Play the Songs
MILK AND HONEY, Jerry Herman’s first Broadway book musical, is a romantic comedy-drama set in Israel during the nation’s early days of independence. A group of American widows – led by the hilariously blunt and amiable Clara – tour the country by bus in hopes of landing a husband. Meanwhile, two lonely Americans named Ruth and Phil meet and begin a mid-life romance, hoping to overcome some obstacles to their happiness. Herman’s tuneful score includes “Shalom,” “There’s No Reason in the World,” and the rousing title song.
Early one morning in 1961, the streets of Jerusalem bustle with activity. As Yemenites, Arabs, Hassidim, street vendors, and young lovers begin their day, a young Yemenite boy attempts to guide his flock of sheep though the city street. A police officer orders the boy to move his flock to a side street (“Sheep Song”). Phil Arkin, an American visiting his daughter, defends the boy, and in the ensuing fracas he meets Ruth Stein, a tourist travelling with a group of widows from the United States. Phil impresses her with his command of Hebrew; Ruth confesses she only knows a single word (“Shalom”).
Phil introduces Ruth to his daughter, Barbara, who has moved to Negev after marrying David, an Israeli farmer. Phil, Ruth, and Barbara spend a day sightseeing together, and even join the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day (“Independence Day Hora”). Phil is smitten with Ruth, but he privately tells Barbara he’s reluctant to pursue the relationship; he’s still married, and his estranged wife refuses to grant him a divorce. But Barbara likes Ruth, and asks Phil, “Why can’t two people spend a couple of weeks together without the world coming to an end?” She invites Ruth to join them at her farm, and Ruth, unaware of Phil’s marital status, accepts (“Shalom” Reprise).
At the farm, or moshav, David oversees a group of men and women clearing a field for transplanting. Ruth has settled into the moshav’s collaborative culture, helping out by sewing bridal gowns for an upcoming wedding. Phil urges David and Barbara to move to Baltimore with him, but David loves Israel and could never leave. Against his cynical buddy Adi’s complaints, David sings the land’s praises (“Milk and Honey”). Phil, who has fallen for Ruth, asks her to stay another week (“There’s No Reason in the World”). Phil and David discuss some available land and Phil considers buying a house to share with Ruth.
Clara and the widows arrive in Negev. The ladies, ogling the shirtless Israeli men, soon discover they’re all married. Undaunted, Clara delivers a rousing pep talk (“Chin Up, Ladies”), assuring them that “somewhere over the rainbow, there’s a man!”
Phil tells Ruth about his plans for a house, and she approaches the idea with a fresh attitude (“That Was Yesterday”). Barbara is shocked to hear that her father has made such elaborate plans without telling Ruth he’s married. Barbara gets increasingly agitated, finally blurting out to David that she hates living in Israel.
Finally, Phil tells Ruth about his unhappy marriage; his wife, who lives in Paris, refuses to grant a divorce. Ruth is unsure, but Phil insists they make the most of the time they have (“Let’s Not Waste A Moment”). They attend a traditional wedding ceremony, and are inspired by the young lovers. As the newlyweds and guests celebrate, Phil and Ruth sneak off together (“The Wedding”).
The next morning, Phil enthusiastically works with the other farmers, feeling invigorated and youthful once again (“Like A Young Man”). His enthusiasm is dampened, though, when he learns that Ruth, unable to continue a relationship with a married man, has run off to Tel Aviv. Phil vows to follow her and win her back. David, realizing that Barbara would be happier in the United States, promises to leave his homeland to be with her (“I Will Follow You”). But as he works the land, imagining his corporate life in America, he grows distraught over his decision.
At the Café Hotok in Tel Aviv, Clara and the widows gawk at the city’s bustling life and clash of cultures (“Chin Up, Ladies” Reprise). Phil arrives, asking for Ruth. Clara, furious at Phil for his deception, tells him to return to the moshav; Ruth will come to him when she’s ready.
Phil exits, and a kind and wealthy widower named Sol Horowitz approaches Clara, asking her to dinner. He leaves her with his card (he’s in the diamond business!) so she asks her late husband for permission to marry again (“Hymn to Hymie”). That evening, after Clara’s successful date with Sol, she tells Ruth to end things with Phil. But Ruth loves Phil and can’t let go (“There’s No Reason In The World” Reprise).
At the moshav, everyone celebrates the birth of Adi’s son (“Milk and Honey” Reprise). Ruth arrives and Phil tells her he stopped working on the house; he knows they can’t continue together. But Ruth wants to remain with him (“As Simple As That”).
At the airport, Clara – now Mrs. Horowitz – bids farewell to the others; she and her new husband Sol plan to remain in Tel Aviv. Rather than throw a bouquet, Clara gives each of the widows a bouquet of her own, saying, “Darling… why take chances?” Phil and Ruth say good-bye for now; Phil intends to fly to Paris to secure a divorce once and for all. Ruth kisses him, mounts the ramp to her plane, and turns back for a final look as the entire company bids her “Shalom.”
MILK AND HONEY
Book by Don Appell
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Original Production by Gerald Oestreicher
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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:
MILK AND HONEY
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2 Violin A
1 Violin B
1 Reed I: Flute & Piccolo
1 Reed II: Flute & Clarinet (or Flute)
1 Reed III: Oboe & English Horn
1 Reed IV: Eb Clarinet (or Clarinet) & Clarinet
1 Reed V: Clarinet & Bass Clarinet
2 Horn I & II
2 Trumpet I & II
1 Trumpet III
1 Trombone I (doubles Euphonium)
1 Trombone II
2 Percussion I & II:
Timpani (3 drums)
Tom Toms (3)
Hand Bell (no pitch)
Piano-Celeste (Piano-Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material.)
2 Piano/Conductor Scores
20 Libretto/Vocal Books
MILK AND HONEY played for 543 performances on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre starring Robert Weede, Mimi Benzell, Molly Picon and Tommy Rall.
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