Ballet Ballads premiered in New York in 1948 and later performed in Los Angeles, from October 8 through November 21, 1950, at the Century Theatre, featuring only Susanna and the Elders, Willie the Weeper and The Eccentricities of Davy Crockett. The stills here are from the Los Angeles production.
The Eccentricities of Davy Crockett as a four-movement symphony. This formal construction is difficult to discern in the music, since it is not as clearly defined as the expected classical structure. Based on narrative content, as well as on tempo, texture, and melodic materials, the various movements may be understood by roughly grouping the 14 scenarios from Davy's life.
Willie the Weeper
Willie the Weeper offers a sexy, eyebrow-raising contrast to the other acts. As Latouche later explained, Willie "was selected as the second theme primarily because of its musical contrast with the other two, and also because of the lyrical contrast, which concerns itself with the desires and fears of the present day, rather than [of] a nostalgic past." Dancer Sharry Underwood, who performed in the premiere of Ballet Ballads, described the contrast between the first two works: "The show's center of gravity changes . . . from uptight-upright to low-down-and-out. Where Susanna is concerned with public opinions and attitudes of society, Willie concentrates on one man's self-esteem."
This work is based on a traditional and well-known Biblical story, yet it introduces the unexpected combination of dancing and singing that Moross and Latouche develop throughout Ballet Ballads. As Latouche later explained, it was "[i]ntended as a curtain-raiser to familiarize the audience with the form we were using." Inspired by the apocryphal work added to the Book of Daniel, Latouche explained the work's conception: "I shaped my lines after the earthy psalmodies I had absorbed during a Virginia childhood. Mr. Moross derived his inspiration, although not his melodies, from the raucous tonalities of the Bible Belt."
Theodore Uppman as Parson (on right in black suit),
Marni Nixon(standing next to him), Christopher Brown
as Angel, and Olga Lunick as "Dancing Susanna"(sitting)
A Musical in 4 Acts
THE COMPLETE VOCAL SCORE
Ballet Ballads The Complete Vocal Score is published in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of its world premiere and is a true collector's item for lovers of the American musical art form.