The Happy Time
The Happy Time is a musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and a book by N. Richard Nash loosely based on a 1950 hit Broadway play, The Happy Time by Samuel A. Taylor, which was in turn based on stories by Robert Fontaine. The story had also been made into a 1952 film version.
The original 1967 Los Angeles and 1968 Broadway productions were directed and choreographed by Gower Champion, who won Tony Awards in each category.
The Original Broadway cast recording was released by RCA Victor Broadway in January 1968 and the CD was released
on March 10, 1992.
Jacques Bonnard is a prize-winning photographer who travels the world. He returns to his 1920s French-Canadian village, after five years away, seeking the happy time of his childhood. His cantankerous but lovable father (Grandpere), two brothers and their wives, and their children all welcome him (“He’s Back”). His stories of his travels have a profound effect on his nephew Bibi, who is having trouble at school and going through an especially rough puberty, inspiring the boy to want to live life to the fullest. Jacques goes to a nightclub and takes Grandpere and Bibi, where they are entertained by the dancers (Six Angels) (“Catch My Garter”). After their night on the town, Bibi begs Jacques to “Please Stay”.
When Bibi takes Grandpere’s “naughty” pictures to school and is discovered, his stern father Philippe forces him to apologize to his school-mates. Bibi is embarrassed and upset and tries to cajole Jacques into taking him away when he leaves. Although Jacques at first agrees, thinking that Bibi will be a companion, he quickly realizes that this would not be good for Bibi.
Meanwhile, Jacques finds it difficult to commit to his former sweetheart Laurie (“I Don’t Remember You”). The couple finally realize that they have opposite ideas about life and the future (“Seeing Things”), with Laurie understanding that Jacques is emotionally a boy, like her students. Grandpere, Jacques and Bibi playfully sing an ode to “A Certain Girl”. Jacques finally realizes that he returned home searching for family and love (“Running”), and understands that he must set out alone again.
Producer David Merrick had initially asked Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields to write the songs and Yves Montand to play the lead, but they were all busy with other projects and declined to participate. Merrick then asked N. Richard Nash to write the script, but Nash suggested an original story of his own. Merrick, holding the rights to The Happy Time, asked that the setting be changed to Canada, and the deal was set. The final script had little of the Taylor play but did use the characters and some minor details from Fontaine’s stories. Nash showed the outline of the story to Kander and Ebb, who agreed to write the music.
Merrick had approached Gower Champion to direct the new musical. Champion agreed, with the provision that it open in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre. Rehearsals began in September 1967 in Los Angeles, and the show opened on November 19 at the Ahmanson. (The audience included Carol Channing and Julie Andrews.) Although the reviews were poor, the show was sold out. The show ran to December 23, 1967.
The Happy Time opened on Broadway at The Broadway Theatre on January 18, 1968. It received mixed reviews from the critics, who generally admired the performances but noted large deficiencies in the script. It closed on September 28, 1968, after a run of 286 sparsely attended performances and 23 previews. It was the first Broadway musical to lose a million dollars. The production was directed, filmed, and choreographed by Gower Champion, set design by Peter Wexler, costume design by Freddy Wittop, lighting design by Jean Rosenthal, film sequences created by Christopher Chapman, film technical direction by Barry O. Gordon, orchestrations by Don Walker, musical direction and vocal arrangements by Oscar Kosarin, associate choreography by Kevin Carlisle, and dance and incidental music arrangements by Marvin Laird.
The production starred Robert Goulet (Jacques Bonnard), David Wayne (Grandpere Bonnard), Michael Rupert (Bibi Bonnard), Julie Gregg (Laurie Mannon), and George S. Irving (Philippe Bonnard), Charles Durning (Louis Bonnard), Gena Page (Annabelle Bonnard), Julane Stites (Gillie Bonnard), Connie Simmons (Nanette Bonnard), June Squibb (Felice Bonnard), Jacki Garland (Lizette), Mary Gale Laverenz (Dorine), Tammie Fillhart (Sylvie), Gil Gimbel (Henri), Mary Ann O’Reilly (Monique), Vicki Powers (Bella), Susan Sigrist (Grace), Julie Gregg (Laurie Mannon), Jeffrey Golkin (Foufie), and Dallas Johann (Ganache).
The Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Connecticut, presented the show in April 1980-May 1980. The production was revised, by rewriting the book “so that it no longer changes its tune in the second act”, eliminating photographic projections and adding four songs that had been dropped.
In May 2002 the Niagara University Theatre in Niagara Falls, NY staged a revival of The Happy Time. John Kander and Fred Ebb went to Niagara University to work with the cast, helping recreate the work. “They were here a few weeks ago for rehearsals and thought the show was just beautiful…” Most notably, they incorporated five songs, originally cut from the musical, into the production, as well as making a few other minor changes. “This NU Theatre production, with Kander and Ebb’s blessing, has reinstated several songs and restored text, prompting them to label this version ‘definitive.'”
The revised version was performed in New York City for the first time in 2007 in a staged reading by Musicals Tonight!, as part of their season long tribute to George S. Irving, who returned to the show, this time playing Jacques’ father, Grandpere.
The Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA staged a revised production of The Happy Time from April 1, 2008 through June 1, 2008. The production was directed by Michael Unger and choreographed by Karma Camp. It received favorable reviews. For example, the Washington Post reviewer wrote: “A little charmer… Effervescent. The cast is strong… which is part of why it generally feels like a luxury to be able to see the show in this space.” Variety agreed: “Fresh and earnest… staged with ultimate intimacy in Signature’s tiny ARK Theater.”
Cast – OBC – Jan 18, 1968 – Sep 28, 1968 – Broadway Theatre
|Robert Goulet||Jacques Bonnard|
|David Wayne||Grandpere Bonnard|
|Jeanne Arnold||Suzanne Bonnard|
|Charles Durning||Louis Bonnard|
|Julie Gregg||Laurie Mannon|
|George S. Irving||Philippe Bonnard|
|Mike Rupert||Bibi Bonnard|
|Ron Abshire||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Jovanni Anthony||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Marc Anthony||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Quinn Baird||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Andy Bew||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Alan Blight||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Blake Brown||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|George Connolly||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Leonard Crofoot||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Ron Crofoot||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Tom De Mastri||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Wayne Dugger||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Paul Dwyer||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
One of the Six Angels
|Kim Freund||Annabelle Bonnard|
|Scott Gandert||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
One of the Six Angels
|Joe Giamalva||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Eric Hamilton||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Gary Hamilton||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Jeffrey Hamilton||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Kevin Hamilton||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Mary Gail Laverenz||Dorine
One of the Six Angels
|Gene Law||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Mark Lonergan||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Mary Ann O’Reilly||Monique
One of the Six Angels
One of the Six Angels
|Steve Reinhart||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Brian Shyer||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
One of the Six Angels
|Connie Simmons||Nanette Bonnard|
|John Simonson||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|June Squibb||Felice Bonnard|
|Michael Stearns||Dancing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Julane Stites||Gillie Bonnard|
|Brandy Wayne||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Sammy Williams||Swing Dancer|
|Teddy Williams||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Marc Winters||Singing Student of the St. Pierre Boys’ School|
|Standby: John Gabriel (Jacques Bonnard, Philippe Bonnard), Ben Kapen (Grandpere Bonnard, Louis Bonnard) and Iva Withers (Felice Bonnard, Suzanne Bonnard)|
|Understudies: Leonard Crofoot (Bibi Bonnard) and Vicki Powers (Laurie Mannon)|
References and Notes
- Gilvey, p. 183
- Gilvey, pp. 182-84
- Gilvey, John Anthony. “Chapter Twelve. Memories, MAX, and a Million Bucks. The Happy Time, 1967-1968″, Before the Parade Passes By: Gower Champion and the Glorious American Musical, Macmillan, 2005, ISBN 1429925590 (no page number)
- “Ahmanson Theatre. !967-68 Premiere Season” centertheatregroup.org, accessed February 21, 20
- “The Ahmanson: All-Star Stage” Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1997
- Kander, John; Ebb, Fred; and Lawrence, Greg. “‘Cabaret’ and ‘The Happy Time'”, Colored Lights: Forty Years of Words and Music, Show Biz, Collaboration, and All That Jazz, Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 1429928328, pp. 75-78
- ” ‘The Happy Time’ Production History” ovrtur.com, accessed July 6, 2016
- Gilvey, p. 200
- “‘The Happy Time’ Overview and Review” allmusic.com, accessed February 21, 2016
- Rich, Frank, “Stage:’The Happy Time’ at the Goodspeed”, The New York Times, May 7, 1980, p. C29
- Staff, “Coming to See ‘The Happy Time'”, Buffalo News, May 3, 2002, p.C2
- Hadley, Ted, “Happy Time is Here Again”, Buffalo News (New York), May 2, 2002, pC8
- “Reviews: The Happy Time”, musicalstonight.org, retrieved March 13, 2009
- Jones, Kenneth. “Sentimental Journey: Signature Revives Kander & Ebb’s ‘Happy Time’ April 1”, playbill.com, April 1, 2008
- Pressley, Nelson. “‘The Happy Time’: a Little Charmer”, The Washington Post, April 10, 2008, p. C05
- Harris, Paul. “The Happy Time”, Variety, April 7, 2008
- “List of 1968 Tony Award Nominees and Winners” broadwayworld.com
- List of Theatre World Award Winners theatreworldawards.org
- Amazon.com: The Happy Time (1968 Original Broadway Cast)