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Redhead

Opening night: 5th February 1959
Performances: 13 months

Composer: Albert Hague
Book: Herbert Fields , Dorothy Fields , Sidney Sheldon , David Shaw

Performers:
Gwen Verdon
Richard Kiley
Leonard Stone
Musical Numbers
Behave Yourself
Dream Dance
Erbie Fitch's Twitch
I'll Try
I'm Back In Circulation
It Doesn't Take A Minute (cut)
Just For Once
Look Who's In Love, Evening
Merely Marvellous
My Gal's A Mule (cut)
My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me
The Right Finger Of Me Left Hand
She's Not Enough Woman For Me
The Simpson Sisters
Two Faces In The Dark
The Uncle Sam Rag
We Loves Ya, Jimey
What Has She Got? (not used)
You Love I (not used)
You Might Be Next (cut)


An example of that rare genre, the whodunit musical, Redhead was Dorothy's most commercially successful book musical to date. Her fifth period piece in a row, its story is set in Victorian London and starts with a murder. The audience can see that the perpetrator is a red-headed man, but his identity is a mystery until the show's last moments. The characters are music hall artistes, policemen and a family running a waxworks museum.

Dorothy and her brother had been nurturing this idea for a long time, but had trouble finding the right star. It would have been a very different show had they succeeded in securing Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Bea Lillie or Celeste Holm for the lead role. In the end they got Gwen Verdon, and it is a somewhat startling measure of Verdon's power as a triple Tony-winner, that she cut a deal for 7.5% of the gross (the writers and producers combined only touched 8.5%) and was able to impose her own choice of choreographer and director. That choice was husband Bob Fosse. It was a good choice.

The show's book was unimpressive. Its score was fine, with tuneful music by Albert Hague and inventive flippant lyrics from Dorothy. However it was the combination of Verdon and Fosse which made this show such fun to watch. Verdon performed a dance with the glove of the man for whom she harbours a passion; she slips the glove on her hand and it becomes his hand, caressing her, and slipping a ring on her finger. This was preserved in a 60s TV programme devoted to Fosse and Verdon which can be viewed at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York. (We could do with more of this side of the great man's work in the version of Fosse currently in the West End; the material on display concentrates relentlessly on his later, more serious side and misses much of his delicate inventiveness.)

No standards emerged from the score, but Dorothy had great fun with the tongue-twisting music hall number Erbie Fitch's Twitch and the insinuating Just For Once.

When the 42nd Street Moon company in San Francisco produced Redhead, they included the song You Might Be Next, which was cut out of town or possibly in rehearsals from the original production. Greg MacKellan of 42nd Street Moon reports that Albert Hague did not know why it had been restored subsequently. (The song is sort of British melodrama/music hall in feel, along the lines of "No one knows who the strangler's next victim will be -- you might be next!")

During the preparation of this show, Dorothy's beloved brother Herb died, which explains the presence of two other writers on the credits in her grief, she could not continue alone with what had always been a collaborative process for her. She wrote no further books for musicals.

The show ran for over a year, and won Dorothy a Tony award.

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