Tag Archives: Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra

Nr 461: Goldilocks (1958)

9 Jan

Goldilocks
Broadway 1958, 161 perf.

Music: Leroy Anderson
Lyrics: Joan Ford, Walter & Jean Kerr
Book: Walter & Jean Kerr

Set in 1913, during the silent film era, the musical is about a stage actress named Maggie Harris who is ready to get out of show business and settle into marriage to a wealthy man. Unfortunately for Maggie, she has forgotten that she is under contract to appear in the film Frontier Woman, directed by Max Grady. Begrudgingly, she shows up to make the film, which evolves from a simple production into an epic about Ancient Egypt. The production timeline stretches out, delays, edits and rewrites keeping Maggie captive and constantly at odds with Grady, with whom she has a tempestuous working relationship.
Of course, in true musical comedy fashion, Maggie and Max end up falling in love. 

This is one of those shows that has a truly delightful score, and if you judge it by the cast album alone you simply can’t understand why it wasn’t a hit.
So why wasn’t it a hit? Well, let me name 3 of the things that they got wrong:

1. The book. Max and Maggie were funny but not especially likable characters, and their romance was never entirely convincing.
2. The moviemaking spoofs were uproarious but the other scenes were less interesting.
3. The show’s title, obscure in its relationship to the story, was off-putting.
Walter Kerr later said that the biggest mistake they made was constantly beefing up the comedy: What we should have done was forget all about working for any more comedy whatsoever, and straighten out the emotional line instead. I mean, making something real seem to happen between the principals, emotionally. And that we didn’t do.
But the music is fantastic. I mean really fantastic! And the lyrics are good too. There’s so much to love here. So give it a try. It’s a more or less forgotten little treasure trove of fabulouls songs.

Leroy Andersson (1908 – 1975) who wrote the music, was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, of which many were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra. The film composer John Williams described him as ”one of the great American masters of light orchestral music.”
One of his famous compositions is ”The Typewriter” – see video link below.
He had Swedish parents and therefore spoke both English and Swedish during his youth. He eventually

became fluent in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

Walter Kerr who cowrote and directed the show was also one of New Yorks leading theatre critics. There was some concern that critics would bend over backwards to praise the show because it was the work of a collegue, but those concerns proved unfounded – see press quotes below.

If you saw the show you had the chance to see Margaret Hamilton live on stage. If that name doesn’t ring any bells I’m sure you’ll know who she is when I tell you that she played ”The Wicked Witch of the West” in the 1939 filmversion of The Wizard of Oz.

The show was awarded 2 Tony Awards: Best supporting Actor and Best supporting Actress in a musical.


Noël Coward was curious about the production and came to see it in Philadelphia during try outs. He didn’t like what he saw. He wrote in his diary: ”How does an eminent critic of his caliber have the impertinence to dish out such inept, amateurish nonsense?”
He thought the show was ”idiotic and formless”, Agnes de Milles ballets ”not really good enough”. He marveled at the extravagance of the production’s reported $500,000 cost. ”I must say I couldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. It will probably get kindly reviews from his gallant colleagues when it opens on Broadway, but I don’t think anything could save it. Serve him and his giggling wife bloody well right!”
The one member of the cast that he did not find ”lamentable” was Elaine Stritch. After the show he went backstage to her dressing room, where she was having ”a very, very, very large Scotch”, and said: ”Any leading lady who doesn’t do a double take when a nine-foot bear asks her to dance is my kind of actress.”

Press:
Since drama critics and their wives are notoriously more brilliant than most people, a great deal is expected of them. And, when they are daring enough to challenge an envious world with a show of their own, nothing less than a masterpiece will satisfy the eager anticipation. Because Goldilocks seemed, to put it conservatively, rather short of that status in its debut, it was a disappointment. What made the dissatisfaction all the more upsetting was that the weakness of Goldilocks appeared to be chiefly in the writing contribution of the Kerrs.
– Richard Watt Jr., The New York Post

Frankly, Goldilocks is no gem of a show. It has faults, but the Kerrs have slickly glossed them over.
– Robert Coleman, Daily Mirror

A bountiful, handsome musical comedy with an uninteresting book. The book undoes what the actors and collaborating artists accomplish, which is a pity.

But, like the book, the direction is not vigorous or versatile. Apart from the spectacle and the music, Goldilocks is an unexciting show.
Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times

It has mass, glitter. glare, and blare, not to mention heavenly looking girls. But it is so lacking in a sense of direction that it never develops a personality of its own.
– Frank Aston, World-Telegram & Sun

Videos:
“Goldilocks” performed by
Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra
Give a Little Lady (a Great Big Hand)
The Beast in You
The University of Sheffield presents Leroy Anderson’s ”Goldilocks” in concert
The Typewriter performed Iceland Symphony Orchestra

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