Irma La Douce – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1960
The French words “poule” and “mec” may not be in your vocabulary, nor found in some French-English dictionaries, but as your host for the evening (Bob-le-Hotu) so ingratiatingly confides (“Valse Milieu”), “You’ll soon find out.” Irma la Douce is a story about passion, bloodshed, desire and death – everything that makes life worth living. “Every evening, the ‘poule’ will stroll up and down near the Bridge of Caulaincourt. This is the way the poule will earn money for her boss, or as we say in the milieu, ‘grisbi’ for her ‘mec.’ This is the system: mec sends out poule, poule gets grisbi. grisbi goes to mec and buys him his hand-made shirts, his painted ties, his drinks, his bets, his crepes suzettes. It’s just simple economics.” Before you settle in your freshly learned knowledge, however, you must also get to know the cast of unsavory characters. They include Jojo-les-Yeux-Sales (Jojo-Dirty-Eyes), Robert-les-Diams (Robert-the-Rocks), Polyte-le-Mou (Polyte-the-Bull), Persil-le-Noir (Persil-the-Shady), Frangipane (The Flower), and Bob-Ie-Hotu, all of them “Sons of France” in the best Gallic tradition. And, of course, our heroine, Irma la Douce, a typical poule with a heart of gold, who finds nothing better than to fall for Nestor-le-Fripe (Tattered Nestor), a law student without a sou (“The Bridge of Coulaincourt”). For the love of Irma, Nestor becomes a mec (“Our Language of Love”), and, to make sure he has her entirely to himself, he decides also to become her only customer, Monsieur Oscar. Thus, Irma can continue her remunerative career and finance her lover’s studies with the money he’s given her the night before, disguised as Monsieur Oscar (“She’s Got the Lot”). This arrangement is plainly satisfying to Irma (“Dis-Donc, Dis-Donc”), who now has one faithful lover by day and only one regular customer by night, though she is incredibly unaware that both are one and the same person. While recognizing with the other habitues that “Le Grisbi Is le Root of Le Evil in Man,” Nestor soon must admit that being both client and mec is exhausting and that this double life is taking its toll (“The Wreck of a Mec”). Not only that, but he becomes quite jealous of his own alter ego, more so than he ever was of Irma’s earlier customers. There is only one way to resolve the situation, and, despite the admonitions from the gang that murder is a nasty business (“That’s a Crime”), even when it’s a ‘crime passionnel,’ Nestor gets rid of Monsieur Oscar. Convicted of the deed, he is sent to Devil’s Island. There, Nestor finds out he misses Irma terribly (“From a Prison Cell”); while in Paris, Irma, equally forlorn and now pregnant, has decided to stop working altogether (“lrma la Douce). Soon, the separation proves too much, and Nestor, in a fit of despair, escapes, crossing the ocean on a raft (“Freedom of the Seas” and “Arctic Ballet”) before arriving in Paris (“There is Only One Paris for That”). Back with Irma, his problems are not entirely solved, however, as he still has to prove his innocence (“But”). He is exonerated in the nick of time and can celebrate the birth of Irma’s baby (“Christmas Child”) with the rest of the gang. Curtain.
Bob-le-Hotu: Clive Revill Irma-la-Douce: Elizabeth Seal A Client: Eddie Gasper Jojo-les-Yeux-Sales: Zack Matalon Roberto-les-Diams: Aric Lavie Persil-le-Noir: Osborne Smith Frangipane: Stuart Damon Polyte-le-Mou: Fred Gwynne Police Inspector: George S. Irving Nestor-le-Fripé: Keith Michell M. Bougne: George Del Monte Counsel For The Prosecution: Rico Froehlich Counsel For The Defense: Rudy Tronto An Usher: Elliott Gould An Honest Man: Joe Rocco Court Gendarme: Byron Mitchell First Warder: Elliott Gould Second Warder: George Del Monte Third Warder: Rico Froehlich A Priest: Elliott Gould A Tax Inspector: Rudy Tronto Gendarmes, Prisoners, Irma’s Admirers: George Del Monte, Michael Fesco, Rico Froehlich, Eddie Gasper, Elliott Gould, Byron Mitchell, Rudy Tronto.