Pal Joey (musical)

Pal Joey is a musical with a book written by John O'Hara and music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The musical is based on the character and situations that O'Hara created in a series of short stories published in The New Yorker magazine. It includes two songs that have become standards: I Could Write a Book and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (see Great American Songbook).

The original 1940 Broadway production was directed by George Abbott and starred Gene Kelly. Revivals followed and a film of the musical was made in 1957, starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak.


The author John O'Hara offered the stories of "Pal Joey" to Rodgers and Hart to turn into a musical. O'Hara was not present during the out-of-town tryouts, and the director George Abbott took over the rewriting. When the show opened in New York the critics were divided, with Richard Watts (New York Herald Tribune) calling it "brilliant." It became the longest running Rodgers-Hart show to that time.Ethan Mordden wrote that Pal Joey" a breakthrough in character writing...The two leads and Linda are extremely well-drawn...Pal Joey is tough...its script true to its characters...the show finds Rodgers and Hart at their best.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.

Joey Evans, as an unsympathetic antihero, is a striking departure from the usual musical comedy formula. 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.

During early 1950, the song "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" had become popular, giving Goddard Lieberson the idea to produce a studio cast recording. Because of the popularity of that recording, composer-producer Jule Styne produced the 1952 revival.


Original Broadway production 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. 1952 Broadway revival The musical was a greater success when revived in 1952 on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre. The revival was prompted by the success of the 1950 studio cast album featuring Segal and Harold Lang and released by Columbia Records. It opened on January 3, 1952 and closed on April 18, 1953, after 540 performances. Dances and musical numbers were again staged by Robert Alton, and it starred Lang, Segal and Helen Gallagher. The cast also included future Broadway stars Elaine Stritch as Melba and Bob Fosse (understudy for Joey). 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 award as best musical and became the first musical ever to receive eleven Donaldson Awards.London 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 Noel Coward Theatre, from September 1980 until September 1981, starring Sian Phillips, Danielle Carson, and Denis Lawson.Other productions, 1960s to 1990s Pal Joey was produced off-Broadway in 1963 (15 performances) at City Center and starred Bob Fosse as Joey, Viveca Lindfors as Vera and Kay Medford as Melba. In 1976 a revival on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre with Christopher Chadman, Dixie Carter and Joan Copeland ran for 73 performances. 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 City Center Encores! series in May 1995 starred Peter Gallagher and Patti LuPone. Planned 2008 Broadway revival 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 plan to present a limited engagement through February 15, 2009, with previews beginning November 14, 2008, and officially opening on December 11. Mantello is scheduled to direct, with a revised book adapted by Greenberg and choreography by Graciela Daniele. The cast is slated to include Christian Hoff as Joey, Stockard Channing as Vera, and Martha Plimpton as Gladys. The set designer is Scott Pask, with costumes by William Ivey Long and lighting by Peggy Eisenhauer and Jules Fisher.


Act I In Chicago in the late 1930s, Joey Evans, a second-rate dancer and nightclub MC, a charming "heel" with big plans, schemes to get his dream–his own nightclub–"Chez Joey". He meets young and naive Linda English outside a pet shop, and, impressing her with his grandiose lies, they are romantically attracted ("I Could Write A Book"). In the nightclub, the older, wealthy but bored married socialite, Vera Simpson, comes in with her friends and becomes interested in Joey as the chorus girls are doing a song-and-dance number ("That Terrific Rainbow"). Joey, playing hard-to-get, insults Vera and she walks out. When Vera later returns to the club Joey, in order to save his job, turns on his charm; they walk out together and start an affair ("What is a Man"). Joey runs into Linda while Vera is buying him expensive new clothing, and Linda becomes distraught. Vera, however, is glowing in the romance ("Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"). Joey convinces Vera to set him up in business, but she becomes vulnerable to a blackmail attempt. As his nightclub is ready to open, a Joey expresses his disdain for women ("What Do I Care For a Dame"). Act II "Chez Joey" is about to open, as the chorus rehearses ("The Flower Garden of My Heart"). Melba, an ambitious reporter, interviews Joey, revealing quite a bit of her other glamourous interviews ("Zip"). Gladys Bumps, a chorus girl who dislikes Joey, conspires with an old flame Ludlow to blackmail Vera. Linda tells Vera of the plot, who then tells the Police Commissioner, who arrests Gladys and Ludlow. Vera and Linda both agree that Joey is not worth the trouble ("Take Him"). Vera has thrown Joey out, and, although he and Linda meet again, he leaves her to follow another, unknown woman.

Principal roles and notable performers

Character Description Notable performers
Joey Evans A small-time womanizing MC and dancer who has dreams of opening his own night club Gene Kelly; Harold Lang; Bob Fosse; Christopher Chadman (mostly dancers, since the character is a dancer)
Vera Simpson A bored rich socialite Vivienne Segal; Sian Phillips; Viveca Lindfors; Joan Copeland; Donna Murphy; Patti LuPone
Linda English a naive stenographer Leila Ernst; Rita Gardner; Daisy Prince
Gladys Bumps a chorus girl who takes an instant dislike to Joey June Havoc; Helen Gallagher; Vicki Lewis
Melba Snyder an ambitious reporter Elaine Stritch; Kay Medford; Dixie Carter; Bebe Neuwirth
Ludlow Lowell a crooked "artists representative" Jack Durant; Lionel Stander; Ned Eisenberg

Musical numbers

Act I

  • You Mustn't Kick It Around - Joey Evans, Gladys Bumps, Agnes, The Kid, Chorus Girls and Waiters
  • I Could Write a Book - Joey Evans and Linda English
  • Chicago - Dancer and Chorus Girls
  • That Terrific Rainbow - Gladys Bumps, Victor and Girls
  • Love Is My Friend - Vera Simpson
  • Happy Hunting Horn - Joey Evans, Terry, Chorus Girls and Boy Friends
  • Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered - Vera Simpson
  • Pal Joey (What Do I Care For A Dame?) - Joey Evans
Act II

  • The Flower Garden of My Heart - Gladys Bumps, The Tenor, Specialty Dancer and Ensemble
  • Zip - Melba Snyder
  • Plant You Now, Dig You Later - Ludlow Lowell, Gladys Bumps and Ensemble
  • In Our Little Den (of Iniquity) - Vera Simpson and Joey Evans
  • Do It The Hard Way - Ludlow Lowell, Gladys Bumps, Dancer and Ensemble
  • Take Him - Vera Simpson, Linda English and Joey Evans
  • Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered (Reprise) - Vera Simpson
  • I Could Write A Book (Reprise) - Joey Evans

Critical response

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 Siegel 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 [1940] 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."

Awards and nominations

  • 1952 Revival

Tony Award
Best Featured Actress in a Musical--Helen Gallagher (WINNER)
Best Choreography--Robert Alton (WINNER)
Conductor and Musical Director--Max Meth (WINNER)

  • 1963 Revival

Tony Award
Best Actor in a Musical--Bob Fosse (nominee)

  • 1977 Revival

Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical--Joan Copeland (nominee)


The 1950 studio cast recording starring Vivienne Segal and Harold Lang was released by Columbia on February 12, 1951. A cast recording of the 1952 Broadway revival was released in January 1952 by Sony, and starred Jane Froman (Vera) and Dick Beavers (Joey) in place of the Broadway actors. A cast recording of the 1995 concert, starring Patti LuPone and Peter Gallagher, was released October 12, 1995 by DRG (ASIN: B000000PL1).


External links

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