Book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley
Directed by Michael Rupert
Choreographed by Lora Workman
Musical direction by John Ebner
ABOUT THE SHOW
Directed by Tony Award-winner Michael Rupert, The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd is a comical, allegorical satire on the British class system of the 1960s.
Through a series of sketches and songs served up in a style reminiscent of vaudeville, we meet the show’s two central characters: the pompous Sir (who represents “the Establishment”) and the downtrodden Cocky (who stands in for “the little guy”). Sir and Cocky meet to play “The Game,” which symbolizes the eternal struggle between “The Haves” and “The Have Nots.”
Because Sir changes and manipulates the rules of The Game, Cocky always ends up with the short end of the stick. Sir’s disciple and sidekick, known as The Kid, is eager to learn from his master while keeping an eye on the upstart Cocky, who desperately wants to beat Sir at The Game. As the mighty battle wages between Sir and Cocky, a group of young children known as the Urchins comments through song and dance (as a sort of Greek chorus).
Ultimately, Sir and Cocky are forced to realize that their interdependence is more complicated and thorny — and perhaps more potentially variable — than either “Have” or “Have Not” originally thought. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, many of the songs from The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd have become musical standards: “Who Can I Turn To?,” “The Joker,” “The Beautiful Land,” “A Wonderful Day Like Today” and “Feeling Good” (which was a hit song for both Nina Simone and Michael Bublé).
BACKGROUND ON THE SHOW
Following the international smash success of their first show together (Stop the World — I Want to Get Off), Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley went to work creating a new show together. For their new show’s title, they playfully rearranged the phrase "the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd," which refers to the experience of theater performers. (In her 1985 autobiography Past Imperfect, Newley’s ex-wife Joan Collins revealed that early on in its development stages the show had been called Mr. Fat and Mr. Thin.) The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd opened at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, England on August 3, 1964, and then toured the United Kingdo before its anticipated London opening. However, audience interest was minimal, and it never reached the West End.
A Westminster Community
1-, 2- & 3-bedroom apartments
The American theatre producer David Merrick saw the show in Liverpool and, aware that production costs could be kept low, decided to bring it to the United States. Two days before Christmas, the cast began rehearsals in New York. The show then embarked on a lengthy national tour, and Merrick insisted that the show’s co-creator, Anthony Newley, step into the starring role of Cocky. (One of the show’s pre-Broadway stops was at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland.)
Meanwhile, a pre-Broadway buzz began to build for the show. Tony Bennett released his own hit version of "Who Can I Turn To?" and Merrick persuaded RCA Victor to release the show’s original cast recording before the show reached even New York City. This was the opposite of normal practice — but Merrick had employed the same strategy two years earlier with another British import, Oliver! Merrick’s scheme to create awareness and to boost advance ticket sales paid off handsomely. In fact, by the time the show opened in New York in mid-May the Greasepaint… cast album had already sold over 100,000 copies. Moreover, the U.S. tour was so successful that most of Merrick's investment was paid back while the show was on the road.
After seven previews, the Broadway production — directed by Newley and choreographed by Gillian Lynne — opened on May 16, 1965 at the Shubert Theatre, where it ran for 231 performances and was nominated for six Tony Awards. The cast included Newley as Cocky, Cyril Ritchard as Sir, Sally Smith from the U.K. production repeating her role as The Kid, Joyce Jillson as The Girl and Gilbert Price as The Negro (aka The Outsider). Although the show did not win any Tony Awards (Fiddler on the Roof
swept the major awards that season), the show proved to be popular and profitable on Broadway.
PATRICK MICHAEL DUKEMAN
THE URCHINS (in alphabetical order)
THE CREATIVE TEAM
CHRISTOPHER J. HA
Assistant Stage Manager
and JORDAN PRIDDY
JASEN J. SMITH
ALAN SCOTT FERRALL
Scenic Designer and Technical Director
Assistant Technical Director