Little Me (musical)
Revival cast recording
|Basis||Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television/Belle Poitrine, a novel by Patrick Dennis|
1964 West End
1982 Broadway revival
1984 West End
1998 Broadway revival
Little Me is a musical written by Neil Simon, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh. The original 1962 Broadway production was memorable, with Sid Caesar in multiple roles with multiple stage accents playing all of the heroine's husbands and lovers. One of the best known songs from the musical is "I've Got Your Number."
The musical Little Me is based on the novel by Patrick Dennis titled Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television/Belle Poitrine, an illustrated autobiography of an imaginary diva (published in 1961). In his memoir, Rewrites: A Memoir, Neil Simon wrote that aside from tailoring the musical's book to the talents of Sid Caesar, the second attraction of the project was a chance to work with choreographer Bob Fosse. "With the exception of Jerome Robbins, for my money Fosse was the best choreographer who ever worked in the theater."  (Simon and Caesar had worked together on the television variety program "Your Show of Shows.")
Little Me opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 17, 1962 and closed on June 27, 1963, running for 257 performances. Directed by Cy Feuer and Bob Fosse with choreography by Fosse, Sid Caesar starred playing multiple roles, with Virginia Martin as Young Belle and Nancy Andrews as Old Belle.
The 1982 revival at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre opened on January 21, 1982 and closed on February 21, 1982 after 30 previews and 36 performances. The multiple Caesar roles were split between Victor Garber and James Coco. The director was Robert Drivas and choreographer was Peter Gennaro, with Mary Gordon Murray as Belle; Bebe Neuwirth was in the ensemble.
Little Me was revived on Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Criterion Center Stage Right as a vehicle for Martin Short, opening on November 12, 1998 and closing on February 7, 1999 after 99 performances and 43 previews. With direction and choreography by Rob Marshall, Faith Prince played the combined roles of Old and Young Belle. According to Rob Marshall: "Without Marty, we wouldn't do it. And we're fortunate that we still have Neil and Cy with us, and they'll be working with us and tailoring it for Marty."
Little Me ran at the Rose and Crown Theatre, London from the 13–31 August 2013. The musical was directed by Brendan Matthew, with choreography by Chris Whittaker and design by Chris Hone.
The New York City Center Encores! staged concert runs from February 5, 2014 to February 9, 2014, starring Christian Borle, Rachel York as Belle, Judy Kaye as Older Belle, and Harriet Harris as Mrs. Eggleston. The production is directed by John Rando with choreography by Joshua Bergasse.
NOTE: This summary is based on the Original Broadway Production. The libretto was heavily revised for both of the subsequent revivals, with songs cut, added, or moved (most notably "Little Me").
- Act I
Belle Poitrine (née Schlumpfert) writes her autobiography with the help of Patrick Dennis ("The Truth"). As a child from Venezuela, Illinois, she lived in Drifter's Row, the poor side of town and dreamed of living on The Bluff, the rich part of town ("The Other Side of the Tracks"). Then she meets Noble Eggleston, from the "right" side of the tracks, and they feel an instant connection due to the presence of their "I Love You Theme" that plays whenever they touch. He invites her to his Sweet Sixteen party, and she agrees to go. At the party, Noble's friends all try to out-snob each other ("The Rich Kid Rag"). Noble's mother discovers that Belle lives in Drifter's Row and demands that Belle be sent away. Belle and Noble profess their love ("I Love You"), and Belle agrees to find wealth, culture, and social position to become equal to Noble so they can be together. She begins her journey, ignoring her friend George, who tells her it will only lead to her "getting kicked in the heart"("The Other Side of the Tracks (Reprise)").
Her first conquest is old, rich banker Mr. Pinchley, who is the "meanest, nastiest, and stingiest man in town" who refuses to help the poor. After Belle gets him to look at himself, Mr. Pinchley decides he no longer wants to be hated. Belle agrees to help him, and he wins the love of his son, and the citizens of Drifter's Row due to his generosity ("Deep Down Inside"). He shows her a gun, telling her that he was going to kill himself for his birthday, and that now, because of her, he won't. He asks Belle to marry him, and, as it will award her with wealth, culture, and social position, she accepts. When she gives him a hug, the gun accidentally goes off, killing him. Arrested and put on trial for murder, she meets Benny and Bernie Buchsbaum in jail and they advise her to become a star ("Be a Performer"). With Noble (who is now attending Harvard and Yale) helping her, she is acquitted and becomes a famous vaudeville performer with her own signature number ("Dimples").
Benny and Bernie fire her when they get a new star, and she is forced to become a camera girl at a club. There, she discovers Noble's mother is forcing him to marry Ramona, his wealthy friend. Devastated, she runs off. Then, the grand Val du Val makes his entrance and performs his sexually implicit song ("Boom-Boom") with his "Val du Val-ettes". Deciding she has nothing left to live for, she begins to jump off the roof. Val du Val notices this and prevents her from jumping, and leaves her in the hands of the club's owner. The owner is revealed to be George, who charms her ("I've Got Your Number") and gets her pregnant.
At a party during World War I she meets and marries poor-sighted soldier Fred Poitrine ("Real Live Girl"), but Fred dies in action from a serious digit wound. Belle has her baby and discovers that Noble is in trouble in France. She leaves the baby to her mother, quickly travels to France and, after failing to find Noble, stays to cheer up the troops ("Real Live Girl (Reprise)"). She then finds Val du Val has been left by his lover and now has amnesia. Belle uses the "booms" of the cannons to help him remember ("Boom-Boom (Reprise)"). His memory returns and they decide to marry. However, Noble has also arrived and Belle decides to marry him instead. When Val returns, she informs him of this, but he believes she "jilted" him like his old girlfriend and loses his memory again. Remembering how Val saved her life, she marries Val and tells Noble she no longer loves him ("Finale Act I: Boom-Boom").
- Act II
Five years later, Belle and Val sail on the SS Gigantic. She runs into Noble again, and, with the help of their "I Love You Theme", they reveal they still love each other. The boat hits an iceberg and Noble helps save the passengers while they reaffirm their love ("I Love (Sinking) You (Reprise)"). Discovering Belle loves Noble, Val du Val believes he has been "jilted" and loses his memory. He dies when he forgets how to swim, allowing Belle to sue the boat company and become rich — attaining the wealth she had been seeking.
Bernie and Benny ask her to fund their next movie with her enormous fortune, and she accepts both the charity and the lead role ("Poor Little Hollywood Star"). While looking for a producer, she meets the director Otto Schnizler ("Be a Performer (Reprise)"). As they shoot the movie, Otto shows an actor what to do with a stage knife but actually stabs himself, and Belle laments ("Little Me"). However, she receives a huge award for her role in the movie – meaning she has attained culture.
During The Great Depression, Ramona's family has lost all of their money, and Miss Eggleston forces her and Noble to divorce, leaving him free for Belle.
Belle next journeys to Monte Carlo and meets Prince Cherney. He has a heart attack when he gambles his country's entire treasury and loses. He needs his hypodermic needle, but Belle gives him his fountain pen, leading him close to death. He and his many mourners make a huge deal out of it ("Goodbye (The Prince's Farewell)"), but Belle gives him part of her giant fortune to save his country. He discovers he is not going to die, and in gratitude he makes her "Countess Zoftig"—she has attained social position. She then reveals that she had given him wine that she poisoned so he wouldn't suffer. The Prince suddenly dies, but Belle now has wealth, culture, and social position and can return to Noble.
Noble, now Governor of both North and South Dakota, agrees to marry Belle, and, in celebration, she makes him drink. This causes him to become alcoholic, and he is impeached. Ashamed, he leaves Belle. Devastated, she returns to Baby and marries George, where they now live in The Bluff ("Here's to Us"). George had recently discovered Noble is a bum, and Noble has decided to clean up to return to Belle.
After Belle finishes her story for the autobiography, Baby announces she and Noble Junior (whom Noble had while with Romona) are getting married. Patrick Dennis announces he is done with his research, but right then Miss Eggleston arrives to kill Belle. Belle had pushed Noble to alcohol and herself to poverty, and she has decided to end it. Noble returns to claim Belle, but his mother has already shot. At first it appears Noble was shot, but then it is revealed that she shot George, who dies. Their "I Love You Theme" playing, Belle decides to marry Noble even though he no longer has wealth, culture, and social position and they all live happily ever after ("Finale Act II: Here's To Us"). (Or, in The 1999 Revival ("Finale Act II: I Love You").)
Note: in the original production Sid Caesar played all of the men in Belle's life besides George and the Buchsbaum Brothers.
- The Gift of a Second Chance — Belle
- Mama's Little Girl — Mama and Belle (cut during previews)
- Smart People Stay Single — The Buchsbaum Brothers and The Potter Sisters (cut during previews)
- Mama — mother of Belle. A hooker with a heart of gold. Often played in drag. Her first name, Tallulah, is only given in the Garber and Coco revival.
- Belle Poitrine — the heroine, née Schlumpfert. Played by two women, Older Belle and Younger Belle in the original version, and by one woman in the Martin Short revival.
- Mrs. Eggleston — Noble's mother. Her first name, Flo, is only given in the Garber and Coco revival. Often played in drag.
- George Musgrove — a young, handsome gambler who falls in love with Belle. Renamed Frankie Polo, the gangster, in the Garber and Coco revival, and Lucky Malone in the Martin Short revival.
The Men in Belle's life:
- Noble Eggleston — Belle's true love
- Mr. Pinchley — old rich man
- The Buchsbaum Brothers — Benny and Bernie, two fast-talking vaudeville bookers
- Val du Val — an entertainer
- Fred Poitrine — a World War I private
- Otto Schnitzler — movie director
- Mr. Worst — An eccentric millionaire. Present only in the Garber and Coco revival.
- Prince Cherney — a Prince
NOTE: The parts of Noble, Mr. Pinchley, Val du Val, Fred Poitrine, Otto Schitzler and Prince Cherney are typically played by the same actor; Martin Short additionally played the role of Benny Buchsbaum. Some productions have also given the lead actor the roles of Patrick Dennis and George Musgrove.
- Patrick Dennis — A famous writer, ghost-writing Belle's autobiography
- Bernie and Benny Buchsbaum — Two theatrical producers who take advantage of Belle's notoriety to make her a vaudeville star (despite her lack of talent) and later produce her self-financed film career.
- Ramona Nightengale — Noble's fiancee, chosen by his mother
- Brucey — Noble's sycophantic, arrogant sidekick
- Yulnick — Prince Cherney's confidante.
- Butler/Hairdressers — At Belle Poitrine's Southampton house. Present only in the original production.
- Junior — Mr. Pichley's son.
- Mrs. Kepplewhite — Mr. Pinchley's secretary.
- Nurse — Mr. Pinchley's nurse.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording (1962) was released on RCA in 1962; a CD was released on March 9, 1993. A London Cast recording (1964 cast) was released by Drg on July 27, 1993. The New Broadway Cast Recording of the 1998 revival was released by Varese Sarabande on March 9, 1999.
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|1963||Tony Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|Best Author||Neil Simon||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Sid Caesar||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Swen Swenson||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Virginia Martin||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Cy Feuer and Bob Fosse||Nominated|
|Best Choreography||Bob Fosse||Won|
|Best Producer of a Musical||Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Robert Fletcher||Nominated|
|Theatre World Award||Swen Swenson||Won|
1982 Broadway revival
|1982||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Victor Garber||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Mary Gordon Murray||Nominated|
|Best Choreography||Peter Gennaro||Nominated|
1998 Broadway revival
|1999||Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Martin Short||Won|
|Best Choreography||Rob Marshall||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Harold Wheeler||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Martin Short||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography||Rob Marshall||Nominated|
- "Rewrites:A Memoir", Neil Simon, p. 110, 1996, Touchstone, ISBN 0-684-82672-0
- New York Times, ON STAGE AND OFF, Rick Lyman, March 27, 1998
- " 'Little Me' at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub" uktw.co.uk, accessed February 5, 2014
- Gans, Andrew. "Christian Borle Stars in Encores! 'Little Me', Beginning Feb. 5" playbill.com, February 5, 2014
- Kleinbort, Barry; liner notes to Witch Craft; Sara Zahn; Harbinger Records; 1998