The Most Happy Fella
a musical in 3 acts, 11 scenes by Frank Loesser based on They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard.
Imperial Theatre, New York, 3 May 1956; transferred to the Broadway
Theatre, 21 October, 1957 (total 678 perfs)
London Coliseum, 21 April 1960
The heart-warming story of the ageing, shy and self-deprecating Italian fruit grower Tony, living in California, and the San Francisco waitress Rosabella, who he courts by post and, during his convalescence after a car accident, wins through his sincerity. The show is a jewel
At closing time in a San Francisco restaurant, waitress Rosabella finds an amethyst tie-pin with a love letter in broken English. Signed 'Tony', it begs her to send a postcard to his vineyard in Napa Valley. Ignoring the advice of her workmate Cleo, and longing for romance, she decides to reply (Somebody, Somewhere).
In Napa, the townsfolk are delighted for Tony when the mail brings him a photograph of Rosabella (The Most Happy Fella - none more so than happy-go-lucky Herman who can only watch the girls go by (Standing on the Corner). Fearful of losing Rosabella, the ageing Tony secretly sends her a photograph of his departing Foreman, the handsome young Joe, and despite recriminations from his sister Marie, a proposal of marriage.
As the welcoming party gets under way (Spozalizio) Tony finds Joe is staying for the wedding. Panic-stricken, he crashes the truck on his way to meet Rosabella, who arrives at the ranch with the Postman; from the photograph, meeting Joe, she assumes him to be Tony. Humiliated when she discovers her mistake, she is prevented from leaving when Tony is carried in, near to death. In a confused moment of compassion for Tony and anger against Joe, Rosabella agrees to an immediate ceremony and then, in a conflict of emotions, succumbs to Joe's advances.
A week later, Joe and Rosabella stare at each other across the vineyard, their momentary passion cold and dead. Tony, recovering but confined to a wheelchair, takes his impatience out on the Doctor, who prescribes love and kindness from a good-looking nurse. He coaxes Rosabella into pushing Tony's chair and they start getting to know each other (Happy To Make YOur Acquaintance). Rosabella is thrilled by Cleo's arrival and touched by Tony's kindness in sending for her. Cleo finds a soulmate in Herman when they discover that they both come from Dallas (Big D).
Soon Tony is learning to walk again; Rosabella grows to love him, but, painfully aware of their age difference, he treats her as an adored child. When Rosabella finally declares her feelings, Tony's world is complete (My Heart is so Full of You). He proclaims the news and Rosabella is swept into a vigorous dance. She faints; Tony readily believes the evasive doctor that she is just dizzy from excitement - but as he sings of his joy in his beautiful bride, a distraught Rosabella tells Cleo that she is to have a baby.
As the people gather in Tony's barn to celebrate, Cleo has her own problems in getting Herman to declare his intentions. Tony and Rosabella are finally left alone; she tells him the awful truth and leaves with Cleo. The stunned Tony flies into a rage when he learns that Joe is also going, and, believing they are leaving together, takes Pasquale's pistol and limps to the station seeking revenge. Finding Joe gone and Rosabella waiting desolately for the bus, he relents. With some spirited assistance from Cleo and Herman in resisting Marie's hysterical pleas to let Rosabella go, Tony finally persuades her to come home with him and pretend the bambino is his.
14 Male, 4 Female. Townspeople Chorus.
- TONY -Ageing Italian immigrant vineyard owner. Warm, exuberant personality, with an endearing little-boy streak. Played in a strong Italian accent.
- ROSABELLA - Small-town girl, lonely in her waitress job in the big city. Attractive, but not imposingly sexy, can be resolute and independent yet still vulnerable.
- JOE - Tony's foreman; strong outdoor type, animal-handsome. Though young, he's been around. A loner, outwardly friendly but with a selfish, egotistical streak.
- MARIE - Tony's sister, younger than he but very maternal towards him in a possessive way. Still very old-world Italian, although her accent is less marked than Tony's.
- HERMAN - Rotund, perennially happy young man who works for Tony and loves everyone. Should be a good mover with a strong sense of comedy.
- CLEO - Rosabella's down-to-earth waitress friend. Has a big heart and a personality to match. Requires good movement and a sense of comedy.
- The 3 chefs. Exuberant,easy movers.
- PASQUALE - Cook/paymaster on Tony's ranch.
- GIUSEPPE - Ranch watchman
- CICCIO - Handyman
- DOC - Kindly country doctor, approaching middle age.
- POSTMAN - Rural postman who reads all the letters. Elderly, character-comedian.
- JAKE, CLEM and AL - Three of the local lads, friends of Herman.
- CASHIER - A slick bully who fancies himself with the ladies.
- PRIEST - Traditional country priest; kindly character, not too young.
- MAX - Peddler and part-time photographer.
- COUNTRY GIRL - A rural, forward young miss.
- CITY BOY - A city goof.
A Little Girl, An Even Littler Boy, Two Truck Drivers, Brakeman, Busdriver, Waitresses, Customers, Townspeople, Ranch Workers and Neighbours
Scenes and Settings:
- Scene 1: A Restaurant in San Francisco, January 1927.
- Scene 2: Main Street, Napa, Calaifornia. In April.
- Scene 3: Tony's Barn. A few weeks later.
- Scene 4: Tony's front yard.
- Scene 1: The Vineyards in May.
- Scene 2: Later in May.
- Scene 3: The Vineyards in June.
- Scene 4: The Barn.
- Scene 5: The Vineyards in July.
- Scene 1: The Barn an hour later.
- Scene 2: Napa Station. A little later
- Reed 1: Piccolo, Flute, Alto Flute
- Reed 2: Oboe, Cor Anglais
- Reed 3: Flute, Clarinet, Soprano Sax
- Reed 4: Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
- Reed 5: Bassoon
- 3 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones
- 2 Percussion
- Harp, Accordion
- 4 Violins, Viola, Cello, 2 Basses
Original Broadway Cast Recording- Columbia O3L-240