Very Good Eddie
|Very Good Eddie|
1918 West End
1975 Broadway revival
1976 West End
Very Good Eddie is a musical with a book by Guy Bolton and Philip Bartholomae, music by Jerome Kern, and lyrics by Schuyler Green and Herbert Reynolds, with additional lyrics by Elsie Janis, Harry B. Smith and John E. Hazzard and additional music by Henry Kailimai. The story was based on the farce Over Night by Bartholomae. The show was the second of the series of "Princess Theatre musicals" and was a hit for Bolton and Kern, running for 341 performances and leading to further successful collaborations.
The farcical plot focuses on Eddie Kettle, a very short young man newly married to Georgina, who is extremely tall. They board a Hudson River Day Line boat headed for the Honeymoon Inn in Poughkeepsie. Also on board are extremely tall athlete Percy Darling and his very short bride Elsie. Chaos ensues when the couples cross paths and accidentally trade partners. The vaudeville-style adventure continues at the hotel, where guests with names like Gay Anne Giddy, Fullern A. Goat, Tayleurs Dummee, Always Innit, and Madame Matroppo, a sex-crazed opera coach whose student is "Lily Pond" (Lily Pons), pop in and out of rooms while an inebriated desk clerk tries to sort through all the madness. Eventually the mismatched newlyweds find their way back to each other and, not surprisingly, true love prevails.
Early in the 20th century, American musical theatre consisted of a mix of elaborate European operettas, like The Merry Widow (1907), British musical comedy imports, likeThe Arcadians (1910), George M. Cohan's shows, the operettas of Victor Herbert, and the spectacular revues of Florenz Ziegfeld. But as Cohan's and Herbert's creative output waned, new creative talent was being nurtured on Broadway, including Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and Sigmund Romberg. Kern began by revising British musicals to suit American audiences, adding songs that "have a timeless, distinctly American sound that redefined the Broadway showtune."
The Princess Theatre was a simply designed, 299-seat Broadway theatre that had failed to attract successful productions because of its small size. Theatre agent Elisabeth Marbury asked Kern and Bolton to write a series of musicals specifically tailored to its smaller setting, with an intimate style and modest budgets, that would provide an alternative to the star-studded extravaganzas of Ziegfeld and others. Kern and Bolton's first Princess Theatre musical was Nobody's Home (1915), an adaptation of a London show called Mr. Popple of Ippleton. Very Good Eddie was their second. This was followed by an even bigger hit in 1917, Oh, Boy! and several others, all featuring modern American settings and simple scene changes (one set for each act) to more aptly suit the small theatre, eschewing operetta traditions of foreign locales and elaborate scenery.
Produced by Elisabeth Marbury and F. Ray Comstock, the original Broadway production opened on December 23, 1915 at the Princess Theatre. In May 1916, it moved to the Casino Theatre, and in September it transferred to the 39th Street Theatre, returning to the Princess Theatre to end its run on October 14, 1916, after a total of 341 performances. The cast included Ernest Truex and Helen Raymond. The sets were designed by the interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, who also coordinated the costumes.
In 1975, the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut revived the show to great acclaim, prompting the producers to transfer it to Broadway. After three previews, it opened on December 21, 1975 at the Booth Theatre, where it ran for 304 performances. The cast, directed by Bill Gile and choreograped by Dan Siretta, included Charles Repole, Virginia Seidel, James Harder, and Travis Hudson.
Principal roles and original cast
- Steward (on "The Catskill") – Benjamin F. Wright
- Monsieur De Rougement – James Lounsbery
- Purser (on "The Catskill") – Lew Fullerton
- Dick Rivers – Oscar Shaw
- Mme. Matroppo – Ada Lewis
- Elsie Lilly – Anna Orr
- Eddie Kettle – Ernest Truex
- Georgina Kettle (his wife) – Helen Raymond
- Percy Darling – John Willard
- Elsie Darling (his wife) – Alice Dovey
- Al Cleveland (clerk at The Rip Van Winkle Inn) – John E. Hazzard
- Victoria Lake – Julia Mills
- Chrystal Poole – Tess Mayer
- Lily Pond – Bessie Kelly
- Belle Fontaine – Arline Chase
- Flo Tide – Marie Kittridge
- Virginia Spring – Dorothy Silvia
Awards and nominations
1975 Broadway production
|1976||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Charles Repole||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Virginia Seidel||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Bill Gile||Nominated|
|Theatre World Award||Charles Repole||Won|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Virginia Seidel||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||James Harder||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Travis Hudson||Nominated|
1976 London production
|1976||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Nominated|
- Kenrick, John. "History of The Musical Stage 1910-1919: Part I", Musicals 101.com: The Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, TV and Film, accessed May 27, 2008
- Bloom and Vlastnik, pp. 230–31
- Sparke, Penny, "Elsie de Wolfe: The Birth of Modern Decoration", New York: Acanthus Press, 2005, pages 155-156
- Very Good Eddie at BroadwayWorld, accessed May 7, 2010
- Bloom, Ken and Vlastnik, Frank. Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of all Time. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York, 2004. ISBN 1-57912-390-2