Forgotten Broadway classics: The Golden Apple January 29, 2008Posted by Jeff in Musicals, Theater.
After a look at Offenbach’s take on the Iliad, we segue to a unique Broadway take on both the Iliad and the Odyssey, an all-but-forgotten masterpiece that Offenbach himself would have been proud to have authored.
The Golden Apple, with music by Jerome Moross and lyrics by John Latouche, opened off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theatre on March 11, 1954. It was a critical and audience smash, and became the first off-Broadway musical to make the jump directly to Broadway … where it played a disappointing 125 performances and closed. It hasn’t been performed in New York since.
The Golden Apple is “through-sung”; that is, there’s no dialogue — Moross called it a “musical comedy opera”. It’s a retelling of Homer, transplanted to the town of Angel’s Roost, Washington, at the foot of Mount Olympus, at the turn of the twentieth century.
The story opens with Ulysses (Stephen Douglass, the original Shoeless Joe from Damn Yankees) and his men returning from the Spanish-American War. Ulysses recounts their many exploits:
Paris, a traveling salesman (Jonathan Lucas in an all-dancing mute role), is seduced by Helen (Kaye Ballard), the wife of Sheriff Menelaus:
As Paris and Helen fly off in a balloon bound for the city of Rhododendron, Ulysses leads his men off to war yet again in a fury of patriotic revenge:
In act II, the various Fates and Furies of the big city pick off Ulysses’ men one by one, such as a crazy Lady Scientist (Portia Nelson) who shoots the men into outer space before realizing she can’t bring them back:
Eventually, Ulysses returns to his Penelope (Priscilla Gillette, the original Alexandra in Marc Blitzstein’s Regina). At first she is furious at Ulysses for his irresponsible wanderings:
But a chastened Ulysses convinces her that he is home to stay:
The cast album of this wonderful show drives me crazy, as it preserves less than half the full score. I’d be ecstatic if someone recorded it complete; I’d be in metrosexual heaven if they revived it.