October 20: In one of the earliest modern examples of non-traditional casting, nightclub (and occasional Broadway) star Sammy Davis Jr. was engaged to play a man torn between careers as a classical musician and a boxer in a musical adaptation of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy. The Italian-American main character in the original drama became an African-American for the musical. The underrated score by the Bye Bye Birdie team of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams includes “Lorna’s Here,” “I Want To Be With You” and “Night Song,” which might have made the show a classic if it had opened just a few years later. The interracial romance at the heart of the story was a problem for some audiences of this period, but the show managed a run of more than a year, thanks largely to the popularity of Rat-Packer Davis, which was now at its peak.
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