Irma La Douce (musical)

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Irma La Douce
Irma la Duoce-1959.jpg
1959 production in Stockholm
MusicMarguerite Monnot
LyricsAlexandre Breffort
BookAlexandre Breffort
Productions1956 Paris
1958 West End
1960 Broadway
1962 Mexico City
2014 City Center Encores!

Irma la douce ([iʁ.ma la dus], "Irma the Sweet") is a 1956 French musical with music by Marguerite Monnot and lyrics and book by Alexandre Breffort. The musical premiered in Paris in 1956, and was subsequently produced in the West End in 1958 and on Broadway, by David Merrick, in 1960. The English lyrics and book (1958) are by Julian More, David Heneker, and Monty Norman.


The musical premiered in Paris at the Théâtre Gramont in Paris on November 12, 1956, where it ran for four years. It was produced in the West End at the Lyric Theatre, opening on July 17, 1958, running for 1,512 performances, for three years.[1][2] The West End production was directed by Peter Brook with choreography by John Heawood, and starred Keith Michell as Nestor, Elizabeth Seal as Irma, and Clive Revill.[3]

Irma La Douce opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre (now the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre) on September 29, 1960, moved to the Alvin Theatre on October 30, 1961, and closed on December 31, 1961, after 524 performances. The production was directed by Peter Brook with choreography by Onna White. Repeating their roles from the London production were Michell, Seal, and Revill. Stuart Damon and Fred Gwynne also were featured.

A Mexican version was produced in 1962, starring Mexican cinema superstar Silvia Pinal and actor Julio Alemán. The production was shown in the Teatro de los Insurgentes of Mexico City.[4]

The story was made into a non-musical film of the same title in 1963, directed by Billy Wilder starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

San Francisco's 42nd Street Moon presented a staged concert from September 25 to October 12, 2008. Alison Ewing starred as Irma with Kyle Payne in the dual role of Nestor-Le-Fripé/Oscar and Bill Fahrner as Bob-Le-Hotu, the narrator. Greg MacKellan directed, and Linda Posner choreographed.[5]


Irma La Douce is a successful prostitute, living in Paris. A poor law student, Nestor le Fripé, falls in love with her and is jealous of her clients. In order to keep her for himself, he assumes the disguise of a rich older man, "Oscar", and takes many jobs. Finally no longer able to sustain his exhausting life, he "kills" Oscar, is convicted of murder, and is transported to the Devil's Island penal colony. He escapes and returns to Paris, and proves that he is innocent. He and Irma reunite.

Songs (English version)[edit]


Life Magazine called the musical "a French fairy tale for wicked grown-ups who want to believe in love" and praised Seal. "Elizabeth Seal is an ideal Irma, tender, breezy, and totally implausible as a bad girl...the season's new favorite." "Another asset is Clive Revill...who provides the right clowning touch."[1]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1961 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Elizabeth Seal Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Clive Revill Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Peter Brook Nominated
Best Choreography John Heawood Nominated
Best Conductor and Musical Director Stanley Lebowsky Nominated
Best Costume Design Rolf Gerard Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Sweet Irma in a Wicked World", Life Magazine, November 14, 1960.
  2. ^ Hischak, Thomas. The Oxford Companion To the American Musical (2008), Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-533533-3, p. 368.
  3. ^ Helfer, Richard; Loney, Glenn Meredith; and Brook, Peter. Peter Brook: Oxford to Orghast (1998), Taylor & Francis, ISBN 90-5702-208-7, pp. 99-101.
  4. ^ Red Teatral. net: Irma La Douce (Mexican version)
  5. ^ " 'Irma La Douce' listing Archived 2010-01-30 at the Wayback Machine, accessed February 3, 2010

External links[edit]