Music by Jerry Bock: Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick: Book by George Abbot and Jerome Weidman. based on the novel Tenderloin by Samuel Hopkins Adams which in turn was loosely based on the attempts by the Reverend Parkhurst to clean up the old Tenderloin district near West 23rd Street.
46th Street Theatre, 17 October, 1960 (216 perfs)
Set in New York at the turn of the 19th Century, Tenderloin recounts the efforts of a crusading minister as he attempts to shut down the notorious red-light district on the West-Side of Manhattan. This "gay nineties Guys and Dolls" features a sparkling score by creators of Fiddler on the Roof. The cast album, when it was released was on the Billboard charts for 34 weeks. Tenderloin is a vintage show that has the power to pack quite a punch. It is a big, rousing show with lots of dancing and colourful costumes.
In the story the Reverend Brock would eradicate his era's corruption with the help of a handsome young newspaper reporter who is also a part-time singer at one of the area's roughest bars. Brock is unaware that Tommy, his supposed associate, is in league with a dishonest policeman, Lieutenant Schmidt. The two of them frame Brock with doctored photographs. However, in court Tommy, who has been converted to religion by a choir girl named Laura, admits the truth. A cleanup of the area begins. Brock doesn't remain to witness the change - he moves his campaign on to Detroit.
It is the turn of the century in New York City’s infamous Tenderloin district where everyone’s livelihood depends on an economy of sin. The rich men pay the call girls. The call girls pay off the police. The police are in cahoots with Tommy Howatt, a slick and ambitious young reporter who will do anything to climb the ladder of success. But there’s one person who threatens to ruin it for everyone: the pious Reverend Brock, whose fervent crusade to shut down the Tenderloin has ignited a furor from the district’s resident sinners. Nita and her fellow call girls in particular can’t understand why this Reverend Brock can’t just keep his nose out of their “Little Old New York.”
Tommy Howatt comes out of a Parish House arguing with Jessica the Parish clerk, who upon Brock’s strict orders, has denied him and interview with the Reverend. Along comes the beautiful society girl Laura Crosbie followed by her elegant young suitor Ellington Dupont Smythe the Second. When Tommy learns that Laura is a member of the church choir, he dupes Jessica into letting him enter the church by telling her that he would also like to sing in the choir.
Inside the Parish House, Laura’s uncle Purdy, an elderly well-dressed businessman sits with the nouveau-riche country bumpkin Joe Kovack, who’s recently found coal on his farmland. Rev. Brock enters, and the two men hesitantly tell him that some of his parishioners don’t agree with his attack on the Tenderloin. Martin, the choirmaster joins them to deliver a similar plea on behalf of the ladies auxiliary, who would like Brock to give more traditional sermons. The men leave, and Brock sits alone frustrated that his church wishes to remain ignorant of the sin that surrounds them. He resolves that he must continue his crusade full force – every day of the week (“Dr. Brock”).
Jessica escorts Tommy into the church. She goes to find Martin, leaving Tommy alone with Laura. He tries to schmooze her into getting him an interview with Brock. Copying Ellington, he introduces himself as Thomas Howatt – the Second. She’s on to his ploys, but seems a bit charmed despite herself.
Jessica enters with Martin, who sizes Tommy up and determines he’s not fit for the church choir. Tommy, who makes some cash singing in a club in the Tenderloin, gets an idea. He opens the door to Brock’s office just a crack and lures Brock out with his fantastic singing (“Artificial Flowers”). Brock calls for Martin and orders him to use Tommy in the choir. Tommy tells Brock that he heard his inspiring sermon last week, and would like to help him with his cause by informing him about the goings-on he’s privy to from his job as a reporter at the Tatler. Although they’re both suspicious of each other, they share a certain stealthy ambition that draws the two men together (“What’s In It For You?”)
At the 19th Precinct Police Station, Tommy waits to speak to the Lieutenant Schmidt amidst a rag-tag group of prostitutes and drunks. Schmidt finally comes out, and Tommy warns him that Reverend Brock is on his way to the police station to have it out with him. It seems Tommy is something of a double agent. The Sargeant spots Rev. Brock outside hitching up his horse, and pandemonium erupts as Schmidt orders all the derelicts out of the room. But by the time Rev. Brock enters all is quiet, and Schmidt feigns surprise at Brock’s visit. Brock reports lascivious behavior at Spanish Anna’s, one of the Tenderloin’s most active bordellos, and suggests that Schmidt and his men investigate. Schmidt pulls the wool over Brock’s eyes, insisting that he’s never heard of such a thing going on in his precinct, and promises to come down hard on any immoral behavior. Brock exits, and Tommy comes back in having proven himself of great worth to Lieutenant Schmidt.
Gertie, a young prostitute, and a couple of her friends spot Rev. Brock on the street, and the girls laugh and carry on about his useless attempts at “Reform.”
On the other side of town, Laura and Jessica sit in the parlor of Laura’s posh Fifth Avenue home. Jessica reads aloud to Laura about Lieutenant Schmidt’s raid on Spanish Anna’s. Purdy enters disgusted that the girls are bothering themselves with such filth. He’s disgusted by Brock’s campaign against sin and all the low-lives it seems to be stirring up and bringing out into the open. He’s particularly disgusted with the young Tommy Howatt. Laura protests, insisting that Tommy is not the ruffian her uncles believe him to be, and informs him that she has in fact invited Tommy over that very afternoon. When Tommy arrives, Jessica goes to fetch some tea, leaving Laura alone with Tommy’s exaggerated stories and obvious advances. Laura finally blows a fuse when Tommy reads to her a poem by Lord Byron he claims to have written himself just for her. Laura pleads for him just to be himself, but when Tommy leaves, Laura recognizes that she is not being herself either; her calm is a façade to hide the growing excitement she feels for this crude young gent (“Tommy, Tommy”).
That evening at Clark’s tavern, detective Frye conducts a horse race with two prostitutes mounted on the shoulders of two male customers as the rest of the rowdy patrons look on laughing and cheering. Joe Kovack enters, nervous, but befriends Nita with a twenty dollar bill, and the two sit and chat over champagne. Tommy walks in late for his call, and goes right up on stage to sing a number for the bar (“The Picture of Happiness”). Joe recognizes Tommy from singing at the church. Nita thinks this is hoot, and shoos Joe away to find out what Tommy is up to, singing at a church. Old gentle Joe protests; it appears he’s somehow very quickly become attached to Nita, but she tells him to get lost, pushing him into a booth with Gertie. Tommy tells Nita all about how he’s double-crossing both the police and Rev. Brock. Later that night, a very drunk Joe Kovack is escorted out of Clark’s by a cop.
Early the next afternoon, Purdy sits on a beach dourly reading The Wall Street Journal as his niece Laura enjoys the sun with Jessica and some girlfriends. Brock and Purdy begin to argue about the Tenderloin before Brock cuts him off, insisting that it’s much too nice a day to bother themselves with their differences (“Dear Friend”). Tommy joins the group, and he and Laura spend some time taking pictures of each other and playfully wrestling. Then Joe enters distraught. He confesses his night out in the slammer to Rev. Brock. He also tells him that he overheard some guys in jail carrying on about how Lieutenant Schmidt had fooled Brock with a fake raid on Spanish Anna’s bordello. Brock confronts Tommy about double-crossing him, but with a new resolve to take down the Tenderloin, he enlists Tommy and a group of stalwart young men to join his now explosively fanatical crusade. His plan: infiltrate these houses of ill-repute in disguise, collecting as much evidence as they can to bring to city and state authorities who will have no choice but to close down the Tenderloin for good. With God on his side, Brock rallies the spirits of his men – “The Army of the Just.”
That night at Clark’s, the usual party rages on. Joe enters and approaches Nita. He admits that he’s fallen in love with her. But Joe knows better than to get mixed up with a woman who makes her living giving men special attention, so he’s planning to go away for a while until he gets over it. But not before he can give her a small present. Nita opens the package to reveal a huge diamond ring. Joe tells her that if she ever gets in a jam, she should sell the ring. He begins to bid her farewell, but she asks him to come back to see her tomorrow. Just then, Joe spots Brock and his men entering Clark’s and shimmies out on his hands and knees to avoid being spotted. Brock and his army make their way around the joint, pretending to be customers, taking notes on the depravity they’re witnessing. One thing leads to another, and Brock finds himself in a wild game of leapfrog with a bunch of the women, all the while taking more notes. Nita is still in a glow from scoring a millionaire, and she and the bar rave about how “The Money Changes Hands.” And with that Brock and his crew have all the information they’ll need to take down the Tenderloin. End of Act I.
A few days later, Purdy wanders through Central Park searching for his niece Laura when he happens upon Joe sitting on a bench dejected by his impossible love for Nita. Brock and Martin come by in the midst of a grave conversation. They stop to discuss the details of Brock’s latest sermon denouncing the Tenderloin in light of the raucous behavior they witnessed at Clark’s. Mrs. Barker, an older church lady, invites Brock to join her group of friends for a game of spoons. But with so much on his mind, he refrains. Just then Jessica runs in breathless with news that Lieutenant Schmidt is looking for Brock. She’s concerned that something bad is about to happen, but Brock takes this to mean that the Governor has taken action on the Tenderloin, and the cops have come to beg for mercy. He takes Mrs. Barker up on her offer after all for some “Good Clean Fun.”
Tommy and Laura enter the park together. Laura tells Tommy that her uncle believes Tommy makes his money gambling. Obliged to conceal his true source of income, Tommy pretends that he is in fact a gambler, and that he always wins on account of a “lucky picture” he keeps of Rev. Brock. It seems that Laura’s uncle wishes her not to see the rakish Tommy anymore, but Laura clearly feels otherwise. His levity, whether of truth or fabrication, seems to lift her spirits, and as if in a dream, Tommy takes her in his arms to dance (“My Miss Mary”).
Meanwhile, Schmidt has arrived to confront Brock and level with him about his crusade. Schmidt tells Brock that he doesn’t like the bordellos any more than Brock does, but he’s reconciled that the sin in the city is what keeps him in business, and moreover, it is what keeps Brock in business as well. Schmidt argues that all of his efforts will not rid New York of sin, it will just crop up in another neighborhood soon enough. Meanwhile, Brock has alienated his congregation, and Schmidt faces losing his job. Schmidt becomes infuriated when Brock won’t listen; his duty to God keeps him forging on.
At Clark’s the girls lament their loss of business. Nita scoffs at Gertie for dreaming of finding love, but inside, she laments losing her Joe (“My Gentle Young Johnny). Just then, Joe enters. He tries to pay, but Nita refuses the money, telling Joe how she’s missed him. Impulsively, Joe asks Nita to marry him, and when she accepts, the girls erupt in a giddy celebration (“The Picture of Happiness” reprise). Joe arrives to meet Schmidt and his men. Schmidt asks Tommy about his “lucky picture” of Rev. Brock. As Schmidt and Deacon examine the picture, it’s clear they have a scheme brewing.
Within a matter of days, Jessica, Laura, Joe, and Purdy find themselves reading the scandalous news of Rev. Brock prompted by the doctored photo of him that Schmidt has successfully passed off as real (“The Trial”).
That night, Clark’s is ablaze with celebration as Frye gives the girls the perfect imitation of Brock and his failed crusade.
Meanwhile at the Parish House, Brock sits alone, solemnly reading the Bible. Tommy comes in to express to Brock how sincerely sorry he is for the way things have turned out. Regardless of Brock’s impractical idealism, Tommy has come to value the Reverend, and as Brock insists that he still believes people are fundamentally good, Tommy rushes out in a swell of guilt for giving Schmidt the photograph.
Back in court the next day, Brock sits on trial as the chairman interrogates him about the picture. Finally, Tommy stands up and comes clean that the picture is a fake. Schmidt roars at him, but Tommy presses on exposing the entire truth. Brock is satisfied that Schmidt’s evil-doing will at last close the Tenderloin.
Schmidt and Frye stand patrolling a dead quiet street. They’ve got a hit man out for Tommy for all of the establishments of the Tenderloin have closed, and all of their business has dried up. Schmidt is sickened by the sight of a group of girls with their bags packed. They’re heading west with the belief that men are basically depraved, so they’ll not have much trouble finding work elsewhere (“Little Old New York” reprise).
Brock relaxes at the Parish house in vindication with Laura, Jessica, and Joe. Purdy comes in with news from the Church Elders. It appears that though they appreciate Brock’s determination, and regret the scandal he endured, they feel that all of the turmoil has destroyed the character of their church, and they are asking him to step down. Brock, now an exile, stands in shock as Tommy, likewise an exile, enters to wish Laura farewell before he leaves for Denver (“Tommy, Tommy” reprise). Tommy bids Brock goodbye, and the Revered thanks the young man for giving him back his name.
In Detroit, Brock addresses his new congregation. He has already begun to plot a new crusade against sin. This place is no different from the Tenderloin, and as Brock continues with his tirade, he is slowly drowned out by the sounds of prostitutes, bums, liquor, dancing, cops, ambitious journalists, and zealous old preachers colluding in the new but strangely familiar refrain – “Little Old Detroit.”
Cast: 14 men, 14 women, chorus.
- BRIDGET - Purdy’s maid
- CHAIRMAN - The officiating authority over the Trial of the Tenderloin
- DEACON - A seedy looking old man Tommy hires to take pictures he can sell to the daily newspapers.
- DERELICTS - Bums, drunks, and other ruffians who populate the Tenderloin.
- ELLINGTON DUPONT SMYTHE THE SECOND - Laura’s elegant young suitor.
- FRYE - A plains clothes detective.
- GERTIE - A dreamy and vivacious young prostitute.
- JESSICA HAVEMEYER - The skittish young clerk at the church Parish House.
- JOE KOVACK - The farmer who discovered coal on his land and made an instant fortune.
- LAURA CROSBIE - A pretty young society girl who falls for Tommy against her better judgment and her wealthy uncle’s protestations.
- MARGIE - One of the girls Tommy shares an act with at Clark’s tavern.
- MARTIN - The rigid, prudish church choirmaster.
- MRS. BARKER - A church lady and friend of Rev. Brock.
- NITA - The sassy, earthy beauty who finds her way out of prostitution when she falls in love with Joe Kovack.
- PURDY - Laura’s wealthy uncle
- REVEREND BROCK - The old preacher whose pious, idealistic, and undying ambition to bring down the Tenderloin creates a wave of scandal in every corner of the city.
- ROONEY - A police officer.
- SERGEANT The sergeant in charge of collecting the money all the derelicts give the police to keep them off their backs.
- SCHMIDT - The corrupt but realist police lieutenant who understands that the livelihood of the city is dependent upon underground dealings.
- TOMMY HOWATT - A slick and ambitious young reporter who will do anything to climb the ladder of success.
ALSO: Pearl, Maggie, Nellie, Liz – notorious prostitutes at Clark’s tavern
- Bless This Land (Company)
- Little Old New York (Nita, Gertie and company)
- Dr Brock (Brock)
- Artificial Flowers (Tommy)
- What's In It For You? (Brock, Tommy)
- Reform (Gertie and girls)
- Tommy, Tommy (Laura)
- The Picture of Happiness (Margie)
- Dear Friend (Brock, Laura, Jessica)
- Army Of the Just (Men)
- How the Money Changes Hands (Company)
- Good Clean Fun (Brock and company)
- My Miss Mary (Tommy, Laura and company)
- My Gentle Young Johnny (Nita)
- The Trial (Company)
Reed I (piccolo/flute/alto flute/clarinet), Reed II (flute/alto flute/ B flat clarinet/E flat clarinet/bass clarinet), Reed III (flute/oboe/cor anglais/clarinet/tenor sax), Reed IV (clarinet/bass clarinet/baritone sax/bassoon), 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, percussion, harp, keyboard (piano/organ/celeste), guitar, 3 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, double bass.
Original Broadway Cast Album - Angel ZDM 7243 5 65022 2 2