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Little Mary Sunshine

Cover to the reissued  Original London Cast recording

Book and lyrics by Rick Besoyan

Orpheum Theatre, Off-Broadway 18 November, 1959 (1143 perfs)
Produced at the Comedy Theatre, London, May 17, 1962


The musical theatre has created its own beloved and unlikely world, not intended to stand cold, logical analysis. The handsome hero is brave, and the comic lead a coward. The top soprano, though adored by all, is unassailably virtuous, and has a scatter-brained servant girl for the comic lead to marry. The villains must, in the end, relent or face utter defeat. By collecting every known cliché from musicals of the Rose Marie-Desert Song era and lumping them joyously into one delightfully far-fetched story, Rick Besoyan has created an entertainment which is hilarious to rehearse and - provided it is made clear that the production is not intended to be taken seriously - is adored by audiences. Be warned: if your patrons report very pleasant, but rather old-fashioned', you have allowed them to miss the whole point!

For the Chorus

Little Mary Sunshine owns an inn which, considering it is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, does a surprisingly brisk trade with Forest Rangers, young ladies of Eastchester Finishing School, assorted characters, and a handful of marauding Red Indians. The London production used only a small chorus, but numbers are expandable. The score offers straightforward, tuneful chorus singing, and a little dancing is required.


Act I

Little Mary Sunshine, foster daughter of Chief Brown Bear of the Kadota tribe, is in trouble. The government is threatening to foreclose the mortgage on her Colorado Inn, located on land that is subject to a dispute between Brown Bear and Uncle Sam. On Mary's advice Brown Bear is engaged in peaceful legal proceedings rather than warfare to establish his rights.

Captain Jim and his Forest Rangers arrive. They are searching for the disruptive Indian Yellow Feather. Yellow Feather's "crimes" are actually not murder and pillage but indiscriminate hunting and irresponsible use of fire in the forest, but he is nonetheless a villain of the deepest dye, who has threatened to "have his way" with Mary. Jim woos Mary, after which the two get well-sung advice from Mary's opera star guest Mme. Ernestine Liebedich.

Some young ladies from the Eastchester Finishing School (implicitly in New York or Pennsylvania, which have Westchesters) are also Inn guests. While they entertain themselves playing croquet and swinging on swings, the Rangers come upon them. The Rangers' flirting elicits an immediate enthusiastic response, and love blooms once more as they joyfully sing together.

Later, the young ranger Billy and his girlfriend Nancy squabble about Nancy's appetite for other men. Jim and Mary return to the spotlight. Mary reveals her "Little Buttercup" secret: Yellow Feather is really Brown Bear's son, long believed dead. As the first act ends, Jim and his aged Indian guide Fleet Foot set off to capture Yellow Feather.

Act II

Mary holds a garden party featuring the Eastchester ladies and the Rangers. Retired General Oscar Fairfax shows up, bringing a box of gifts for the ladies. Taking command of the Rangers in Jim's absence, he directs the Rangers to depart, find Jim, and bring him back. Fairfax now has the ladies to himself. But his interest shifts to Mme. Ernestine when he meets her and learns they have something in common: in their youth, both spent happy days in Vienna.

Mary goes to her garden. Yellow Feather sneaks in, finds her there, ties her to a tree, and threatens to debase her. Jim returns just in time and wrests a knife from the villain. The Rangers, who have surrounded the Inn, capture Yellow Feather as he tries to escape.

The rest of the cast then emerges. Fairfax has good news: the courts have upheld Brown Bear's claim to the disputed land, a mere one-fourth of Colorado. The chief gives Mary the Inn's land and dedicates the rest for a national park, a place the Rangers can call home. In the finale, a miraculously reformed Yellow Feather reappears, waving a large American flag. Jim and Mary, Billy and Nancy, Oscar and Ernestine, and several Ranger-Eastchester couples seem headed for the altar.

Musical Numbers:

  1. Colorado Love Call
  2. Coo Coo
  3. Do You Ever Dream Of Vienna?
  4. Every Little Nothing
  5. The Forest Rangers
  6. How Do You Do?
  7. In Izzenschnooken on the Lovely Essenzook Zee
  8. Little Mary Sunshine
  9. Look For A Sky Of Blue
  10. Mata Hari
  11. Me, A Heap Big Indian
  12. Naughty, Naughty Nancy
  13. Once In A Blue Moon
  14. Playing Croquet
  15. Say Uncle
  16. Such A Merry Party
  17. Swinging
  18. Tell A Handsome Stranger
  19. What Has Happened?
  20. You're the Fairest Flower

Singing Principals

Little Mary Sunshine.
Mme Ernestine von Leibedich: operatic contralto; retired.
Nancy Winkle: Mary's maid.
Captain 'Big' Jim Warrington of the Forest Rangers.
Cpl Billy Jester.
General Oscar Fairfax: a roué retired.

Straight Roles

Fleet Foot: a decaying Indian guide.
Yellow Feather: heap bad Indian.
Chief Brown Bear: heap good Indian.

Scenes and Settings

Act I

Scene 1: Outside the Colorado Inn.
Scene 2: The garden (front drop).
Scene 3: Behind the Inn.
Scene 4: Primrose Path (travellers)

Act II

Scene 1: Outside the Inn.
Scene 2: Point Look-Out (front drop).
Scene 3: A tepee (in front of the travellers).
Scene 4: The girls' bedroom in the Inn (inset).
Scene 5: Primrose Path.
Scene 6: The Indian Burial Ground


1st and 2nd Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, Trombone, Drums

Also available on hire: special two-piano arrangement, as originally used in the first off-Broadway production


Original Broadway Cast - Broadway Angel ZDM-764774-2
Original London Cast - DRG 13108