The musical opened on Broadway at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 8, 1949 and closed September 15, 1951, after 740 performances. It was produced by Herman Levin and Oliver Smith, directed by John C. Wilson, and choreographed by Agnes de Mille, with vocal direction by Hugh Martin. Financial backers included Harold M. Esty, Jr.
The original cast featured: Carol Channing as Lorelei Lee, Yvonne Adair as Dorothy Shaw, Rex Evans as Sir Francis Beekman, Anita Alvarez as Gloria Stark, Eric Brotherson as Henry Spofford, Jack McCauley as Gus Esmond, George S. Irving as Josephus Gage, Irving Mitchell as Mr. Esmond Sr., Alice Pearce as Mrs. Ella Spofford, Reta Shaw as Lady Phyllis Beekman, June Kirby as Sun Bather.
Several well-known blonde actresses, including Betty Hutton, Jayne Mansfield (Carousel Theater, 1964), Mamie Van Doren, Barbara Eden (Florida, January 1999) and Morgan Fairchild, have starred in regional and summer stock productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes over the years.
The musical ran in the West End at the Princes Theatre, opening on August 20, 1962 for 223 performances, and featured Dora Bryan as Lorelei Lee, Anne Hart as Dorothy, and Bessie Love as Mrs. Ella Spofford.
A revised version entitled Lorelei opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on January 27, 1974, and ran for 320 performances. This production also starred Carol Channing, for which she received a Tony Award nomination, Best Actress in a Musical.
The Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Connecticut, revival ran in November 1994, and featured KT Sullivan as Lorelei Lee, Karen Prunzik as Dorothy Shaw, Jamie Ross as Josephus Gage, and Allen Fitzpatrick as Gus Esmond. The production transferred to Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre on April 10, 1995 and closed on April 30, 1995 after 16 previews and 8 performances.
A concert staging of the musical was mounted as part of the "Discovering Lost Musicals" series directed and produced by Ian Marshall-Fisher at Barbican Cinema 1 in London in 1997, which featured Louise Gold as Lorelei Lee, Kim Criswell as Dorothy Shaw, and Dilys Laye as Mrs Ella Spofford. The Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London, production ran from July 23, 1998 through September 1, 1998, and featured Sara Crowe as Lorelei Lee and Debby Bishop as Dorothy. 42nd Street Moon theatre company, San Francisco, California, presented the musical in April 2004. Presented by the Encores series of Great American Musicals in Concert at the New York City Center May 5-12, 2012 with Megan Hilty as Lorelei Lee and Rachel York as Dorothy.
"Overture" - Orchestra
"It's High Time" - Dorothy Shaw and Ensemble
"Bye, Bye Baby" - Gus Esmond and Lorelei Lee
"I'm Just A Little Girl From Little Rock" - Lorelei Lee
Encore: "I'm Just A Little Girl From Little Rock" - Lorelei Lee
Dance Encore: "I'm Just A Little Girl From Little Rock" - Orchestra
"I Love What I'm Doing" - Dorothy Shaw
Dance: "I Love What I'm Doing" - Orchestra
"Just a Kiss Apart" - Henry Spofford
"Scherzo" (Gloria's Dance) - Orchestra
"It's Delightful Down in Chile" - Sir Francis Beekman, Lorelei Lee, Show Girls and Male Ensemble
"Sunshine" - Henry Spofford and Dorothy Shaw
"Park Scene" - Chorus and Dancers
"Pas De Deux" - Orchestra
"Sunshine (Reprise)" - Ensemble
"I'm A'Tingle, I'm A'Glow" - Josephus Gage
"You Say You Care" - Dorothy Shaw and Henry Spofford
"Finale Act I" ("I'm Just A Little Girl From Little Rock") - Lorelei Lee and Ensemble
"Entracte" - Orchestra
"Mamie is Mimi" - Gloria Stark, Coles and Atkins
"Coquette" - The Tenor and Show Girls
"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" - Lorelei Lee
First Encore: "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" - Lorelei Lee
Second Encore: "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" - Lorelei Lee
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" - Lorelei Lee and Gus Esmond
"Homesick Blues" - Lorelei Lee, Dorothy Shaw, Gus Esmond, Henry Spofford, Mrs. Ella Spofford and Josephus Gage
"Keeping Cool with Coolidg" - Dorothy Shaw, Bill and Ensemble
"Button Up With Esmond" - Lorelei Lee, Show Girls and Ensemble
"Finale Act II" ("Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "Bye, Bye Baby") - Lorelei Lee, Gus Esmond and Ensemble
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Carol Channing was to reprise her role as Lorelei in a London production in June 1952 to be produced by Jack Hylton. However, there were several factors that eventually cancelled the production: first, an application to reduce royalties and second, the length of Channing's engagement in the show balanced with her proposed starring in Can-Can. Hylton wanted Channing in the show for at least a year. Channing only wanted to stay for six months. That short of run couldn't allow Hylton to recoup and the plans were shelved.
The casting of the role of Lorelei caused many delays. Originally, Judy Holliday was approached early in the show's development. Later, June Havoc and Betty Hutton were both asked to play Lorelei. The production team was reluctant to cast any of the other roles until Lorelei, the pivotal role, was cast. But by the beginning of August, time was running out. Rehearsals were set to begin on August 22, no cast was in place, and stars were unwilling to commit to the show. To stay on schedule for the Broadway opening and keep the tryout dates, the producers signed Carol Channing. Channing was not as big a star as the other three actresses considered, but she had been thrust into the limelight after her turn in the hit revue Lend an Ear the year before.
Because of this delay, rehearsals were pushed back by a month and the tryout dates were rescheduled as well.
Gower Champion was asked to choreograph but the job eventually fell to Agnes de Mille. Martha Wright was mentioned for Dorothy (Yvonne Adair would take the role). Mark Dawson was mentioned for Gus (eventually filled by Jack McCauley).
Rehearsals began on October 17, 1949 (delayed after casting and financial troubles). There was a three-week tryout in Philadelphia (theatre unknown) beginning on November 14. Originally, there was to have been a one-week run in New Haven followed by three weeks in Philadelphia. But after casting troubles caused one round of delays and troubles raising money caused more, the New Haven run was scrapped.
The production was budgeted at $200,000. Among the backers were Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers, Joshua Logan, Leland Hayward and Billy Rose.
Equity refused Agnes de Mille's request to rehearse dancers an extra week. She was so insistent that this was needed that she was willing to pay the rehearsal expenses out of her own pocket.
Paramount was able to share the proceeds of the film rights to the show because it controlled the screen rights to Anita Loos's play, on which the musical was based.
The advance prior to opening was $250,000 from 46 theatre parties (39 of which were for the entire capacity of the Ziegfeld Theare). Among the theatre parties were:
December 13, 1949 - New York City Hospital Visiting Committee of the State Charities Aid Association
December 15, 1949 - fund-raiser for the Homemaker Service of the Children's Aid Society
Prior to opening, 32 records of songs had been made by various record companies.
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