Directors' Choice Award Winner
This Fair World
By Sherman Yellen and Wally Harper
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THIS FAIR WORLD is a musical comedy romp of lunacy and humanity taking place during one spring night in New York City and at the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40. It opens at the Waldorf Astoria where a party honoring, Gloria Host “the deb divine of 39” is taking place. Gloria is mocked by Lenore Hirsh and her friend Peaches, working class girl reporters obliged to cover the event for a tabloid. After a run in with the snobbish Baroness Borealis, Gloria’s socialite mother, they leave the party. The newly broke Baroness will stop at nothing to marry her gorgeous but dim witted daughter to an eligible millionaire. She rejects Gloria’s penniless daredevil lover, and convinces her malleable daughter to do as Mommy says. The longed for millionaire appears in the person of Barnaby Cross, a naïve and eccentric young heir to a great steel fortune. Barnaby will lose that fortune and his ability to help the downtrodden – his mission in life - if he does not marry a girl from the Blue Book as noted in his father’s will. He has come to New York to find a wife, and he is artfully trapped by the Baroness into an engagement to Gloria and knocked down by Gloria’s daredevil lover, Hurricane Murphy.
A battered Barnaby stumbles into a nearby drugstore owned by the struggling Hirsh family. He is looking for a Bromo-Seltzer, and he finds Lenore, the charming firebrand daughter of the family with a soft heart who mistakes the shabbily dressed Barnaby who never carries money for a forgotten man of the Depression. He is taken in for the night by her kindly father Josef and imaginative kid brother, Hirshy. Barnaby falls for the young reporter who shares his passion for Russian novels and social justice, knowing that he must marry the vapid Gloria, whom he is supposed to meet at the Fair the following day to announce their engagement at Gloria Host Day With Barnaby in tow the Hirsh Family head for the fair the next morning with Lenore promising to find him a job and show him the “World of Tomorrow,” a far better world than that of the Depression.
Barnaby desperately tries to avoid the Baroness and Gloria, while Josef, an amateur photographer wins the photo competition with a candid snapshot of “Lovers” which reveals Gloria and Hurricane in an embrace – a picture that could provide an excuse for Barnaby to end his engagement to Gloria. The intrepid Baroness steals the picture as she fabricates the story of how she lost her husband on the Matterhorn. Lenore and Barnaby fall in love, but truth will out and hearts will break, until the truth telling Barnaby learns to lie, and a clever young brother not only finds the photo but saves the day with his special knowledge of The Blue Book. Hurricane and Gloria are united, and even the Baroness finds her lost love in the most unexpected fashion. What occurs is an irreverent romp but beneath the merriment is a story of class in America seen through the prism of the past, but particularly relevant to our recession plagued world today.
History of THIS FAIR WORLD
Under its original title of SAY YES, this show had its first reading at The York Theatre, NYC, 1n 1997. Wally Harper and Sherman Yellen chose it as their first collaborative project, based upon its opportunity to create novelty songs and lyrical ballads within the context of a musical comedy that had a heart, a mind, and a sense of humor.
A well rehearsed staged reading took place under the auspices of The O’Neill Musical Theatre Conference in 1999 at the Manhattan Theatre Club, supervised by its director Paulette Haupt. This presentation was directed by Jay Binder and featured Jan Maxwell in the role of the Baroness Borealis, with Malcolm Gets as Barnaby Cross, and Meridith Patterson as Gloria. This performance was attended by Kate Maguire, artistic director of The Berkshire Theatre Festival, who chose this show as a premiere production on the main stage of her theatre in the Berkshires for the 2000 season where it ran for six weeks. The part of Barnaby Cross was played by J. Robert Spencer, later a star of Jersey Boys and Next to Normal.
In 2004, SAY YES, then given a new title of THIS FAIR WORLD was chosen by STAGES, THE FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS in Chicago for one of its festival presentations with the notable comedienne Alexandra Billings as the Baroness and Timothy Gulan as Barnaby Cross.
(Cast of 9: 5 Men and 4 Women)
THE BARONESS BOREALIS, society mother, the motor that drives this musical; 40-50’s; good mid-range character voice
BARNABY CROSS, reclusive young millionaire, Late 20’s-30; lyric baritone
LENORE HIRSH, attractive girl reporter. Late 20’s; wide ranging voice with secure top
JOSEF HIRSH, Lenore’s loving widower father, 50’s; character baritone
HIRSHY, his son, Lenore’s smart and mouthy kid brother, small 14; juvenile baritone
GLORIA HOST, “Gorgeous Gloria,” the deb divine of 1939, early 20’s: light mezzo with good bottom.
HURRICANE MURPHY, madcap playboy in love with Gloria, 20’s virile baritone
PEACHES O’GRADY, Lenore’s earthy friend, 30’s. Country singer with good belt
GROVER WHELAN, World’s Fair promoter, doubles as BERTLESMAN, insular, Swiss chocolate czar, 50’s; character baritone
The sets comprise a ballroom at the Waldorf, a city drugstore, and various locations at the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40. All should be fluid, romantic as tinted souvenir picture postcards of the period. It is Spring of 1940.
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