that because of class no one can know. They discuss their "Forbidden Love" and consider running away to Gaul. They realize that their place is here, and while they are stealing a kiss, King Arik walks in and catches them. Arik sentences Sanjar to a trial, much to Barbara's dismay. She decides to find out which door the tiger is behind so that Sanjar is not slaughtered. She asks the Royal Tiger Keeper (who is also the balladeer) to tell her which door hides the tiger. He tells her, but first warns her about having the information. She sings to herself, "I've Got What You Want", until she sees Nadjira being led to the arena to hide behind the other door. Barbara had forgotten about this door, but she now realizes that he will have to marry Nadjira if he doesn't chose the other door ("Tiger, Tiger"). King Arik, Princess Barbara and their court entourage enter the arena ("Make Way (reprise)") and the court contemplates "Which Door" Sanjar will choose. Sanjar begs Barbara to tell him which door to choose, and hesitating, she points to a door. The balladeer reenters and sings about the pains of jealousy ("I'll Tell You a Truth (reprise)". Which door Barbara chooses for Sanjar is not revealed.
A Narrator tells of Ella, who sings about the perils of being a chimney sweep and how great it would be to be famous ("Oh, to be a Movie Star"). One day, Ella comes home to find that her television is not working. Suddenly her Friendly Neighborhood Godmother (also the narrator) appears and grants her "her most cherished wish." Instantly, Ella becomes "Gorgeous", however she can only be Passionella from the seven o'clock news until the end of the late late show (7 P.M. until 4 A.M.). She then leaves her house ("Who is She?") A producer signs her to a lifetime contract, and she instantly becomes a star. Men love her and women wish to be exactly like her, and she knows exactly how they feel ("I Know"). Ella is still sad, though. She has fame, beauty and "Wealth", but she wants love. She meets Flip, a famous singer who is also a hippie, and falls in love with him, but he rejects her, telling her "You Are Not Real". Because of this, Passionella goes to her producer and tells him that she will retire unless she can play a chimney sweep in her next movie. He agrees, and Passionella wins the Academy Award for her role. Flip presents the award to her, and he realizes that he loves her and proposes marriage. The couple makes love in front of the television, but they lose track of time, and suddenly it is 4 A.M. Passionella is now Ella, but Flip is no longer Flip, either - he is George L. Brown. They get to know each other's true self and live happily ever after.
- Simonson, Robert."Chenoweth, Gets and Cerveris Shake The Apple Tree at Encores! May 12-16" playbill.com, May 12, 2005
- Brantley, Ben.New York Times reviewThe New York Times, December 15, 2006
- Saltzman, Simon."The Apple Tree review", theaterscene.net, December 25, 2006
- Stanley Green, Richard Walters, and Robert Viagas. The Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology: Soprano Vol. 3
- The Apple Tree at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Apple Tree at the Music Theatre International website
- Studio 54 New York showing The Apple Tree with Kristin Chenoweth
- Sheldon Harnick - Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org, November 2006
- Interview with Sheldon Harnick Remembrances of Jerry Bock