A Joyful Noise
|A Joyful Noise|
|Basis||Novel by Borden Deal
The Insolent Breed
A Joyful Noise is a musical with a book by Edward Padula and music and lyrics by Oscar Brand and Paul Nassau. The 1966 Broadway production was a flop but introduced choreographer Michael Bennett in his Broadway debut.
Based on Mississippi author Borden Deal's 1959 novel The Insolent Breed, the story centers on Shade Motley, a fiddler who arrives in a small Southern town and shocks the stern community with his exuberant love of hillbilly music and life in general.
Background and production
The musical underwent significant changes, both in performers and creators, during the tryout period. The book originally written by Edward Padula was rewritten by Dore Schary, who also took over as director. However, he quit, and Padula and Michael Bennett became co-directors.
Country music star Skeeter Davis was originally offered the ingenue lead but with no prior acting experience was reluctant to begin a Broadway career in such a pivotal role and declined. The part was eventually played by Donna McKechnie, later replaced by Susan Watson. Mitzi Welch and James Rado were replaced by Karen Morrow and Clifford David. It had "laughably stilted dialogue" and "an unconvincing plot." John Raitt, who was to play Shade Motley, was aware of the show's problems and, in an interview, said that they "could never get by the New York critics."
The musical opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on December 15, 1966 and closed on December 24, 1966 after twelve performances and four previews. Directed by Padula and choreographed by Michael Bennett, the cast featured John Raitt as Shade Motley, Karen Morrow, Susan Watson, Leland Palmer, Tommy Tune and Baayork Lee.
A wandering minstrel, Shade Motley, arrives in a small Tennessee town with his fiddle under his arm. The young women of the town find the stranger attractive. One young woman in particular, Jenny Lee, falls immediately in love with him, although she is engaged to Brother Locke, the local minister. Shade gives Jenny a locket, but her father Walter Wishenant, tells him to leave town. Just then Bliss Stanley arrives, with an offer to make Shade rich through his singing.
Jenny Lee ends up marrying Brother Locke, and Shade goes off to make his fortune. He returns for a visit with Mary Texas, an extroverted blonde.
- Shade Motley (John Raitt)-- the wandering minstrel
- Jenny Lee (Susan Watson)-- local young woman who becomes enamoured of Shade
- Bliss Stanley (Swen Swenson)-- an entrepreneur
- Brother Locke (Clifford David)-- a minister and Jenny Lee's fiancé
- Miss Jimmie (Leland Palmer)
- Mary Texas (Karen Morrow)-- Shade's flashy girlfriend
- Tommy (Tommy Tune)-- one of the Saw Mill Boys and The Motley Crew
Awards and nominations
Tony Award nominations went to Watson and Palmer as Best Featured Actress in a Musical and to Bennett for his choreography.
- Glover, William. "A Joyful Noise's Lusty Song, Laughter Opens" The Montreal Gazette', December 19, 1966
- The background information is from Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops, Ken Mandelbaum, pp. 69-70, 1992, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-08273-8
- " 'A Joyful Noise' Listing" playbillvault.com, accessed June 21, 2013
- New York Times, The Theater: "A Joyful Noise Arrives", Walter Kerr, p. 57, December 16, 1966