Redhead (musical)

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Music Albert Hague
Lyrics Dorothy Fields
Book Dorothy Fields
Herbert Fields
Sidney Sheldon
David Shaw
Productions 1959 Broadway
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical

Redhead is a musical with music composed by Albert Hague and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, who with her brother, Herbert, along with Sidney Sheldon and David Shaw wrote the book/libretto. Set in London in the 1880s, around the time of Jack the Ripper, the musical is a murder mystery in the setting of a wax museum.

Productions and background[edit]

Herbert and Dorothy Fields wrote the musical, then titled The Works for Beatrice Lillie. When Sidney Sheldon joined the writing team, it was rewritten for Gwen Verdon, who just had two smash hits on Broadway (Damn Yankees and New Girl in Town). Verdon took the lead on the condition that Bob Fosse would be the director as well as choreographer, making this his debut as a director.[1][2][3] According to Stanley Green, Verdon was at the time contracted with producers Robert Fryer and Lawrence Carr to appear in a musical written by David Shaw. The producers resolved this conflict by producing Redhead and bringing Shaw in as one of the writers. [4]

Redhead opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers Theatre) on February 5, 1959, and closed on March 19, 1960, after 452 performances. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed. Production design was by Rouben Ter-Arutunian and lighting design was by Jean Rosenthal. The cast starred Verdon and Richard Kiley. The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical ran in a brief US tour after closing on Broadway, starring Verdon and Kiley. The tour started at the Shubert Theatre, Chicago in March 1960 and ended at the Curran Theatre, San Francisco, California, in June 1960.[5]

The Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa, California known for mounting lesser-known, unique, and obscure musicals presented Redhead in June 1981. The musical revival group 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco, presented a staged concert of Redhead from September 2 to 20, 1998.[6] The Goodspeed Opera House, Connecticut, presented the musical from September to December 1998. Directed by Christopher Ashley, the cast featured Valerie Wright as Essie, Timothy Warmen (Tom), Marilyn Cooper (Aunt Maude), and Carol Morley (Aunt Sarah).[7]

In late January and early February 2015, "Theatre West" in Hollywood, California presented benefit concert performances of Redhead, featuring Lee Meriweather (Catwoman the 1966 feature film Batman).[8]

Original Broadway cast[edit]

  • Essie Whimple – Gwen Verdon
  • Tom Baxter – Richard Kiley
  • Ruth LaRue – Pat Ferrier
  • Howard Cavanaugh – William LeMassena
  • Maude Simpson – Cynthia Latham
  • Sarah Simpson – Doris Rich
  • George Poppett – Leonard Stone
  • Inspector White – Ralph Sumpter
  • May – Joy Nichols
  • Tilly – Pat Perrier
  • Alfy – Lee Krirger
  • Sir Charles Willingham – Patrick Horgan


In Victorian London, the plain Essie Whimple works in the Simpson Sisters Wax Museum, run by her two aunts, Aunt Sarah and Aunt Maude. They show the murder of Ruth LaRue, an American chorus girl, at the museum. They are visited by the murdered women's co-workers and by Inspector White of Scotland Yard. Notable among them is Tom Baxter, a "Strong Man." Essie, attracted to Tom, makes up a story about knowing who the killer is, and fakes an attempt on her life. She hides in Tom's show, and is turned into a "Redhead."


Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1959 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Richard Kiley Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Gwen Verdon Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Leonard Stone Won
Best Choreography Bob Fosse Won
Best Conductor and Musical Director Jay Blackton Nominated
Best Costume Design Rouben Ter-Arutunian Won


  1. ^ PBS article, retrieved January 22, 2010 Archived November 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Bob Fosse", accessed January 17, 2016
  3. ^ "'Redhead' Show History", accessed January 17, 2016
  4. ^ Green, Stanley, "1959. Redhead", Broadway Musicals: Show by Show, Hal Leonard Corporation, 2011 (updated), ISBN 1557837848 (no page number)
  5. ^ "'Redhead' US Tour", accessed January 18, 2016
  6. ^ "'Redhead' Listing" Archived 2013-01-23 at the Wayback Machine., accessed January 17, 2016
  7. ^ Simonson, Robert and Viagas, Robert. "Wright's 'Redhead' Takes Up Residence at CT's Goodspeed, Sept. 23-Dec. 13", September 23, 1998
  8. ^ "'Redhead' Announcement", accessed January 17, 2016

External links[edit]