Studio cast album 1950
|Basis||John O'Hara's novel |
|Productions||1940 Broadway |
1952 Broadway revival
1954 West End
1976 Broadway revival
1978 Civic Light Opera
1980 West End revival
2008 Broadway revival
Pal Joey is a musical with a book by John O'Hara and music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The musical is based on a character and situations O'Hara created in a series of short stories published in The New Yorker, which he later published in novel form. The title character, Joey Evans, is a manipulative small-time nightclub performer whose ambitions lead him into an affair with the wealthy, middle-aged and married Vera Simpson. It includes two songs that have become standards: "I Could Write a Book" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered".
The original 1940 Broadway production was directed by George Abbott and starred Vivienne Segal and Gene Kelly. Though it received mixed reviews, the show ran for 10 months, the third-longest run of any Rodgers and Hart musical. There have been several revivals since, including a 2008-09 Broadway run, and a 1957 film adaptation starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak.
Author John O'Hara offered his stories of Pal Joey to Rodgers and Hart for adaptation as a new musical. Title character Joey Evans, an unsympathetic but charming antihero, was a striking departure from the usual musical comedy formula. Joey was amoral, but he was not presented as a villain, nor did his character change for the better.Richard Rodgers said: "Joey was not disreputable because he was mean, but because he had too much imagination to behave himself, and because he was a little weak." Rodgers and Hart maintained a cynical, dark tone throughout the work and employed two distinct musical styles in the show: the deliberately tacky nightclub numbers contrasted with the more elegant songs the characters sang to express their emotions, though these expressions were more ironic than sincere. Hart's lyrics frankly described Joey and Vera's affair; "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" included (among others) the lyrics, "Horizontally speaking, he's at his very best" and "Vexed again, Perplexed again, Thank God I can be oversexed again", while "In Our Little Den (of Iniquity)" included, "We're very proper folks you know, We've separate bedrooms comme il faut. There's one for play and one for show".
As they cast the musical, Rodgers, Hart and O'Hara knew that they wanted Joey to be primarily a dancer, not a singer, and the actor who played Joey would have to be likeable in spite of Joey's unpleasant character. They chose Gene Kelly, who was at the time playing a dancing role, Harry the Hoofer, in the play The Time of Your Life. Kelly had made his Broadway debut in 1938 in the chorus of Cole Porter's Leave It to Me!; Pal Joey would be his first lead role. Rodgers and Hart wanted Vivienne Segal, who had previously starred in their 1938 musical I Married an Angel, to play the older woman with whom Joey has an affair; though O'Hara had initially considered other actresses, he was won over when he met Segal. Segal, who would be 43 when the show opened on Broadway, appreciated the opportunity to play a worldly, mature character, unlike the ingenues she had played for most of her career. Using Segal's initials, O'Hara gave her character the name "Vera Simpson". O'Hara was not present during the out-of-town tryouts, and director George Abbott took over the rewriting. When the show opened in New York, the critics were divided. Richard Watts (New York Herald Tribune) called it "brilliant", but other critics and members of the theatre-going public disliked the subject matter. Nonetheless, it became the longest running Rodgers-Hart show up to that time.
Based on original 1940 book
In Chicago in the late 1930s, singer/dancer Joey Evans, a charming "heel" with big plans, schemes to get his own nightclub. He auditions for an emcee job at a second-rate nightclub ("You Mustn't Kick It Around"). Joey gets the job and begins rehearsals with the chorus girls and club singer Gladys Bumps. Joey meets young and naïve Linda English outside a pet shop, and he impresses her with grandiose lies about his career. Linda innocently falls for Joey's line ("I Could Write a Book"). As the chorus girls are doing a song-and-dance number at the club that night ("Chicago"), Linda arrives with a date. Wealthy married socialite Vera Simpson arrives at the club and shows a definite interest in Joey. Joey plays hard-to-get and insults Vera, who walks out. Mike, the club owner, fires Joey, but Joey, believing Vera will be back, strikes a deal: if Vera doesn't come back within the next few days, Joey will leave without pay. The chorus girls continue with the show ("That Terrific Rainbow"); Linda, having witnessed Joey's caddish behavior, has left the club. Vera doesn't return, so Joey is fired. When Linda refuses to answer his calls, Joey calls Vera ("What is a Man"). After Joey's last night as emcee, Vera picks him up from the club and they start an affair ("Happy Hunting Horn"). Vera is glowing in the romance and sets Joey up with an apartment and expensive clothes ("Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"). While shopping for clothes for Joey, Vera and he run into Linda, leaving Vera jealous and Linda distraught. Vera gives Joey his own nightclub, "Chez Joey," and Joey looks forward to rising to the top ("Pal Joey"/"Joey Looks to the Future" ballet).
The chorus girls and singers from the old club have relocated to "Chez Joey," where they rehearse for the opening performance ("The Flower Garden of My Heart"). Melba, an ambitious reporter, interviews Joey, recalling her interviews with various celebrities, including Gypsy Rose Lee ("Zip") [In the 2008 revival, Gladys plays a "reporter" in a skit during the floor show at Chez Joey, performing "Zip" as a striptease]. Ludlow Lowell, Gladys' old flame, introduces himself as an agent with papers that Joey unthinkingly signs as the rehearsal continues ("Plant You Now, Dig You Later"). In Joey's apartment the next morning, Joey and Vera reflect on the pleasures of their affair ("In Our Little Den"). Linda overhears Gladys and Lowell plotting to use the papers Joey signed to blackmail Vera. [In the 2008 revival, Joey fires Gladys, and to get back at him, she conspires with Mike, the club manager, to blackmail Vera. Mike is forced into the scheme because Gladys threatens to have him fired because he is gay.] Linda calls Vera, who initially distrusts Linda; Vera confronts Joey, asking what his relationship is with Linda, and Joey responds defensively ("Do It the Hard Way"). Linda comes to the apartment to convince Vera, and Vera, seeing Linda's sincerity, now believes her. Vera and Linda agree that Joey is not worth the trouble ("Take Him"). Vera calls her friend the police commissioner, who arrests Gladys and Lowell. Vera throws Joey out and closes "Chez Joey" ("Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" reprise). Joey, now penniless, runs into Linda again outside the pet shop, and she invites him to dinner with her family. He joins for a meal and then they part as friends, with him claiming to have been cast in a nonexistent show in New York. In the 1952 revival, he was shown to have a change of heart, turning just before the curtain falls to follow her.
|Joey Evans||A small-time womanizing MC and dancer/singer who has dreams of opening his own night club||Gene Kelly; Frank Sinatra; Harold Lang; Bob Fosse; Denis Lawson; Christopher Chadman; Clifton Davis; Joel Grey|
|Vera Simpson||A bored rich socialite||Vivienne Segal; Rita Hayworth; Siân Phillips; Viveca Lindfors; Joan Copeland; Lena Horne; Donna Murphy; Patti LuPone; Stockard Channing; Christine Andreas; Jane Russell|
|Linda English||A naive stenographer (in the 2008 revival, a clerk in a men's clothing store)||Leila Ernst; Kim Novak; Daisy Prince|
|Gladys Bumps||A chorus girl who takes an instant dislike to Joey (in the 2008 revival, they have history)||June Havoc; Helen Gallagher; Vicki Lewis; Martha Plimpton Barbara Nichols|
|Melba Snyder||An ambitious reporter (does not appear in the 2008 revival)||Elaine Stritch; Kay Medford; Josephine Premice; Dixie Carter; Bebe Neuwirth; Ann Reinking|
|Ludlow Lowell||A crooked "artists representative"||Jack Durant; Lionel Stander; Ned Eisenberg; Ron Perlman|
+ 2008 revival: "Zip" is sung by Gladys; cut songs restored; Linda's reprise added
Pal Joey premiered on Broadway on December 25, 1940, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and ran for 374 performances. Directed by George Abbott with choreography by Robert Alton, the opening-night cast included Gene Kelly as Joey, Vivienne Segal as Vera, and June Havoc as Gladys. Van Johnson and Stanley Donen were also in the cast.
Pal Joey achieved wider acclaim in the decades after its initial production. Throughout much of the 1940s, the songs from Pal Joey were banned from radio play by ASCAP, preventing them from becoming popular standards; the ban was lifted in the late 1940s. In 1950, the song "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" became popular and was recorded by various bands and pop singers, including Mel Torme, Doris Day, and Gordon Jenkins and The Harmonicats. Prompted by the song's success, Goddard Lieberson, the producer of Columbia Records, decided to produce a studio cast album of Pal Joey featuring Harold Lang as Joey and Vivienne Segal reprising her role as Vera. Because of the popularity of that recording, composer-producer Jule Styne produced the 1952 revival, in which Lang and Segal starred.
The 1952 revival met with greater success than the original production. It opened on January 3, 1952, and closed on April 18, 1953, after 540 performances. Lang and Segal starred, with Helen Gallagher as Gladys (for which Ms. Gallagher won the Tony Award for best featured actress that year), future Broadway star Elaine Stritch as Melba, and Bob Fosse as the understudy for Joey. Dances and musical numbers were again staged by Robert Alton, and the production was directed by David Alexander. This production had the longest run of any revival of a musical in the history of the Broadway theatre at the time. It won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical and became the first musical ever to receive eleven Donaldson Awards. Elaine Stritch was signed as an understudy to Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam at the time; she describes the difficulties of holding both jobs after the previews unexpectedly moved to New Haven in a monologue framed by "Zip" in her one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty.
There have been two productions in London's West End. The first was in March 1954 at the Princes Theatre, starring Harold Lang, Carol Bruce and Sally Bazely. The second was at the Noël Coward Theatre, from September 1980 until September 1981, starring Siân Phillips, Danielle Carson, and Denis Lawson.
In 1976, a revival on Broadway opened on June 27, 1976, at the Circle in the Square Theatre and closed on August 29, 1976. The show was directed by Theodore Mann; choreography by Margo Sappington; musical direction/additional dance arrangements by Scott Oakley; scenery John J. Moore; costumes Arthur Boccia; lighting Ron Wallace; principal orchestrator Michael Gibson; production stage manager Randall Brooks; stage manager James Bernardi; and press by Merle Debusky and Susan L. Shulman.
The opening-night cast featured Christopher Chadman (Joey); Harold Gary (Mike); Terri Treas (Kid); Janie Sell (Gladys); Gail Benedict (Gail); Murphy Cross (Murphy); Rosamond Lynn (Rosamond); Marilu Henner (Marilu); Deborah Geffner (Debbie); Boni Enton (Linda); David Hodo (Gent); Austin Colyer (Ernest); Denny Martin Flinn (Waldo the Waiter); Michael Leeds (Victor); Kenn Scalice (Delivery Boy); Adam Petroski (Louis); Joe Sirola (Ludlow Lowell); Ralph Farnworth (O'Brien); Dixie Carter (Melba); and Joan Copeland (Vera). It ran for 73 performances.
Pal Joey had another Broadway revival in 1963 (15 performances) at City Center and starred Bob Fosse as Joey, Viveca Lindfors as Vera, and Kay Medford as Melba. A 1978 revival titled 'Pal Joey '78' starring Clifton Davis as Joey, Lena Horne as Vera, and Josephine Premice as Melba was scrapped due to low ticket sales and critical pans during its tryout tour. The Huntington Theatre in Boston presented a revised version, adapted by Richard Greenberg and director David Warren, from September to October 1992. The cast featured Donna Murphy as Vera. A staged concert in the New York City Center Encores! series in May 1995 starred Peter Gallagher and Patti LuPone. In 2002, there was a Prince Music Theater production in Philadelphia which starred Christine Andreas. The following year Andreas won the Barrymore Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance as Vera Simpson.
Producer Marc E. Platt, along with Richard Greenberg (who had written the 1992 Boston adaptation) and director Joe Mantello planned a revival for fall 2007, which was postponed. The Roundabout Theatre Company and Platt presented a limited engagement, with previews beginning on November 14, 2008, officially opening on December 18, 2008, and closing on March 1, 2009. The original book by John O'Hara had undergone substantial "adaptation" by Greenberg, eliminating characters and reassigning songs. This new production also included a song for Joey that was cut prior to the 1940 Broadway premiere, "I'm Talking to My Pal", and also interpolated two Rodgers & Hart songs, which were sung by Joey and Linda: "Are You My Love?" (from the 1936 film Dancing Pirate) and "I Still Believe in You" (from the 1930 musical Simple Simon). Mantello directed, with choreography by Graciela Daniele. The production starred Stockard Channing as Vera, Martha Plimpton as Gladys, Matthew Risch as Joey, Jenny Fellner as Linda, and Robert Clohessy as Mike. The set designer was Scott Pask, with costumes by William Ivey Long and lighting by Paul Gallo. Advance publicity for the show included a full page spread in the November issue of Vogue, featuring Christian Hoff in costume as Joey. Hoff began previews as Joey, but when he was forced to leave the production on November 22, 2008, due to an injury, his understudy, Matthew Risch, took over the part. Risch had previously appeared on Broadway in featured roles in Chicago and Legally Blonde.
In 1940 New York Times review, Brooks Atkinson wrote
If it is possible to make an entertaining musical comedy out of an odious story, Pal Joey is it. John O'Hara has written a joyless book about a sulky assignation. Under George Abbott's direction some of the best workmen on Broadway have fitted it out with smart embellishments. Pal Joey offers everything but a good time, whether Joey is a punk or a heel is something worth more careful thinking than time permits. Although Pal Joey is expertly done, can you draw sweet water from a foul well?
When he reviewed the 1952 revival, Atkinson called the production "brilliant", writing:
There is no sign of age in the brisk performance that Robert Alton has expertly staged; and the acting is sharp and original... Miss Segal presides over the sordid affairs of an astringent tale with humor, reserve, and charm. It would be hard to improve upon Harold Lang's performance as the heel.
In reviewing the 1995 Encores! concert, Vincent Canby noted:
Here was a show in which cynicism, sophistication, bogus sentimentality and high spirits were as much the content as the form of an otherwise traditional Broadway musical. The first production  shocked a lot of critics and many theatergoers. There was no question about the quality of the Richard Rodgers score and Lorenz Hart lyrics. The disturbance was caused by John O'Hara's corrosive book: the sordid adventures of a Chicago nightclub singer and M.C. named Joey Evans. It wasn't until the 1952 revival that Joey was recognized as literature's latest darling, the antihero. In 1995, Pal Joey is a treasure.
The New York Times panned the 2008 production, describing it as "in mourning for its own lifelessness", having "no detectable pulse". Todd Haimes, the Artistic Director of the Roundabout Theatre, commented on the "new book by Richard Greenberg that, in my opinion, does a stunning job of enhancing O'Hara's original by more fully integrating the songs with the book and giving even more of a full life to each of his characters."The Times quoted Haimes as saying that he thought
the Greenberg adaptation transformed the original "flawed book" by enriching the dialogue and sharpening the characters of not only Joey but the women in his life, like the damaged society wife Vera Simpson... and the wronged chanteuse Gladys Bumps.... In other words, there would be a stronger story that might match the well-known songs.
According to New York Magazine,
Greenberg... simplified the story and removed much of the old script's gangster gothic.... He made it smarter and sexier, and bleak. Where the movie ended with Novak and Sinatra walking off into the California sunshine, this ends with Joey alone on a dark street corner, wondering--like so many right now -- what the hell to do."
The Rodgers and Hart songs...are certainly easy on the ear, but what makes the Roundabout revival of their 1940 show so compelling is Richard Greenberg's trenchant adaptation of the original book by John O'Hara. Erasing the sanitizing stamp of musical-theater coyness, Greenberg brings a fascinating melancholy grubbiness to this cynical story of sordid emotional transactions and opportunistic behavior in late-1930s Chicago. It's a dark show for desperate times...The major discovery is [Martha] Plimpton's heretofore-hidden musicality...even half-talking her songs, [Stockard Channing] puts across the rueful resignation of "What Is a Man?" with elegance... and pours enough bruising self-deprecation into "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" to make it work.
The Associated Press wrote:
Richard Greenberg... has given John O'Hara's original book... a new sheen without changing the general outline of the story: punkish song-and-dance man scores big, gets his comeuppance but soldiers on. Greenberg's rewrite is crisp and to the point. There is a hard-boiled briskness to his work, a film-noir sensibility in its punchy dialogue that ricochets lickety-split across the stage. Channing gets across this number [Bewitched], one of the most famous in the Rodgers and Hart canon, in what can be described as her best Rex Harrison My Fair Lady manner. It's half-sung, half-spoken but acted to the fullest, a consummate bit of musical-theater performing.... Plimpton is quite a revelation in the role.
Variety, praising the production and specifically Risch, wrote a follow up response to the mixed reviews stating
it's bizarre to see Mantello's staging pejoratively described as "ruthless," "joyless" and "unhappy" -- as if such qualities don't compute in musical theater. One of the controversies of this "Joey" is that its leading man, newcomer Matthew Risch, the understudy who replaced Christian Hoff in the eleventh hour, fails to deliver the requisite dollop of charm to his catting around. Reviewers have compared him with actors they never saw in the role, namely Gene Kelly, or men who have never essayed Joey onstage, including Hugh Jackman, Harry Connick Jr. and, yes, Frank Sinatra, who insisted, among other woeful ideas, that he sing "The Lady Is a Tramp" in the misconceived (and far happier) 1957 film version. A big, toothy movie star might have assured theatergoers that this cad really wasn't what he is -- a cad. Risch, to his credit, offers a tough, uncompromising portrait that allows only two brief moments of moral conscience -- both of which lead Joey to shield his girlfriend Jenny from, well, Joey.
Coincidence or not, Risch's Joey is a younger brother of Erwin Schrott's Don Giovanni, seen at the Met Opera earlier this season. When these guys smile, it's the devil's work at play with any woman's affections. If the show offers a pessimistic view of female sexuality, then so be it. Joey and Giovanni, not the women, are the ones going straight to hell.
and "In the end, Mantello and Risch's Joey is an easy antihero to understand, if not love." 
Looking retrospectively, musical theatre historian Ethan Mordden pronounced Pal Joey's book is a "breakthrough in character writing". He stated that "the two leads and Linda are extremely well-drawn", and that though "Pal Joey is tough, its script true to its characters". He also believed that the show "finds Rodgers and Hart at their best". Historians Everett and Laird wrote that Pal Joey is the "most important work produced by Rodgers and Hart", and is the "most integrated of their musicals".
|1952||Donaldson Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||John O'Hara||Won|
|Best Leading Performance by an Actress||Vivienne Segal||Won|
|Best Supporting Performance by an Actress||Helen Gallagher||Won|
|Best Dancer in a Musical||Harold Lang||Won|
|Best Director of a Musical||David Alexander||Won|
|Best Dance Direction||Robert Alton||Won|
|Best Original Score||Richard Rodgers||Won|
|Best Lyrics||Lorenz Hart||Won|
|Best Scenic Design||Oliver Smith||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Miles White||Won|
|New York Drama Critics' Circle Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Tony Award||Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Helen Gallagher||Won|
|Best Choreography||Robert Alton||Won|
|Best Conductor and Musical Director||Max Meth||Won|
|1964||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Bob Fosse||Nominated|
|1977||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Joan Copeland||Nominated|
|1980||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Denis Lawson||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Siân Phillips||Nominated|
|2003||Barrymore Award||Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical||Christine Andreas||Won|
|2009||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Stockard Channing||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Martha Plimpton||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Martha Plimpton||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Stockard Channing||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Martha Plimpton||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||Scott Pask||Nominated|
The 1950 studio cast recording starring Vivienne Segal and Harold Lang was released by Columbia on February 12, 1951.
A partial cast recording of the 1952 Broadway revival was released in January 1952 by Capitol Records. It featured Helen Gallagher, Elaine Stritch and others from the revival cast, but starred non-cast members Jane Froman and Dick Beavers as Vera and Joey, in place of Segal and Lang.