Look Homeward, Angel (play)

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Look Homeward, Angel
Jo Van Fleet Anthony Perkins Look Homeward Angel 1958.jpg
Jo Van Fleet and Anthony Perkins on Broadway, 1958
Written by Ketti Frings
Characters Eugene Gant
Eliza Gant
W.O. Gant
Date premiered November 28, 1957
Place premiered Ethel Barrymore Theatre, Broadway
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting Altamont, North Carolina, in 1916

Look Homeward, Angel is an acclaimed 1957 stage play by the playwright Ketti Frings. It opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre November 28, 1957,[1] and ran for a total of 564 performances, closing on April 4, 1959.

The play is based on Thomas Wolfe's largely autobiographical novel of the same title, which was published in 1929.

In 1958, Ketti Frings won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. The production received Tony Award nominations for Best Play; Best Actor in a Play (Hugh Griffith and Anthony Perkins); Best Actress in a Play (Jo Van Fleet); Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner); Best Costume Design (Motley); and Best Director (George Roy Hill).

John Drew Barrymore was to co-star with Miriam Hopkins in the tour of Look Homeward, Angel, which was set to open in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 21, 1959, but Barrymore, who was said to be suffering from a skin infection and was underweight, quit the touring company during rehearsals. He was replaced by Jonathan Bolt.[2]


Look Homeward, Angel traces the coming of age of Eugene Gant, as well as the lives of his family members. It takes place in the town of Altamont, North Carolina. Eugene's mother, Eliza, runs a boarding house, "Dixieland", where boarders often interact with and affect the lives of the Gants. His father, William Oliver, runs a marble sculpture shop, where his prized possession, a statue of an angel.

The play begins by showing life in the boarding house when a young women, Laura enters and requests to stay there. Gant enters drunk, but is eventually helped by his daughter, Helen. The next scene sees Eugene and his brother, Ben, discussing life and love. Eugene meets Laura, and they appear to fall in love, though Eugene lies about his age, claiming to be older. Eliza and Gant fight over the matter of selling his shop and the angel statue. Eliza enters the boarding house and begins arguing with Ben, cumulating in her slapping him. The next scene, days later, sees Gant and Eugene working in his shop. Laura enters to confront Eugene about the truth—she has lied about her age and he has as well. Eliza enters, ready to sell Gant's shop, until he at last announces that rather than use the money for Dixieland's expenses, he would take the money, put Gene in college, and begin traveling. Eliza rips up his check in a fit of fury and exits. Immediately following, Ben falls ill. He is then seen on his deathbed, where he dies.

The third act opens with Eugene and Laura in their bedroom.

Broadway Opening Night Cast[edit]

Musical adaptation[edit]

Frings' stage adaptation of Look Homeward, Angel was readapted as a Broadway musical, Angel, which opened at the Minskoff Theatre in New York on May 4, 1978, and closed May 13 after five performances and poor reviews. Frings co-wrote the book with the show's lyricist, Peter Udell, whose lyrics were set to music by Gary Geld. This songwriting team had created the musicals Shenandoah and Purlie and penned the hit song "Sealed With a Kiss."

Angel was directed by Philip Rose and choreographed by Robert Tucker. The production featured costumes by Pearl Somner, lighting design by John Gleason and scenery by Ming Cho Lee.

For her performance in the show, Frances Sternhagen received a 1978 Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. Additionally, Joel Higgins was nominated for a 1978 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.


  1. ^ New York Times, Nov. 29, 1957, "The Theatre: 'Look Homeward, Angel' --- Luminous Adaptation of Wolfe Novel Opens," by Brooks Atkinson, p. 33.
  2. ^ New York Times, Oct.. 14, 1959, "Barrymore Quits Play --- Had Been Rehearsing in Tour of 'Look Homeward, Angel,'" p. 51.

External links[edit]