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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Opening night: 19th April 1951
Performances: 267

Composer: Arthur Schwartz
Book: George Abbott , Betty Smith

Performers:
Shirley Booth
Johnny Johnston
Marcia van Dyke
Nathaniel Frey
Musical Numbers
The Bride Wore Something Old (cut)
Call On Your Neighbour
Don't Be Afraid
Growing Pains
He Had Refinement
I'll Buy You A Star
I'm Like A New Broom
If You Haven't Got A Sweetheart
Is That My Prince?
Look Who's Dancing
Love Is The Reason
Make The Man Love Me
Mine 'Til Monday
Oysters In July (cut)
Payday
That's How It Goes
Tuscaloosa (cut)

This show is Fields' closest in style to the new musical play pioneered by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The story concerns a feckless but charming dreamer, and his hard-working wife. It was based on an autobiographical novel of the same name which concentrated on the viewpoint of the couple's daughter; the daughter's part was much reduced in the musical.

Broadway legend George Abbott wrote the book and directed the first production. He had two inexperienced stars in Johnny Johnston and Marcia van Dyke; for both, this was their only stage musical. In the pivotal role of the heroine's sister, Shirley Booth found a part which fitted her unusual talents perfectly.

Schwartz wrote a beautiful melodious score and Fields found a new voice, showing real sympathy for and understanding of the struggling Brooklyn characters. A simple but memorable piece of proletariat philosophising is at the centre of Payday , the second act opener.

Clothes, clothes, clothes, clothes
You wear 'em, you soil 'em,
You soak 'em, you boil 'em,
You dry 'em, then iron 'em,
Laugh in 'em, cry in 'em,
Live in 'em, die in 'em
That's how it goes
Why the lord knows
But that's how it goes
.

She also displayed her talent for character comedy in the hilarious He Had Refinement, in which the singer praises her former husband's refinement, unwittingly revealing his profound lack of it.

Shirley Booth and her character are reckoned to have been the show's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Great comic material was written for her and performed magnificently by her, but this unbalanced the show completely. Her character was not central to the plot and yet the show ended up revolving around her, reducing the dramatic impact created by the main storyline.

The part of the daughter was played by the late Nomi Mitty who was an experienced child performer. A friend of hers reveals that although Mitty could not sing at all.. " somehow George Abbott fought to hire her and keep her in the show, much to the dismay of Arthur Schwartz and Dorothy Fields (understandably). According to Nomi, Francie originally had three or four quite wonderful songs but as rehearsals went forward, they all had to be cut because she couldn't sing. She said by the time the show had reached New York, she cringed every time she was around Schwartz or Ms. Fields, because she felt so guilty at their wonderful songs being cut because of her. She also said that Schwartz and Ms. Fields tried to be pleasant to her, but were clearly upset that they had a non-singing Francie. "

Sheet music cover for the song I'm Like A New Broom:

 

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