The Golden Apple
A Musical in 2 Acts, 10 Scenes. Book and lyrics by John Latouche. (A contemporary adaptation of Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey.) Music by Jerome Moross. Settings by William and Jean Eckart. Orchestral arrangements by Jerome Moross and Hershy Kay. Choreography and musical numbers staged by Hanya holm.
Phoenix Theatre, Off-Broadway - 11th March - 18th April, 1954 (48 perfs)
Alvin Theatre, Broadway: opened 20th April, 1954; closed 7th August, 1954 (125 perfs).
Set in Angel's Roost near the town of Rhododendron, Washington State, the story relocates the mythical tale of Penelope and Ulysses to the first decade of the 20th Century.
Ulysses has been fighting in the Spanish /American War but is now on his way home to be reunited with his beloved Penelope. Paris is a salesman who lands by balloon at the county fair and promptly falls in love with local farmer's daughter, Helen. They decide to elope to Rhododendron but unfortunately Helen is already married - to the local sheriff, Manelaus. Ulysses sets out on a ten year journey to find Helen. Eventually he reaches Rhododendron where the local mayor, Hector, tries to distract him with earthly pleasures, including the attention of enchantresses Circe and Siren.
Ulysses is not distracted however, and, after a fight with Paris, brings back Helen to Angel's Roost and her husband and he is reunited with his wife Penelope.
The Golden Apple transplants Homer's epic to the little town of Angel's Roost, nestled at the foot of Washington state's Mt. Olympus in turn-of-the- century America.
Ulysses and his men are now returning veterans of the Spanish–American War. Patient Penelope is his loyal, long-suffering housewife. Impatient Helen is a farmer's daughter of easy virtue recently married to the much older Sheriff Menelaus who stayed behind as her legion of town beaux went off to war.
The Olympian goddesses who meddle in mortal affairs are transformed into three high-powered townswomen: Minerva, goddess of Wisdom, becomes Miss Minerva Oliver, the spinster schoolmarm; Juno, goddess of Women and Marriage, becomes Mrs. Juniper, the mayor's proper wife; and Aphrodite. goddess of Love, is Lovey Mars, matchmaking busybody married to the local military captain. Eris, Goddess of Discord, who deliberately sets the events in motion that will lead to war, is turned into Mother Hare, local mountain-dwelling mystic whom the townswomen consult for potions, herbs, and predictions of the future, but whom they consider too strange to include in the social life of Angel's Roost.
Hector, hero of Troy, becomes Mayor Hector of the neighbouring city of Rhododendron, a sleazy, song and dance man. And Paris becomes that quintessential American figure, the travelling salesman. Essentially, Act One is The Iliad and Act Two is The Odyssey.
Penelope is thrilled that her wandering husband is coining back from the war. The whole town turns out as the Heroes come home, and Ulysses tells of their many exploits. A celebration begins. A glowering Mother Hare interrupts it with a dark prophecy regarding Ulysses' future, intended to spur his wanderlust. A furious Penelope sends her packing, after which she and Ulysses reaffirm their commitment to each other.
Meanwhile, the returning boys in blue compete for Helen's favours only to discover that she has married in their absence, and Ulysses is forced to save Sheriff Menelaus from the fury of the frustrated youths. Mischievous Mother Hare, who is hurt by her exclusion from town life, gives a shining apple made of golden wire to be the prize of a baking contest held during the welcome home celebration for the return ing soldiers. She knows that Miss Minerva, Mrs. Juniper, and Lovey Mars will all covet it and scheme to win it.
The three ladies insist on an "impartial" judge and choose the handsome Paris, who has just arrived via balloon. Each one then proceeds to try to bribe him. Lovey Mars wins out by offering him the favours of Helen, whom she knows cannot resist any thing in suspenders.
Helen, bored to death with marriage to an old man, devours the poor fellow and they are soon balloon-bound for the big city. Lovey Mars is guilt-stricken, while Menelaus and the old men
of Angel's Boost whip up a frenzy for revenge in Helen's legion of former town beaux. Ulysses conveniently reverses himself, choosing to fight a war and leaving his stalwart Penelope once again. He leads his men off to battle as the female figurehead of their ship sings an exhortation to victory.
Act Two begins with Helen the toast of Rhododendron. But when Ulysses and his men arrive and defeat Paris, Helen hastily makes up with Menelaus and they leave for home. Ulysses stays on. He wants to see the big city before returning, which gives Mayor Hector a chance for revenge. Penelope is surprised when Helen and Menelaus return by themselves. Alone. she remembers happier times and fears for the future of her marriage. As Ulysses and his men step out on the town the sinful city lures him and his men into a late night bender that is to last 10 years, staged as a nightmarish sequence of music hall turns.
Calypso, Scylla and Charybdis. and the Sirens arc portrayed as the various tempting corruptions of the city (respectively, insincere social climbers, greedy stockbrokers, and sarong-clad prostitutes, doubled respectively by Mrs. Juniper, Menelaus and Mayor Hector, and Lovey Mars. Miss Minerva doubles as a crazy lady scientist who confirms Mother Hare's vision of the future, sending men into outer space whom she cannot bring back. Ulysses' men are being picked off one by one.
Finally, Circe, the sorceress who turns men into swine (doubled by Mother Hare), here portrayed as the lady assistant in a magician's act , arrives to offer Ulysses complete power at the price of human feeling (in the form of the golden apple of Act One.) Ulysses is about to accept when a cowardly Paris tries to stab him. Achilles, Ulysses' last remaining compatriot, dies intercepting the knife meant for his beloved leader.
Now completely alone, Ulysses is forced to look inside himself to find the meaning of it all. His questions answer themselves, with a little mystical prompting from Mother Hare. His lust for adventure, excitement. and sensation is what has turned victory into ashes. He goes home to faithful Penelope, who is rejecting suitors, but is nonetheless furious with her husband. Though she is prepared to reject him as well, a chastened Ulysses convinces her that he is home to stay. She forgives him, and they face the future together as the curtain falls.
- Nothing Ever Happens in Angel's Roost - Helen, Mars, Mrs Juniper, Miss Minerva Oliver
- Mother Hare's Seance - (Mother Hare)
- My Love is On the Way - Penelope
- The Heroes Come Home - Entire Company
- It Was a Glad Adventure - Ulysses, Heroes
- Come Along Boys - The Heroes, Ensemble
- It's the Going Home Together - Ulysses, Penelope
- Mother Hare's Prophecy - (Mother Hare)
- Helen Is Always Willing- The Heroes
- The Church Social - The heroes, Ensemble
- Introducin' Mr. Paris - Paris, Ensemble
- The Judgement of Paris - Mars, Mrs Juniper, Miss Minerva Oliver. Mother Hare, Paris
- Lazy Afternoon - Helen, Paris
- The Departure for Rhododendron - Entire Company
- My Picture in the Papers - Penelope, Paris, Male Ensemble
- The Taking of Rhododendron - Ulysses, J. Whiting, Paris
- Hector's Song - Hector Charybdis
- Wildflowers - Penelope *
- Store-bought Suit - Ulysses
- Scylla and Charybdis - Menelaus, Hector
- By 'Goona-Goona' Lagoon - Mars
- Doomed, Doomed, Doomed - Miss Minerva Oliver
- Circe, Circe - Mother Hare, Ensemble
- The Sewing Bee - Penelope, Helen, Miss Minerva Oliver, Mrs Juniper, Mars, Mother Hare, Ulysses, The Suitors
- The Tirade - Penelope
- Finale - Entire Company †
* also published as "When We Were Young"
† NB: "We've Just Begun" was the duet that ended the show, following "Penelope's Tirade." It was dropped from the Broadway production for a reprise of "It's the Coming Home Together" at the insistence of the Broadway producers. Moross put it back into the show in the 1970s.
Roles and original cast
Helen (mezzo-soprano) - Kaye Ballard
Lovey Mars (alto) - Bibi Osterwald
Penelope (soprano) - Priscilla Gillette
Ulysses (baritone)- Stephen Douglass
Paris (dancing role) - Jonathan Lucas
Hector (basso) - Jack Whiting
Menelaus (tenor) - Dean Michener
Mrs. Juniper (mezzo-soprano) - Geraldine Viti
Miss Minerva Oliver (soprano) - Portia Nelson
Mother Hare (alto) - Nola Day
Scenes and Settings
The entire action takes place in the State of Washington between 1900 and 1910.
Act 1: The township of Angel's Roost on the edge of Mt. Olympus.
- Scene 1: in the Orchard.
- Scene 2: The Village Green.
- Scene 3: The Church Social.
- Scene 4: At Helen's House.
- Scene 1: The Seaport of Rhododendron.
- Scene 2: The Main Street of Rhododendron.
- Scene 3: Back in Angel's Roost. Penelope's Home.
- Scene 4: The Main Street again.
- Scene 5: The Big Spree.
(a) Madam Calypso's Parlour.
(b) The Brokerage Office of Scylla and Charybdis.
(c) A waterfront dive.
(d) The Hall of Science.
(e) The Wrong Side of the Tracks.
- Scene 6: Angel's Roost. In the back yard.