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  • Finian Hackett

Little Known 'Best Musical' Tony Nominees - The 1960's

Sorry I've been slightly absent over the past week! Started college again and have been very tired and busy but am settled back in now so let's start...

Today we continue looking at lesser known Best Musical nominees; last time we looked at some of the weird and wonderful shows from the 50s and now we are onto the 60s. This was the first time that every year had multiple nominations for the category - creating a lot more competition as the Tonys became the award to win. Now, I've split this decade into 2 parts as quite a few shows have slipped through over the last 60 years...

Take Me Along by Bob Merrill (1960 Tony nominee, winner The Sound of Music and Fiorello!)

I do feel bad for Take Me Along as it had stiff competition that year from The Sound of Music, Fiorello!, Once Upon A Mattress and Gypsy and this show (probably because of this) has not stayed prominent in the musical world. It is based upon the Eugene O'Neill play Ah, Wilderness and follows the lives of three men; Richard Miller, a young teen who has come of age; his father Nat Miller, who is starting to feel like he is getting old; and Nat's alcoholic brother in law Sid Davis who has vowed to stay sober. The show opened in late 1959 and ended up running till the following Christmas. Despite its competition, the show was the most nominated of them all that year with a huge 10 nominations (on par with My Fair Lady for most nominated show at the time). It scraped one win for Best Actor (Jackie Gleason) but didn't do so well otherwise. The show did have a revival in 1985 but ran for a measly 7 previews and just one performance.

Irma La Douce by Marguerite Monnot and Alexandre Breffort (1961 Tony nominee, winner Bye Bye Birdie)

Irma La Douce follows prostitute Irma and her lover, student Nestor le Fripé. He disguises himself as a rich man named Oscar so he can keep on seeing Irma as he is getting jealous of sharing her. This tangled web soon leads to Nestor 'killing' Oscar but then he is actually convicted of murder! Somehow all ends well and Nestor and Irma reunite. The show was a hit in France running for 4 years and was followed by a 3 year run in London. The West End run transferred to Broadway in 1960 and ran for over 500 performances. It starred Keith Michell, Elizabeth Seal and Clive Revill, all of whom had starred in the London production. It was nominated for 7 Tonys and took home one for lead actress for Elizabeth Seal. It was most recently seen performed at the 'Encores!' season in New York in 2014 starring Jennifer Bowles and Rob McClure.

Do Re Mi by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green (1961 Tony nominee, winner Bye Bye Birdie)

Do Re Mi centres on conman Hubie Cram as he decides to try and get straight and enters the business of jukeboxes and music! The plot doesn't have much to it and Cram eventually realises that he has a happy marriage and that's all he needs. The show opened for a successful 400 performance long run in 1960 and the following year had a much shorter run in London. It was nominated for 5 Tonys but didn't win any. The show had a small revival once again at 'Encores!' starring Nathan Lane, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Heather Headley. You would think that with such a successful music and lyrics team that the show would be more popular but the only thing that really made it from this show was the song 'Make Someone Happy' which has become a standard for many performers in concerts and has been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, The Supremes, Barbra Streisand and many others.

Milk and Honey by Jerry Herman (1962 Tony nominee, winner How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying)

This was Jerry Herman's first book musical and first Broadway show but it is not as well known as some of his great works like Hello, Dolly! and Mame. It follows a group of American women as they take a bus tour round Israel with the aim of finding themselves a husband along the way. It was a slightly odd subject to make a musical about but it was well received at its pre-Broadway tryouts and on Broadway where it ran for 543 performances and received 5 Tony noms. It had an Off-Broadway revival in 1994 where the New York Times suggested that Milk and Honey could be Jerry Herman's greatest musical ever! So it wouldn't surprise me if we see Milk and Honey make an appearance at some point in the future.

No Strings by Richard Rodgers (1962 Tony nominee, winner How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying)

No Strings was Richard Rodgers' only score where he was both the composer and lyricist; it was also the first show he wrote after the death of his musical partner Oscar Hammerstein. The story revolves around American fashion model Barbara and her expatriate love interest David who, whilst residing in Paris, has a serious case of writer's block. His high life as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author is a huge distraction and eventually leads to him returning home to the US, without his lover Barbara in tow. The show opened starring Richard Kiley and Diahann Carroll in 1962 and ran for a respectable 580 performances. It was nominated for 9 Tonys and won 3 for Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Actress in a Musical for Carroll. Her win was particularly important as she was the first African-American woman to win this award. No Strings had a successful run in London in 1963 and a 2003 production at 'Encores!' directed and choreographed by the one and only Ann Reinking.

High Spirits by Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray (1964 Tony nominee, winner Hello, Dolly!)

High Spirits was a musical adaptation of Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward. Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse were the dream team that Coward wanted but ultimately this never came to fruition. Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray were the main creators of the whole show and Martin had a good track record thanks to his score of Meet Me In St Louis which featured 'The Trolley Song' and 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. Coward himself directed with the help of Gower Champion and the show opened in April 1964 but only ran until the following February. The Tonys that year were one of the most hotly contested ever with Hello, Dolly!, Funny Girl and She Loves Me all being in the running for Best Musical among other categories. High Spirits garnered 8 Tony noms but failed to win any as Hello, Dolly!, another Gower Champion show, swept the board with 10 wins! High Spirits had a short lived run at the Savoy in London the same year and has since disappeared from the musical circuit.

The second part of the 60s will be posted next week so keep an eye out for it! Let me know in the comments if you knew any of these shows!

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