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Wildcat is a musical with a book by N. Richard Nash, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, and music by Cy Coleman.

The original production opened on Broadwaymarker in 1960, starring a 48-year-old Lucille Ball in her only Broadway show.

Background and production

Nash had envisioned the main character of Wildy as a woman in her late twenties, and was forced to rewrite the role when Lucille Ball expressed interest not only in playing it but financing the project as well. Desilu, the company owned by her and soon-to-be ex-husband Desi Arnaz, ultimately invested $360,000 in the show in exchange for 36% of the net profits, the rights to the original cast recording (ultimately released by RCA Victor), and television rights for musical numbers to be included in a special entitled Lucy Goes to Broadway, a project that eventually was abandoned. Ball also was permitted to choose her leading man. Kirk Douglas' salary demands and heavy film schedule eliminated him from the running, and Gordon Macrae, Jock Mahoney, and Gene Barry were considered before she selected Keith Andes.

The Philadelphiamarker tryout opened on October 29, 1960 to a glowing review from Variety, although local critics were less enthusiastic. The scheduled Broadwaymarker opening had to be postponed when trucks hauling the sets and costumes to New York Citymarker were stranded on the New Jersey Turnpike for several days by a major blizzard. After two previews, the show, directed and choreographed by Michael Kidd, opened on December 16 at the Alvin Theatremarker. The cast also included Paula Stewart and Swen Swenson, with Valerie Harper among the chorus members. Vivian Vance, Ball's costar from I Love Lucy, was in the opening night audience and was photographed giving the star a congratulatory hug backstage after the show. Hampered by lukewarm reviews and Ball's lingering illness, it ran for only 171 performances.

Ball quickly realized audiences had come expecting to see her Lucy Ricardo persona and began mugging and ad-libbing to bring her characterization closer to that of the zany housewife she had portrayed in I Love Lucy. Clearly it was she that was drawing the crowds, and when she fell ill and demands for refunds ran high, the producers announced plans to close the show for a week in late March 1961 to allow her to recover her strength. The closure came sooner than planned when Ball, suffering from a virus and chronic fatigue, departed for Floridamarker on February 8. She returned two weeks later, but on April 22 she collapsed on stage. It was decided the show would close for nine weeks at the end of May and reopen once its star had recovered fully, but May 24 proved to be her final performance, as the musicians' union insisted on members of the orchestra being paid during the shutdowns. This ultimately made it financially infeasible for the production to remain active, forcing it to close permanently on June 3, 1961.

Plot

Wildcat "Wildy" Jackson arrives in 1912 in Centavo City with dreams of striking oil but with neither capital nor know-how to help her accomplish her goal. Joe Dynamite, the most successful crew foreman in the territory, finds her ruggedness appealing and agrees to work with her if she can prove ownership to her claimed land and hire a crew. She finds owned by a hermit prospector, but Joe is certain the property is dry. Wildy attempts to lure him with her female charms, but when he still rejects her plans she has him falsely arrested, then released into her custody. A grateful Joe agrees to start work on the project but abandons it once he discovers it was Wildy who had him jailed. Left high and literally dry by her partner and crew, Wildy resorts to desperate measures to strike a Texasmarker-sized gusher.

Songs

Act I
  • I Hear
  • Hey Look Me Over
  • Wildcat
  • You've Come Home
  • That's What I Want for Janie
  • What Takes My Fancy
  • You're a Liar
  • One Day We Dance
  • Give a Little Whistle and I'll Be There
  • Tall Hope


Act II
  • Tippy Tippy Toes
  • El Sombrero
  • Corduroy Road
  • You've Come Home (Reprise)


Cast



References

  1. Karol, Michael. Lucy A to Z:The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia (2004), iUniverse, ISBN 0595297617, p. 312
  2. Staff, "Lucille Ball Faints", The New York Times, April 23, 1961
  3. Calta, Louis, The New York Times, "Lucille Ball will take a vacation from July 3 through July 29, forcing the suspension of "Wildcat", which will reopen July 31", p. 13, May 20, 1961


  • Sanders, Coyne Steven and Gilbert, Tom. Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (2003), William Morrow and Company, ISBN 0-688-13514-5, pp. 202-220


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