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)
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 but 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: SOME OF IT FUN
By Virgil Thomson
"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 John 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 12, 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 (March 12, 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.