The production at the Greenwich Theatre marks the first London revival of the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical, which originally played the West End in 1968 starring Sammy Davis, Jr. The new staging by director Rick Jacobs features two new Strouse songs, "Winners" and "I'm a Success."
The rich material of the show has been explored in revisions and rewrites over the years. An American regional production at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven in 2000 saw further changes in th show: Composer Strouse added a jazzier Harlem touch to the sound of that score while crafting nine new songs with lyrics by the production's director, Keith Glover. The director-adaptor has also returned to Clifford Odets' original book for a reworking.
The score drew raves when it was revived in concert in March 2002 by Encores! at City Center in Manhattan.
Featuring choreography by Mykal Rand, the West End Golden Boy will run through July 12. The creative team also features Richard Aylwin (design) and Gerry Jenkinson (lighting).
Jason Pennycooke heads the cast as Joe Wellington with Sally Ann Triplett as Lorna Moon, Alana Maria as Anna, Omar Okai as Ronnie, Nicolas Colicos as Tom, Ray Shell as Eddie Satin, Charlie Folorunsho as Tokyo and Neil Johnson as Benton; the company comprises Jason Rowe, Jaye Jacobs, Andrew McDonald, Daniel Louard, Tracey Duodo and Jade Walker. Golden Boy had a famously rough road to Broadway. Odets succumbed to cancer before he could finish adapting his play. "By the time Lee Adams and I caught [Odets], he was at the end," Strouse said in the book "It Happened on Broadway." "We were in Vegas. He told us he had a terrible problem with gambling, that we shouldn't let him near the tables. Nevertheless, around midnight, we would have to pull him away and say, 'Get ye to the typewriter, because we've got to meet Sammy.' I'm an early riser, and at 6:30 the next morning, I'd pass by the casino and see an unshaven Clifford. 'I was going to quit,' he'd say, 'but I was ahead.' The first week of rehearsals, Odets died."
William Gibson was brought in to work on the book, and it is he and Odets who share credit for the libretto, though many people worked on it, including Davis himself. Original director Peter Coe was replaced by Arthur Penn after tryouts in Philadelphia and Boston.
According to David Sheward's book, "It's a Hit," the musical had the unlucky fortune to play Detroit during a race riot. As a result of the interracial romance portrayed between Joe and his manager's white mistress, Lorna Moon (played by Paula Wayne), the stars received death threats and required the services of bodyguards.
Golden Boy opened at the Majestic Theatre on Oct. 20, 1964 and went on to play 569 performances.
Songs in the original score include "Workout," "Night Song," "Everything's Great," "Gimme Some," "Stick Around," "Don't Forget 127th Street," "Lorna's Here," "This Is The Life," "Golden Boy," "While The City Sleeps," "Colorful," "I Want To Be With You," "Can't You See It," "No More" and "The Fight."
The Greenwich Theatre is located in Outer London on Crooms Hill Road. For tickets, call 011 44 20 8858 7755.