Applause (musical)


Original Cast Recording
Music Charles Strouse
Lyrics Lee Adams
Book Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Basis Mary Orr's 1946 short story "The Wisdom of Eve"; the 1950 movie All About Eve

1970 Broadway
West End
1973 US television
2008 Encores!

México City 2016
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical

Applause is a musical with a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse. The musical is based on the 1950 film All About Eve and the short story on which the movie is based, Mary Orr's "The Wisdom of Eve". The story centers on aging star Margo Channing, who innocently takes a fledgling actress under her wing, unaware that the ruthless Eve is plotting to steal her career and her man.

The musical opened on Broadway on March 30, 1970 and ran for 896 performances. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and Lauren Bacall won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical.


Composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams, (who had previously collaborated on the score to Bye Bye Birdie, among others) wanted to write a musical version of the 1950 movie, All About Eve.[1] However, Twentieth Century Fox, which owned the rights to the movie, refused to grant them the rights to the script or the title.[1] They were, however, able to purchase the stage rights to the short story on which All About Eve had been based, Mary Orr's "The Wisdom of Eve".[1] The resulting musical could not contain any dialogue or characters that had been created for the movie but could use the original material that the movie also used.[1] In April 1969, it was announced that Strouse, Adams, and book writer Sidney Michaels were beginning to work on the show, with Lawrence Kasha producing.[2] In July 1969, movie star Lauren Bacall was cast as aging theater star Margo Channing, the role played by Bette Davis in All About Eve.[3] Bacall greatly identified with the role, explaining, "The Margo Channing of Applause and myself were ideally suited. She was approaching middle age. So was I. She was being forced to face the fact that her career would have to move into another phase as younger women came along to play younger parts. So was I. And she constantly felt that the man she was in love with was going to go off with someone else, someone younger of course, and I, too, had had those feelings".[4]

Bacall, Strouse, Adams, and Kasha came to the conclusion that Michaels' book was insufficient, so Kasha hired Betty Comden and Adolph Green to write a new book.[1] They updated the story so that it was set in the present day (1970) instead of the 1950 setting of All About Eve.[5] Comden and Green also created new characters to replace the characters created specifically for the movie.[1] Addison de Witt, the snide and articulate drama critic played in the film by George Sanders, was replaced by Howard Benedict, producer of the play in which Margo Channing is appearing. Margo's loyal assistant Birdie Coonan, the only character in the film who is suspicious of Eve from the start, was replaced by Duane Fox, Margo's gay hair stylist. Strouse commented that this change also made the show more relevant to the 1970s. (A memorable moment: Margo asks Duane, "Are you going to be her hairdresser too?" Duane's response: "Only when she's laid out!")[1] The show also eliminates the film's final sequence, in which an aspiring actress shows up in Eve's apartment, ready to do to her what Eve did to Margo. At a later point, Twentieth Century Fox reversed its original decision and granted the musical's creators full rights to All About Eve's script; however, by that time, the show was so far along in its development that major changes could not be made to the book.[1] However, Strouse and Adams did write a song based on one of the film's most famous lines, "Fasten Your Seat Belts".[6]

Production history

The Broadway production opened on March 30, 1970 at the Palace Theatre, and closed on July 27, 1972, after 896 performances and four previews. Directed and choreographed by Ron Field with the orchestrations of Philip J. Lang, the original cast included Lauren Bacall, Len Cariou, Penny Fuller, Bonnie Franklin, Lee Roy Reams, Robert Mandan, Brandon Maggart, Ann Williams, and Nicholas Dante.

When Bacall's contract was up in 1971, the producers initially decided to cast film legend Rita Hayworth as Margo. Hayworth was very interested and flew to New York to audition for the role. However, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Hayworth was suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease and could not retain lyrics or dialogue. Anne Baxter, who had portrayed Eve in the original film, replaced Bacall as Margo Channing. When Baxter departed the show in 1972, actress Arlene Dahl replaced her for one month before the show closed.

The musical was later adapted for television, starring Bacall, with Larry Hagman replacing Len Cariou in the role of Bill Sampson. It aired in the United States on CBS on March 19, 1973. It has not been released commercially, but it is available for viewing at the Paley Center for Media (formerly The Museum of Television & Radio) in New York City and Beverly Hills, California.

The musical opened in the West End at Her Majesty's Theatre on November 16, 1972 and ran for 382 performances. Lauren Bacall starred, along with Ken Walsh (Bill Sampson), Angela Richards (Eve Harrington), Eric Flynn (Duane Fox), Basil Hoskins (Howard Benedict), and Sarah Marshall (Karen Richards).[7]

New York City Center's Encores! presented a staged concert of Applause from February 7 to 10, 2008. It was directed by Kathleen Marshall and starred Christine Ebersole, Michael Park, Erin Davie, Megan Sikora, Mario Cantone, Tom Hewitt, Chip Zien, and Kate Burton.[8]

The Library Theatre Company in Manchester produced a UK revival of the show in 1987 starring Josephine Blake, Kathryn Evans and David Dale. It was directed by Paul Kerryson.


Act One

Middle-aged actress Margo Channing presents the Tony Award to rising star Eve Harrington, who graciously thanks "my producer, my director, my writer and above all, Margo Channing". In flashback, Margo recalls the opening night for one of her plays a year-and a-half before, when Eve entered her life. Margo's admirers crowd her dressing room and fill the air with "Backstage Babble". Among the admirers is Eve, a young woman who says that she, alone and friendless in New York, has found solace in watching her hero, Margo, perform. As soon as Margo can be alone with Bill Sampson, her director and fiancé, she tries to convince him to stay with her and not go to Rome to direct a movie. Bill firmly but lovingly tells her goodbye ("Think How It's Gonna Be"). Margo dreads facing the opening night party alone, and, wanting to have a good time, she persuades, Duane, her gay hairdresser, to take her and Eve to a gay nightclub in Greenwich Village ("But Alive").[9] The lively evening ends back at Margo's apartment. Eve declares that it has been the best time she's ever had ("The Best Night of My Life"). Margo, seeing her 19-year-old self in one of her old movies on TV, senses the impact her increasing age will have on her career and sarcastically asks "Who's That Girl?".

Four months later, Eve has become Margo's indispensable assistant, impressing Margo's close friends, including her producer, Howard Benedict. Howard takes Eve to a "gypsy" hangout. "Gypsy," Howard explains,"is the name dancers affectionately give themselves as they go camping from show to show." The "gypsies", led by one of their own, Bonnie, celebrate "the sound that says love" – "Applause". That night, at three a.m. after a phone call from Bill in Rome, Margo longingly wishes he would "Hurry Back". Bill arranges to hurry back two weeks later, but at Margo's welcome home party for him a misunderstanding leads to a disastrous evening ("Fasten Your Seat Belts"). Eve, as Margo's ever-present assistant, knows Margo's part in the play completely, and Eve contrives to get herself hired as Margo's understudy. Margo, feeling betrayed and threatened, faces Eve with an ironic "Welcome to the Theatre". Bill accuses her of being paranoid about Eve, and after a bitter fight, he says goodbye to Margo, ending his relationship with her. Margo is left alone on an empty stage.

Act Two

Margo is visiting her friends, playwright Buzz Richards and his wife Karen, in their Connecticut home. Karen, thinking Margo behaved unfairly to Eve, arranges for Margo to miss a performance by draining the car's gas tank so they cannot return to New York in time for the evening's performance. Stuck in the country for the night, they express their warm feelings as "Good Friends". Back in New York, Eve gives a triumphant performance in Margo's role. Howard again takes Eve to the "gypsy" hangout where she snubs Bonnie and her friends, who do a scathing parody of a girl who becomes an overnight star ("She's No Longer a Gypsy").

Margo is devastated when she reads a nasty interview that Eve has given in which she refers to "aging stars." Bill now realizes what Eve's true intentions are and rushes back full of love for Margo, telling her she's "One of a Kind". Margo, though, is too focused on her career to want to return to Bill. Eve, who has made an unsuccessful pass at Bill, ensnares the playwright, Buzz, and she rejoices that she now has a man who can help her career ("One Hallowe'en"). Her plans with Buzz are crushed by Howard who claims her for himself, telling her "We both know what you want and you know I'm the one who can get it for you" – Eve needs Howard's influence as a producer as well as his silence concerning her devious rise to stardom.

Margo seems to have lost everything because of Eve, but suddenly she realizes she could be the winner because she now has a chance at "Something Greater" – a life with Bill. In the finale, she and Bill join with everybody answering the question "why do we live this crazy life?" – "Applause".


Cast of the original 1970 Broadway production:

Cast of the 2008 Encores! production:

Song list

Act I
  • Backstage Babble – First Nighters
  • Think How It's Gonna Be – Bill Sampson
  • But Alive – Margo Channing
  • The Best Night of My Life – Eve Harrington
  • Who's That Girl? – Margo
  • Applause - Bonnie, gypsies
  • Hurry Back – Margo
  • Fasten Your Seat Belts – Margo
  • Welcome to the Theatre – Margo

Act II
  • Good Friends - Buzz Richards, Karen Richards
  • She's No Longer a Gypsy – Bonnie, Gypsies
  • One of a Kind – Bill, Margo
  • One Hallowe'en – Eve
  • Something Greater – Margo
  • Finale – Company

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1970 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Len Cariou Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Lauren Bacall Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Brandon Maggart Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Bonnie Franklin Nominated
Penny Fuller Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Ron Field Won
Best Choreography Won
Best Scenic Design Robert Randolph Nominated
Best Costume Design Ray Aghayan Nominated
Best Lighting Design Tharon Musser Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Performance Lauren Bacall Won
Outstanding Director Ron Field Won
Outstanding Choreography Won
Theatre World Award Len Cariou Won
Bonnie Franklin Won


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Denkert, 54
  2. "Two Broadway Shows Planned by Kasha", The New York Times, April 8, 1969, p.42
  3. "Lauren Bacall Will Play Lead Role in 'All About Eve'", The New York Times, July 10, 1969, p.29
  4. Denkert, 55
  5. Filichia, 40
  6. Denkert, 57
  7. Green, Stanley. Applause Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, Da Capo Press, 2009, ISBN 078674684X, p. 13
  8. Sommer, Elyse.Encores review,, February 9, 2008
  9. Musicals 101: Our Love Is Here To Stay VII, Stonewall & After by John Kenrick Retrieved 8 February 2010.


External links

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