powered by FreeFind


Original Cast Album CoverA Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Musical in 2 acts, 21 Scenes; Music by Arthur Schwartz, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields; Book by Bett Smith & George Abbott

Alvin Theatre, Broadway - April 19, 1951 (267 perfs)


The action takes place in Brooklyn around the turn of the century.


It's a Saturday night in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. The denizens of a small neighbourhood under the Brooklyn Bridge rejoice at not having to work again until Monday. The handsome young singing waiter Johnny Nolan learns that he has been hired for a one-week gig, and he and his friends celebrate by retrieving their prized possessions from the local pawnshop. Johnny goes to meet his girlfriend Hildy, but he's captivated by Hildy's best friend, Katie Rommely.

It is a few weeks later, and we are in the living room of Cissy, the sister with whom Katie lives. Cissy is with her latest "common-law" husband, whom she insists on calling Harry, after the first one, who left her to return to his wife. Katie appears and admits to Cissy that her relationship with Johnny, who has a reputation for drinking and not working steadily, has grown serious. Johnny, now in the waiters' union and hired for a six-month position, proposes to Katie and tells his cronies he intends to become a different man. Johnny and Katie decide to get married in a week, in spite of Cissy's warnings that Johnny may not be able to reform so easily.

At Max's furniture store, Katie and Johnny are shopping for a bed. Johnny has wasted the money allocated for the bed on a night of carousing, so Katie must pay for it with the money she had put aside for her wedding dress. But Katie is too happy to care.

The scene shifts to the modest flat of Johnny and Katie, who have been married for a year; they have a month-old baby girl named Francie. Johnny, drinking again, has been laid off, and Katie has been forced to become janitor of their building. Cissy arrives. Her current Harry won't let her adopt a child, so Cissy has decided to pretend she's pregnant; when the baby she has arranged to take in is born, Cissy will claim it's her own.

Months later, Cissy is "about to give birth" and tells her friends that love and babies are what life is all about. A few hours later, and with Johnny and Katie as accomplices, Cissy presents Harry with what he thinks is their very own boy.

On the rooftop of the Nolans' tenement, the neighbours join in singing a popular song of the day. Johnny returns after an unexplained absence of two nights, and Katie tells Johnny that she's decided to leave him. Johnny asks for one more chance and promises her things will be different.


Twelve years have passed, and Francie is now thirteen. On a mild Hallowe'en Eve, the neighbours take up the song of an old-clothes-man, while Cissy prepares for a reunion with her first Harry, now a widower.

Johnny has been dropped by his union because of his chronic drinking. Meanwhile, Francie, to whom Johnny is always a "shining prince," is taking her first difficult steps into adolescence, and Johnny comforts her. Cissy is gravely disappointed when she sees her first Harry again. To make matters worse, her current Harry walks in on the reunion and promptly walks out on Cissy.

Johnny, reduced to playing piano at a local brothel, wins a second-hand piano for Francie in the house raffle. But when the proprietor won't let him have it; a fight ensues, and he is thrown out into the street, where he is tormented by local urchins and his own delirium. Francie tells her mother she's thinking of quitting school and taking a job to help the family. Johnny insists Francie stay in school so as not to wind up a failure like him. Katie goes out to claim the piano; Johnny resolves to try again and takes a job as a labourer working on the construction of a tunnel. Cissy is reunited with her current Harry, and she informs him that she's pregnant (and this time, it's true).

In the autumn, Johnny collapses at work and dies. The following June, Francie graduates from the eighth grade, receiving the first diploma in the family. Francie carries the flowers that Johnny paid for and arranged for her to receive shortly before his death. At the graduation block party, Francie has her first dance with a boy. Katie is without a partner, but she holds Johnny's roses and Francie's diploma.

Ken Mandelbaum

Musical Numbers:

  1. Overture - Orchestra 
  2. Payday - Company 
  3. Mine 'Til Monday - Johnny Nolan, Company 
  4. Make the Man Love Me - Katie, Johnny Nolan 
  5. I'm Like A New Broom - Johnny Nolan, Friends 
  6. Look Who's Dancing - Katie, Cissy, Company 
  7. Love Is The Reason - Cissy, Friends 
  8. If You Haven't Got A Sweetheart - Neighbours & Company 
  9. I'll Buy You A Star - Johnny Nolan, Company 
  10. That's How It Goes - Old Clothes Man, Children, Company 
  11. He Had Refinement - Cissy 
  12. Growing Pains - Johnny Nolan, Francie 
  13. Is That My Prince? - Cissy, Swanswine 
  14. Dance: Halloween Interlude - Orchestra 
  15. Don't Be Afraid - Johnny Nolan 
  16. Finale - Katie, Johnny Nolan, Cissy, Harry


  • Hildy
  • Della
  • Petey
  • Katie
  • Aloysius
  • Johnny Nolan
  • Cissy
  • Harry
  • Max
  • Mae
  • Moriarty
  • Annie
  • Old Clothes Man
  • Florence
  • Edgie
  • Francie
  • Junior
  • Swanswine
  • Hick
  • Judge
  • Salesman
  • Girls In Mae's Place
  • Maudie

Scenes and Settings

Act 1

Scene 1: A Street in Brooklyn on a Saturday, nearly 50 years ago.
Scene 2: Around the corner, a few minutes later.
Scene 3: Cissy's House, a few weeks later.
Scene 4: On the corner, early next morning.
Scene 5: Max's Furniture Store, the same morning.
Scene 6: On the way to Katie's, a year later.
Scene 7: The Nolan Kitchen, a year later.
Scene 8: On the Street.
Scene 9: Cissy's House.
Scene 10: A Sidewalk.
Scene 11: Up on the Roof.

Act 2

Scene 1: The Courtyard, 12 years later.
Scene 2: The Nolan Kitchen.
Scene 3: A Street Corner.
Scene 4: Mae's Place.
Scene 5: A Dark and Deserted Street.
Scene 6: The Nolan Kitchen.
Scene 7: An Empty Street fronting a Vacant Lot.
Scene 8: The Nolan Kitchen. A Somber Autumn Day.
Scene 9: In the Street. Late June.
Scene 10: The Courtyard.