|Daily Mirror (March 12, 1954)
'Golden Apple' Is Gay, Magnificent, Musical
By Robert Coleman
T. Edward Hambleton and Norris Houghton stood Manhattan on its ear Thursday evening with their presentation of "The Golden Apple" at the Phoenix Theatre. A smart first-night audience rocked the rafters with robust applause for the new John Latouche and Jerome Moross musical.
"THE GOLDEN APPLE" might be described as a folk opera, a musical satire or what you please. Anyway, it's a magnificent achievement. A sensational success. Quite the most original and imaginative work of its kind to blaze across the theatrical horizon in many a moon.
Latouche has chosen to spoof Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey." The locale Is the township of Angel's Roost and the city of Rhododendron in the state of Washington shortly after the Spanish-American War. Helen is the wife of the town's elderly big shot, Menelaus. She is lured away in a balloon by Mr. Paris, a glib traveling salesman.
Ulysses, a young war veteran, is talked into leaving his pretty wife, Penelope, and leading an expedition to rescue the errant Helen. He does so by besting Paris in a boxing match. Then he lingers to enjoy the fleshpots of the big city. He encounters Madam Calypso at a celebratory ball, Scylla and Charybdis in a brokerage office, a Siren in a waterfront dive and Circe on the wrong side of the tracks.
EVENTUALLY the wanderer, wiser, poorer and older, returns to the patient Penelope in pastoral Angel's Roost. A lyrical ending to adventures that are Variously fascinating, exciting and downright hilarious.
All this is told via song, dance and pantomime. There are no spoken lines to hinder the action, which amazingly, is
always lucid and entertaining. It is a superlative feat of craftsmanship by librettist-lyricist Latouche and composer Moross. Somewhat in the spirit of "Ballet Ballads," it is a more ambitious, skillful and arresting work.
Norman Lloyd has directed with resource and taste, and Hanya Holm has contributed most helpful and enjoyable choreography. William and Jean Eckart have designed charming settings and Alvin Colt giddy and gorgeous costumes. Moross and Hershey Kay have made orchestrations that display the music to excellent advantage.
KAYE BALLARD, a Spike Jones band and nitery alumna, is captivating as the wayward Helen. To give you an idea of her comic genius, she covered a slight mishap in the orchestra pit (the conductor's score fell from the podium) with an engaging joust with a fan. The audience loved it, and we we suspect the bit will be retained at future performances. It should.
Jack Whiting, the veteran show-stopper, is up to his old tricks again as a suave city slicker. His ingratiating style, his irresistible personality and his smooth soft-shoeing are among the highlights. Stephen Douglass, manly and full-voiced, is outstanding as Ulysses, and Priscilla Gillette pretty and warming as Penelope.
Salutes are also due Jonathan Lucas, Bibi Osterwald, Portia Nelson, Geraldine Viti, Nola Day and Dean Michener. In fact, a bow from the waist should go to the entire cast.
"The Golden Apple" is the kind of musical that might be impossible to do in the commercial theatre. Hambleton and Houghton are to be commended for having the courage to produce it. It is art, without being arty. For an evening of sheer delight, we urge you to visit the Phoenix.
|Daily News (March 12, 1954)
A Completely Delightful Musical, 'The Golden Apple." Is Real Gold
By John Chapman
Way off the Broadway track at Second Ave. and 12th St., the Phoenix Theatre opened a production called "The Golden Apple" last evening. It is an off-beat, off-rhyme, off-
harmony musical which lifts our Broadway song-and-dance theatre right off the comfortable seat of its pants and then gives it a kick in said pants. "The Golden Apple" is the best thing that has happened in and to the theatre in a very long tune. Every part of it—music, lyrics, staging, scenery, costumes and company—is refreshing, tangy, delightful and intelligent.
This one is really a musical, for in it there is no spoken dialog; everything is sung. The book and lyrics are the work of John Latouche; the music is by Jerome Mnroas, and the orchestration is by Moross and Hershey Kay. The humor is by everybody.
Homer Smites Again.
"The Golden Apple" is a freehand estimate of what Homer would have sung about in the Apple State of Washington in the early 1900s if Ulysses, Penelope, Helen of Tray and Paris had been up there in the mountains instead of fooling around the fringes of the Aegean Sea a long time B. C. Our bero is an apple farmer named Ulysses and his wife, Penelope, gets tired of his loping off on such adventures as the Spanish-American war and dallying in a sinful hot spot with a gal named Circe. With the Homeric legends as a framework for a parable, Latouche has built a wry and funny story about the present human race. "The Golden Apple" is a witty, satirical parade of human foibles and fallacies, as sharply pointed as a topical revue of yesteryear. The Moross music is equally adroit and artful. It never lets the listener settle down, but keeps him alert for the next unexpected turn of phrase or tone or rhythm.
There are songs in an almost-ordinary sense, and I think one that is headed for immediate popularity is a number sung by Kaye Ballard called "Lazy Afternoon."
It is sultry, saucy and seductive in every word and intonation, and Miss Ballard sings it with wonderful style.
A number of singers and dancers, indeed perform with wonderful style. There is Jack Whiting, as a modern Hector, singing a charming but cynical number about the various weaknesses of our race. There is Bibi Osterwald intoning a marvelous spoof on "Bali H'ai," "By Goona-Goona Lagoon." There is Portia Nelson as a super-modern scientist, predicting the doom of our race and admitting we were a biological mistake anyway. There is Priscilla Gillette, singing the softer melodies of the lonesome and lovely Penelope. There is Stephen Douglass, singing lovingly to his Penelope or boastfully about his first store-bought suit.
On the dancing side there are many pleasant and impish conceits devised by Hanya Holm, and some excellent work by Jonathan Lucas in the role of a smart-alec traveling salesman named Paris. Much of the success of "The Golden Apple" can be credited to its two directors, Norman Lloyd and Miss Holm. With free hands and light hearts they have put together a stylish and zestful musical escapade. And the Alvin Colt costumes and the settings by William and Jean Eckart are all a part of a remarkably attractive theatrical adventure.
|Hollywood Reporter (1954)
|T. Edward Hambleton and Norris Houghton present
"THE GOLDEN APPLE"
By John Latouche and Jerome Moross
Directed by Norman Lloyd
Choreography by Hanya Holm
Scenery by William and Jean Eckart
Costumes by Alvin Colt
Cast: Priscilla Gillette, Stephen Douglass, Kaye Ballard, Jack Whiting.
TROY, TROY AGAIN
New York.—It is easy to see why T. Edward Hambleton and Norris Houghton decided to present "The Golden Apple" in their Phoenix Theatre. To begin with, the legend of the travels of Ulysses, the Mediterranean Irving Hoffman, is surely one of the most captivating pieces of literature, as witnessed by the fact that it is turning up in the cinema this semester. Consider also that John La Touche has supplied complicatedly witty lyrics, Jerome Moross has written enough music for a Mardi Gras, a number of gifted mummers have agreed to mum for little more than the pleasure of seeing their names in the program, Hanya Holm has manipulated the dancers with antic invention, and William and Jean Eckart have simulated lavish scenery on a MacTavish budget.
It is exactly the sort of thing they ought to be doing down at the Phoenix Theatre, and you will know me for a poltroon and a craven when I confess that more than half the evening left me rigid. La Touche and Moross have conceived the enchanting, felicitous and indescribably tiresome notion of having the entire piece sung from start to finish. There is not a line of dialogue, not an aside, hardly even a grimace, which is not part of interminable series of sing-song couplets.
This is not only death to spoken humor, it is also destructive to the fine songs strewn through the show. When the authors left off the recitative and got to a number, they frequently displayed satiric and melodic gifts: The satiric in "By Goona-Goona Lagoon," a fine parody of the musical orgy of the sarong persuasion; the melodic in "Lazy Afternoon," which is as fine a show song as I have lately heard in the parish.
Speaking of the last, it reveals the talents of a broad comedienne named Kaye Ballard, cast as a hip-swinging Helen. Her comedy technique was forged in the foundry of the Spike Jones unit, and polished in supper clubs, and she is a treasure.
Jack Whiting, as the Washington state version of Hector, repeats his astonishing miracle of seeming to strut one foot above the stage. Jonathan Lucas plays Paris without benefit of language, making all points sufficiently clear with rump wriggles out of 'Afternoon of a Faun." Stephen Douglass was a nice baritone Ulysses and Priscilla Gillette was sweet in the part of Penelope. Bibi Osterwald, Portia Nelson, Geraldine Viti and Nola Day also were effective. Norman Lloyd contributed some clever stage tricks.
A pro show, bright, light and gay "Apple" a pippin for commercial Broadway.
|Los Angeles Times (March 28, 1954)
|"The Golden Apple" Sounds Sour At First bit It Sure Turned Out to Be Delicious
BY Walter F. Kerr
NEW YORK, March 27—This isn't a piece of information I ever expected to be passing along, but the Odyssey makes a better musical comedy than the Iliad.
"The Golden Apple," which has become a bright new hit at the Phoenix Theater on 2nd Ave., is a kind of American crazy-quilt version of both epics.
Its first act brings a bunch of Spanish-American War veterns home to a town known as Angels' Roost, Wash., where a local Helen is in process of ditching a local Menelaus in favor of a notions salesman named Paris.
In the second act the male members of the community, headed by a heroic Ulysses, take in pursuit of the unreliable Helen, only to find themselves mired in the fleshpots of a metropolis called Rhododendron.
A Charmed Life
In outline this must sound appalling. And there were moments during the first half of this John Latouche-Jerome Moross invention when I thought "The Golden Apple" was going to be appalling. The business of transplanting a classical legend into a folksy native background is always a dubious proposition. The parallels aren't likely to have any particular point. The tmptation to lean on the legend - and to let the local motivation go hang - is strong. The force of the original legend gets lost in the cornfields and the cornfields never do acquire any reality of their own.
"The Golden Apple" doesn't exactly avoid these boobytaps. It steps into them blithely and, because it leads some sort of an idiotically charmed life, springs out of them again before anything disastrous can happen.
The first half, I think, is rescued again and again by the sheer enchantment of the scenery. William and Jean Eckart have designed an extraordinarily simple but extraordinarily captivating series of stylized backgrounds —a cherry tree composed of three or four spotted rectangles, a "welcome home" banner of such brazen gaiety that you imagine no one has ever used a "welcome home" banner in a musical before, a variety of pink step-ladder and blue grandstands.
Nine out of 10 musical-comedy composers contrive some sort of ear-splitting explosion for this crucial stage in the proceedings and the explosion is usually very helpful. That the authors of "The Golden Apple" should have dared reverse a perfectly sound practice - and that they should have brought it off with such emphatic success—suggested a quiet and knowing confidence in the over-all shape of the score.
The performances are consistently winning. Kaye Ballard is a sly and low-brow Helen, delivering "Lazy Aftethoon" in a long, slow hoot, embellishing her lyrics with a distinctive assortment of underslung growls, and managing to seem enormously funny when this light-minded heroine is at her most demure.
Jonathan Lucas, playing a jack-in-the-box Paris, is doing his best dancing to date under Miss Holm's supervision. Priscilla Gillette is an appealing Penelope, especially as she rues the day her Ulysses left home ("When We Were Young"); Jack Whiting is in familiar and very good form as the Mayor of a sinful city, and Stephen Douglass is a robust Ulysses.
"The Golden Apple" is a curious achievement. Working from a most uninviting premise, it has beaten down resistance by the joyous enthusiasm of everyone connected with it.
|New York Herald Tribune (March 12, 1954)
|The Golden Apple
By Virgil Thomson
Some of It Fun
"THE GOLDEN APPLE," which opened Thursday at the Phoenix Theater, is composed entirely in rhymed verse and set to music throughout. No prose and no speech mar (or relieve) its consistency. The verses by John Latouche are vivacious, sparkling, ingenious and at many moments very, very funny. The music by Jerome Moross, though deliciously orchestrated (by himself), your reviewer found less entertaining. Based alternately on rumba rhythms, ragtime formulas and thp Appalachian ballad style (modal and minor), it aimed to evoke, I presume, something nostalgic for all ages of customer. But melodically it did not, for this customer, leave the ground. And this customer is one who cherishes in the theater tunes that soar above the mechanics of good background music.
The' story Is "The Iliad" of Homer, no less, set in the State of Washington apple country about fifty years ago. Ulysses and Penelope, Paris and Helen, Hector and Patroclus, Calypso and Circe, are all there, manoeuvred about choreographically by the fine hand of Hanya Holm under the general direction (no less expert) of Norman Lloyd, dancing like mad and singing bawdy songs in Mae West costumes. If the Homeric parallel seemed a bit heavy (and to this one it did) and the music inconsisently on the jiggy side (he longed for some three-four time), the words of the show and its visual presentation were ever lively, imaginative and fresh.
The scenery by William and Jean Eckart is tastily drawn, out of the ordinary in its prettiness of color and fanciful in its clever, almost Japanese simplicity. The costumes by Alvin Colt are pretty too and vivid in color. Miss. Holms dance design is nothing short of brilliant, especially when it is comic. A burlesque of a South Seas number, entitled "By Goona Goona Lagoon" nearly stopped the show last night, as did also, for purely verbal reasons, a patter duet, after Gallager and Shean, between Mr. Charybdis and Mr. Scylla.
Actually the special numbers, all of them burlesques of standard music-show numbers (at the same time that they take off the Homeric incidents), show Mr. Latouche's hilarious wit and rhyming virtuosity, as well as Miss Holm's high comic powers, at their top. These moments, and the very real freshness of the visual spectacle, are the show's trump cards. Because the story is cumbersome and the music, for all its lightness of hand and delicate variety in the scoring, heavy-spirited. If "Golden Apple" survives many weeks, it will be because of neat production gimmicks and its vast exuberance of rhyming and dancing.
Its casting will not hurt it either, though there is no star no room for one. Kaye Ballard as Helen, and Bibi Osterwald, a Lovey Mars, got the biggest hand for their rasping-voiced vocal style and obvious (but no too corny) sexual innuendo. Stephen Douglass, as Ulysses, sang more or less classically and quite pleasantly. Jack Whiting as Hector Charybdis, a cane-twirling, frock-coated slicker, hardly sang at all; but he projected his songs perfectly. In general, the less everybody tried to really sing and concentrated on putting over the words, the better the effect. Hugh Ross conducted to perfection.
"The Golden Apple" is good fun a good deal of the time. It is a little pretentious, but it has gusto in it and wit. And its orchestra makes far lovelier sounds than we are used to hearing in a musical.
|New York Journal America (March 12, 1954)
|Great Musical Merits Raves
By JOohn McClain
REGISTER herewith an unqualified rave for "The Golden Apple," the John Latouche-Jerome Morass musical which opened at the Phoenix Theatre last night.
Although singularly unheralded, this is easily the most satisfactory and original song and dance effort of the past several seasons and, in my opinion, can be classed as an American Gilbert and Sullivan. A deep bow to the producers, the authors, the participants.
Here Is one of those rare and gratifying experiences in the theatre-with fulfillment of an idea long nurtured and finally brought to bloom.
After years of struggle and disappointment the property finally arrived in the hands of the dedicated few who were apparently preordained to give it life. These are not the biggest names in the theatre today, but they are all inordinately right for "The Golden Apple."
Employing no unsung word of dialogue throughout, the Mssrs. Latouche and Moross have told in song and lyric an American interpretation of the Grecian Illiad and Odyssey. Ulysses is a soldier home from the Spanish-American War returning to the arms of his beloved Penelope. Helen is a farmers daughter, whose roving eye quickly falls upon Paris, the traveling salesman.
Other Olympian figures are easily, transposed into the local types inhabiting the town of Angel's Roost, Wash., in the year 1900.
The ensuing action involves Ulysses' convenient quest of Helen, who has taken off for the big city with Paris. For ten years he follows her, becoming more and more seduced by the lure of the flesh-pots, but returning at long last to his wife secure in the knowledge that the most golden apple grows in his own back yard.
To tell this tale Mr. Moross has evolved a flow of continuous music embodying some of the best elements of Stephen Foster, a hunk of early hillbilly, snatches reminiscent of the 'You're Only A Girl That Men Forget" school, with interpolated bits from the Bunny Hug jazz era. And, in case you may think he can't be modem, he drops in a Calypso and a Hula number later on.
To accompany all this Mr. Latouche has devised a libretto which tells the story and yet miraculously, keeps pace with the period and emotional moods of the music.
It is odd, and quite exciting, to realize that a show can thus be so capably sustained entirely through lyrics.
The performances are almost uniformly laudable; Priscilla Gillette is the eternal and decorative symbol of the home, with the voice of a lark; Stephen Douglass is one of the few young men around capable of looking like Ulysses, acting like him, and still managing to sing such a man-eating part with clarity and distinction; Kaye Ballard, a voluptuous Helen can leer and vocalize at the same moment, and Jack Whiting, the perennial Jimmy Walker is on hand with top hat and cane to do that same engaging impression of a city slicker.<
Equal plaudits can be showered on the rest of the cast, down to and including a young lady listed among the dancers as Tao Strong.
Special merit badges should be awarded William and Jean Eckart for the sets, an ingenious series of drops and backgrounds which are always bright and imaginative.
Similar citations should go to Norman Lloyd, for direction: Hanya Holm, for the choreography, especially the hilarious "Goona-goona Lagoon" number; Hugh Ross for a fabulous job of musical direction (but a little less steam when Miss
Gillette is singing, and Alvin Colt for the fresh and flippant costumes.
"The Golden Apple" is some sort of milestone in the American musical theatre. This is a great show.
|New York Post (March 12, 1954)
|Season's Best New Musical Show
By Richard Watts Jr.
In the third presentation of its season, the remarkable Phoenix Theater has not only lived up to its admirable record but improved upon it. To follow "Madam, Will You Walk" and "Coriolanus," the enterprising downtown organization last night offered a musical play by John Latouche and Jerome Moross called "The Golden Apple," and it is certainly no exaggeration to describe it as the best new musical comedy of the season. It is even an understatement. "The Golden Apple" is a thorough delight in its freshness, imagination, charm and brightness.
After the fashion of their excellent "Ballet Ballads" of a few years ago, Mr. Latouche and Mr. Moross have told their story entirely in song and dance. It is a play in music, rather than a play with music. And, happily, both men have been equally successful in their contributions. The Latouche lyrics are not only gay, satirical, intelligent and versatile, but also carry on the narrative with theatrical effectiveness. The Moross music has the same admirable virtues, and the result is a splendidly integrated show that possesses an authentic style.
If I seem to delay telling what "The Golden Apple" is about, it is not because I lack any enthusiasm for the story. It is merely that I'm afraid I may make it sound pretentious, which it assuredly isn't. For what the authors have done is take the Greek legends of Helen, Paris, Menelaus, Ulysses and Penelope, transfer them to America at the beginning of the century, and give them the homely humor of a folk tale. Such things can be either pompous and dreary or embarrassingly schoolgirlish if they are not managed with deftness, skill and tact.
Indeed, when you note in the program characters called "Lovey Mars," "Mrs. Minerva Oliver" and "Hector Charybdis," you may have a moment of fearing the worst. But there is no reason for worry, because the authors, the producers and the cast have everything in hand. There is nothing at all precious about 'The Golden Apple." There is taste in the Latouche-Moross work, as well as an almost constant stream of good humorous irvention and a high pictorial skill, and the music, the lyrics and the dances have just the lightness and freshness of touch that is needed.
For all the excellence in the writing and composing, "The Golden Apple" might still have its difficulties if the other elements that have gone into it were not skillfully managed. Fortunately, the production is a happy one. Hanya Holm has fitted the dances into the narrative with just the proper style. The settings by William and Jean Eckart and the costumes by Alvin Colt bring the proper combination of beauty, humor and imagination into the pattern of the show with equal success, and there is no jarring note in the perfect coordination of the evening.
It was also important that the cast should consist of good actors who can sing so that the lyrics may be heard. Under Norman Lloyd's able direction, everyone strikes the right mood, and I am probably omitting some of them when I express particular admiration for Stephen Douglass as Ulysses, Priscilla Gillette as Penelope, Kaye Ballard as Helen, Jonathan Lucas as the dancing Paris, Bibi Osterwald as an island siren, Portia Nelson as a scientist, Nola Day as a seeress, and, especially, Jack Whiting as a city slicker. Did I say I liked "The Golden Apple"?
|New York Times (March 12, 1954)
|By Brooks Atkinson
Style: rich; material: intricate. That might serve as a general comment on "The Golden Apple," which was acted and sung at the Phoenix last evening. It is a satire written by John Latouche with music by Jerome Moross, and an enchanting production designed by William and Jean Eckart with vivid costumes by Alvin Colt.
Originally the Phoenix was to live in noble penury—always a worthy ideal. Although "The Golden Apple" is not a heavy production, it has been designed in impeccable taste by people who love form and color. The Phoenix may have been penny-plain two or three months ago. It is tuppenced colored now. This is a light, gay, charming production.
* * *
"The Golden Apple" is a double satire. It applies the Homeric legend of Helen and Ulysses to a mythical town in the State of Washington from 1900 to 1910. Mr. Latouche has to make wry faces in two directions; and, in the opinion of one playgoer, that is the reason why "The Golden Apple" is more like a faculty joke than a sharp musical satire with an explicit theme. Mr. Latouche wrote with more joyousness and gusto in "Ballad for Americans" and "Ballet Ballads." From both the musical and literary points of view "The Golden Apple" is on the cerebral side.
The musical form may have something to do with an impression that "The Golden Apple" trive after a friskiness that It does not quite achieve. Long sequences of it are recitative, written in a narrow compass and increasingly monotonous to listen to all evening. Mr. Moross has written several lovely or humorous songs; and fortunately, they are well sung by actors with temperament.
* * *
In the part of Helen, Kaye Ballard is particularly funny. For Mr. Latouche's Helen is no classical heroine, but a small-town trollop with a mock-lascivious manner. "Lazy Afternoon," which she sings to the leafy dancing of Jonathan Lucas, is a triumphant number and the high point of the show.In the part of the dissembling Mars, Bibi Osterwald is breezy too. She has an amusingly leering way with the comic ballad of "The Judgment of Paris." Translated into a tropical hussy in the second act, she burlesques "By Goona-Goona Lagoon" hilariously. Priscilla Gillette's domesticated Penelope is a beautiful fireside woman, Miss Gillette catches the lyrical sweetness of 'My Love Is On the Way" and breaks the sly mood of the show with a welcome burst of temper in the last scene.
As the sibyl, Mother Hare, Nola Day gives one of the most professional performances in the cast. She sings her songs of dark prophecy with a lightness of style that catches the exact mood of the satire. Stephen Douglas' Ulysses is an imposing hero with an excellent voice, but a rather literal manner that is none too happy for musical satire. Jack Whiting, who is probably now fated to play comedy mayors for the rest of his career, struts entertainingly through the part of Hector, not bothering much with the music.
* * *
"The Golden Apple" is an ambitious parody of the old legend. According to the program Mr. Moross has written twenty-seven
songs, to say nothing of his share of pleasant orchestrations. Mr. Latouche has written enough lyrics for three ordinary shows. Not all of them are in his most brilliant style. Hanya Holm has found room enough to introduce a few ballets in either the country style that is so winning in our theatre or the broad burlesque of the tropical number. Norman Lloyd has given the production a brisk tempo in his direction.
With all this richness of style running through the production, why should a theatregoer be a little reluctant about the whole work? Perhaps it tries to do too much. The satire gets random and the music gets restless and the point of view diffuse. "The Golden Apple" is the only literate new musical of the season. It has a brilliant surface, but the content is thin.
|New Yorker (March 20, 1954)
|By Homer Nods
It was in "The Beautiful and Damned," I believe, that F. Scott Fitzgerald caused his heroine to remark thoughtfully of another young woman, "Oh, I like her, except not very much." This note of qualified rapture was evident in most of my colleagues' reviews of "The Golden Apple," which opened last week at the Phoenix Theatre, and it comes close to expressing my own opinion, too. The musical, for which John Latouche furnished the book, Jerome Moross the songs, and Hanya Holm the choreography, has quite a lot to recommend it: The humor is generally at least acceptable; there are some fine tunes and some agreeably rakish dances; the scenery and costumes alternate sunny and innocent charm with representations of rather elaborate depravity; and the cast, though lacking the services of any really electrifying personalities, is composed of attractive people whose hearts are clearly in their work. All this should obviously make up a more than usually satisfactory evening. The fact that I found it only mildly and intermittently diverting—scarce1y, indeed, justifying the long voyage down to Twelfth Street and Second Avenue—isn't easy to explain, but I should say that the answer has something to do with familiarity. As I watched the stage, it kept occurring to me that I had seen almost everything on it somewhere else before—not in any single play, of course, but distributed through a hundred of them—and almost always executed with that little extra verve that separates the truly distinguished from the simply meritorious. "The Golden Apple," in short, is more than competent in every department; it just doesn't happen to strike me as terribly interesting in any.
The plot is based on a rearrangement of mythology, a device that has certainly served the musical stage with some regularity in the past—specifically, on a tampering with the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey." It is Mr. Latouche fancy to transplant Ulysses to the American Northwest at the end of the zietccnth century. He returns from the Spanish-American War, where he and his fellow-heroes have done quite well, and is, preparing to settle down with Penelope in the town of Angel's Roost, at the foot of Mount Olympus, when the peace of the little community is suddenly disrupted by the arrival of Paris, in the shape of a travelling salesman, who descends on it in a balloon. He awards the golden apple, provided by a sibyl named Mother Hare, to the local Aphrodite, here called Lovey Mars, and, thanks to the sexual prowess conferred on him in return, has practically no trouble seducing Helen, the sultry spouse of an elderly hanker, and carrying her off in his balloon. Their destination is a seaport called Rhododendron, and presently Ulysses and his men set out to bring them back. This concludes the first act and the more bucolic portion of the entertainment.
Things are rather more lively in Rhododendron. Somehow or other, the simple adventurers get involved with a dapper and plausible scoundrel called Hector Charybdis (it may be that Mr. Latouche's nomenclature is sometimes a little too ingenious for its own good), and under his guidance they visit a Madam Calypso, who humiliates them socially, after the tiresome fashion of the newly rich; they are clipped in a bucket shop conducted jointly by Charybdis and his partner, Scylla; they drop in at a waterfront dive, where some sirens in straw skirts go to work on them; they go to Minerva's laboratory, where, unfortunately, one of them is dispatched in a space rocket; and, finally, they arc caught up in a brawl on a dark and sinister street, where another man gets stabbed. Natually, Ulysses finds all these goings on somewhat exhausting, though not, perhaps, quite as exhausting as I find it to chronicle them, and it is a relief to him to get back to Angel's Roost, where Penelope has just about reached the end of her knitting and her patience.
All this, as you might imagine, provides some nice opportunities for comedy, and on the whole the performers make the most of them. The most successful is probably Kaye Ballard, whose Helen is a very funny girl indeed, whether she is repelling the warriors-- with, however, remarkably little conviction-— or making Paris's wooing as easy for him as a lady possibly could, or providently taking Menelaus's silverware with her as she sets off in the balloon. Of the rest, Jack Whiting brings a fine professional touch to the role of Charybdis, a part practically identical with a good many he has done before; Stephen Douglass is a sonorous Ulysses; Nola Day is a handsome, menacing, full-voiced sibyl; Priscilla Gillette has the proper modest appeal as Penelope; Jonathan Lucas, speechless throughout the play, dances Paris with great style and agility; Dean Michner is good as Menelaus, and excellent as Scylla in a Gallagher and Shean duet he sings with Mr. Whiting; and Bibi Osterwald, Geraldine Viti, and Portia Nelson double with considerable effect as matrons in Angel's Roost and more worldly types in the wicked metropolis of Rhododendron. The subordinate dancers and singers (the lines of "The Golden Apple," incidentally, are all sung) are very praiseworthy, too.
|Washington Post (August 10, 1954)
|'Golden Apple' Rock Creek Spectacle Acclaimed
By Richard L. Coe
"The Golden Apple"—and a mechanical crane - smashed through with superlative performances last night in Rock Creek Park Carter Barron Amphitheater, very decidedly a spectacle to be seen. This was the opening of a 10-night run of the John Latouche-Jerome Moross musical, 'acclaimed by the New York Critics' Circle as the past season's best musical.
This reviewer concurs for "The Golden Apple" is the most original musical since "Oklahoma!" Everyone of its words are sung to music as clever and diverse as they are. There are rich veins of satire in the story and a continuing array of melody and humor in the music. Latouche is rewriting the Greek legend of Helen, Paris and Ulysses, bringing it up to the new state of Washington just after the Spanish-American war. Ulysses and his gallant crew go off to rescue Helen, but in so doing they are totally corrupted by the big city of Rhododendron.
How Paris lures Helen to the big city is one of the evening's surprises as the transplanted musical is played in Rock Creek. Over the park's big trees, a huge crane plummets a great balloon with lights about Paris.
This substitute for the New York stage's balloon where, in an indoor theater, it simply came and went via the flies is a spectacular novelty for our D. C. view and is one more spectacle for the Ampiltheater's spectacular setting. Last night the balloon operator got a curtain call.
Because all the words are sung, it may take you a while to get the drift of "The Golden Apple", but so splendid is the diction of the cast chosen primarily from singers, that you soon get used to it.
Fresh from the New York run which ended Saturday night, the cast could hardly be improved upon. The hardest chore falls to Stephen Douglass whose splendid baritone diction never misses a syllable of Ulysses' many words.
But up there with him are the equally dictions of Kaye Ballard as Helen, Bibi Osterwald, as Lovey Mars, Martha Larrimore as a local mystic, Charlotte Rae as a hostess with more than mostest and Portia Nelson who invents a doomed gadget.
The long and reliable Jack Whiting relishes his assignment of making fun of a city's wicked mayor and in his nonspeaking role of Paris, Jonathon Lucas presents a memorable performance in the choreography of Hanya Holm. Robert Zeller's fluid conducting gives the musical just the dash it needs. Yes, this Is a brilliant musical brilliantly performed.
|New York World Telegram (March 12, 1954)
|Phoenix Takes Bow For 'Golden Apple'
By William Hawkins
For invention and freshness and beauty and impudence there is hardly a phow on Broadway that can touch "The Golden Apple."
The new musical at the Phoenix is a dreamy descendant of the "Ballet Ballads" of a few seasons ago John Latouche has pretended that the story of Helen, Paris, Ulysses and all their friends happened on an American farm right after the Spanish-American War. The result is naughty, colorful and funny. The performers are young and fresh and eager. A number come from nightclub backgrounds. Jerome Moross has given them tingly tunes for the impertinent lyrics.
Hanya Holm is a real star of the proceedings. If there was ever a slow moment, it is one when everybody went solemn for a hue or two, and forgot how vital Miss Holm's inspired dance direction is to the spirit of the show.
Just as exciting are the imaginative sets of William and Jean Eckart, and the insane costumes of Alvin Colt. The backgrounds appear from the sky, or get pushed onstage by passing actors. Often they are transparent but they are always bright. We point out these credits first, because these are the people who made it possible for the cast to look so fine.
Priscilla Gillette and Stephen Douglass get first billing as the conventional leads, Penelope and Ulysses. Perhaps it is the nobility of the roles they fill so efficiently that makes them sparkle less than their fellows.
Kaye Ballard for instance is a joy as Helen. She can say worlds with a slow and lecherous grin, and times her songs with a daffy attitude all her own. "Lazy Afternoon," which she sings to Paris, is a wonder of insinuation.
Paris Is a fetching lad as danced by Jonathan Lucas. He is a traveling salesman who arrives by balloon, and steps his way into the hearts of the local girls without uttering a word. The gyrations Miss Holm has invented for him are spruce and witty. Just in case the applause goes to the heads of the younger gang, Jack Whiting steps out and stops the show with a casual soft shoe and a winning lyric.
The other girls get their big pitch when Ulysses' boys go hog wild in the big town. Geraldine Viti is a florid widow whose oily fortune lures the farmers and Portia Nelson turns in a sprightly comic performance as an inventor of diabolical machines.
Parody on Dances.
Perhaps the show's funniest item is led by Bibi Osterwald in a wicked parody of all the Hawaiian songs ever danced or sung. It is nonsense but so rudely danced and so luringly sung that it assigns the hula imitators to a back seat from now on.
For the Phoenix 'The Golden Apple" is an out and out triumph. It should jam the place as long as it stays. The show has minor slumps and some distracting balances between voice and orchestra. Nobody can mind on 12th St. but if the show ever bids for Broadway competition, It could stand a little ironing here and there. Meanwhile, Bravo.
|Women's Wear Daily (March 12, 1954)
|By Thomas K. Dash
"The Golden Apple," which opened last night as the third production of the Phoenix Theatre, has a classic title and is a classy show. Avoiding the bunting and folderol of Broadway's mammoth musical exhibitions, this collaboration by John Latouche and Jerome Moross is one of the most original and engaging shows since their own "Ballet Ballads" enamoured New Yorkers.
Grafting the myths and fables of the Odyssey and the Iliad onto the myths and fables of Western Americana circa 1900, "The Golden Apple" is the essence of lyrical wit In the libretto, in the lyrics, in the score and in the dancing. Produced without fuss and feathers but with infinite imagination, and peopled by a number of extremely talented mimes, the new ballad opera which is being exhibited downtown could easily make the Broadway grade if it chooses to make the move uptown.
Actually, "The Golden Apple" is opera in the modern vernacular. It is never interrupted by dialog. The songs tell us with great drollery and splashes of philosophy, the tale that the authors wish to convey.
The lusty West at the turn of the century is the homologue of the Homeric scene. The wandering Spanish War to his spinning, patient, faithful Penelope. Helen is the faithful Penelope. Helen is the restless wench who is bored with the sleepy township of Angel's Roost on the edge of Mt. Olympus in the State of Washington. Along comes lover-boy Paris who is represented as a drummer of fetching notions and accessories for a lady's wardrobe. The beauteous and susceptible Helen elopes with Paris for "the life of a salesman." The graybeards of the town are aroused; they excite the young ones and the shooting ones to vengeance, and the "heroes" of Angel's Roost set forth to get the truant Helen back.
The libretto follows a simple pattern, but the idea is basically excellent as a peg on which to hang the witty lyrics by Latouche and the magical rhythms of Moross. It is not so much the melodies of the score that beguile you as these rhythms based on the ballads and folk tunes of the Western era described. Many of the songs have the lilt and gallop of the barn dance.
T. Edward Hambleton and Norris Houghton, the entrepreneurs of the venture at the Phoenix Theatre, have garnered topflight Broadway people for their off-Broadway musical. Kaye Ballard impersonates a knavish and alluring Helen. Everyone of her songs (trips with succulent humor, but she is especially applauded for the style with which she delivers the magnificent ballad "Lazy Afternoon."
In the second half, Bibi Osterwald stops the show with her superlative travesty of a hoolahoola singer in the song entitled 'By Goona-Goona Lagoon.' As Penelope, Priscilla Gilette has the assignment of delivering the serious and sentimental tunes, and she too is magnificent. Another winner is Portia Nelson who is the equivalent of Minerva and impresses with the rocket song "Doomed, Doomed, Doomed." Abetting the distaff side of the cast are Geraldine Viti as Calypso and Nola Day as a sybil of a Cassandra-like bent of mind.
The masculine performers are hard pressed to vie with the feminine brilliance, but they too are valuable assets. Jonathan Lucas, as the Don Juanish Paris, dances with great agility; while Stephen Douglass sings with great clarity and acts the role or Ulysses with virile gusto. The dapper Jack Whiting Is again cast as a trig, natty and impeccable mayor, and sings one of the clever ditties of the show, "Schylla and Charybdis."
The most vivid and cogent aspect of the book centers about the travels of Ulysses after he has returned from the wars. Wanderer and adventurer that he is, he is lured by the fleshpots of the big city. In his travels he and his boon companions learn of the hazards of gambling on the stock exchanges and the wiles of aphrodisiac maidens on tropical beaches. Since the satirical libretto has a bit of philosophy, Ulysses finds hmse!f and life's more tangible values, through his exploits.
Norman Lloyd has whipped together a mobile production through his directional knowhow. William and Jean Eckart have provided settings that are simple, imaginative yet functional. Most of their designs are enchanting silhouettes that do much to create atmosphere. Hanya Holm's robust choreography fits the kinetic mood of the musical. Everyone responsible for the production should be congratulated on the clarity of the diction. Every syllable of every song by every singer is crystal clear, and that adds vastly to the enjoyment this impishly clever and extraordinarily original musical endeavor.
Each theatregoer should be an Atalanta and scurry over to the Phoenix to savor the uniqueness and superb taste of "The Gold, Apple."
|New York Herald Tribune (February 13, 1962)
First Night Report,
"The Golden Apple"
By Judith Crist
After an almost eight-year hiatus, "The Golden Apple" has been revived off Broadway with much of its original charm and many of its original faults intact.
The John Latouche-Jerome Moross musical ("opera is a more exact term, for there is no spoken dialogue) still stands among the top mock-Homeric satires; its translation of the Ulysses legend into turn-of-thecentury terms and its reduction of heroes to plain-folks are done with a consistency of style and leavening of wit unmatched by recent forays into the field of comedy-by-anachronism.
It is, in fact, the very absence of conscious anachronism that contributes to the quality of the work, in American terms, Helen is a bored young woman of dubious morality, Paris, a traveling salesman, Ulysses and his fellow heroes a band of local yokels, and the goddesses who covet the golden apple are a trio of local ladies involved in a cake-baking contest. And in he neighboring seaport, a boxing match determines the fate of Helen; Calypso is a notorious hostess, Scylla and Charybdis a pair of shady brokers and the Sirens a seedy nightclub chorus.
Therein lies much food for satire, on the soldiery, society, the transient—and enternal-female. The satire in song is perhaps most pointed in the returning heroes' "It was a glad adventure...but we're lucky to get home alive,' in Hector's "Every soul alive has his fee...except for exceptional people like you and me," and the mad joyous rag doll dance to a lady scientist's "We're doomed, doomed, doomed!" The satire in scene gets full play during the "big spree" of Ulysses and his crew and most concentrated play in the seduction of Helen by the sinuous wordless (i. e. songless) Paris.
That scene gives rise to one of the two memorable ballads in the show, the sensual "Lazy Afternoon," that is done full justice by Roberta MacDonald - to Michael Dominico's writhing pantomime accompaniment. The other is the charming "It's the Going Home Together," a sweet duet between Ulysses and Penelope.
In bright simple settings by Bill Hargate, with attractive if not strikingly original choreography by Nelle Fisher, a great deal of "The Golden Apple" retains its freshness and appeal. But once again the monotony of song-upon-song, of over-fidelity to the details of the legend at the expense of pace and sharpness of character emerges.
It is emphasized in the casting which underlines the mixture of musical comedy and grand opera in the original work and detracts from the stylishness of the production. Stan Page, as Ulysses, for example, has a pleasing voice, but match him against the operatic tones of Jan McArt's Penelope and the schism becomes more apparent. Such finished comediennes as Jane Connell and Miss MacDonald collide against the high-falutin' tones of Julia Ross' Mother Hare, and the low-down style of one scene leaves us totally unprepared for the heavy soliloquy that dominates the next.
One could have hoped that the producers would have taken a less reverent look at "The Golden Apple" and seen it in fresh terms. As it is, we have a work of quality back again—with only our regret that its quality has not been enhanced in the course of its revival.
|New York Journal America (February 13, 1962)
|Off-Broadway,"Golden Apple" Glitters
by Jim O'Connor
THE SINGINGEST SHOW in town opened last night at the York Playhouse quite a way off Broadway at 64th st. and 1st ave. It's "The Golden Apple," first produced off-Broadway seven years ago at the Phoenix Theatre; promoted to Broadway shortly after; voted by the critics the best musical of that season.
This is a new presentation of the John LaTouche-Jerome Moross satirical success. It's teen updated: fresh, modern material added.
But it's still Homer's legend of Ulysses and Penelope, Helen and Menelaus, with Achilles, Nestor, Ajax, Agamemnon, et al, in the chorus.
The myth by the Greek epic poet, with overtones and undertones of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is still set on Mount Olympus in the State of Washington, United States of America, some 50 years ago.
And it is sung joyously. In fact, its almost like a light opera - since not a word of spoken dialogue is used.
Duet a Delight
Plot is thin, feathery. But the melodies are lyrical. And the lyrics strong. There's a buoyant, rhythmical swing to practically all the songs and dances, for the cast has youth.
The fine, cultivated soprano of Jan McArt, portraying Penelope, makes a gem of "My Love Is on the Way." Equally as good is the robust baritone of Stan Page, the sturdy Ulysses, In "It's The Going Home Together."
Their duet at the final curtain is a delight.
Best dancer is the agile Michael Dominica in the role of the roguish Paris, the traveling salesman.
Paramount song putter-over is Roberta MacDonald, the hellish Helen.
Cleverest comedienne is Jane Connell (Lovey Mars') in that "Goona-Goona" song and dance bit.
On late in the first act, Swen Swenson almost stops the show with his dancing Mayor Hector. Heres a young man who steps like a coming Gene Kelly.
Contralto Julia Ross, the unsmiling Mother Hare, had an accident during rehearsals, and is singing her part from a wheel-chair.
The cast is large and nimble, as in "Helens Always Willing," a well-staged number.
Direction by Robert Turoff is fast-moving, with not a moment wasted most of the way, although the pace does peter out a bit toward the end. Choreography reveals the knowing toe and deft hand of Nelle Fisher.
Settings and costumes by Bill Hargate are Ingenious, brilliant. Lighting by Jules Fisher is important.
Two pianos, manned by musical director Philip Fradkin and his aide. Joseph Schaeffer, provide the music. That tuneful Moross score is worthy of a larger orchestra.
Laughter by the audience is unrestrained. Homeric. Applause is enthusiastic, lasting.
"The Golden Apple" is a pippin of a show!
|New York Mirror (February 13, 1962)
|"Apple" Is Satiric Fun-Fest
By Robert Coleman
Back In 1954, the late John La Touche and Jerome Moross wrote a delightful musical paraphrase of Homer's "Illiad" and "Odyssey" called "The Golden Apple." It was produced at the Phoenix Theatre, and won several awards. It deserved them, too, for it set a new pattern In modern song-and-dancers.
There was no spoken dialogue.
LaTouche and Moross were content to let their lyrics and music advance the action and supply the humor. It was really the operatic technique applied to the popular stage. The method worked, and the result was a sophisticated, satiric fun-fest.
HELEN WAS transformed into the young wife of an elderly and wealthy small-town banker. Paris became a slick traveling salesman, who peddled his wares via balloon. The Greek warriors were veterans of the Spanish-American War. The flesh pots of the big city were used to tempt and chasten the heroes.
Last evening Dorothy Olin and Gerald Krone offered a lively revival of the pioneering work at the York Playhouse. We are happy to report that 'The Golden Apple" wears its years well. It still has the power to charm. There was spontaneous and deafening applause quite often throughout the performance.
Since the York Playhouse is Intimate and off Broadway, two pianos have been substituted for a pit orchestra. They sounded very well, indeed, and lent able support to the excellent voices of the principals. Bill Hargate has designed settings and costumes that are simple, but emphasize the high spirits of the frolic.
THE PHOENIX mounting of "The Golden Apple" had a persuasive style, with just the right tongue-in-cheek approach to the material. In this instance, director Robert Turoff has let his singtng actors go a bit coy now and then, but has paced the sprightly proceedings effectively. And Nelle Fisher's choreography is helpful.
Roberta MacDonald baa the looks and sexy manner for Helen. Michael Dominico has the unction and sinuous quality for the philandering Paris. Jan McArt Is well cast as the faithful Penelope. And Stan Page has the robust stature for the venturous flysaes. Swen Swenson stands out as a suave and knowing mayor of a corrupt metropolis.
Jane Connell, Sylvia Short, Peggy LeRoy, Julia Ross and Gabor Morea do justice to other roles. In fact, the entire company merits a salute for verse and precision.
Faults the current manifestation of "The Golden Apple" does have, but its virtues far outweigh them. The first-nighters, were not backward in demonstrating their approval, and we shared their enjoyment of the musical landmark.
|Washington Post (April 20, 1976)
|"Fine, Fresh Golden Apple"
By Richard L. Coe
One of the finest and most under-valued of all American musicals is "The Golden Apple". At last it's being rescued from baffling neglect at the Hartke Theater through May 2 and you owe yourself a visit. Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays.
The big winner of the '53-'54 season, this remains as fresh as it has seemed in memory and on RCA's original cast recording, a gently satirical transplant of Ulysses and the Homeric legend to the state of Washington's Mt. Olympus in the Teddy Roosevelt era. What a charming score by Jerome Moross, what witty words by John Latouche!
Why the neglect? Possibly because every word is sung, good voices and large cast are needed and its format, like its creators' "Ballet Ballads," remains almost daringly innovative.
This Helen, not of Troy but married to sheriff Menelaus, sings that "Nothing Ever Happens in Angel's Roost." She's not impressed that the Rough Riders are heading home from Cuba. Mother Hare, the local crystal-gazer, forecasts 10-more years of war but no one believes her until a traveling salesman, dropping from a balloon labelled "Paris Notions, Inc." rescues the "always willin' " Helen from boredom. It will take the boys in blue 10 more years to get her home. The legend is not strictly adapted; it is used as a comic pra1lel for American myths.
Instead of dialogue, there are short songs and rollicking production numbers for which Moross was remarkably melodic. "Lazy Afternoon," "Goona-Goona," "My Picture in the Papers," 'My Love Is on the Way," "It's the Going Home Together" and "Store-Bought Suit" are highly varied songs and the notion of Hector as mayor of Rhododendren, introduces other satirical notes.
There's no point in claiming that Catholic University's production is definitive, but it does have sparkling confidence in its material. Michael Ricciardone has served as both musical and stage director for a four-piece band and cast of 40. The stage pictures are attractive, the pacing firm and the whole zestful.
There are alternate leads for major roles and while vocal and acting abilities are not always balanced, I found excellent performances in Mark Rendely's Ulysses and Sheila Lynn Buckley's Helen, both attractive and proficient vocally. While the words don't always come across as they should, the choral sounds are good and so are most of the specialty numbers.
What matters is that at last there is a revival for "The Golden Apple" and that it still comes through as unique, effervescent, melodic and delicious.
|Daily News (April, 1988)
|"Golden Apple" Is Back in Town
By Bill. Zakariasen
'THE GOLDEN APPLE' WAS NOT ONLY voted the best Broadway musical of 195-4, it also became an instantaneous cult item, a position it still holds today. The reasons are easy to fathom—the score by Jerome Moross had a classy sophistication and right-on parody that wouldn't be matched till Stephen Sondheim came along, while the book and lyrics by John Latouche—ingeniously setting the stories of Homer's Iliad" and "Odyssey" in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century—contributed to its being called a thinking man's musical.
Oddly, "The Golden Apple" hasn't had a major revival since, so whatever the case, the production that the Kurt P. Reimann Opera Theater unveiled Thursday at the NYU Theater was most welcome.
All right, this hard-working little company, being basically of amateur status, bit oil way more than it could chew. "The Golden Apple" isn't your average musical—in fact, it's a full-scaled opera for real singers, through-composed with non-stop music.
That the Reimann Opera Theater's roster was seldom up to Moross' vocal demands can be forgiven, since at least the wonderful score was recognizable in both melody and invention. This was remarkable in a way, since with the exception of the hit song "Lazy Afternoon," the tunes aren't the kind one can immediately hum on first hearing. Moreover, the cast had plenty of enthusiasm, and diction was generally good, so it was relatively. easy and often hilariously rewarding to follow the complicated, absurd plot. Loi Leabo's direction, especially considering the limitations of the NYU stage, made some cleverly sharp points.
Easily the most impressive performer was Richard Holmes as a most engaging, very well-vocalized Ulysses. As Helen of Troy, Nancy Hines began both vocally and visually like gangbusters, but she seemed to shrink in sound and presence as the show progressed—possibly because she noticed the great Kaye Ballard, who created the role, was seated in the audience.
Some of the better members of the huge cast included Margaret Hartman (Penelope), Diane Martindale (Mrs. Juniper) and especially William S. Ankenbrock and James Martindale playing Scylla and Charybdis like Gallagher and Shean. Though Robert Wallace's conducting was rather square, the orchestra sounded fine, while the designs by the late Stephen Palestrant were attractive. Now it's time for "The Golden Apple" to enter the New York City Opera's repertory posthaste!
|Daily News (April 5, 1990)
|"An Apple from the Golden Age of Musicals"
By Howard Kissel
ALTHOUGH THE '50s ARE NOW thought of in terms of the Fonz, Elvis and poodle skirts, they were arguably the last decade in which America had a sophisticated popular culture. Certainly it was the last time anyone could have written "The Golden Apple."
The 1954 musical assumes the audience knows enough about Homer to catch the humor of resetting his stories in turn-of-the century America. (Nowadays even Sondheim might not be able to get away with having Scylla and Charybdis as the names in a kind of Gallagher and Sheen vaudeville number.)
Latouch&s parable of rural Americans losing their innocence in urban pleasures may not go very deep, but his lyrics are full of wit and intricacy. (How often do you hear a rhyme like "I could lift up a lorgnette I And eye you with scorn, yet... "?) Moross' music is simple yet capable of grand effects. Two exceptional numbers are "Lazy Afternoon" and the moving "It's the Going Home Together."
If the '50s were the last age of sophisticated audiences, they were also the last period in which mature performers abounded. The York Theater Company has given the revival a splendid physical production and assembled a solid cast. But their youthful exuberance and energy often seem too jejune for the material.
Sylvia Rhine handles Penelope's lush aria beautifully (though her voice gets shrill in the higher registers). Robert. R. McCormick is a good singer if a rather stolid actor. Ann Brown, a savvy comic performer, sings "Lazy Afternoon" with relish.
KIP NIVEN IS SUAVE AS THE villain, executing a soft shoe nimbly and singing with finesse. He has the kind of polish the material requires. "The Heroes" are a dapper, spirited ensemble. If you sometimes see the cast's weaknesses, you always see the show's merits.
|MY Law Journal (march 29, 1990)
|Bite into Sinister, Delicious "Golden Apple"
RUSH TO THE York Theatre for a bite of The Golden Apple, which opened last night. It's deliciously sweet, sexy and sinister. Seasoned with an extravagance of talent, it conjures up the taste of Broadway of the 1950s.
Using old American song and dance forms, John Latouche and Jerome Moross updated Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" to the state of Washington, 1900-1910. Adapting operatic torm, the story is told through sung dialogue and musical numbers (including the popular "Lazy Afternoon") relating the consternation of Angel's Roost, Wash., near Mount Olympus, when a slick traveling salesman named Paris (Kelly Patterson) flies in on a balloon and abducts the rich, elderly Meneleus' (Gordon Stanley) very willing wife, Helen (Ann Brown)to the evil city of Rhododendron. The stalwart Ulysses (Robert McCormick), who has just returned from the Spanish-American War feels duty-bound, along with his fellow heros and Helen's rejected suitors, to retrieve her. He leaves his faithful wife, Penelope (Sylvia Rhyne) for 10 years during which he survives malevolent Hector (Kip Niven), Madam Calypso, the hilariously vaudevillian Scylla & Charybdis and the sultry Circe ("woman without mercy"), reuniting at last with the long-suffering Penelope.
Despite some minor deficiencies (unfortunate acoustics resulting in Lawrence Hill's hardworking orchestra drowning out the less articulate and somewhat shrill Penelope, a stiff but handsome Ulysses, a very busy plot and some unsingable recitative, credit must be given to every aspect of this highly professional reproduction of the 1954 musical.
Outstanding performances include show-sopping Kip Niven, Kelly Patterson's terpsichore, some adorable chorus buys admirably performing David Holdgrive's charmingly Broadway-esque choreography, James Morgan's inventive and humorous sets, Maryanne Powell-Parker's period costumes right down to the wire-rimmed spectacles, superb choral work and the expert direction of Charles Kondek.
The Big Apple is lucky to have The Golden Apple back.
|New York Observer (April 9, 1990)
|On The Town
By Rex Reed
One of the positive things about living in New York is the opportunity it presents, with its vast cultural resources, to see a variety of theatrical productions not available anywhere else. I'm not just talking about Broadway. The York Theatre, in its homespun headquarters in the Church of the Heavenly Rest on East 90th Street, is a source of many pleasures. (its recent production of "Sweeney Todd" moved to Broadway, and its revivals of such musicals as "Anyone Can Whistle," "The Grass Harp" and "A Little Night Music" would distinguish any theatrical season anywhere.) If you haven't discovered this treasure trove of musical history, now through April 22 is a perfect time to investigate, for York is providing New Yorkers with a rare chance to see one of the greatest musicals of all time, "The Golden Apple." It's a rewarding experience.
"The Golden Apple" is a folk opera by Jerome Moross and the great lyricist John Latouche that was rewarded with the drama critics' top prize in 1954 when it debuted at the now-defunct Phoenix. It drew rave reviews and discerning crowds, but failed to catch on with the general public in a season that also gave birth to "Kismet," "Pajama Game" and the famous revival of "Threepenny Opera" with Lotte Lenya. But "The Golden Apple" still causes genuflecting among serious theater buffs, and although the current revival at the York is not the pluperfect production one dreams of, any production is better than no production at all.
With fetchingly clever lyrics and flavorful music completely devoid of spoken dialogue, "The Golden Apple" is a musical version of both "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" set in turn-of-the-century America, in the state of Washington near Mt. Olympus. Women named Minerva, Mars, Juniper, Penelope and Helen have been left behind when all the boys went away to fight the Spanish-American War, but now President McKinley has brought Ulysses, Ajax, Achilles and all the heroes home in time for the county fair with promises of peace and prosperity.
Only Mother Hare, the town psychic, predicts doom and gloom. To begin, Helen, the farmer's daughter and town belle, has gone and married the oldest geezer in town while the boys were away, and now Par-is appears as a flashy traveling salesman who lands in a hot-air balloon and whisks her off not to Rhodes, but to Rhododendron, the evil city nice boys only dream about. Ulysses leads the heroes in hot pursuit on an odyssey that lasts 10 years. It all ends happily. with Ulysses returning to his faithful Penelope and Helen reunited with her husband, Sheriff Meneleus. But in the interim Homer gets a razzle-dazzle work-over, offering the composers ample opportunity for some delicious fun. One of the most infectious things about "The Golden Apple" is its sensational score, which takes advantage of many of the song and dance styles made popular through the ages in American musicals.
In addition to a fair, a baseball game, a boxing match and a church social with arm wrestling and a sack race, the show gives the mayor a soft shoe, Scylla and Charybdis a rousing vaudeville turn in the style of Gallagher and Sheen (not to mention Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire's "Babbit and the Bromide" number from "Ziegfeld Follies"), and the sexy sirens become nightclub burlesque queens spoofing the Hawaiian hula in a show-stopper called "GoonaGoona." There's calypso, a Gay 90's music-hall extravaganza in the style of Lillian Russell, modern jazz, operatic arias and the Greek gods descending in a lively rag, "Doomed, Doomed, Doomed." There are also two of the finest ballads ever written for the American musical theater, the classical "Windflowers" and the haunting "Lazy Afternoon," first introduced by Kaye Ballard in the original production.
So much daring, wit and inventiveness requires visual panache and expert, flawless timing. The York production has the look. The patchwork-quilt motif, the wooden apples, the dart-board cutouts of fields, meadows, church steeples and Victorian houses put you right in the flavor of Americana, apple pie and the stars and stripes. What's missing is attitude.
The cast of 22 includes a few casting errors that almost prove fatal and an ensemble that doesn't seem to have any real passion or interest in the material. As a result, the timing is off and the direction, by Charles Kondek, often limps when it should kick. Caveats aside, I'm grateful for a spirited and tuneful reminder of what the American musical was able to achieve before the garish obstipation of Andrew Lloyd Webber and rock 'n roll. If you care about such things, you don't dare miss "The Golden Apple."
|New York Times (March 30, 1990)
|Review/Theater; Homer in Song and Dance In 'Golden Apple' Revival
By Stephen Holden
Few vintage musicals have a greater cult reputation than John Latouche and Jerome Moross's cracker-barrel satire of Greek mythology, ''The Golden Apple.'' The 1954 show, which the York Theater Company is reviving for the second time in 12 years, transplants Homer's ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' from ancient Greece to the rural village of Angel's Roost, Wash., at the turn of the century.
In the Latouche-Moross deconstruction of Homer, Helen is the village floozy whom Paris, a traveling salesman from the nearby town of Rhododendron, abducts in his balloon. Ulysses, the most pious among a troop of soldiers who have just returned home from the Spanish-American War, decides it is their duty to find Helen and bring her back. Homer's Olympian deities are gossipy biddies from the village who while away their time consulting fortunetellers and entering baking contests.
''The Golden Apple'' has a dazzling first act, but its story doesn't quite add up once the momentum of the plot accelerates to the breaking point in Act II. But despite a hurried conclusion, it is still one of the more delightful musical comedies of the era, and its cynically irreverent attitudes toward literature, history, patriotism, and show business have a decidedly contemporary ring. The score - a jaunty pastiche of country tunes, music-hall turns, rustic folk dances and marches all filtered through sensibilities attuned to Gilbert and Sullivan - also remains remarkably fresh.
Because ''The Golden Apple'' is a continuous sequence of fast-paced production numbers with almost no spoken dialogue, it is difficult to perform. And its conceit of turning Homer into a tongue-in-cheek parody of ''Li'l Abner'' is so broad that any production must be staged with a very firm control of the tone lest everything deteriorate into campy farce.
Although the York Theater production, directed by Charles Kondek, has many rough edges and the acting runs a bit too much toward caricature, the whimsical edge of the performances is reasonably consistent. Ann Brown's Helen is an amusingly goofy airhead, though her version of ''Lazy Afternoon,'' the show's most famous song, is not as seductive as it should be. Robert R. McCormick's Ulysses is a quintessential square, and Sylvia Rhyne, who has the cast's prettiest voice, makes an ingenuous Penelope. The strongest acting performance belongs to Kip Niven as Hector, Rhododendron's suave vaudevillian mayor.
The production's most uneven element is the musical direction. An overly percussive ensemble, conducted by Lawrence W. Hill, takes the score at tempos so swift that the singers have trouble keeping pace. While this streamlined approach gives the show a continual boost of energy, it also flattens out the music so that the score's generic parodies lose much of their flavor. The singers are so busy trying catch up with the band that the vocal performances lack personality.
The physical production is witty and inviting. James Morgan's cartoonish cut-out sets make Angel's Roost a bucolic storybook paradise and Rhododendron a fleshpot of ominously inky shadows.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT OLYMPUS . . . - THE GOLDEN APPLE, composed by Jerome Moross; written by John Latouche; directed by Charles Kondek; choreography and musical staging, David Holdgrive; musical director, Lawrence W. Hill; scenic design, James Morgan; costumes, Maryanne Powell-Parker; lighting, Mary Jo Dondlinger; production stage manager, Bob Foreman; technical director, James E. Fuller Jr. Presented by the York Theater Company, Janet Hayes Walker, producing director; Molly Pickering Grose, managing director. At the Church of the Heavenly Rest, 2 East 90th Street.
Lovely Mars/Siren...Mimi Wyche
Mrs. Juniper/Calypso...Mary Stout
Miss Minerva Oliver/The Scientist...Cynthia Sophiea
Mother Hare...Muriel Costa-Greenspon
Doc MacCahan...Tim Salce
Ulysses...Robert R. McCormick
The Figurehead...Mary Phillips
Townswomen...Mary Lee Marson, Mary Phillips and Gina Todd
Townsmen...Jim Athens, Mitchel Kantor and Brent Winborn
|Theater Week (April 16, 1990)
By Ken Mandelbaum
There are not many things in this world of which I am sure, but one of them is that The Golden Apple, which premiered off-Broadway at the Phoenix Theater in 1954 and subsequently transferred to Broadway, is one of the best musicals ever written. A unique piece, Apple resets Homer's Iliad and Odyssey in Washington, U.S.A. in the first decade of the 20th century. The 'first act shows how Ulysses, just home from the Spanish-American War, is forced to go off to defend the honor of Helen, a raucous farmer's daughter seduced by Paris, a traveling salesman and a silent, dancing character. Act II consists of a ten-year spree in which Ulysses and his men are confronted with various big-city temptations, with characters from back home reappearing as dangerous apparitions. In the end, Ulysses, now aware of what he values most in a time of change and progress, returns home to stay with the long-'suffering Penelope.
Stylistically, The Golden Apple is unlike any other work of musical theater. It is completely sung, but without the ponderousness and pretentiousness of most recent Broadway operas. The lyrics by John Latouche (whose last lyrics were for Candide—he died a few months before that show's premiere) are among the theater's wittiest. Jerome Moross's two-hour score ranges from heartbreaking lyricism ("Windflowers") to burlesque and vaudeville turns to "hit" songs ("Lazy Afternoon"), all brilliantly fashioned to reflect popular song and dance forms of the turn of the century. The Golden Apple is not a pop opera, nor is it a musical with a score of operatic grandeur which contains 'a certain amount of dialogue (like Street Scene or The Most Happy Fella). It is a musical-comedy opera, at once lightweight and penetrating, entrancing and complex, and the most neglected masterwork of the American musical theater.
It is also a fiendishly difficult work to bring off successfully. The original had major advantages in some fairly irreplaceable principals (Kaye Ballard, Jack Whiting, Bibi Osterwald), the choreographer Hanya Holm and the set designers William and Jean Eckart at the top of their form, and a full orchestra playing Moross's own orchestrations. Janet Hayes Walker, producing director of the York Theater Company, was in the original Broadway production, and she has selected The Golden Apple to be the first musical York has ever presented twice.
The new York production, at the Church of the Heavenly Rest through April 22, is not as sparkling as one might wish, but it is a valiant effort, and the brilliance of the piece comes through. James Morgan's set of quilted patterns and cut-outs is inspired, but the staging by Charles Kondek and David Holdgrive, while often intelligent, is hampered by the size of the stage and a lack of scintillating personalities in the cast. There are several fine performances, especially Kelly Patterson's Paris, Sylvia Ryne's Penelope, Mary Stout's Mrs. Juniper and Gordon Stanley's Menelaus. Almost all the rest are at least acceptable, although one wishes Ann Brown's Helen were funnier. Muriel Costa- Greenspon's Mother Hare lacks both the requisite menace and humor, and her voice is in shreds.
The production's greatest shortcoming is unavoidable: no off-off-Broadway company can provide the full orchestra needed for the score to have maximum impact. After seeing this production, one may hasten to put on the out-of-print RCA Victor original cast album, with its sizable orchestra and company of dazzling singing actors. But The Golden Apple deserves to be performed, and York deserves thanks for allowing New York to see it again. The production often does justice to this miraculous work.
|Village Voice (April 10, 1990)
By Michael Feingold
"Why can we not always be young," William Hazlitt asked rhetorically, in one of his most celebrated reviews, "and seeing The School for Scandal?" As you might expect, he immediately went on to complain that the joy Sheridan's comedy had given him as a youngster was dead because "scarcely an actor alive today knows how to play it." When a style of theater falls into decadence—high comedy in Hazlitt's time, the Broadway musical in ours—the ability to play it magically seems to disappear from the actors' collective unconscious. Veterans of the form may be alive in droves, source materials may be near at hand, but a theater that is dead is, as Big Daddy says. "long gone and nowhere."
This isn't the musical's first death, of course: That came just after World War II, when Rodgers and Hammerstein held sway. They did to the musical what E.Y. Harburg's 1938 lyric had suggested we all do to love—gave it back to the birds and the bees and the Viennese. From brash, cynical frivolity, they turned it into a lushly sentimental venture, operetta with moralizing added. A few great works, like Guys and Dolls and A Funny Thing..., kept up the old scampish tradition, but by and large the musical, like American culture in general, sank into a deathlike trance of earnest emotionality; the thudding amplifiers of the rock era only drove the nails into its long-sealed coffin.
Of Thee I Sing (1931) dates from the musical's heyday, The Golden Apple (1954) from a time when its syncopated spirit was still fresh in the public mind. Both texts were written by men who had, if not precisely political visions, at any rate a cynicism about our democracy's politics that had spilled over info bitterness; both were set by composers who had aspirations and training outside the genre. The model for Of Thee I Sing was Gilbert and Sullivan (as Leonard Bernstein showed, in a famous TV lecture, by comparing its first-act finale, step by step, with the identically built first-act finale of The Mikado). The less literal inspirations for The Golden Apple were Offenbach and Kurt Weill, both of whom had dealt with the story of Paris's unwise pick and Helen's elopement with him to Troy. (Antony Tudor's ballet Judgment of Paris was danced to Weill's Threepenny tunes.)
Both teams, in other words, were trying to make an American type of comic opera, merging, the vaudeville esprit of the musical with the worldly-wise, politically aware panache of the European form. One might say the infrequency with which the works are revived is proof that they succeeded. Of Thee I Sing, shrewd enough to dilute its meanness with more innocent jokes and warm-hearted tunes, was the bigger success in its own time, turning a profit and becoming the first musical to cop the Pulitzer Prize. It also came at the lowest point of the crash--a good time to be mean-spirited about electoral politics. John P. Wintergreen is elected president in Act I by merging his courtship of sweet Mary Turner with his campaign. ("We need an issue," says one of his advisers, "something everybody's interested in that doesn't matter a damn.") In Act 11, he has to solve an international incident brought about by his rejection of the bad-girl beauty queen his campaign managers have hired for Mary's job.
Of Thee I Sing drags its feet too often on the way to its inevitable happy ending (the bad girl marries the vice-president, and Mary has twins), but it also kicks up its satirical heels quite a bit. Gershwin's scare. though more celebrat ed for cheery tunes like "Who Cares?" and "Love Is Sweeping the Country." does a surprising - amount of the kicking, in extended numbers like the opening quodlibet and the beauty-pageant chorus, abetted by brother Ira's lyrics ("Spring is in the air/Each mortal loves his neighbor/Who's that loving pair?! That's Capital and Labor"). A good G&S company, though, ought to point the kicks much more aptly than this group does. Apart from Keith Jurosko's Wintergreen, the only decisively cartooned moments of the evening are conductor Albert Bergeret's hammy pit entrances. which show not wit but egomania.
York does a little better, though not much, with The Golden Apple. James Morgan's patchwork-quilt set has nice touches, and Charles Kondek keeps the action fluid, despite bumpy musical direction. What's missing is bite: The Golden Apple may lurch up into operatic floridness at times (it was the Menotti era, after all), but in general it's one of the most playfully cruel musicals ever written, a doggerel retelling of the Iliad and Odyssey set in Washington State circa 1900. Greece becomes Angel's Roost, a hick burg whose social goddesses are "a dried-up maid, the Captain's jade, and the Mayor's old grey mare." Mr. Paris, a traveling salesman, abducts Helen the farmer's daughter, so Ulysses and the boys, just back from the Spanish-American War, head off to the big city of Rhododendron to reclaim her—where they get picked off, one by one, by the with-it partygiver Calypso, the stockbrokers Scylla and Charybdis, the sirens in a sleazy waterfront dive, and so on.
Moross and Latouche make each number a loving, malicious parody of some antique pop genre. The sirens croon pseudo-Hawaiian kitsch; the stockbrokers do Gallagher and Shean. Kondek's cast often misses the humor, and makes mush of Latouche's tricky diction. Some of the voices are good, but like all satire, the piece requires an alertness that these drone-tones from the world of Andrew Lloyd Webber just don't have. The American comic opera, that long-forgotten beauty, still sleeps; waking her from her trance calls for quicker wits.
|Tallahassee Democrat (November 14, 1992)
|"Golden Apple" shines
By Steve MacQueen
"The Golden Apple" was something of a dud when it hit Broadway in 1954. The new Mainstage production of this neglected musical begs the question, "Why?"
It's a gorgeous piece of work, beautifully put together by director John Degen. The music by Jerome Moross is tremendous, which helps since the whole play is sung. Lyricist John Latouche tosses off some of the funniest, most intricate rhymes you'll find. "The Golden Apple" is basically a turn-of-the-century "Odyssey." The always willing Helen is stolen - away from Angel's Roost, Wash., by the mute Paris. Ulysses and his army buddies, fresh from triumph in the Spanish-American War, go off to find her in the big city of Rhododendron, which is full of many temptations.
Meanwhile, back in Angel's Roost, Ulysses' wife Penelope waits patiently for the return of her husband. The singing, from top to bottom, is first rate. As Penelope, Angela Karstensen hits some jaw-dropping notes during her solos. Kathy Pittman Gaspard picked the right time to come out of retirement - she's perfect as the town witch Mother Hare. And Lainie Munro manages to make her "always willing" Helen into a sympathetic character by portraying her as a woman at the mercy of her own sensuality (don't miss her second-act-opening number). In a silent role, Russell Gregory is quite amusing as the dandy Paris. Kevin Covert, Kara Young and Aaron Gandy as Ulysses also shine in their moments but the whole cast 'really operates well as an ensemble.
The choreography and movement throughout the play ensure that it's never boring (and, not to be crass, but at two hours, 10 minutes, this is about 30 minutes shorter than the average Mainstage affair - good).
The variety of sets and the seeming effortlessness of the changes (though, of course, we know it's hardly effortless) are something to behold. Each set is simple in terms of number of props, but certain ones - such as the huge, minutely detailed backdrop of a large, turn-of-the-century city - are very impressive. Hats :011 to Gerry Leahy for a very impressive piece of scenic design.
About the only qualm, such as it is, would be that a full orchestra might have been nice, though the live orchestra that's there is fine.
One of the better Mainstage shows in a long, long time, "The Golden Apple" proves that it's not just the splashy mega-hits that belong on the big stage. Bring on more of these neglected gems:
By the way, the balloon, mentioned repeatedly in the Friday advance for the show, worked fine.
|Chicago Reader (August 25, 1995)
|Home on the Range
By Albert Williams
THE GOLDEN APPLE Light Opera Works and Pegasus Players at Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University
In Not Since Carrie, his chronicle of Broadway's legendary flops, Ken Mandelbaum calls The Golden Apple "perhaps the most neglected masterwork of the American musical theatre." He's only half right. Jerome Moross and John Latouche's musical comedy/folk opera, which humorously resets Homer's Iliad and Odyssey to 1900s America, is no masterpiece. But it is surely neglected. A critical success in its 1954 off-Broadway premiere, the show fared poorly when transferred to Broadway later that year. Since then it's been mounted only a handful of times, and the current revival at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium (which wraps up this weekend) is reportedly the first to use Moross's full orchestrations.
Though this production reveals The Golden Apple to be a work of considerable charm and craftsmanship, it also demonstrates the reasons for the show's neglect. Latouche, a facile lyricist whose credits include Paul Robeson's populist cantata Ballad for Americans and portions of Bernstein's Candide, conceived the work as a satiric illustration of America's change from a rural culture to an urban one, dotted with a few jabs at the militaristic mentality. But his funniest material is more literary than political, depending for laughs on the audience’s familiarity with Homer's epics-—a sure way to please the cognoscenti, but no guaranteed ticket to wide popularity.
Latouche's entirely sung libretto relocates the ancient Greek legend to fictional Angel's Roost in Washington, a state known for its towering peaks—including a real Mount Olympus—and its golden apples. Helen is the stereotypical farmer's daughter of every traveling-salesman joke you've ever heard; married to Sheriff Menelaus, she runs away with Paris, who arrives via hot-air balloon to peddle his "Paris Notions." Paris judges not a beauty contest but a bake-off between Lovey Mars (Aphrodite), the town spinster Miss Minerva, and the mayor's wife Mrs. Juniper (a conflation of Jupiter and Juno). Ulysses, a Rough Rider just back from the Spanish-American War, is deputized by Menelaus to bring Helen home: it's "the principle" of the thing, and besides, Helen and Paris took the china and bric-a-brac with them. Accompanied by his comrades Achilles, Patroclus, Ajax, etc., Ulysses heads off for the city of Rhododendron, "rescuing" Helen and wrecking the town.
In revenge, Rhododendron's sleazy mayor Hector sends the heroes off on a ten-year bender, featuring comical encounters with the “nympho-ego-dipsomaniac" society dowager Calypso, a Circe without mercy, Scylla and Charybdis as a Gallagher-and-Sheen-type vaudeville team, and a tribe of sarong-clad south-seas sirens who invite the men to their "lagoona-goona" in a campy spoof of Dorothy Lamour movies. Meanwhile, Ulysses' wife Penelope sits and waits, leading sewing bees from her rocking chair. (but not fending off a horde of suitors—a facet of the legend whose omission seems strange given its dramatic potential), until her gray-haired husband returns with a renewed sense of family values, expressed in a philosophical choral Finale that prefigures (and perhaps helped inspire) Candide's climactic "Make Our Garden Grow."
Moross's setting of Latouche's clever, well-rhymed verse is skillful and attractive pastiche, but it rarely demonstrates an identity of its own. Known mainly for his sound tracks for Hollywood westerns, in The Golden Apple Moross drew extensively on late-19th-century idioms—folk songs, marches, hoedowns, Stephen Foster ballads, vaudeville and minstrel-show novelty numbers, blues, even a glee-club chorale for the returning Rough Riders: "Oh Theodore, 0 Theodore / The Roosevelt that we adore." The result is zesty, sweet, and as American as—well, golden apple pie. But not nearly as nourishing. Except for the bluesy ballad "Lazy Afternoon," which launched Kaye Ballard's career when she crooned it in the original production, barely a note of the score bears remembering; Moross comes nowhere near composers like Copland and Gershwin in imposing his own distinctive personality on established popular idioms.
If The Golden Apple has a single stylistic hallmark, it's one that inhibits rather than broadens its potential: Moross has set virtually every syllable of Latouche's text to a separate musical note, without an instance that I can recall of the melisma that opera composers use to make their libretti more expressive and to show off the singers' voices. The result is briskly paced—The Golden Apple is never boring—but ultimately monotonous. Though the principal characters are given different musical styles to convey their personalities, their songs tend to sound very similar—very much in the patter tradition of the music hall. Except for the sultry "Lazy Afternoon," these songs really require a highly trained, limber-lipped articulation—and if people can't sing show tunes to themselves, they're probably not going to remember them.
The Golden Apple is thus unlikely to join Candide in the canon of reclaimed classics, but it can be very entertaining in the right production. Since such a production would be too expensive for most theaters to mount in a long-term engagement, it has fallen to Light Opera Works, whose specialty is presenting limited runs of operettas to a largely presubscribed audience, and Pegasus Players, known among other things for reviving some of Sondheim's and Ellington's nonhits, to do the job. With substantial foundation support, the two companies have put together a very solid team, including a well-established creative staff, a full orchestra, and a fine ensemble of singers whose youthfulness nicely suits the lightweight material.
Northwestern University professor Dominic Missimi has directed the show in quintessential old-fashioned presentational style, managing the onstage traffic with bouncy efficiency and prompting laughter with several good sight gags. (Instead of discus throwing, for instance, the soldiers disport themselves in sack races and tug-o'-war, while Ulysses' ship is represented by a row of men carrying American-flag bunting behind a singing "goddess.") William Eckart's set designs, based on the ones he and his late wife Jean created for the original, are cute and cartoonlike and appropriately vaudevillian; Shifra Werch's wonderful costumes include lovely candy-colored dresses for the women and a hilarious parade of plaid suits for Ulysses and his fellow duded-up rubes in the second act. Lawrence Rapchak's crisp conducting brings out the score's sparkling colors and playfulness, almost allowing us to forget its lack of originality.
The singers display generally fine voices; baritone Scott Cheffer is a forceful Ulysses despite his Alfalfa haircut, Culver Casson achieves moments of real emotional power as the left-behind Penelope, and Christine Janson has a nice vampy turn as Helen, singing "Lazy Afternoon" to dancer Samuel Franke's pantomimed Paris as she rips off his shirt, leaving him bare-chested except for a starchy cardboard collar. These and other strong soloists are supported by an-excellent chorus, who achieve under Dennis Northway's fine direction a rich sound and almost impeccable articulation.
The fine singing and orchestral playing go a long way toward making The Golden Apple seem a better score than it is; I suspect that in a smaller production, with just a few singers and a synthesizer-dominated band, the music would sound much more bland. This "neglected masterwork" isn't strong enough musically to take a place alongside other folk operas like Down in the Valley and The Ballad of Baby Doe, much less displace other versions of the same Greek legends, like Offenbach's La Belle Helene and Berlioz's Les Troyens. And it lacks the tunefulness that assures other pieces of Americana like Oklahoma! and The Music Man a permanent place in the musical-theater repertoire. Even within the genre of hybrid musical theater/opera, The Golden Apple is a rarity and will probably remain so. But for admirers of the form, this weekend's performances are must-see viewing.
|Chicago Sun-Times (August 25, 1995)
|"Golden Apple" Is Valuable Piece of Theater History
By Steve MacQueen
A charming surprise awaits those interested in the archives of American musical theater.
It comes in the form of "The Golden App1e. And if you scant to sample it, you'd better hurry. The exuberant and revealing revival of this 1954 Broadway show, co-produced by Pegasus Players and Light Opera Works will be staged for just one more weeknd at the Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Buoyed by its emergence as the most powerful nation in the world in the years after world War II, America made more
than just washer-dryers. It made musicals—everything from "The King and I" and " Pal Joey" to "Damn Yankees and "MY Fair Lady." Many became standards: others, quirkier or more easily dated, were forgotten. "The Golden Apple" with a dialogue-free, sung-through score by Jerome Moross (clearly influenced by Aaron Copland), and witty, sophisticated lyrics by John Latouche, was an example of the latter.
Set after the Spanish-American War of 1898, this funny, gently subversive show is a product of the 1950s in its picture of small-town America. It's also unusually biting in its view of the underside of the American dream, touching on everything from wandering husbands and sexually casual wives to boring picket-fence existences and sleazy big-city enticements.
In fact, the authors were inspired by the ancient Greeks, putting an exceptionally clever modern spin on Homers The Illiad and The Odyssey. Mount Olympus, once the home of the Greek gods, is neatly transposed to the town of Angel's Roost, Wash., circa 1900-1910. And it's there that the sheriff's 'always willin' " wife, Helen, (played with lascivious glee by Christine Janson) has every man waiting in line.
When Helen goes off in a balloon with Paris, a pretty-boy salesman (Samuel Franke is the sleek dancer in this properly nonverbal role), the newly decommissioned soldiers head off, as they did in the Trojan War, to reclaim her and their honor. They're led by the young and restless Ulysses (Scott Cheffer as the vigorous leading man), whose devoted wife, Penelope, (the lustrous-voiced Culver Casson) stitches quilts as she waits for his return.
All the other major characters in Homer's saga also are deftly reimagined, and the excellent program notes hell) identify them. The cast, smoothly directed by Dominic Missimi, is a crackerjack ensemble, with expert work by choreographer Nancy Teinowitz. chorus master Dennis Northway and conductor Lawrence Rapchak and his orchestra. Shifra Werch's inspired costumes play neatly against the sets adapted from William and Jean Eckart's original designs.
Among the revival's revelations is that the show's best-known song, the seductive "Lazy Afternoon," has a far more comic aspect than it does out of context. "It's the Coming Home Together" and "When We Were Young" are real beauties, and "Store-Bought Suit" is a hilarious novelty.
Though thoroughly delightful, "The Golden Apple" is very much a period piece and could probably never sustain a commercial run these days. This spirited revival, however, has unearthed a valuable piece of theater history.
|Chicago Tribune (July 30, 1995)
|"The Golden Apple" is ripe for picking
By Richard Christiansen
In 1954, the year of 'The Pajama Game," "Fanny," The Boy Friend," "Kismet" and "Peter Pan" on Broadway, one musical (none of the above) received reviews that went like this:
"...the best. thing that has happened in and to the theater in a very long time. Every part of it—music, lyrics, staging, scenery, costumes and company—is refreshing, tangy,delightful, and intelligent.. -.
"...a magnificent achievement. A sensational success. Quite the most original and Imaginative work of its kind to blaze across the theatrical horizon in many a moon....
"...easily the most satisfactory and original song and dance effort of the past several seasons and, in my opinion, can be classed as an American Gilbert and Sullivan."
Those raves, plucked from reviews that appeared in the New York Daily News, Daily Mirror and Journal-American, respectively, were reserved for "The Golden Apple," an off-Broadway musical that retold the classic stories of "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" in an American folklore vein and placed the mythic action in the small Washington town of Angel's Roost, right near Mount Olympus, at the turn of the century.
The show, produced by the enterprising Phoenix Theatre, had direction by Norman Lloyd (who many years later enjoyed renewed fame as an actor in the TV series "St. Elsewhere",) music by Jerome Morose, a book and lyrics by John Latouche and choreography by Hanya Holm, it also had a hit song, "Lazy Afternoon," which is still in the repertoire of many a tony cabaret singer.
So, with all that going for it, why have you never seen it? Why is it not as popular now as those early ecstatic reviews would lead us to believe it was then?
Hope Abelson, a Chicagoan just beginning her career as a woman of the theater In the 1950s, worked as a production assistant on the show and has one reasonable explanation for its failure to find a future. "It was such a success off-Broadway," she says, 'that the producers were encouraged to take it to Broadway [where it became the first musical to make the big move from off-Broadway]. But it wasn't the sort of show ticket scalpers could sell, and so it had a disappointing, short run. It may have been a little before its time."
Next month, however, the legendary "Golden Apple" will have a real revival in the Chicago area, and we'll get a chance to find out what all the shouting was about back in 1954.
The production is a joint effort of Light Opera Works of Evanston and Pegasus Players of Chicago, two organizations that found they both had an itch to do the show. They'll stage it with a non-Equity cast of around 35 persons and a full 24-piece pit orchestra in the Cahn Auditorium of Northwestern University for five weekend performances only, starting Aug. 19. As an extra treat, William Eckart, who designed the much-praised scenery of the oft-Broadway production with his wife, Jean, has given the producers drawings and plans for the original settings, so that they can be duplicated on the Cahn stage.
The director who will try to pull legend and reality into some sort of workable production is Dominic Missimi, a member of the Northwestern faculty who also has extensive credits In local professional musical theater.
"It's one of those things," he says, "where if you don't do it now, you're never going to be able to do it, and since we have the opportunity to give its big, fullscale,symphonic send-off, I wanted to get involved,"
Like most people, Missimi had never seen the show in any of its small, infrequent revivals, though he had read and heard about it. He discovered, among other things, that the show is completely sung, with a score that Missimi describes as having "a real American touch."
"It's very charming and imaginative throughout," the director adds. In putting the Greek myth its an American context, for example, the authors replaced the sirens who lure the sailors to destruction with a chorus of hula girls. For Missimi, "the first act is very fresh and together; the second act, which has several vaudeville-type numbers, is more problematic. The music, which has touches of Aaron Copland in it, is very good. Aside from 'Lazy Afternoon, there aren't many songs that stand out, but there are lots of clever little ensembles, and one duet, 'It's the Going Home Together,' is really very lovely."
Eckart, whose long-term friendship with Abelson led to his cooperation with the production, expects to be here for the Cahn opening. He agrees that "The Golden Apple' doesn't have any big, show-stopping moments. 'It isn't that kind of work. Hanya Holm. our choreographer, didn't believe in showing off; she didn't make any big ballets, but she worked carefully on every bit of movement. It was all of a piece." "The Golden Apple" remains a show close to Eckart's heart. "My wife and I first saw it when a friend took us to an audition, and we liked it so much that we kept coming back. Since we were mostly unemployed in those days, we worked out a scenic design based on our own notions and eventually we got the job. It took a long time to get it produced, however. Most commercial producers had taken a pass on it before the Phoenix picked it up as part of its season."
And how does he believe a 1995 audience will take to this 1954 hit of Americana?
"I have no ides," he says, "but we'll soon find out, won't we?"
|Chicago Tribune (August 21, 1995)
|'Lost' Musical 'Golden Apple' still tart
By Richard Christiansen
"The Golden Apple," first produced in 1954 and rarely revived since, has become almost as legendary as the Greek myths on which it is based.
An antic anti-war musical of the Cold War era, and a seminal work that foresees such later works as Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" and Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods," "The Golden Apple" is a fascinating, historic work that's also fun and inspiring for its own sake in 1995.
A musical that audaciously transposed the action of "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" from ancient Greece to 1910 America, the show originally received ecstatic reviews as a breakthrough hit. It enjoyed a sold-out run off-Broadway, then transferred to Broadway, where it was again widely hailed, but spottily attended. A cast album was made, and a pop song, "Lazy Afternoon," emerged, but otherwise, the show was left to memory.
This month, however, two enterprising off-Loop organizations, Light Opera Works and Pegasus Players, have combined to stage the musical in an ambitious new production at Cahn Auditorium of Northwestern University.
With about 40 persons on stage and a 24-piece orchestra in the pit, and with at least an approximation of the original scenery designed by William and Jean Eckart, this is a serious effort at bringing back a "lost" musical to public view. And this rendition is good enough to suggest clearly what prompted all the excitement in the first place.
To begin with, it is an amazingly clever and sophisticated (perhaps too sophisticated to be popular) piece of work. John Latouche, who wrote the book and lyrics for what is essentially a sing-through opera, took the stories of the Trojan War and, with zestful imagination, placed them in the little town of Angel's Roost on Mt. Olympus in Washington state.
Helen of Troy becomes the town's good-time girl; her husband, Menelaus, is an old fuddy-duddy and Paris, who abducts her to the urban fleshpots of Rhododendron (Troy), is a sexy traveling salesman of ladies' notions who arrives in a hot-air balloon. Ulysses and his heroes are stouthearted, but not terribly bright, veterans of the Spanish-American War; once they've retrieved Helen, their long odyssey home takes them, among other places, to an island where hula girl sirens croon-a and spoon-a in the Guna-Guna Laguna.
Jerome Moross' music, which shows the influence of Aaron Copland, binds the story together with a continuing spin of melody, while deftly evoking vaudeville turns, soft-shoe routines and operettas.
Latouche's lyrics, meanwhile, brim with internal rhymes and wittily place the action in its period through turn-of-the-century references.
There have been shortcuts in design (in the production at Cahn Auditorium of Northwestern University), but there's enough on stage to suggest the storybook fancies of the original scenery (by William and Jean Eckart), and Shifra Werch's costume designs, particularly in the outrageous store-bought plaid suits of Ulysses and his heroes, are marvels of good-humored imagination.
Scott Cheffer and Culver Casson, as Ulysses and his faithful Penelope, have the two best singing voices in the production, blending them beautifully in their duet of "It's the Going Home Together." Samuel Franke has the handsome stance, if not always the steps, for the dancing, non-speaking role of Paris, and Christine Janson, growling and shimmying through her vamping songs, is an amiable Helen.
The Light Opera Works/Pegasus Players version, though at times only hinting at the mirth and melody of the musical, is an exceedingly well-produced non-Equity presentation, very smartly staged by director Dominic Missimi, crisply conducted by Lawrence Rapchak and well sung by the large cast.
|Copley (August 17-23, 1995)
|Updating Homer a 'Golden' experience
By Catey Sullivan
Those who slogged through and were less than scintillated by the Iliad and the Odyssey might greet an opera depicting not just one but both of homer's massive classics with all the euthusiasm of an essay exam.
But a less-than-scholarly appreciation for the Trojan War and its aftermath hopefully will not frighten audiences away from The Golden Apple, opening this weekend in a collaborative production between Chicago Light Opera Works and the Pegasus Players at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Set in the United States in the early 1900s, The Golden Apple received critical exultation when it opened in New York in 1954. The show has not been performed since, at least not in its fully orchestrated form.
"It was about 30 years ahead of its time," said musical director Larry Rapchek. Whereas it's not at all uncommon now to see Elizabethan-era Shakespeare works transplanted to contemporary times, this was rarely done in the 1950s, Rapchek said.
"In 1954, these guys plopped (Homer's ancient Greek) characters down in 1900s Washington state, and set the play at the foot of Mount Olympia instead of Mount Olympus. During its time, it was considered really avant garde, big and brash and unique and cutting edge. The critics loved it and the musical intelligentsia loved it," Rapchek said. Unfortunately, the show was perhaps a bit too cutting edge for the ticket-buying masses who were deep in the thrall of the golden age of Rogers and Hammerstein during the 1950s.
Rapchek has had his hands full conducting the work: The music of Jerome Moross is a veritable labyrinth of styles and textures.
"The fact that they transplanted it allowed Moross to use all sorts of musical forms and styles from the early 20th century, so it spans a huge gamut of styles. You've got cakewalks and barbershops and jazz and even some flapper music from the 1920s. There's also tangos and waltzes and some plain, good old-fashioned symphonic stuff," Rapchek said.
John Latouche's lyrics are similarly complex, Rapchek added. "One of the earliest critics of the show said it had enough words in this opera for three musicals."
Moving Ulysses, Helen, Paris, Penelope and the rest of the gang out of pre-Christian Troy and into 20th century Washington creates an abundance of theatrical possibilities. There is one scene, for example, wherein Ulysses and his pals battle Circe (the mythical woman who, among other really nifty tricks, could turn men into swine) in plaid Zoot suits to the rhythm of a down and dirty jazz tune. Then there's a bizarre Vaudvillian bit that involves Ulysses taking a foray into the stock market. Helen (she of the face-that-launched-a-thousand-ships fame) is a farmer's daughter, Penelope is a housewife, and Paris is a salesman.
"The construction of this is fool-proof," Rapchek said of the intertwining of lyrics and music in the opera. "The architecture of the music is so beautiful all you have to do is play it. If you just do what's in the score, you really can't go wrong."
The sets for the production are replications of those from the Broadway version by William Eckart, who with his wife Jean created the original sets four decades ago.
"Anyone who enjoys musicals or history or movies or great stage entertaininert will enjoy this," Rapchek said. A final plus: No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required - The Golden Apple is sung entirely in English.
|Copley (August 24-30, 1995)
|Everything sizzles in intelligent 'Golden Apple'
By Catey Sullivan
Combine a wildly ambitious story with an engaging cast, intelligent lyrics and a score that just sizzles, and you've got The Golden Apple, Jerome Moross and John Latouche's musical retelling of The Iliad and The Odyssey.
A joint effort of Light Opera Works and Pegasus Players running through Aug. 27 at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, The Golden Apple is a peach of a production.
The Golden Apple transplants Homer's epic rendition of the Trojan War and Ulysses' long journey home afterward to 1910 Washington state, and incorporated everything from Appalachia in folk songs to foxtrots to cake walks into one lean, energetic musical.
Director Dominic Messimi and musical conductor Lawrence Rapchak have whipped the non-Equity cast into fighting form here, and the adventures of Penelope, Helen, Ulysses, Paris and the rest of the classic characters are a delight to watch unfold.
As Helen, Christine Janson is an electric bad girl, alternately oozing with a lazy ennui at the small-town life of Angels Roost (Troy) and a lascivious zeal at the chance to orchestrate her kidnaping by Paris (Samuel Franke). Were it a sidewalk, Janson's Act I siren song, "Lazy Afternoon" would be hot enough to fry an egg on.
Amazingly - because he is mute throughout the entire show - Franke's Paris is never upstaged by the Face That Launched A Thousand Ships. As a slick, traveling salesman who descends to Angels Roost in a balloon, Franke's Paris is a charismatic mystery. His dancing is sleek and graceful, making him an irresistible temptation for the oh-so-bored Helen.
Slotted as the somewhat two-dimensional Ulysses,(a real man's man, Ulysses' life revolves around fighting and romance), Scott Cheffer works well as the eternal warrior who incurs the wrath of his eternal love Penelope (Culver Casson) when he dallies on the way home from the Trojan War. That 10-year dally -- which includes run-ins with Circe, the woman who could turn men into swine, a handful of hula-dancing sirens and the deadly duo of Scylla, the sea monster, and Charybdis, the whirlpool - is a regular romp on stage. As Hector, the fast-talking, sequin-suited mayor of Rhododendron, John Mark Swink adds an delightfully oily edge to the proceedings.
This is the first time The Golden Apple has been mounted with full orchestration in 41 years. Hopefully, the next staging will be sooner and similar.
|Daily Herald (August 25, 1995)
|(not quite)Homer for the masses
'The Golden Apple' is witty, complex, eclectic and vibrant - if you know your Greek mythology
By Tom Valeo
Almost all plays on Broadway these days open somewhere else. Only after they've generated good reviews and some generous word-of-mouth recommendations are they deemed robust enough for the financial perils of the Great White Way.
But "The Golden Apple" was perhaps the first musical to make that move. It opened in 1954 at a small theater on New York's Lower East Side, where it drew ecstatic reviews and a cult-like following. Then it moved to Broadway where it closed after a disappointing run of 125 performances.
Ever since, "The Golden Apple" has assumed almost mythic status as a great play misunderstood by the masses, and to an extent that assessment is justified. The musical certainly was innovative and challenging - and therefore kind of annoying to audiences looking for fun.
Instead of a play with songs, "The Golden Apple" was more of an operetta sung entirely from beginning to end. While Andrew Lloyd Webber and such musicals as "Les Miserables" have made us comfortable with that practice, Broadway audiences in the 1950s most definitely were not, and so they stayed away from "The Golden Apple." The plot is pretty highbrow, too, which undermines its mass appeal. John Latouche, who wrote the story and the lyrics, based the musical on "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey by the ancient Greek poet Homer. The setting is Mount Olympus, but the one in Washington State, not the one in Greece that was the home of the gods. The mythical characters who populate Homer's epic have been transformed into smalltown yokels, and their titanic conflicts have been reduced to petty scandals.
Clever? Of course, and the music by Jerome Moross is witty, eclectic and complex.
But 'The Golden Apple" is still no crowd pleaser. While the revival at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston is vibrant and beautifully sung, its operatic form still makes the story difficult to enter, and the wry jokes are accessible only to those who recognize the sly way Latouche has found modern equivalents to ancient Greek legends.
Those equivalents are very funny, however. Phil Kraus, the artistic director of Light Opera Works, which staged this production in collaboration,with the Pegasus Players, has written a program insert that provides a "who's who" of ancient Greek mythology. With it, some of the jokes become apparent.<
For example, when the soldiers return from the Spanish-American War, the homecoming celebration involves a baking contest that attracts three rivals - Lovey Mars, Mrs. Juniper and Miss Minerva. Mother Hare, a gypsy fortuneteller, offers a golden apple to the winner, and the women invite Paris, a handsome traveling salesman who arrives by hot air balloon, to serve as judge.
As Kraus points out, this is an adaptation of The Judgment of Paris," in which Eris, the goddess of discord and strife, throws a golden apple marked "for the fairest" down to a wedding feast on Mt. Olympus. Three goddesses claim the prize: Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. To settle the dispute, Zeus decides that the contest should be judged by the Trojan prince, Paris, the handsomest man alive.
Get it? Aphrodite is the goddess of love (or Lovey); Hera is the wife of Jupiter (Mrs. Juniper); and Athena, the Greek goddess of war and compassion, also is known as Minerva. Mother Hare substitutes for Hera, and Mr. Paris, the handsome traveling salesman, steals Helen. known by all the soldiers to be a pushover, from her new husband, Menelaus.
The entire show consists of such parallels with "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," and director Dominic Missimi masterfully helps the complex story unfold smoothly.
But such cleverness is lost on those who do not recognize the parallels, and the parallels seem to be the only purpose of the story, and the second act seems to disintegrate as it attempts to recapitulate the adventures of Ulysses recounted in "The Odyssey."
The Light Opera Works and Pegasus Players deserve praise for providing an opportunity to see this unusual work. With a cast of 40 accompanied by a full orchestra, the production approximates what Broadway audiences saw more than 40 years ago.
But the fact remains that "The Golden Apple", while intended as a satirical commentary, seems more concerned with its own cleverness than with telling a meaningful and engaging story.
|Diversions (August 21, 1995)
|'Golden Apple'polished for Midwest debut
By Virginia Gerst
Dominic Missimi had never seen “The Go1den Apple" when he was asked to direct the upcoming Light Opera Works/Pegasus Players production, but he had heard plenty about the show.
He knew that it frequently turns upon theater critics' lists of all-time best musicals and that it hadn't had a full scale staging since 1954, when it copped-the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
"It just isn't done," he said last week. "It was like being asked to direct 'Titus Andronicus' by Shakespeare. I thought, 'Well gosh, let's not let the moment pass by..."
Audiences, too; might want to seize the moment and catch "The Golden Apple" this weekend and next at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, where it is having its first fully orchestrated production since the original New York run.
Based on Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," and performed entirely in song, "The Golden Apple" is set at the turn of the century in the tiny town of Angel's Roost, Washington, at the foot of Mt. Olympus. There, the sultry Helen, a bored farmer's daughter, runs off with Paris, a handsome traveling salesman, with the avenging Ulysses and his fellow Spanish-American War veterans in hot pursuit.
"It's a relatively large venture," said Missimi, explaining why "The Golden Apple" is so seldom plucked from the shelf. "You start with 12 heroes, then you add the male and female chorus and pretty soon you're talking about a cast of 40. The fact that it doesn't contain a word of dialogue probably also scared some people off."
What it does contain is a score that mixes pre-World War I musical styles from Tin Pan Alley tunes and Appalachian folk ballads to ragtime, jazz and more.
The music is the work of composer Jerome Moross, who also wrote ballets including "Frankie and Johnnie," and music for such Westerns as "The Big Country" and "Wagon Train." Lyrics are by John Latouche, who collaborated on "Candide," "Cabin in the Sky" and the American opera, "The Ballad of Baby Doe" before dying at age 38, two years after "The Golden Apple's" premiere.
Missimi, who heads Northwestern University's Musical Theater program and is a Jeff-award winning director with more than two dozen productions to his credit, said the music holds up.
"When I first listened to the relatively primitive tape of the original production, I thought, 'Oh, my, this is a little creaky." But when you hear the full orchestra, it's enchanting."
However, the production is not relying on the music alone.
William Eckart, who designed the original much praised sets for "Golden Apple" with his late wife, Jean, is recreating them for the Cahn stage. Costumes, and there are, according to Missimi, "a zillion" of them, are by Shifra Werch.
Scott Cheffer, who recently played the title role in Candlelight's production of "Phantom," portrays Ulysses, with his off-stage wife, Culver Casson, as Penelope and Christine Janson as Helen.
"The Golden Apple" debuted in 1954 at New York's off-Broadway Phoenix Theater, earned a parcel of rave reviews and a Life magazine cover before transferring to Broadway. There, the welcome was less warm, and the run disappointingly brief. Variety, the show business newspaper, listed it as a failure in its annual round-up of hits and misses. Since then, it has received a few scaled down productions, including a mildly successful off-Broadway revival in 1962, but no major stagings.
Missimi is hoping the Light Opera Works/Pegasus Players production will change that. In the future, he would like to see "The Golden Apple" rediscovered by regional opera companies throughout the United States.
"Moross's music is brilliant and so are Latouche's lyrics," he said. "They were a very smart team and it's a shame they couldn't have done more. What a fabulous partnership this might have been."
|Evanston Review (August 24, 1995)
|'Apple's' a peach
By Virginia Gerst
The Golden Apple" hasn't had a full staging since 1954, when it won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award as Best Musical. And what a pity.
The long-overdue revival, co-produced by Light Opera Works and Pegasus Players, opened Saturday in Evanston.
As performed by a 40-member cast and orchestra of 23, this musical reworking of events in "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" is witty and smart, and has charm to spare.
Set in the early 1900s in the tiny town of Angel's Roost, Wash., at the foot of Mount Olympus, and performed entirely in song, it tells of Helen, the lusty wife of the aged but affluent Menelaus and of Paris, the traveling salesman who whisks her away in a hot air balloon. It also tells of Ulysses, the military general who returns home from the Spanish Civil War, kisses his beautiful wife. Penelope, then heads off again with his troops to bring Helen home.
The score is the result of a collaboration between composer Jerome Moross and .John Latouche who died two years alter "The Golden Apple" premiered.
Aside from 'Lazy Afternoon," the show contains no familiar songs, but it does have the sweet "Coming Home Together," the beautiful "When We Were Young" and some very clever rhymed lyrics.
Director Dominic Missimi's inventive staging keeps the action moving, and Nancy Teinowitz's choreography is a pleasing mix of dance styles.
The cast is well polished.
As the "always willin' Helen, Christine Janson can shift from sweet to sultry in a heart beat, and takes obvious pleasure in the transformation.
Scott Cheffer is a handsome, strong-voiced Ulysses, and his real life wife, Casson Culver is lovely as the loyal Penelope. Bill Chamberlain is very funny as the wiry Menelaus, pleading with his wife to return home "before it's too late," arid, while she's at it, to "bring back the china and the silver plate." As Paris, handsome dancer Samuel Franke does not sing a note, but nevertheless manages to make it clear why Helen is willing to fly off with him.
Jessica Ross as Lovey Mars, Ellie Quint as Mrs. Juniper, and Maureen Sorensson as Miss Minerva. provide one of the show's most charming interludes as they vie for the grand prize (the golden apple) in a cooking contest, with Paris as judge.
The sets, reproductions of those William Eckart and his late wife, Jean, created for the original production, are whimsical, and Shifra Werch's many costumes include bright plaid suits for the men's chorus and frocks for the women worthy of the cover of Godey's Lady's Book.
There are only three remaining performances of 'The Golden Apple." It would be rotten luck to miss it.
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