The genesis of a Broadway number September 25, 2007Posted by Jeff in Harold Arlen, Musicals, Theater.
Truman Capote’s novella, House Of Flowers, is the story of Ottilie, a young girl who works in a Haitian bordello under the name of Violet, and how she finds true love. In 1951, Capote recorded this excerpt:
Three years later, Capote wrote the book and lyrics to a Broadway musical of the same name, with music by Harold Arlen. When they started the collaboration, Capote was stuck in Rome with John Huston, rewriting the script for the movie Beat The Devil, and he and Arlen collaborated by mail. At one point, Arlen sent Capote the following recording, with an idea he had for the scene we just heard:
Arlen had conceived the scene as being between Violet and the Houngan, as it was in the novella, but at some point they decided to make the scene between her and her fellow “flowers,” Pansy, Tulip and Gladiola.
So here’s the song as it was heard on the original cast album, with Diahann Carroll (in her Broadway debut) as Violet, with Dolores Harper, Ada Moore and Enid Mosier:
House Of Flowers opened on December 30, 1954 and played for 165 performances. “A Sleepin’ Bee” was Barbra Streisand’s first single, and she sang it for her television debut on The Jack Paar Show in 1961. It’s been recorded by Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Audra McDonald, Carmen McRae, Anita O’Day, Kiri Te Kanawa, Mel Tormé, and dozens of jazz groups.