The Name's the Same: A Comparative Study

The Name's the Same: A Comparative Study The announcement that Garth Drabinsky and Livent (U.S.) Inc. are planning to produce Parade, a new musical with a book by Alfred Uhry, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and direction by Harold Prince, had the sort of deja vu effect on me that Marcel Proust experienced when he tasted that little cake that evoked seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past. Haven't there been two other shows in the past with the same title, I suddenly recalled. Some hasty research revealed the following:

The announcement that Garth Drabinsky and Livent (U.S.) Inc. are planning to produce Parade, a new musical with a book by Alfred Uhry, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and direction by Harold Prince, had the sort of deja vu effect on me that Marcel Proust experienced when he tasted that little cake that evoked seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past. Haven't there been two other shows in the past with the same title, I suddenly recalled. Some hasty research revealed the following:

Parade (1935) A leftist revue produced by the Theatre Guild at the Guild Theatre (now the Virginia), with the great pantomimic comedian Jimmy Savo, Eve Arden, Charles Walters and many others. It only ran for 40 performances.

Parade (1960) An early Jerry Herman revue with Dody Goodman and Charles Nelson Reilly. It received mixed reviews and ran for 95 performances at Off-Broadway's Players Theatre.

Further research proved that there have been a number of Broadway shows with the same title, but entirely different in content. The most fascinating aspect of this coincidence is the fact that in all cases I discovered, the earlier show was a flop and the later show was a hit. Some examples:

South Pacific (1943) A play by Howard Rigsby and Dorothy Heyward, starring Canada Lee as a black who is shipwrecked on a South Pacific Island during World War II. It only played for 5 performances at the Cort Theatre. South Pacific (1949) The celebrated Rodgers and Hammerstein musical which not only won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award, but also won Tonys for it leads (Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza) and its supporting players (Myron McCormick and Juanita Hall). It ran for 1,925 performances at the Majestic Theatre.

Gypsy (1903) A play that played only one performance at the Garrick Theatre.

Gypsy (1929) A play by Maxwell Anderson with Wallace Ford. It played for 64 performances at the Klaw Theatre.

Gypsy ((1959) The famous musical by Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Jule Styne, starring Ethel Merman as Gypsy Rose Lee's mother. It ran for 702 performances at the Broadway Theatre.

Sweet Charity (1942) A comedy by Irving Brecher and Manuel Seff, directed by George Abbott and starring Philip Loeb as the manager of a band. It only played 8 performances at the Mansfield Theatre (now the Brooks Atkinson).

Sweet Charity (1966) The musical by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, based on Fellini's film, Nights of Cabiria, starring Gwen Verdon as a New York dance hostess dancing Bob Fosse's choreography. It had 608 performances at the Palace Theatre.

The Boy Friend (1932) A play by John Montague that takes place in a Manhattan apartment mainly occupied by chorus girls. Brian Donlevy was in the cast. 15 performances at the Morosco.

The Boy Friend (1954) Sandy Wilson's spoof of 1920s musicals that introduced Julie Andrews to Broadway. 485 performances at the Royale Theatre.

Carnival (1924) A play by Ferenc Molnar with Leo G. Carroll and Elsie Ferguson who played a bored wife who falls in love with a young man. 20 performances at the Forrest Theatre (now the Eugene O'Neill).

Carnival (1961) A musical by Michael Stewart and Bob Merrill, based on the film Lili. Starring Jerry Orbach, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Pierre Olaf and Kaye Ballard, with choreography and staging by Gower Champion. 719 performances at the Imperial Theatre.

Fanny (1926) A "melodramatic comedy" by David Belasco and Willard Mack starring Fannie Brice in an unfunny plot about the search for a buried treasure. Only 63 performances at the Lyceum Theatre.

Fanny (1954) A musical by S.N. Behrman, Joshua Logan and Harold Rome based on Marcel Pagnol's trilogy, "Marius," "Fanny" and "Cesar," starring Ezio Pinza, Walter Slezak, Florence Henderson and William Tabbert. It played 888 performances at the Majestic Theatre.

Crucible (1933) A "drama of New York life" by D. Hubert Connelly about a jailbreak in the infamous Manhattan prison, the Tombs. 8 performances at the Forrest Theatre (now the Eugene O'Neill).

The Crucible (1953) A play by Arthur Miller about the Salem witch hunt, starring Arthur Kennedy, E.G. Marshall, Beatrice Straight, Walter Hampden and Madeleine Sherwood, directed by Jed Harris. 197 performances at the Martin Beck.

Dream Girl (1924) Victor Herbert's last musical starring Fay Bainter and Walter Woolf. It played for 118 performances.

Dream Girl (1945) Elmer Rice's enchanting comedy which he wrote for his wife, Betty Field, who played a woman who indulges in fanciful daydreams. Wendell Corey, Edmond Ryan and Evelyn Varden were also in the cast. 348 perfromances at the Coronet Theatre (now the Eugene O"Neill).

Our final discovery were two shows with slighly similar titles that proved to be prophetic. Thumbs Down, a 1923 play at the 49th Street Theatre got thumbs down from the critics, while Thumbs Up, a 1934 revue at the St. James Theatre, starring Bobby Clark, Paul McCullough, Ray Dooley, Paul Draper, and the Pickens Sisters ran for 156 performances.

-- By Louis Botto
Senior Editor