Monday, August 15, 2011

Ghosts of Broadway hits past

Jean Kerr, most famous these days for her memoir "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" which was turned into a movie and a TV show, had a hit play on Broadway called MARY, MARY. The play opened in 1961 and ran for 1572 performances and was the longest-running non-musical of the 1960s.

I'd never heard of the play myself until I was recently reviewing back issues of the New Yorker in search of any last original Willie the Whaler ads. (No luck - but if I find any of course I will post it/them with the usual fanfare.) There were ads for the play in almost every issue in 1962. You can see one above. Although clearly this one is aimed at the tourists ("Plan Your New York Visit Now.")

To my surprise it has been done fairly recently - Hunterdon Hills Playhouse did it in 2000.

In spite of its popularity with the public, critics were not much impressed. The review by John McCarten in the March 18, 1961 issue of the New Yorker is entitled "Fine Feathers on an Old Hat" and says:
...For all (Kerr's) skill, however, she has not been able to disguise entirely the fact that the central theme of her play is rather banal. "Mary, Mary" begins by introducing us to a moody young publisher, waiting for his divorce to become final, who plans to marry an heiress but has doubts about whether he can support her in the manner to which she is accustomed... The publisher is still in love with Mary, but he refuses to admit it until an old Navy buddy, now a Hollywood star, happens by and immediately falls for her. Now the problem is: Will Mary and her husband become reconciled, or will they go through with the divorce, allowing her to run off with the Hollywood dream prince? Mrs. Kerr's solution is readily predictable.
So it was considered old hat in 1961 but it was still being produced even by 2000. But considering what a huge hit it was, you'd figure it would be more well-known than it is. It's always interesting to see which art remains valued and which does not.

But check out the ticket prices in that ad - they top out at $7.50 - tax included!