Henry, Sweet Henry

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Henry, Sweet Henry
Original Recording
Music Bob Merrill
Lyrics Bob Merrill
Book Nunnally Johnson
Basis Novel and film
The World of Henry Orient
Productions 1967 Broadway

Henry, Sweet Henry is a musical with a book by Nunnally Johnson and music and lyrics by Bob Merrill.

Based on the novel The World of Henry Orient by Johnson's daughter Nora and the subsequent film of the same name, the plot focuses on Valerie and Marian, two wealthy, love-struck teenagers who stalk an avant-garde composer and aging philanderer.

After twelve previews, the Broadway production, directed by George Roy Hill and choreographed by Michael Bennett, opened on October 23, 1967 at the Palace Theatre, where it ran for 80 performances. The cast included Don Ameche, Neva Small, Robin Wilson, Carol Bruce, Louise Lasser, Baayork Lee, Priscilla Lopez, Alice Playten, and Pia Zadora.

The stage musical was never filmed: however, during its brief Broadway run, Alice Playten and the chorus performed one song from the score -- "Poor Little Person"—on The Ed Sullivan Show; this video recording survives.

The show is one of those tracked by William Goldman in his 1968 book The Season, which describes the ins and outs of a season on Broadway. He contends that Henry, Sweet Henry was well received by audience members (getting "every bit as good a reaction as Mame gets", referring to a smash hit of the time) but couldn't survive a bad review from Clive Barnes in the New York Times, who was then on a crusade to bring pop music into Broadway scores. Goldman also describes how the show was intended as a vehicle to propel its young lead Robin Wilson to stardom, but instead accidentally allowed second lead Alice Playten to steal the show.

An off off Broadway revival of the musical, directed and produced by James Rocco and choreographed by Rebecca Urich, of the original cast, was in the midst of tech rehearsals when the theatre it was playing at, the Mercer Arts Center, collapsed to the ground. Rocco, 16 at the time, was given a challenge by the Lambs Club; if he could reorganize the show they would let the company use their theatre on 45 Street. The youngsters rose to the challenge and the show went on to play its limited engagement with a few added performances. It opened to enthusiastic response and starred Rebecca Urich in the role of Val, which she had understudied in the original production.[citation needed]

Song list[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Playten, nominee)
  • Tony Award for Best Choreography (nominee)
  • Theatre World Award (Playten, winner)