The Happy Time (musical)

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The Happy Time
MusicJohn Kander
LyricsFred Ebb
BookN. Richard Nash
BasisSamuel A. Taylor's play
The Happy Time
Productions1967 Los Angeles
1968 Broadway
1980 Connecticut
1983 Lyric Opera of Kansas City
2007 New York reading

The Happy Time is a musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and a book by N. Richard Nash loosely based on a 1950 hit Broadway play, The Happy Time by Samuel A. Taylor, which was in turn based on stories by Robert Fontaine. The story had also been made into a 1952 film version.

The original 1967 Los Angeles and 1968 Broadway productions were directed and choreographed by Gower Champion, who won Tony Awards in each category.


Producer David Merrick had initially asked Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields to write the songs and Yves Montand to play the lead, but they were all busy with other projects and declined to participate.[1] Merrick then asked N. Richard Nash to write the script, but Nash suggested an original story of his own. Merrick, holding the rights to The Happy Time, asked that the setting be changed to Canada, and the deal was set. The final script had little of the Taylor play but did use the characters and some minor details from Fontaine's stories. Nash showed the outline of the story to Kander and Ebb, who agreed to write the music.[2]

Merrick had approached Gower Champion to direct the new musical. Champion agreed, with the provision that it open in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre. Rehearsals began in September 1967 in Los Angeles, and the show opened on November 19 at the Ahmanson. Although the reviews were poor, the show was sold out.[3] The show ran to December 23, 1967.[4][5][6][7]

The Happy Time opened on Broadway at The Broadway Theatre on January 18, 1968. It received mixed reviews from the critics, who generally admired the performances but noted large deficiencies in the script.[8] It closed on September 28, 1968, after a run of 286 sparsely attended performances and 23 previews. It was the first Broadway musical to lose a million dollars.[9] The production was directed, filmed, and choreographed by Gower Champion, set design by Peter Wexler, costume design by Freddy Wittop, lighting design by Jean Rosenthal, film sequences created by Christopher Chapman, film technical direction by Barry O. Gordon, orchestrations by Don Walker, musical direction and vocal arrangements by Oscar Kosarin, associate choreography by Kevin Carlisle, and dance and incidental music arrangements by Marvin Laird. John Serry Sr. collaborated as the orchestral accordionist in the Broadway production.


Jacques Bonnard is a prize-winning photographer who travels the world. He returns to his 1920s French-Canadian village, after five years away, seeking the happy time of his childhood. His cantankerous but lovable father (Grandpere), two brothers and their wives, and their children all welcome him ("He's Back"). His stories of his travels have a profound effect on his nephew Bibi, who is having trouble at school and going through an especially rough puberty, inspiring the boy to want to live life to the fullest. Jacques goes to a nightclub and takes Grandpere and Bibi, where they are entertained by the dancers (Six Angels) ("Catch My Garter"). After their night on the town, Bibi begs Jacques to "Please Stay".

When Bibi takes Grandpere's "naughty" pictures to school and is discovered, his stern father Philippe forces him to apologize to his school-mates. Bibi is embarrassed and upset and tries to cajole Jacques into taking him away when he leaves. Although Jacques at first agrees, thinking that Bibi will be a companion, he quickly realizes that this would not be good for Bibi.

Meanwhile, Jacques finds it difficult to commit to his former sweetheart Laurie ("I Don't Remember You"). The couple finally realize that they have opposite ideas about life and the future ("Seeing Things"), with Laurie understanding that Jacques is emotionally a boy, like her students. Grandpere, Jacques and Bibi playfully sing an ode to "A Certain Girl". Jacques finally realizes that he returned home searching for family and love ("Running"), and understands that he must set out alone again.

Original cast and characters[edit]

Character Broadway (1968)[10]
Jacques Bonnard Robert Goulet
Suzanne Bonnard Jeanne Arnold
Philippe Bonnard George S. Irving
Bibi Bonnard Michael Rupert
Louis Bonnard Charles Durning
Annabelle Bonnard Kim Freund
Gillie Bonnard Julane Stites
Nanette Bonnard Connie Simmons
Felice Bonnard June Squibb
Grandpere Bonnard David Wayne
Laurie Mannon Julie Gregg


+Denotes songs added during the revised 2002 Niagara University production.


The Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Connecticut, presented the show in April 1980-May 1980. The production was revised, by rewriting the book "so that it no longer changes its tune in the second act", eliminating photographic projections and adding four songs that had been dropped.[11]

In May 2002, the Niagara University Theatre in Niagara Falls, New York staged a revival of The Happy Time. John Kander and Fred Ebb went to Niagara University to work with the cast, helping recreate the work. "They were here a few weeks ago for rehearsals and thought the show was just beautiful..."[12] Most notably, they incorporated five songs, originally cut from the musical, into the production, as well as making a few other minor changes. "This NU Theatre production, with Kander and Ebb's blessing, has reinstated several songs and restored text, prompting them to label this version 'definitive.'"[13]

The revised version was performed in New York City for the first time in 2007 in a staged reading by "Musicals Tonight!", as part of their season long tribute to George S. Irving, who returned to the show, this time playing Jacques' father, Grandpere.[14][15][16]

The Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA staged a revised production of The Happy Time from April 1, 2008 through June 1, 2008. The production was directed by Michael Unger and choreographed by Karma Camp.[17] It received favorable reviews. For example, the Washington Post reviewer wrote: "A little charmer... Effervescent. The cast is strong... which is part of why it generally feels like a luxury to be able to see the show in this space."[18] Variety agreed: "Fresh and earnest... staged with ultimate intimacy in Signature's tiny ARK Theater."[citation needed]

The musical was profiled in the William Goldman book The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway (Hal Leonard Corporation, 1984; ISBN 0879100230). Goldman noted that "the projections simply overpowered the small size and feel of the show." (pg. 295).

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
1968 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated [19]
Best Original Score John Kander and Fred Ebb Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Robert Goulet Won
David Wayne Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Michael Rupert Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Julie Gregg Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Gower Champion Won
Best Choreography Won
Best Scenic Design Peter Wexler Nominated
Best Costume Design Freddy Wittop Nominated
Theatre World Award Julie Gregg Won [20]
Michael Rupert Won


The Original Broadway cast recording was released by RCA Victor Broadway in January 1968 and the CD was released on March 10, 1992.[21]


  1. ^ Gilvey, pg. 183
  2. ^ Gilvey, pp. 182-84
  3. ^ Gilvey, John Anthony. "Chapter Twelve. Memories, MAX, and a Million Bucks. The Happy Time, 1967-1968", Before the Parade Passes By: Gower Champion and the Glorious American Musical, Macmillan, 2005, ISBN 1429925590 (no page number)
  4. ^ "Ahmanson Theatre. !967-68 Premiere Season", accessed February 21, 2016 Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "The Ahmanson: All-Star Stage" Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1997
  6. ^ Kander, John; Ebb, Fred; and Lawrence, Greg. "'Cabaret' and 'The Happy Time'", Colored Lights: Forty Years of Words and Music, Show Biz, Collaboration, and All That Jazz, Macmillan, 2004; ISBN 1429928328, pp. 75-78
  7. ^ " 'The Happy Time' Production History", accessed July 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Gilvey, p. 200
  9. ^ "'The Happy Time' Overview and Review", accessed February 21, 2016.
  10. ^ Playbill 1961 Bio Cast Listaccessed 07/03/2023
  11. ^ Rich, Frank, "Stage:'The Happy Time' at the Goodspeed", The New York Times, May 7, 1980, pg. C29
  12. ^ Staff, "Coming to See 'The Happy Time'", Buffalo News, May 3, 2002, pg. C2
  13. ^ Hadley, Ted, "Happy Time is Here Again", Buffalo News (New York), May 2, 2002, pg. C8
  14. ^ "Reviews: The Happy Time",, retrieved March 13, 2009 Archived May 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Dale, Michael. "2007 Concert Review", March 11, 2007
  16. ^ McKinnon, Fred. "Review 'The Happy Time'" Theatreonline, 2007.
  17. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Sentimental Journey: Signature Revives Kander & Ebb's 'Happy Time' April 1" Archived 2008-04-04 at the Wayback Machine,, April 1, 2008
  18. ^ Pressley, Nelson. "'The Happy Time': a Little Charmer", The Washington Post, April 10, 2008, pg. C05
  19. ^ "List of 1968 Tony Award Nominees and Winners"
  20. ^ List of Theatre World Award Winners
  21. ^ The Happy Time (1968 Original Broadway Cast)


  • Gilvey, J., "Before the Parade Passes by: Gower Champion and the Glorious American Musical" (2005), St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-33776-0

External links[edit]

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