This story by Langston Hughes, based on his novels about Jesse B. Semple, a Joe Doakes Harlemite, seems to capture the colour and the humour and poetry of these neighbours-to-the-North as no outlaner could imitate. This is the story of the New York Negro written from the inside out; it is a happy and exciting evening. There is a mood and a temper about this show that is unique." The NY Post, describes the play: "It possesses such unhackneyed freshness and cheeriness of spirit, such humorous decency and regard for the human spirit, that, as offered last night at the 85th Street Playhouse, it was a real delight. Its great merit is that Mr. Hughes contemplates the people he is writing about with a respect that never becomes patronising or stuffy and always retains its sense of humour."
The setting is Paddy's bar, a refuge whose regulars are either hard working or out of work — both are gond enough reasons to drink and sing the blues away.
The hero is Jesse who is in love with Joyce but can't resist the advances of man-eater Artie. But never mind whether Jesse and Joyce do or don't. The luckless Citfiddle picks out the most heartrending blues on his guitar, while queen of the drinking hole is the big-busted, short-tempered MamieWhat's important is spending time in a bar where every emotion is a musical cue.
When Hughes decided to take Simple onto the stage, he used his second Simple book, Simple Takes a Wife, (published in 1953) as a starting point. With Simple Takes a Wife, Hughes had written more of a novel, exploring several characters in greater depth, especially the women who had appeared only briefly in earlier Simple material. The novel had originally been called Simply Heavenly and when Hughes decided to use it as the basis of a musical script, he returned to this title.
The process of getting a play from idea to stage was a frustrating one and Hughes wrote of Simply Heavenly's ups and downs in an article called 'You're Simple if You Want to Write a Play'.
"When I first put Simple into play form myself, it was a straight comedy. The producers holding the option, however, suggested making a musical, so I rewrote it and inserted 20 songs. Meanwhile these showmen went broke and allowed their option to run out. The producers who took the next option had entirely opposite ideas, so working with a new director of their choice, the play underwent a third drastic revision. Still no production came about."
During the many rewrites Hughes drew from the columns he had written about Simple. He said he had fun letting the directors think he was a fast writer. He also thought that the "songs are the most fun" and took pleasure in working with David Martin in adding many new musical numbers. Finally, under the direction of a fourth director, the play came to the stage.
Simply Heavenly opened in May 1957 at the auditorium of the Order of the True Sisters on West 85th Street to wonderful notices. The production thrived in this small, off-Broadway auditorium until the fire department closed the theatre for building violations. The show then moved to the Playhouse, an intimate theatre on Broadway, opening there on August 20, 1957. It was well-received by the critics and achieved a respectable run. Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times praised it saying: "Mr Hughes loves Harlem. He loves the humour, the quarrels, the intrigues, the crisises and the native shrewdness that makes life possible from day to day. He has written Simply Heavenly like a Harlem man. If it were a tidier show, it would probably be a good deal less enjoyable. It would seem like something that has been improvised out of high spirits for the sake of a good time."
Simply Heavenly had a very brief run at the Adelphi in London in 1958, but since then hasn't been seen in Britain until the Young Vic's production in 2003.
1.ove Is Simply Heavenly - Joyce
2. Let Me lake You for a Ride - Zarita, Simple
3. Broken String Blues - Gitfiddle
4. Did You Ever hear the Blues - Mamie, Melon Bar Characters
5. I'm Gonna Be John Henry - Simple
6. When I'm in a Quiet Mood - Mamie, Melon
7. Look For the Morning Star - Zarita
8. Lets Ball Awhile - Zarita, Ensemble
9. The Men in My Life - Zarita
1.Prologue - Company
2. Simply Heavenly - Joyce and Simple
3. Watermelons - Melon and Mamie
4. Let Me Take You For a Ride - Zarita and Simple
5. The Broken String Blues - Gitfiddle
6. He's a Great Big Bundle of Joy - Mamie
7. Did You Ever Hear the Blues? - Mamie & Melon
8. Deep In Love With You - Simple
9. John Henry - Simple
10. Paddy's Bar - The Band
11. When I'm In a Quiet Mood - Mamie & Melon
12. I Want Someone to Come Home To - Joyce
13. Let's Ball A While - Zarita & Company
14. Hunter and the Hunted - Zarita
15. Good Ol' Girl - Mamie, Arcie, Madam Butler
16. Finale - Full Company
Simply Heavenly (1957-08-Playhouse Theatre-Broadway)Type de série: Original Broadway
Théâtre: Playhouse Theatre (Broadway - Etats-Unis) Durée : 1 mois 3 semaines Nombre : 60 représentationsPremière Preview : InconnuPremière : mardi 20 août 1957Dernière : samedi 12 octobre 1957Mise en scène : Joshua Shelley • Chorégraphie : ???? ???? • Producteur : Avec : Joyce Lane ... Marilyn Berry / Melon ... John Bouie / Mrs. Caddy ... Dagmar Craig / Zarita ... Anne English / Big Boy ... Maxwell Glanville / Madam Butler ... Wilhelmina Gray / Boyd ... Stanley Greene / John Jasper ... Charles Harrigan / Character ... Allegro Kane / Gitfiddle ... Brownie McGheeCommentaires longs: En fait, le spectacle a été créé Off-Broadway le 21 mai 1957 au "85th Street Playhouse" pour 44 représentations. Il a été transféré au Playhouse Theatre de Broadway pour 60 représentations avant de retourner dans l'Off-Broadway le 8 novembre 1959 au Renata Theatre, où il fermera le 31 décembre 1957 après 63 représentations supplémentaires. Le total est donc de 169 représentations.
Simply Heavenly (1958-05-Adelphi Theatre-London)Type de série: Original London
Théâtre: Adelphi Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée : 1 semaine Nombre : 16 représentationsPremière Preview : mardi 20 mai 1958Première : mardi 20 mai 1958Dernière : samedi 31 mai 1958Mise en scène : Joshua Shelley • Chorégraphie : ???? ???? • Producteur : Avec : Bertice Reading (Miss Mamie) , Ilene Day (Zara), Melvin Stewart (Simple), Marpessa Dawn (Joyce Lane)Commentaires : The problem with a poor show called “Simply Heavenly” is that it clearly invited critical headlines like "Simply Isn't" and "Simply Awful".
It duly received such a press.
Simply Heavenly (2003-03-Young Vic Theatre - Main Stage-London)Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Young Vic Theatre (Londres - Angleterre) Salle : Main StageDurée : 1 mois Nombre : Première Preview : vendredi 07 mars 2003Première : lundi 17 mars 2003Dernière : samedi 19 avril 2003Mise en scène : Josette Bushell-Mingo • Chorégraphie : Paul J Medford • Producteur : Avec : Ruby Turner (Miss Mamie), Nicola Hughes (Zarita), Rhashon Stone (Simple), Cat Simmons (Joyce Lane), Clive Rowe (Melon), Kenie Andrews, Des Coleman, Carlton Headley, Paul Kissaun, Jason PennycookeCommentaires : The basic story - will Jesse Simple succeed in raising the dosh for a divorce from his ex-wife so he can marry the loyal and loving Joyce - or will he be tempted from the straight and narrow by the vamping barmaid Zarita? - was considered just as weak as when the show was first produced in London 45 years earlier. Once again, it was the choreography and sheer energy of the performers that made it work.
Simply Heavenly (2004-10-Trafalgar Studios 1-London)Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Trafalgar Studios (Londres - Angleterre) Salle : Studio 1Durée : 3 mois 3 semaines Nombre : Première Preview : vendredi 15 octobre 2004Première : lundi 25 octobre 2004Dernière : samedi 19 février 2005Mise en scène : Josette Bushell-Mingo • Chorégraphie : Paul J Medford • Producteur : Avec : Ruby Turner (Miss Mamie) , Nicola Hughes (Zarita), Rhashan Stone (Semple), Allyson Browne (Joyce Lane), Clive Rowe (Melon), Melanie Marshall, C. Gerod Harris, William Byrd Wilkins, Kennie A. Andrews, Roger Davies-Roberts, Fraser Collins, Dawn Hope, Dale SupervilleCommentaires : Notes: This was a re-creation of the Young Vic production from March 2003 - with several cast changes and with a change of musical director. This time it received excellent notices and was highly praised.
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