A Musical in Two Acts, 20 Scenes. Book by Clifford Odets and William Gibson. Based on Clifford Odets' play of the same name. Music by Charles Strouse. Lyrics by Lee Adams.
Majestic Theatre, New York; opened 20 October 1964; closed 5 March 1966 (569 perfs)
Against his father's wishes, Joe Wellington takes up prize fighting because it gives him some prestige in the ghetto. Joe's white manager, Tom Moody, needs $500 to divorce his wife to marry his girl, Lorna. Tom knows Joe could be a better fighter if he would really put his heart into it. Sensing Joe's attraction to Lorna, Tom sends her into the ghetto to persuade Joe to fight harder. Joe questions her motives and asks why she cannot go for him. Meanwhile, Joe's brother-in-law, Ronnie, leads the ghetto dwellers in a mock of the deplorable living and environmental conditions. Following his talk with Lorna, Joe agrees to a road trip to gain expertise.
As his reputation builds, Eddy Satin, an influential black promoter, becomes interested in Joe and wants to buy in. Tom is against the idea even though it would mean better fights for Joe. The decision, however, is Joe's. Eddy stages a big New York fight for Joe as a sample of how things can be under his management. In Joe's dressing room before the fight, he confesses his love to Lorna and declares he's fighting for her whether she likes it or not. He also gives her the choice of success with him, or Tom and nothing.
Joe's father arrives to plead once more for Joe not to fight. Despite the internal wish to concede to his father, Joe is now driven by prize fighting's rewards.
Following the fight, Eddie Satin throws a big party at his plush apartment and awards Joe luxuries far in excess of his winnings as a testament to future success. The influence Satin is building is obvious. Once again, Tom turns to Lorna to bail them out. She knows he's weakening and tries to convince him that there must be another way. But Tom is relentless in his wishes. Once again she seeks out Joe. This time, however, the interracial prejudices are stripped away, baring their mutual love.
The next day when Lorna announces she is leaving the now-divorced Tom, he threatens suicide if she does. Knowing that he will, she denies Joe. Satin is now in complete control, which paves the way for a title fight with Lopez. Sensing Joe's personal defeat, his father finally gives him the word to fight just as he is to enter the ring with Lopez. Despite a drastic beating, Joe fights back in a desperate, ferocious daze to KO Lopez. In the midst of the dressing room celebration, Joe learns that Lopez is not only out, but dead. Immediately the warnings of his father and the weaknesses of his own personal drive appear before him. He never meant to injure or kill. His only goals were the rewards, now empty desires. In desperation, he turns to the high speed of his Ferrari, which adds his own life to his list of sacrifices.
Violins, viola, cello, bass, reed I (Eb alto sax, flute, pic, Bb clar), reed II (Eb alto sax, Bb clar), reed III (Bb tenor sax, Bb clar), reed IV (Bb tenor sax, Bb clar, Bb bass clar), trumpets I-II, III, trombone I, II, percussion.
23 parts, 8 principals.
Joe Wellington, demanding Negro lead, must be accomplished actor who can sing and dance well.
Lorna, white girl who has been around, sings.
Mr. Wellington, concerned father, straight role.
Tom, white fight manager, minor singing.
Eddie Satin, ghetto king of vice, sings.
Lopez, featured dancer.
Tokio, trainer, straight role.
Large singing and dancing chorus (Negro and white).
Total cast, 40-50.
Scenes and Settings
2 acts, 20 scenes, the original Broadway production used projected scenery plus approximately 20 fly-ins to form the 11 settings. To achieve similar settings with solid scenery would require 7 full stage sets, 2 partial sets, and 4 drops. 2 scenes done on a black stage.
Scene 1: A Gym.
Scene 2: Wellington Kitchen.
Scene 3: Tenement Rooftop.
Scene 4: Tom Moody's Office.
Scene 5: Schoolyard Playground.
Scene 6: Harlem Street Scene.
Scene 7: The Wellington Kitchen.
Scene 8: Railroad Depot.
Scene 9: The Road Tour.
Scene 10: The Madison Square Garden Marquee/ Joe's Dressing Room.
Scene 1: A Bar.
Scene 2: Eddie's Penthouse Apartment.
Scene 3: River and Bridge Scene with Park Bench.
Scene 4: The Park.
Scene 5: Tom's Office.
Scene 6: Harlem Street "127th Street."
Scene 7: Dressing Room.
Scene 8: Boxing Ring.
Scene 9: Dressing Room.
Scene 10: Harlem Street.
Scene 11: Madison Square Gardens
Period and Costumes
New York City 1960-1964: current fashions, dresses, suits, sports clothes, streetwear, sweaters, jackets, boxing shorts and gloves, formal wear, evening dresses, Madison Square Garden attendant uniforms.
CHOREOGRAPHY: Modern ballet in boxing motif, modern jazz, rock 'n' roll, fight ballet.
Lighting and special effects
Special lighting effects, projected scenery, dramatic lighting required, follow spots used from wing loft positions.
NOTES: Golden Boy could have been a great musical. Instead, it is only a good one. The second script written in Detroit prior to Broadway tryouts was much better. In this version, Joe was a would-be surgeon, fighting only to pay his way through college. He won't fight harder for fear of injuring the hands he hopes someday will save the lives of Negroes who are turned away by white surgeons. Tom doesn't know the reason he won't hit harder and sends Lorna to bring Joe around. When Lorna finds him in a ghetto park, he is studying his medical books. She is drawn to him, but the racial barrier blocks further developments. The part of Joe's father is much stronger in this version as the man who has sacrificed everything to get Joe as far as he is. All along, he's against Joe's fighting even if it does mean a faster education. Eddie Satin comes across a bigger heel in that such ideals mean nothing to him. When Tom sends Lorna to Joe the second time, the scene provided an understanding of interracial love that never really jells in the "official" version. Never were they closer than four feet until they ran off together at the scene-ending blackout, yet every member of the audience was pushing them together. And, of course, the fight, when the hands that were so painstakingly guided to save lives have killed, completes the paradox. The construction was magnificent. It might be well worth reconstructing.
- Workout - Boxers
- Colorful - Joe
- Night Song - Joe
- Everything's Great - Tom Moody, Lorna
- Gimme Some - Joe, Terry
- Stick Around - Joe
- Don't Forget 127th Street - Joe, Ronnie, Company
- Lorna's Here - Lorna
- The Road Tour - Joe, Lorna, Tom, Roxy, Eddie, Tokio, Company
- This Is the Life - Eddie, Joe, Lola, Company
- Yes, I Can! - Joe
- No More - Joe, Company
- Golden Boy - Lorna
- While the City Sleeps - Eddie
- While the City Sleeps (dance) Mabel, Lopez, Les
- You're No Brother of Mine - Joe, Al
- I Want To Be With You - Joe, Lorna
- Can't You See It? - Joe
- The Riot - The Company
- The Fight - Joe, Lopez
- What Became of Me - Joe
Original Broadway Cast - Bay Cities BCD 3012/CDL 57393