Jamaica (musical)

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Original Cast Recording
Music Harold Arlen
Lyrics E. Y. Harburg
Book E. Y. Harburg
Fred Saidy
Productions 1957 Broadway

Jamaica is a musical with a book by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy, lyrics by Harburg, and music by Harold Arlen. It is set on a small island off the coast of Jamaica, and tells about a simple island community fighting to avoid being overrun by American commercialism.

Arlen's music parodies the popular form of Calypso, which was in vogue in the 1950s, largely as a result of the popularity of Harry Belafonte, for whom the musical was originally written. Belafonte withdrew from the production due to illness, and the musical was then tailored around the talents of Lena Horne.[1] Harburg was blacklisted in Hollywood at the time of the writing of the musical,[1] and the satire is unusually pointed. With Calypso so out of fashion the musical now is dated, but many of the issues raised in its songs, including evolution, nuclear energy, and consumerism, remain topical today.


The musical opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on October 31, 1957 and closed on April 11, 1959 after 558 performances. The musical was directed by Robert Lewis and produced by David Merrick, with choreography by Jack Cole, scenic Design by Oliver Smith, costume design by Miles White and lighting design by Jean Rosenthal. The cast included Ricardo Montalbán as Koli and Lena Horne as Savannah, with Ossie Davis as Cicero, Erik Rhodes as Governor, Adelaide Hall as Grandma Obeah, and Josephine Premice as Ginger. Alvin Ailey was the principal dancer.

An original cast recording was released by RCA Victor.


A beautiful island girl, Savannah, longs to escape to New York City to live a life of modern conveniences. She is tempted to accept the marriage proposal of a New York businessman visiting the island. However, when an impoverished fisherman, Koli, saves her younger brother's life during a hurricane, she opts to remain with him.

Cast of characters (in order of appearance)[edit]

Song list[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1958 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Ricardo Montalbán Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Lena Horne Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Ossie Davis Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Josephine Premice Nominated
Best Scenic Design Oliver Smith Nominated
Best Costume Design Miles White Nominated


  1. ^ a b Lorenz, Kathleen Phillis. "Spotlight on E.Y. "Yip" Harburg". 42ndstmoon.com

External links[edit]