Based on the Stephen Longstreet’s 1946 novel The Sisters Liked Them Handsome, HIGH BUTTON SHOES concerns the comic entanglements of the Longstreet family with two New Jersey con men in 1913. A highlight of the show is the uproarious Bathing Beauty Ballet that opens Act Two, choreographed by Jerome Robbins to the number, On A Sunday By The Sea. The ballet also incorporates snippets of classical music by Franz Liszt and Jacques Offenbach, to create a grand tribute to silent-movie comedy.
- Rehearsal Materials
- Cast List
- Brief History
In New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1913, the Longstreet family, consisting of Mama, Papa, Mama’s younger sister Fran, and her college boyfriend Oggle, is affected when a con man, Harrison Floy, and his shill, Mr. Pontdue, come to town. The duos’ dubious intentions are made clear as Floy pitches “snake-oil” schemes (“He Tried to Make a Dollar”) including selling fake watches and diamond mines, and the shill Mr. Pontdue asks for two. They are chased by the police, and the phoney scheme is repeated. After they cheat the Longstreets in a phony land deal, Floy and Pontdue try to escape to Atlantic City, New Jersey with their ill-gotten profits and also take Fran (who has become romantically involved with Floy) with them.
As the con men Floy and Pontdue are pursued to the Atlantic City beach while carrying a satchel full of stolen money, the people on the beach dance around them (“The Bathing Beauty Ballet”). They tangle with a large number of people—including bathing beauties, lifeguards, other criminals, identical twins—and one gorilla. The climax occurs when the Keystone Cops arrive, and Floy loses everything when he bets on the wrong football team.
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Book by George Abbott and Stephen Longstreet.
INSTRUMENTATION: 17 PARTS
2 Violin AC
1 Violin BD
1 Oboe (and optional English Horn)
1 Reed I: Clarinet & Alto Saxophone
1 Reed II: Clarinet & Alto Saxophone
1 Reed III: Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
1 Trumpets I & II
1 Trumpet III
1 Trombone I
1 Trombone II
Timpani (1 or 2 Drums)
Snare Drum (Brushes & Sticks)
Hi-Hat Cymbals (optional)
Temple Blocks (2 pitches)
French Auto Horn
1 Piano Conductor’s Score
1 Prompt Book
19 Dialogue Parts
30 Chorus-Vocal Parts
Fran (Mama’s Sister)
Sarah Longstreet (Mama)
Townspeople, Football Players, Ladies Bird Watching Society, Singers and Dancers
HIGH BUTTON SHOES opened on Broadway at the New Century Theatre, October 9, 1947. It later moved to the Shubert Theatre and the Broadway Theatre, playing for a total of 727 performances starring Phil Silvers and Nanette Fabray.
The Tony Award for Choreography (Robbins)
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