Original Broadway Production (1953)
The show endured a tumultuous tryout period.
Dolores Gray's mother was notorious for being vicious about ensuring that her daughter's roles were always beefed up. George Oppenheimer later said that Ms. Gray made Lady Macbeth look like a hoyden because of her tactics at making sure that Dolores's role was expanded.
The machinations worked. In his review, William Hawkins of the World-Telegram & Sun said "There are periods in the evening when the whole thing begins to resemble a concert by Dolores Gray. . . . Clearly whenever anyone was at a loss, the solution was to give Miss Gray another number."
Because of the involvement of Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen, quite a few Hollywood folk invested in the show. They were responsible for raising half of the $250,000 budget. Some of the investors included Bing Crosby, Dolores Hope (Bob Hope's wife), and Gower and Marge Champion.
Dolores Gray won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. It was her first starring role in a book show in New York. As of 2011, no Tony has ever been won in any category for anyone in a show that had a shorter run, although Zoe Caldwell came very close when her performance in the Slapstick Tragedy, which ran seven performances, won her a Tony for best featured or supporting dramatic actress of the 1965-1966 season.
Originally the producers had hoped to get Michael Kidd for choreography. Original scenic designer Jo Mielziner envisioned an evening full of storytelling through choreography, even suggesting a choreographed overture. Nothing seems to have appeared in the press about the producers approaching Michael Kidd or his interest in the show.
Jerome Robbins was the original choreographer. He was replaced by Jack Cole shortly before rehearsals were to start. It was reported in the press that Cole had originally been sought but had been tied up in Hollywood with commitments to 20th Century Fox, including the film version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The delays in the start of rehearsals for Carnival in Flanders allowed Cole to take on the job.
The production costs for the sets exceeded the budget because they were so large. In August 1952, Jo Mielziner attempted to change the plan so that it would stay within the budget and keep operating costs down.
Mielziner dropped out of the production in September 1952 because rehearsals were not going to begin in summer 1952, as scheduled. He had committed to The King and I with the understanding that Carnival in Flanders would be open by the time The King and I went into production. While Mielziner reommended George Jenkins, he was replaced by Oliver Smith.
The production was budgeted at $250,000 but it cost $300,000. It lost $60,000 during its Philadelphia tryout run alone.
The show was originally planned to open on Broadway in the spring of 1953 after a tryout run in Boston in April. Problems with the production caused the delay to the fall.
Kevin Scott was cast as Jan Breughel. However, he was a painter and had never acted before. He happened to be in the theatre during a casting call and accidentally walked across the stage. The director immediately cast him.
The limited partnership was Carnival in Flanders Co. and was registered at 246 W. 44th St.
Ray Middleton, Dennis King and Don Ameche were mentioned for the Duke. Patricia Morison and Irene Manning were considered for Cornelia. Manning even flew to New York to discuss the role with the producers.
Walter Abel announced to take over for William Gaxton as the Mayor on 5/13/1953.
The book was a problem all along with critics complaining about lack of humor.
Reviewers praised "The Rape Ballet" in Los Angeles. It's not listed in programs. It may be that "The Carnival Ballet" is the same number.
Variety reported after the Broadway run closed that one performance was canceled due to Dolores Gray having been ill. This explained why the show played six performances rather than the seven that would have been expected with a Tuesday opening on a Monday through Saturday schedule.