The Party's Over: Bway's Bells Are Ringing Closes June 10
by Kenneth Jones
June 10, 2001
The first Broadway revival of the 1956 musical, Bells Are Ringing,
will close June 10 at the Plymouth Theatre after 35 previews and 69 performances.
The sunny revival of the 1956 musical comedy by librettist lyricists Betty
Comden and Adolph Green and late composer Jule Styne did not catch on, despite
Tony Award nominations for Best Revival (Musical) and Best Actress (Musical)
for Faith Prince.
The show had trouble overcoming a negative review in The New York Times,
producer Mitchell Maxwell told Playbill On-Line. He lamented the narrowing
Broadway arena, which seems to allow only "event" shows. Director Tina Landau,
a newcomer to the Broadway commercial world, staged the show. Jeff Calhoun
choreographed. A cast album was recorded and will be released later this
The New York City of Betty Comden and Adolph Green's imagination — where
subway rides are friendly and an urban park at night is the perfect setting
for a soft-shoe routine — came to life by opening April 12.
After a one-week test run at The Palace Theatre in Stamford, CT, the company
returned to a rehearsal studio and then began the preview period (March 13),
during which moments were tweaked, revised and refined. The dance number
"Mu-Cha-Cha" was altered in previews.
Landau is known for such "downtown" work as Space, Dream True and Floyd Collins.
Tony Award winner Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls) in a role created by Judy
Holliday. The show's score produced two standards: "Just in Time" and "The
Party's Over." The show's famous opening, "Bells Are Ringing," an advertisement
for an answering service company, is seen in the revival as a giant 1950s-style
TV commercial complete with smooth, sincere spokesman and rudimentary animation
on a scrim (with actresses behind). The show's overture offers a video montage
of the period.
Prince (Guys and Dolls) plays guileless answering service operator Ella Peterson,
who gets involved in the lives of her clients, including a sexy if unfocused
playwright named Jeff Moss (played by Marc Kudisch, late of The Public Theater's
The Wild Party and La Jolla's Thoroughly Modern Millie). Prince
appeared on Broadway and regionally in James Joyce's The Dead, and
starred in Little Me for the Roundabout Theatre Company.
Beth Fowler (Beauty and the Beast) is Ella's cousin, Sue, who runs
Susanswerphone and falls for a con man, Sandor, played by David Garrison
Martin Moran (Titanic, Cabaret) plays a caffeinated, singing
dentist named Kitchell (he stole scenes in the show, as he hummed and composed
on his dental air hose), Robert Ari (Laughter on the 23rd Floor) and
Jeffrey Bean (Amadeus) are cops investigating Sandor's illegal bookie
operation, which has a classical music mail-order business as a front.
Julio Agustin (Fosse) plays neighbor Carl, who teaches Ella to cha-cha,
Darren Ritchie plays the Brando-like actor, Blake Barton. Caitlin Carter
is a socialite sexpot named Olga and Angela Robinson plays Gwynne, a co-worker.
The company also includes Joanne Baum, David Brummel, Lawrence Clayton, James
Hadley, Roy Harcourt, Stacey Harris, Joan Hess, Emily Hsu, Shane Kirkpatrick,
Marc Oka, Greg Reuter, Josh Rhodes, Alice Rietveld, Darren Ritchie, Linda
Romoff and Kelly Sullivan.
Designers are Riccardo Hernandez (set), David C. Woolard (costumes), Donald
Holder (lights). Don Sebesky handles orchestrations, David Evans is musical
Producers are Mitchell Maxwell, Victoria Maxwell and Mark Balsam for Momentum
Productions, Inc.; Robert Barandes; Richard Bernstein; and James L. Simon;
in association with Fred H. Krones, Anthony R. Russo and Allen M. Shore.
The show offers a breezy, satiric, but sweetly affectionate view of then
modern New York City, where subway rides turn friendly ("Hello, Hello There!"),
meetings in the park become reasons for singing ("Just in Time") and celebrity
soirees can make a working-class girl feel inferior ("The Party's Over").
The score also includes "Independent," Drop That Name," "Mu Cha-Cha," "I
Met a Girl," "It's a Simple Little System," "Salzberg," "I'm Going Back,"
"Long Before I Knew You," "Is It a Crime?," "It's a Perfect Relationship"
and "The Midas Touch."
The original production of Bells Are Ringing ran 924 performances,
under the direction of Jerome Robbins. Robbins and Bob Fosse choreographed.
Judy Holliday took home the Best Actress (Musical) Tony Award and Sydney
Chaplin won the Best Featured Actor (Musical) Tony, playing Jeff Moss.