Bells Are Ringing


This charming romantic comedy follows the exploits of Ella, a telephone answering service operator with a fascination for her client’s private lives. At Susanswerphone, Ella uses a variety of voices and personae to keep herself entertained. As she follows the lives of her customers, Ella becomes inextricably involved with a handsome playwright, a fledgling record company, and a dangerous crime ring. BELLS ARE RINGING is a delightful showcase for a singing comedienne, filled with heart and humor. The tuneful score, with lyrics by Comden & Green, features some of Jule Styne’s most popular songs, including “Just in Time,” “The Party’s Over,” “Long Before I Knew You” and “Better Than a Dream.”

Music samples provided courtesy of Varese Sarabande and Stratford Music Corporation.

  • Synopsis
  • Credits
  • Orchestration
  • Materials
  • Cast
  • History
  • Musical Numbers
  • Upcoming
  • Act I

    It’s 1956, and busy New Yorkers use “Susanswerphone,” a telephone answering service, to ensure they’ll never miss a phone call again (“Bells Are Ringing”). One operator at Susanswerphone, Sue’s cousin Ella Peterson, particularly enjoys listening in on people’s lives. Ella adds some interest to her own humdrum existence by adopting different identities – and voices – to serve her clients. Those clients include Blake Barton, an out-of-work Method actor, Dr. Kitchell, a dentist with musical yearnings but no talent, and struggling playwright Jeff Moss, who desperately needs a muse. Though she’s never laid eyes on him, Ella realizes she’s fallen in love with Jeff (“It’s a Perfect Relationship”).

    Jeff struggles to finish writing The Midas Touch, the first play he’s written since his collaborator departed (“Independent”). The night before an important 9 am meeting with his producer, Jeff calls Susanswerphone to request a wake-up call. He asks Ella – whom he regards only as “Mom,” a kindly old lady – for some creative inspiration (“You’ve Got To Do It”). Meanwhile, Sandor, Sue’s rich boyfriend, reveals plans to a group of gangsters to use Susanswerphone as a bookmaking operation, by pretending to be a record seller and taking orders for “symphonies” as code (“It’s a Simple Little System”).

    Ella sets off towards Jeff’s apartment to help him write the play, but she is intercepted by a policeman who suspects that Susanswerphone is a front for an “escort service.” Ella tells him she’s just helping someone in need (“Is it a Crime?”) and he lets her go. When Ella arrives at Jeff’s place at 7am, she discovers him asleep on his couch. He suddenly awakens, so Ella pretends claims to be his neighbor, Melisande, who mistakenly entered the wrong apartment. She helps motivate him to write his play and a romantic spark is lit (“Better Than A Dream”).

    Jeff’s play is well received, so he and Melisande/Ella celebrate by greeting strangers on the street (“Hello, Hello There”). Jeff is smitten (“I Met a Girl”). Detective Francis, who continues to investigate Susanswerphone for fronting an escort service, follows Ella to Jeff’s apartment one night. n the apartment, Jeff and Melisande/Ella declare their love (“Long Before I Knew You”), and just as they embrace to kiss, Francis snaps a photograph.

    Act II

    As Ella anxiously anticipates an evening date with Jeff, her friend Carl calms her nerves with a sizzling dance (“Mu-Cha-Cha”). Ella meets Jeff in Central Park, where he serenades her in front of admiring crowds (“Just In Time”). Jeff takes Melisande/Ella to a fancy show biz party, where he proudly introduces her to the pretentious, rich guests (“Drop That Name”). Ella, feeling out of place, realizes that Jeff is in love with an illusion. She leaves without saying goodbye (“The Party’s Over”).

    Sandor, in need of some cash to cover his racing debts, convinces Sue to lend him $6,000, and the two plan to run off together (“Salzburg”). Jeff, despondent over Melisande’s sudden departure, seeks her out at their favorite nightclub (“The Midas Touch”). At the club, Jeff, struggling actor Barton, and dentist-turned-musician Dr. Kitchell realize they’ve all been inspired by the same woman, but they don’t know how to reach her. They all exchange phone numbers, and Jeff leaves to find his Melisande. Police officers enter and immediately take Barton and Kitchell for questioning.

    In Bay Ridge, Jeff has no luck finding Melisande. He calls Barton and Kitchell, reaching Susanswerphone both times. He finally puts it all together, realizing that Melisande is “Mom.”

    At Susanswerphone, Ella decides that her life is too complicated, and she packs her backs to flee to her previous employer (“I’m Going Back”). Sandor, pursued by two henchmen, enters, wondering who changed his order for “Beethoven’s Tenth” to “Beethoven’s Ninth.” Ella admits she made the correction, since Beethoven only wrote nine symphonies. Francis and the police enter and arrest Sandor and the henchmen for operating a booking ring. Jeff arrives and declares his love for Ella/Melisande/Mom. As Ella’s other clients arrive, she introduces them – by phone number – and they all join in celebration (“Finale”).

    Book and Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
    Music by Jule Styne
    Entire Original Production Directed by Jerome Robbins
    Dance and Musical Numbers of Original Production
    Staged by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse
    Produced on the Broadway Stage by The Theatre Guild

    Such credits to the authors for all purposes shall be in type size equal to or greater than that of any other credits except for that of the star(s) above the title. In the programs, the credits shall appear on the title page thereof.

    The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:

    is presented by arrangement with
    Tams-Witmark, A Concord Theatricals Company

    Additionally, you agree to include the above language hyperlinked to on all websites on which you promote the play.

  • Full Orchestration

    2 Violin AC
    1 Violin BD
    1 Viola
    1 Cello
    1 Bass

    1 Reed I: Flute (or Clarinet), Clarinet & Alto Saxophone
    1 Reed II: Flute (or Clarinet), Piccolo (or Clarinet), Clarinet & Alto Saxophone
    1 Reed III: Oboe (or Clarinet), English Horn (or Clarinet), Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
    1 Reed IV: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone (or Bass Clarinet) & Bass Clarinet
    1 Reed V: Clarinet, Bassoon (or Baritone Saxophone) & Baritone Saxophone

    2 Horns I & II
    2 Trumpets I & II
    1 Trumpet III
    1 Trombone I
    1 Trombone II

    1 Percussion:

    Timpani (2 Drums)
    Snare Drum (Brushes & Sticks)
    Deep Pitch Snare Drum
    Bass Drum
    Tom Toms (3 Pitches)
    Bongo Drums
    Suspended Cymbal
    Glockenspiel (Soft & Hard Mallets)
    Telephone Bells (3 Pitches)
    Wind Whistle
    Temple Blocks
    Sand Paper
    Wood Block

    1 Harp

    Piano-Celeste (Piano-Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material.)

    1 Guitar

  • Rehearsal Materials

    2       Piano/Conductor Scores
    20     Libretto/Vocal Books

  • Sue
    Ella Peterson
    Inspector Barnes
    Jeff Moss
    Larry Hastings
    Telephone Man
    Ludwig Smiley
    Charles Bessemer
    Dr. Kitchell
    Blake Barton
    Another Actor
    Man from Corvello Mob
    Other Man
    Paul Arnold
    Master of Ceremonies
    Singer at Nightclub
    Maître d’Hôtel
    Police Officer
    Madame Grimaldi
    Mrs. Mallet

  • BELLS ARE RINGING opened at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre on November 29, 1956, starring Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplin. It later transferred to the Alvin Theatre, running for a total of  924 performances. In 2001, the show was revived on Broadway starring Faith Prince.

    Awards (1957)

    2 Tony Awards for Best Actress and Best Featured Actor
    The Theatre World Award (Sydney Chaplin)

  • Act I

    1. Opening – Announcer & Ensemble
    2. “It’s A Perfect Relationship” – Ella
    3. Mambo Montage – Ella
    4. “Independent” – Jeff & Ensemble
    5. “You’ve Got To Do It” – Jeff
    6. “It’s A Simple Little System” – Sandor & Ensemble
    6a. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    7. Change of scene – Orchestra
    8. “Is It A Crime?” – Ella
    8a. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    9. “It’s Better Than A Dream” – Jeff
    9a. Telephone Incidental – Orchestra
    9b. Change of Scene to Subway – Orchestra
    10. “Hello, Hello There” – Ella, Jeff, & Ensemble
    10a. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    11. “I Met A Girl” – Jeff & Ensemble
    11a. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    12. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    12a. Drugstore Incidental – Orchestra
    12b. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    12c. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    13. “Long Before I Knew You” – Ella & Jeff

    Act II

    14. Entr’acte – Orchestra
    15. “Mu-Cha-Cha” – Ella, Carl, Carol, & Ensemble
         Dance – Carol Carl, & Dancing Ensemble
    15a. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    16. “Just In Time” – Jeff, Ella, & Ensemble
    16a. Party Scene Incidental – Orchestra
    17. “Drop That Name” – Ella & Ensemble
    18. “The Party’s Over” – Ella & Ensemble
    18a. Change of Scene – Orchestra
    19. “Salzburg” – Sue & Sandor
    19a. Night Club Incidental – Orchestra
    19b. Fanfare – Brass
    20. “The Midas Touch” – Singer, Boys & Girls
    21. “Long Before I Knew You” (Reprise) – Jeff
    22. “I’m Goin’ Back” – Ella
    23. Finale – Orchestra
    24. Curtain Music – The Company
    25. Exit Music – Orchestra

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