A rollicking homage to the silent-movie era, HIGH BUTTON SHOES unravels the comic entanglements of two con artists and an upstanding family in Atlantic City in 1913. Based on Stephen Longstreet’s 1946 novel, The Sisters Liked Them Handsome, HIGH BUTTON SHOES features a string of delightful Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn numbers, including “Papa, Won’t You Dance With Me?” “I Still Get Jealous,” and “On A Sunday By The Sea” (a.k.a. “The Bathing Beauty Ballet”) which hilariously incorporates themes by Franz Liszt and Jacques Offenbach in a wacky tribute to Mack Sennett’s screwball comedy.
Photos by Diane Sobolewski, courtesy of Goodspeed Opera House
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.
HIGH BUTTON SHOES
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Book by Stephen Longstreet
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The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:
HIGH BUTTON SHOES
is presented by arrangement with
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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
2 Trumpet 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
2 Piano/Conductor Scores
20 Libretto/Vocal Books
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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