The actor originally cast as Jimmy Mallory (Jimmy Mahoney in the original), Henry Madden, was replaced during rehearsals by Mort Shuman. During previews, Shuman was replaced by Frank Porretta.
Previews were originally scheduled to start on February 10, 1970. They were postponed to February 17, and then postponed again, to February 20, perhaps to rehearse Shuman.
The production was originally scheduled to open officially on March 4, 1970. The opening was postponed several times — first to March 18, then to April 9, then to April 16, and finally to April 28 — while major changes were made. When it closed a week after the official opening, it closed at a loss of $350,000, an Off-Broadway record at the time.
It seems that the understudy for Jimmy Mallory, Bill Copeland, played the role for some time during previews. Some programs for the production list Mort Shuman on the cover but Copeland as Jimmy Mallory in the cast list. Shuman was listed, along with costars Barbara Harris and Estelle Parsons, in New York Times ad for the production on Thursday, March 19, but not in the ad on the following day or the day after that. (He was listed again in the Times ad on Sunday, March 22, probably because at the time that edition would be closed several days in advance.) The first Times ad in which Poretta was listed appeared on Sunday, March 29. So it seems likely that Copeland played the role for at least a week.
Dave Van Ronk and Joe Butler were listed in early ads for the production. Butler played Alaska Wolf Joe for a time during previews but Bill Copeland (the understudy who played Jimmy Mallory for time during previews) replaced him before the opening. We are not certain what role Van Ronk was to have played, but based on what other actors are listed in the ad in which Van Ronk's name appears, we think it may have been John Hancock Schmidt (a character usually known as Jakob Schmidt in other productions). Ethan Mordden, in his book One More Kiss, says that Van Ronk was in it when he saw it so it seems that he appeared in some early previews.