Based on the novel by B. J. Chute, the musical is a fantasy, set in the magical town of Greenwillow. In Greenwillow, the eldest in each generation of Briggs men must obey the "call to wander", while the women they leave behind care for the home and rear their children in the hope that some day their husbands will return. Gideon loves his girlfriend, Dorrie, and would like nothing better than to settle down with her, and finds in the town's newest inhabitant, the Reverend Birdsong, an ally who will try to help him make his dream come true.
The musical had a pre-Broadway try-out at the Shubert Theatre in Philadelphia. The musical opened on Broadway on March 8, 1960, at the Alvin Theatre, and closed on May 28, 1960, after 97 performances. The show was hampered by mixed reviews. According to Thomas Riis (the Joseph Negler Professor of Music and director of the American Music Research Center, University of Colorado at Boulder), The New York Times "was pleased" but it was the only paper to give a positive review.
This musical was being rehearsed in New York while Anthony Perkins was simultaneously filming the Alfred Hitchcock classic shocker Psycho (1960) in Los Angeles. He had a stand-in for the shower scene in that film. Stephen Rebello noted that the shower scene did not "require the services of Anthony Perkins", so Hitchcock allowed him to attend reheasals in New York.
The musical was presented by the York Theatre Company (New York City) in its "Musicals-in-Mufti" series in 2004. Peter Filichia said that the score was "grand" and noted that, in reviewing the original production, Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times wrote that 'Loesser has provided a warm and varied score that captures the simple mood'".
Source: Internet Broadway database;AllMusic