The Most Happy Fella – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1956
The action takes place in San Francisco and Napa, California, in 1927.
It is 1927, closing time at a restaurant in San Francisco. Cleo, a native of Texas, bemoans the fact that "a waitress earns her pay" – "Ooh, My Feet." Amy, another waitress, rejects the crude advances of the cashier, and Cleo offers sisterly sympathy – "I Know How It Is." Amy discovers that a customer has left her an amethyst tie pin and a letter – "The Letter." The letter, written in broken English, contains a proposal of marriage for Amy – or "Rosabella," as she is addressed in the letter – from "Antonio Esposito," who lives on a grape ranch in the Napa Valley. The lonely Amy – now Rosabella – is touched that someone has reached out to her, and she decides to answer the letter – "Somebody Somewhere."
The scene shifts to the main street of Napa, three months later. The author of the letter, Tony Esposito, appears in a state of exhilaration. After carrying on a correspondence with his Rosabella, she has sent him a picture and asked for his in return – "The Most Happy Fella." Tony's spinster sister Marie tries to discourage his plan to marry Rosabella, reminding him that he is neither young nor good-looking – "The Letter Theme." Herman, one of Tony's ranch hands, envies his boss' seeming success with the ladies, and, with his friends, Clem, Jake, and Al, pursues his favorite occupation: girl-watching – "Standing on the Corner." Joe, Tony's ruggedly attractive young foreman, informs his boss that he'll soon be moving on – "Joey, Joey, Joey." Tony gets an idea: pretending that he wants a photograph of Joe to remember him by ("Soon You Gonna Leave Me, Joe"), he gets Joe to have his picture taken on the spot. Tony, afraid that if Rosabella sees what he really looks like she won't come to Napa and marry him, decides to send Rosabella Joe's picture instead of his – "Rosabella."
A few weeks later, in Tony's barn, Tony's servants Giuseppe, Pasquale, and Ciccio prepare a celebration and banquet for the wedding of Tony and Rosabella, scheduled for that evening when Rosabella arrives – "Abbondanza." In Tony's front yard, all the neighbors, and all the neighbors' neighbors, begin to arrive for the party. Seeing some of the local children, Tony expresses his longing for a family of his own – "Plenty Bambini." But Tony becomes upset when he learns that Joe has not yet departed. In a state of agitation, Tony drives off in his truck to pick Rosabella up at the station, as the party swings into gear – "Sposalizio." Rosabella appears, having been delivered by the postman ("Special Delivery!") and the three servants and Joe welcome her – "Benvenuta." Left alone with Joe, Rosabella expresses satisfaction with her new surroundings and asks him if he's happy that she has arrived – "Aren't You Glad?" The mood is shattered when she addresses Joe as Tony; she soon learns of the deception that has brought her to the ranch and also learns that Tony is an older man. She is about to leave when Tony, limp and almost lifeless, is carried in. He was found in a ditch on the road after an accident in which his truck turned over three times. Realizing that she has no place else to go, and over the objections of Marie, Rosabella agrees to marry Tony at once. Joe realizes he will have to stay on to take care of the ranch now that Tony is incapacitated. When a dazed Rosabella emerges on the porch after the ceremony, Joe tries to console her – "Don't Cry". Rosabella and Joe are drawn to each other and find themselves unable to resist their feelings – Finale Act I.
A week later, in Tony's vineyards. In the midst of a busily industrious scene of workers at their chores, the action freezes, and Joe and Rosabella express the isolation they now feel from each other – "Fresno Beauties"/"Cold and Dead." Tony, heavily bandaged and in a wheelchair, protests his state. His doctor suggests he turn to Rosabella for comfort – Love and Kindness." Left alone, Tony and Rosabella decide to start their relationship over, from the beginning – "Happy To Make Your Acquaintance." To Rosabella's surprise, Cleo appears; Tony, thinking Rosabella might be lonesome, has hired her old friend to paste labels on his grape boxes. Marie attempts to enlist Cleo as a confidante, but Cleo does not agree with Marie's feelings about the relationship between Tony and Rosabella – "I Don't Like This Dame." Cleo meets Herman, and they quickly discover that they have something in common: they both hail from Dallas – "Big 'D'."
Later in May, Tony, Rosabella, Marie, and Joe all give voice to their feelings during a lazy afternoon – "How Beautiful the Days." A month later, Tony and Marie watch the young workers at play, and Marie declares that "old people gotta get left behind" – "Young People." Rosabella tries to snap Tony out of his depression by telling him of the love she now feels for him – "Warm All Over." But when Rosabella dances off with the young people, Tony decides that Marie's words were true – "Old People." In the barn, Cleo is furious when she sees how the other hands take advantage of Herman's good nature. But Herman just can't help it – "I Like Everybody."
It's June, and Tony is on his feet, learning to walk again. Rosabella tells Cleo that she really loves Tony, but he refuses to treat her like a wife – "I Love Him"/"I Know How It Is." Cleo urges Rosabella to tell Tony how she feels, and Rosabella does – "Like a Woman Loves a Man." Tony is overwhelmed, and he and Rosabella declare their love for each other – "My Heart Is So Full of You." Tony decides to throw a wedding party that evening, the party they were supposed to have had on the night of the accident. He invites his workers and neighbors, and the celebration commences. But when Rosabella is lifted in the air ("Hoe-Down"), she collapses. The doctor's diagnosis: Rosabella is pregnant. But Tony is not aware of this. Alone, he sings to his mother in heaven about the joy he has finally found with his sweetheart, Rosabella – "Mamma, Mamma."
Pasquale, Giuseppe, and Ciccio urge audience members to take their seats for the final act – "Abbondanza" (reprise). In the barn, Herman has been the victim of another practical joke. Cleo has had enough of Herman's benign indifference and says they're through – "Goodbye, Darlin'." The doctor asks the neighbors to give Tony and Rosabella a little time alone together on such a beautiful night – "Song of a Summer Night." Rosabella confesses to Tony that she is carrying Joe's baby. Tony is furious and orders her off his property. Before she goes, she returns the tie pin he gave her and tells him once more that she loves him – "Please Let Me Tell You." She leaves, and Tony learns from Pasquale that Joe is down at the station preparing to leave town. Tony takes a pistol and goes off, determined to kill Joe.
At the depot, Tony learns that Joe has just departed. Alone, he realizes that Rosabella has no place to go and decides she must come home with him – "Tony's Thoughts"/"She's Gonna Come Home with Me." But before he can tell her, Marie appears. She urges Tony to forget Rosabella, saying, "Nobody's ever gonna love you like I love you." Cleo, who has just put Rosabella on the bus, appears and defies Marie. Desperate, Marie snatches the cane from Tony's hand. When Marie refuses to give it back, Cleo lunges at Marie, and the two women struggle. Cleo manages to return the cane to Tony, and Pasquale breaks up the fight. Herman, who enters during the melee, sees Pasquale push Cleo, and Herman knocks Pasquale out. Cleo is overjoyed that Herman has finally stood up for himself and for her – "I Made A Fist."
Rosabella comes off the bus, and Tony tells her that he intends to let everyone think that the baby she is carrying is his. She is scared, but Tony tells her that it was just such fear that caused him to send her Joe's picture in the first place. He says, "I should-a know what I want an' say what I want." They begin again, and Tony finally learns Rosabella's real name. Tony and Rosabella are together, and Tony is indeed the most happy fella in the whole Napa Valley – Finale.
– Ken Mandelbaum
(in order of appearance)
The Cashier: Lee Cass
Cleo: Susan Johnson
Rosabella/Amy: Jo Sullivan
Waitresses: Marlyn Greer, Martha Mathes, Myrna Aaron, Meri Miller, Beverly Gaines
The Postman: Lee Cass
Tony: Robert Weede
Marie: Mona Paulee
Max: Louis Polacek
Gladys: Betsy Bridge
Herman: Shorty Long
Clem: Alan Gilbert
Jake: John Henson
Al: Roy Lazarus
Joe: Art Lund
Giuseppe: Arthur Rubin
Pasquale: Rico Froehlich
Ciccio: John Henson
Country Girl: Meri Miller
City Boy: John Sharpe
The Doctor: Keith Kaldenberg
The Priest: Russell Goodwin
Tessie: Zina Bethune
Gussie: Christopher Snell
Neighbors: Helon Blount, Myrna Aaron, Beverly Gaines, Henry Director, Hunter Ross, Bob Daley
Neighbor Ladies: Lillian Shelby, Lois Van Pelt, Marjorie Smith
Brakeman: Norris Greer
Bus Driver: Ralph Farnworth
All the neighbors and all the neighbors' neighbors: Helon Blount, Thelma Dare, Carolyn Maye, Genevieve Owens, Lillian Shelby, Marjorie Smith, Toba Sherwood, Lois Van Pelt, Betsy Bridge, Theodora Brandon, Art Arney, Ken Ayers, Lanier Davis, Henry Director, Ralph Farnworth, Alan Gilbert, Russell Goodwin, Norris Greer, Richard Hermany, Walter Kelvin, Roy Lazarus, Louis Polacek, Evans Thornton, Myrna Aaron, Patti Schmidt, Beverly Gaines, Marlyn Greer, Martha Mathes, Meri Miller, Bob Daley, Athan Karras, Jerry Kurland, Arthur Partington, Hunter Ross, John Sharpe