The Conquering Hero

Original Broadway Production (1961)

Trivia & History

Originally scheduled to open on January 5. In mid-December, the opening date was pushed to January 11. Additional rehearsals were needed and the opening was finally scheduled for January 16.

Rehearsals began on October 24, 1960.

Budgeted at $300,000.

ANTA (the American National Theatre and Academy) invested $100,000 in the production, taking a second mortgage on their theatre in order to do so.

Director-choreographer Bob Fosse left the production on December 4 (soon after the reviews came out in Washington, the second leg of the tryout). Producers only released word that it was "a disagreement" over the direction of the show's book. He was replaced by Albert Marre as director and Tod Bollender as choreographer.

On December 16, Fosse told the New York Times that he had not withdrawn, as the producers claimed, but had been dismissed. His lawyer had told him that he could order all of his dances removed from the showbecause the producers hadn't lived up to their contractual obligations. Fosse, however, decided that it would be too destructive to the production. Instead, he sought a letter from The Producers Theatre promising that they would use his choreography in its original form or not at all. The producers refused. He compromised by asking that the two larger ballets be used intact. The producers refused this as well.

When they ordered changes to the ballets and hired Todd Bolender (as he was generally known, though on this production he was credited as Tod Bollender), Fosse sought relief from the American Arbitration Association. Eight months after the show closed, Fosse won the arbitration and asked for token damages. He was awarded 6 cents.

Fosse claimed that the dances were the best he had ever done (with critics on the road and in New York agreeing).

Producer Robert Whitehead fired leading lady Cherry Davis and replaced her with Kay Brown. He also approached Dick Shawn about replacing leading man Tom Poston. Shawn, however, refused.

Apart from the universally poor reviews, the lack of theatre party bookings forced the show to close.

The weather-beaten billboard for the show remained on the roof of the ANTA Playhouse (by that time it had become the Virginia Theatre) into the 1980s.

The torturous tryout is what led book writer Larry Gelbart to famously quip: "If Hitler is alive, I hope he's out of town with a musical."

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