Albums

The Golden Apple – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1954

The Golden Apple – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1954

Listen

Synopsis

The Golden Apple transplants Homer’s epic to the little town of Angel’s Roost, nestled at the foot of Washington state’s Mt. Olympus in turn-of-the-century America. Ulysses (Stephen Douglass) and his men are now returning veterans of the Spanish-American War. Patient Penelope (Priscilla Gillette) is his loyal, long-suffering housewife. Impatient Helen (Kaye Ballard) is a farmer’s daughter of easy virtue recently married to the much older Sheriff Menelaus (Dean Michener), who stayed behind as her legion of town beaus went off to war. The Olympian goddesses who meddle in mortal affairs are transformed into three high-powered townswomen: Minerva, goddess of Wisdom, becomes Miss Minerva Oliver (Portia Nelson), the spinster schoolmarm; Juno, goddess of Women and Marriage, becomes Mrs. Juniper (Geraldine Viti), the mayor’s proper wife; and Aphrodite, goddess of Love, is Lovey Mars (Bibi Osterwald), a matchmaking busybody married to the local military captain. Eris, goddess of Discord, who deliberately sets the events in motion that will lead to war, is turned into Mother Hare (Martha Larrimore), local mountain-dwelling mystic whom the townswomen consult for potions, herbs, and predictions of the future, but whom they consider too strange to include in the social life of Angel’s Roost. Hector, hero of Troy, becomes Mayor Hector (Jack Whiting) of the neighboring city of Rhododendron, a sleazy, Jimmy Walker-esque song and dance man. And Paris (Jonathan Lucas) becomes that quintessential American figure, the traveling salesman. Essentially, Act I is The Iliad and Act II is The Odyssey. Penelope is thrilled that her wandering husband is coming back from the war – “My Love Is on the Way.” The whole town turns out as “The Heroes Come Home” and Ulysses recounts their many exploits – “It Was a Glad Adventure.” A celebration commences – “Come Along Boys.” A glowering Mother Hare interrupts it with a dark “Prophecy” regarding Ulysses’s future, intended to spur his wanderlust. A furious Penelope sends her packing, after which she and Ulysses reaffirm their commitment to each other – “It’s the Going Home Together.” Meanwhile, the returning boys in blue compete for Helen’s favors (“Helen Is Always Willing”), only to discover that she has married in their absence, and Ulysses is forced to save Sheriff Menelaus from the fury of the frustrated youths. Mischievous Mother Hare, who is hurt by her exclusion from town life, gives a shining apple made of golden wire to be the prize of a baking contest held during the welcome home celebration for the returning soldiers. She knows that Miss Minerva, Mrs. Juniper, and Lovey Mars will all covet it and scheme to win it. The three ladies insist on an “impartial” judge and choose the handsome Paris, who has just arrived via balloon. Each one then proceeds to try to bribe him. Lovey Mars wins out by offering him the favors of Helen, whom she knows cannot resist anything in suspenders – “The Judgment of Paris.” Helen, bored to death with marriage to an old man, devours the poor fellow (“Lazy Afternoon”) and they are soon balloon-bound for the big city. Lovey Mars is guilt-stricken, while Menelaus and the old men of Angel’s Roost whip up a frenzy for revenge in Helen’s legion of former town beaus. Ulysses conveniently reverses himself, choosing to leave his stalwart Penelope once again to fight a war. He leads his men off to battle as the female figurehead of their ship sings an exhortation to victory – “The Departure for Rhododendron.” Act II begins with Helen the toast of Rhododendron – “My Picture in the Papers.” But when Ulysses and his men arrive and defeat Paris, Helen hastily makes up with Menelaus and they leave for home. Ulysses stays on. He wants to see the big city before returning, which gives Mayor Hector a chance for revenge – “Hector’s Song.” Penelope is surprised when Helen and Menelaus return by themselves. Alone, she remembers happier times and fears for the future of her marriage – “Windflowers.” As Ulysses and his men step out on the town (“Store-Bought Suit”), the sinful city lures him and his men into a late night bender that comes to last ten years, staged as a nightmarish sequence of music hall turns – “The Big Spree.” Calypso, Scylla and Charybdis, and the Sirens are portrayed as the various tempting corruptions of the city (respectively, insincere social climbers, greedy stockbrokers, and sarong-clad prostitutes, doubled respectively by Mrs. Juniper, Menelaus and Mayor Hector, and Lovey Mars in “Calypso,” “Scylla and Charybdis,” and “Goona-Goona.” Miss Minerva doubles as a crazy lady scientist who confirms Mother Hare’s vision of the future, shooting men into outer space whom she cannot bring back – “Doomed, Doomed, Doomed.” Ulysses’s men are being picked off one by one. Finally, Circe, the sorceress who turns men into swine (doubled by Mother Hare), here portrayed as the lady sidekick in a magician’s act (“Circe”), arrives to offer Ulysses complete power at the price of human feeling (in the form of the golden apple of Act I). Ulysses is about to accept when a cowardly Paris tries to stab him. Achilles, Ulysses’s last remaining compatriot, dies intercepting the knife meant for his beloved leader. Now completely alone, Ulysses is forced to look inside himself to find the meaning of it all. His questions answer themselves, with a little mystical prompting from Mother Hare – “Ulysses’s Soliloquy.” His lust for adventure, excitement, and sensation is what has turned victory to ashes. He goes home to faithful Penelope, who is rejecting suitors (“The Sewing Bee”), but nonetheless furious with her husband – “The Tirade.” Though prepared to reject him as well, a chastened Ulysses convinces her that he is home to stay. She forgives him, and they face the future together as the curtain falls – Finale: “Going Home Together.”* *Note: This reprise was insisted upon by the producers, who felt that Broadway required a big finale with full chorus of the hit tune. Off-Broadway, the show ended with a duet of middle-aged hope called “We’ve Just Begun.” Moross and Latouche so disliked the Broadway ending that they removed it from the licensed performance version of the show. Performances of The Golden Apple today must end with “We’ve Just Begun.”

Credits

Helen (a farmer’s daughter): Kaye Ballard Lovey Mars (the local matchmaker): Bibi Osterwald Mrs. Juniper (the Mayor’s wife): Charlotte Rae Miss Minerva Oliver (the village school marm): Portia Nelson Mother Hare (the local mystic): Martha Larrimore Penelope (Ulysses’s wife): Priscilla Gillette Menelaus (the old Sheriff): Dean Michener The Heroes Captain Mars: Frank Seabolt Ajax: Marten Sameth Agamemnon: Crandall Diehl Nestor: Maurice Edwards Bluey: Murray Gitlin Thirsty: Don Redlich Silas: Peter de Mayo Homer: Barton Mumaw Diomede: Robert Flavelle Achilles: Julian Patrick Patroclus: Richard Hermany Doc MacCahan: Gary Gordon Ulysses (a veteran): Stephen Douglass Theron: David Hooks Mayor Juniper: Jerry Stiller Paris (a traveling salesman): Jonathan Lucas The Figurehead: Dee Harless Hector/Charybdis (Mayor of Rhododendron): Jack Whiting The Local Girls: Sara Bettis, Dorothy Etheridge, Nelle Fisher, Dee Harless, Janet Hayes, Lois McCauley, Ann Needham, Joli Roberts, Jere Stevens, Tao Strong, Helen Ahola, Anniliese Widman, Mitzi Wilson The Local Boys: Santo Ansehno, Bob Gay, Ed Grace, Bill Nuss, Charles Post, Arthur Schoep, Robert Bakanic Narrator: Jack Whiting