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ANYONE CAN WHISTLE

Cover to original cast recording

a musical fable in two acts, 12 scenes. Book by Arthur Laurents. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Produced at the Majestic Theatre, New York, 4 April 1964 with Lee Remick (Fay Apple), Angela Lansbury (Cora Hoover Hooper) and Harry Guardino (J. Bowden Hapgood). (9 perfs)
Produced at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, England, 21 August 1986 with Marilyn Cutts, Pip Hinton and Michael Jayes.

Original Cast (in order of appearance)

Sandwich Man: Jeff Killion.
Baby Joan: Jeanne Tanzy.
Mrs. Schroeder: Peg Murray.
Treasurer Cooley: Arnold Soboloff.
Chief Magruder: James Frawley.
Comptroller Schub: GABRIEL DELL.
Cora Hoover Hooper: ANGELA LANSBURY.
The Boys: Sterling Clark, Harvey Evans, Larry Roquemore, Tucker Smith.
Fay Apple: LEE REMICK.
J. Bowden Hapgood: HARRY GUARDINO.
Dr. Detmold: Don Doherty.
George: Larry Roquemore.
June: Janet Hayes.
John: Harvey Evans.
Martin: Lester Wilson.
Old Lady: Eleonore Treiber.
Telegraph Boy: Alan Johnson.
Osgood: Georgia Creighton.

Cookies, Townspeople, Tourists:

Susan Borree, Georgia Creighton, Janet Hayes, Bettye Jenkins, Patricia Kelly, Barbara Lang, Paula Lloyd, Barbara Monte, Odette Phillips, Hanne-Marie Reiner, Eleonore Treiber, Sterling Clark, Eugene Edwards, Harvey Evans, Dick Ensslen, Loren Hightower, Alan Johnson, Jeff Killion, Jack Murray, William Reilly, Larry Roquemore, Tucker Smith, Don Stewart, Lester Wilson.

Synopsis

Act I

"Everyone hates me," concedes Cora, the Mayoress, and it's not surprising: the reservoir's dry, the town's bust, the citizenry are starving, there's grass on the sidewalks but not in the park. And it's all so unfair: "ME AND MY TOWN, we just wanna be loved," she tells her Boys, aware that she's unpopular with the populace. But salvation from bankruptcy is at hand in the form of a fake miracle - water flowing from a rock. It's a sign, it's a goldmine and it's holier than thine. "Our troubles are over - praise the Lord!" cheer the Townsfolk (THE MIRACLE SONG), as the Pilgrims and Tourists swarm in to take the waters for a modest fee".

But a small hitch occurs. Patients from a local mental hospital, The Cookie Jar, escape and mingle with the tourists. In order to sort out the sane from the insane, Cora and the Town Council turn to a visiting doctor, J. Bowen Hapgood, who applies the most rigorous principles of logic and divides the crowd in Group A or Group 1. But which is which? Is Group A sane? Or is it Group 1? "SIMPLE", says Hapgood, but he ties Cora's council in knots before announcing, "You are all mad - and turning to the audience. Blackout. The lights come up to show the cast seated on the stage in the orchestra seats, looking at programmes, laughing and applauding the audience.

Act II

In the process of rounding up the escaped cookies, Hapgood has met Fay Apple, a nurse from the mental institution who joins him in a flirtatiously French duet (COME PLAY WIZ ME). But Fay's truer feelings are expressed in a confessional soliloquy: ANYONE CAN WHISTLE but she can't. What's hard is simple to her, but really simple things she finds impossible. Through the street, meanwhile, the cry of "Hooray for Hapgood!" has gone up. At last, there's a man they can trust. Cora can't help but notice there's A PARADE IN TOWN, but she consoles herself with the thought that any parade without her is, by definition, second-class. Hapgood's message is a simple one: EVERYBODY SAYS DON'T - don't walk on the grass, don't disturb the peace, don't rock the boat. He says: go right ahead and do it.

 Act III

Cora may be losing her grip, but, as she tells her council, "I'VE GOT YOU TO LEAN ON". It's some comfort to know that, if she goes, she won't go alone, she tells them menacingly. Luckily for her, Hapgood is a fraud: he's just another cookie. SEE WHAT IT GETS YOU, Fay reprimands herself. You step out, you give a little - and you're let down. Your hero has feet of clay and you're left alone. But, if nothing else, she's at last begun whistling. Cora, on the other hand, is supervising Dr. Detmold's round-up of the other cookies - she wants them all in gaol, immediately (THE COOKIE CHASE). But, aided only by a fake French accent, Fay creates a diversion and foils Cora. Besides, the tourists are all heading over to a neighbouring town where a new "miracle" has taken place. Hapgood, convinced he's a failure, has decided to leave. Fay says he's needed right here. But, whatever else happens, in this world WITH SO LITTLE TO BE SURE OF, they had one marvellous moment. They're bidding farewell - or are they? "Hold me," says Fay, as the music swells.

Characters

CORA HOOVER HOOPER   A corrupt small-town Mayoress, who strikes attitudes rather than venturing real emotions - which is why whatever she says is expressed as a musical comedy pastiche.
TREASURER COOLEY,
CHIEF MAGRUDER,
COMPTROLLER SCHUB
  Cora's Council
FAY APPLE   A nurse from the Cookie Jar mental institution.
J. BOWEN HAPGOOD   A doctor - or is he?
DR. DETMOLD   Definitely a doctor.
BABY JOAN, )

Townsfolk and/or cookies.

MRS SCHROEDER, )
GEORGE, )
JUNE, )
JOHN, )
MARTIN, (
OSGOOD )
CORA'S BOYS )
SANDWICH MAN, )
OLD LADY, )
TELEGRAPH BOYS, )
COOKIES, )
NURSES, )
DEPUTIES, )
TOWNSPEOPLE, )
PILGRIMS AND TOURISTS.    

Musical Numbers

ACT 1

  1. I'm Like the Bluebird - Company
  2. Me and My Town - Cora, Boys
  3. Miracle Song - Cora, Treasurer Cooley, Company
  4. Simple - J. Bowden Hapgood, Company
  5. A-1 March - Company
  6. Come Play Wiz Me - Fay Apple, J. Bowden Hapgood, Boys
  7. Anyone Can Whistle - Fay Apple
  8. A Parade in Town - Cora
  9. Everybody Says Don't - J. Bowden Hapgood
  10. Ballet - (with 6 variations played by members of the company) - Fay Apple, J. Bowden Hapgood, Cookies


ACT 2

  1. I've Got You to Lean On - Cora, Comptroller Schub, Treasurer Cooley, Chief Magruder, Boys
  2. See What It Gets You - Fay Apple
  3. The Cookie Chase (Waltzes) - Cora, Fay Apple, Comptroller Schub, Company
  4. With So Little to Be Sure Of - Fay Apple, J. Bowden Hapgood
  5. Finale - Company

Scenes and Settings

3 acts (could be done in 2), 1 back drop against which 4 major units are moved: City Hall (front flies to reveal interior), Hotel Superbe, Miracle Mountain, which revolves to reveal hoax, 1 cave ceiling fly-in to mask mountain interior, and Pay's bedroom insert set.

The action takes place in a not too distant town. The time is now.

ACT I

Scene 1: The Town.
Scene 2: The Miracle.
Scene 3: The Interrogation.
Scene 4: The Celebration.
Scene 5: The Romance.
Scene 6: The Parade.
Scene 7: The Release.

ACT II

Scene 1: The Conspiracy.
Scene 2: The Confrontation.
Scene 3: The Cookie Chase.
Scene 4: The Farewell.
Scene 5: The End.

ORCHESTRATION DETAILS

PERIOD AND COSTUMES:

Present, in "a not too distant town's: modern suits, dresses, lingerie, hats executed in colorful fahrics. A feeling of a circus atmosphere is what is desired. Preacher-cut black suit for Treasurer Cooley, Western-flavored sheriff's outfit for Magruder, pinstriped business suit for Comptroller Schub. Doctor and nurse uniforms. Usher uniforms for song/dance boys. Mayoress costuming slightly out-of-date.

CHOREOGRAPHY:

Unorthodox modern ballet ranging to modern jazz in rare instances. Two major ballets—"The Cookie Release' and "The Cookie Chase," in which men wear toe shoes, people are thrown through the air, etc., wild sequences in which all the rules are discarded. Both are interworked with dialogue and have a story fine. Also, there are waltzes, a parade, pure ballet, and song-and-dance bits.


LIGHTING AND SPECIAL EFFECTS:

Dramatic and some tightly controlled lighting throughout.


NOTES: Anyone Can Whistle (originally titled Side Show) was probably ahead of its time. At least some material offended every critic. Many people walked out. But nevertheless it was a masterpiece; an attempt to shake up the musical theatre formula, which, of course, Hair eventually did. Sondheim later perfected some of the concepts used for Whistle and the result was the successful Company. The following production notes are Stephen Sondheim's own instructions:

"A Note on the Scenery: The play is written to be performed on a revolving stage against suggestive pieces rather than full, literal sets. The style should be bright, warm, and gay; the colors should be almost primary ...

"A Note on the Cast: If the demands of the script were to be taken literally, the play would have to be performed by a cast of hundreds in an enormous arena—where it would die. Like the scenery, the staging should suggest, rather than duplicate literally.

"'The many small parts should be performed by a small 'stock company' of five or six versatile musical actors. Although every possible zany costume device should be used, from wigs and eyeglasses to beards and false noses, there should not be any serious attempt to fool the audience. The 'stock company' plus the seven principals should be able to take care of all speaking parts (except mere bits) and musical soloists.

"The many extras — rather loosely described as 'townspeople, cookies, tourists, pilgrims' — should be suggested by a small group of good singers and dancers; and, perhaps, by the imaginative use of dummies.

"A Note on the Play: Because the style is obviously unconventional, do not look for symbols and/or hidden meanings: there are none. What is meant, is said. The main attempt is simply to tell a good story in farcical terms with wild (if sometimes vicious) humour and music."