Carnival in Flanders

N.p. N.p., 1953. Original program for the notorious Broadway flop, "Carnival in Flanders." An interesting and rare piece documenting a directorial and writing effort from the strange final years of Sturges' career. The program was printed well prior to Sturges' arrival to the production—as a result, though the musical was never staged prior to his involvement, it still credits the original writers (George Oppenheimer, Herbert Fields) and director (Bretaigne Windust).

A quite forgotten musical with a troubled production and a rapid demise. When the musical, an adaptation of the classic French film, "La Kermesse Heroique" (1934), was first conceived, Harold Arlen was approached to write the score, but the task ultimately fell to Van Heusen and Burke. Bing Crosby provided much of the financing for the production and had great faith in the songwriting team, who had written several of his hits (despite the fact that their previous theatrical collaboration, "Nellie Bly" (1946), had been a critical and commercial flop).

George Oppenheimer, one of the book's original co-writers, withdrew from the project during pre-Broadway tryouts in Philadelphia, and Dorothy Fields joined her brother Herbert to help with rewrites. Eventually all their work was discarded by Preston Sturges, who replaced Bretaigne Windust as director and completely reworked the book before the show reached California for a series of stagings by light opera companies prior to the New York City opening. Choreographer Jack Cole was replaced by Helen Tamiris, and several cast changes were made before the troubled production finally opened on Broadway.

"Carnival in Flanders" opened on September 8, 1953 at the New Century Theatre, where it ran for only six performances. The cast included John Raitt, Dolores Gray, and Roy Roberts. Critics were enchanted by Oliver Smith's sets and Lucinda Ballard's costumes, inspired by Brueghel paintings, and Gray's lively performance, but universally panned every other aspect of the production. In his review for The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote "As an actress she [Dolores Gray] is authoritative enough to bring down the house with some of the maudlin songs...In the version prepared for the stage by Preston Sturges it is laborious and banal... As usual, the theatre has lavished a lot of wealth and talent on this hokum. Lucinda Ballard has dressed everybody to the nines... Although Oliver Smith's scenery is cluttered and rather desperate, there is certainly a lot of it."

Ironically, this nearly forgotten musical is the source for the well loved Van Heusen-Burke standard "Here's That Rainy Day."

Saddle stapled, illustrated card wrappers. 16 pages, 9 x 12 inches. Faint vertical crease to the front wrapper, light rubbing to wrappers, overall easily Very Good plus.

[Book #133472]

Price: $550.00