Seven Come Eleven: A Gaming Gambol – Upstairs at The Downstairs 1961
It all began (way back in 1956) in a dark, dank cellar, located beneath an ancient brownstone on New York City’s Sixth Avenue. It was here that Julius Monk, with a few yards of velvet and a handful of performers, presented his first subterranean sensation, Four Below. Notwithstanding some mild competition from a musical called My Fair Lady and an occasional attack of bends, Four Below romped happily through a six-month run. It was followed, quite naturally, by The Son of Four Below (1956) and, in time, Take Five (1957), the latter fondly recalled as a classic nightclub entertainment.
By 1958, The Downstairs Room was firmly established as a favorite late-night spot for New Yorkers on the town. But the tranquility at 51st Street and Sixth Avenue was disturbed by the ominous approach of demolition squads, which looked jealously at a street corner that they hadn’t yet battered down. It was not long before Julius and his companions were homeless, as The Downstairs Room was politely removed in the name of architectural progress. Vagrants for but a trice, they moved to West 56th Street, where they took up permanent residence in a congenial mansion formerly owned by John Wanamaker. There, Take Five took its second wind and was later followed by Demi-Dozen (1958), Pieces of Eight (1959), Dressed to the Nines (1960) and now Seven Come Eleven, which opened to rave notices on October 5, 1961. Dorothy Kilgallen expressed the attitude of the critics by referring to Seven Come Eleven as “the wittiest cafe show in town.”
Aware that there still may be one or two people who have not yet seen a Julius Monk opus, we offer the following description. It is New York at night. Taxicabs wind perilously in and out of traffic, along glittering, noisy avenues. Soon they drive up an attractive, quiet side street, lined with shops in remodeled town houses and stop in front of a canopied entrance that announces “Upstairs at the Downstairs.” A uniformed doorman greets the couples arriving from Broadway shows or late dinners and ushers them inside to join a crowd waiting to ascend the circular marble staircase leading to the Upstairs Room, where the show is about to go on.
The Upstairs Room, formerly the sitting room of the mansion, is lined with rich, red fabric and softly lighted by glowing globes from the last century. Visitors are seated at little tables, and soon the lights dim. Suddenly, a half dozen bright, young Thespians leap onto the tiny stage at one end of the room. Accompanied by twin pianos, they spend the next hour and a half singing songs and performing sketches which touch upon just about every event in the newspapers, every phobia in the textbooks, and every celebrity in the history of the world. Seven Come Eleven, for example, contains hilarious spoofs on the John Birch Society, the Peace Corps, sick comedians, Cuban highjacking of airplanes and other topics close to the hearts of New Yorkers: school scandals and the construction of a new hotel designed in typical Miami Beach fashion. If all this sounds terribly, terribly sophisticated, it should be pointed out at once that the performers in this show come from such remote spots as Pipestone, Minnesota; Pierre, South Dakota; Eldred, Pennsylvania, and Greenville, Texas.
Mary Louise Wilson
William Roy and Carl Norman at the plural pianos
Musical and vocal arrangements by William Roy
Entire production conceived, devised, and directed by Julius Monk