A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (musical)
|A Tree Grows in Brooklyn|
Original Cast Recording
|Basis||Betty Smith's novel
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (novel)
First produced in 1951, the musical is based on Smith's autobiographical novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943), but when Shirley Booth was cast as Aunt Sissy, a secondary character in the novel, the prominence of this role was expanded and tailored to Booth's comedic talents, diminishing the relative importance of other characters, in particular young Francie, through whose eyes the plot of the novel unfolds.
After two previews, the Broadway production, directed by Abbott and choreographed by Herbert Ross, opened on April 19, 1951 at the Alvin Theatre, where it ran for 267 performances. In addition to Booth, the cast included Johnny Johnston as Johnny, Marcia Van Dyke as Katie, and Nomi Mitty as Francie. Van Dyke was honored with a Theatre World Award. The musical director was Max Goberman.
Booth's performance proved to be both an asset and detriment to the production, since it was an audience pleaser but detracted from what should have been the story's primary focus, the struggles faced by Johnny and Katie as their marriage slowly crumbles.
The musical tells the tale of the working-class Nolan clan (Johnny, Katie and Francie) at the turn of the 20th century in Brooklyn, New York. The father, Johnny, is an optimistic but undependable singing waiter who spends his paycheck in the neighborhood saloon. His hard-working wife Katie is a disappointed realist weary from years of broken promises, daughter Francie idolizes her father, and Aunt Cissy is the victim of a string of romantic misadventures with common-law husbands, each of which she insists on calling "Harry" after her first lover.