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This article is about the stage musical. For the 1960 film, see Bells Are Ringing

Bells Are Ringing is a musical with a book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Jule Styne. The story revolves around Ella, who works at an answering service and the characters that she meets there. The main character was based on Mary Printz, who worked for Green's answering service. Three of the show's tunes - "Long Before I Knew You," "Just in Time," and "The Party's Over" - became popular standards.


The original Broadwaymarker production, directed by Jerome Robbins and choreographed by Robbins and Bob Fosse, opened on November 29, 1956 at the Shubert Theatremarker, where it ran for slightly more than two years before transferring to the Alvin Theatremarker, for a total run of 924 performances. It starred Judy Holliday as Ella and Sydney Chaplin as Jeff Moss, as well as Jean Stapleton as Sue Summers, Eddie Lawrence as Sandor, George S. Irving, Jack Weston, and Peter Gennaro.

An original cast album was released by Columbia Records.

The West Endmarker production opened on November 14, 1957 at the Coliseummarker, where it ran for 292 performances. The cast included Janet Blair as Ella Peterson, George Gaynes as Jeff Moss, Jean St. Clair as Sue Summers, Eddie Molloy as Sandor, and Allyn McLerie as Gwynne Smith.

In 1960, a film adaptation of the same name was released by MGM.

A Broadway revival, directed by Tina Landau and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun, opened on April 12, 2001 at the Plymouth Theatre where, struggling to overcome mediocre reviews and ongoing hostility between the show's producers and its cast and crew, it finally closed after 68 performances and 36 previews. The cast included Faith Prince as Ella, Marc Kudisch as Jeff, David Garrison, and Beth Fowler.

Plot synopsis

Ella Peterson works in the basement office of her boss, Sue, of "Susanswerphone", a telephone answering service. She listens in on others' lives and adds some interest to her own humdrum existence by adopting different identities – and voices – for her clients. They include Blake Barton, an out-of-work Method actor, Dr. Kitchell, a dentist with musical yearnings but lacking talent, and playwright Jeff Moss, who is suffering from writer's block and desperately needs a muse. As suggested by the song title, Ella considers the relationships with these clients "perfect" because she can't see them and they can't see her, yet she derives great pleasure from meddling in their lives.

When Jeff Moss pleads with Ella for help in writing, she responds, and a romance ensues ("Long Before I Knew You"). Complications arise when Ella thinks that she does not fit in with Jeff's wealthy friends ("The Party's Over").

Adding complications to the plot are the police, who are certain the business is a front for an "escort service," and Sandor, the owner's shady boyfriend, who unbeknownst to Sue is using the agency as a bookmaking operation ("It's A Simple Little System").

Song list

Act I
  • Bells Are Ringing--Telephone Girls
  • It's a Perfect Relationship--Ella Peterson
  • Independent (original title: On My Own) -- Jeff Moss and Ensemble
  • You've Got To Do It -- Jeff Moss
  • It's A Simple Little System -- Sandor and Ensemble
  • Is It a Crime? -- Ella Peterson
  • Better than a Dream -- Ella Peterson and Jeff Moss (later addition to original production)
  • Hello, Hello There -- Ella Peterson, Jeff Moss and Ensemble
  • I Met a Girl -- Jeff Moss and Ensemble
  • Long Before I Knew You -- Jeff Moss and Ella Peterson

Act II
  • Mu-Cha-Cha -- Carl and Ella Peterson
  • Just In Time -- Jeff Moss, Ella Peterson and Ensemble
  • Drop That Name -- Ella Peterson and Ensemble
  • The Party's Over -- Ella Peterson
  • Salzburg -- Sue and Sandor
  • The Midas Touch -- Dr. Kitchell, Boys and Girls
  • Long Before I Knew You (Reprise) -- Ella Peterson
  • I'm Going Back -- Ella

Note: "Better Than A Dream" was written for the film.

Awards and nominations


  1. Listing at broadwayworld.comaccessed March 2, 2009
  2. McKinley, Jesse. "The Checks Are Bouncing at 'Bells Are Ringing'"The New York Times, June 13, 2001

External links

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