powered by FreeFind


Johnny Guitar

Theatre Playbill

A musical in 2 acts. Book by Nicholas van Hoogstraten. Music by Joel Higgins and Martin Silvestri. Lyrics by Joel Higgins. Based on the film and the novel by Roy Chanslor.

Century Theatre for the Performing Arts 23 March, 2004. Closed 16 May, 2004


Adapted from the original recording liner notes by Elizabeth Andrews

A torch singer stands in a pool of light in a clingy gown, her flaming hair done up in vampish '50s fashion. A giant neon guitar glows overhead. We're in a smoky club somewhere out west near those nuclear silos, in the middle of the Cold War country. It's the Eisenhower era, the age of necking and "be home by 10." You can cut the tension with a buck knife.

"He was a tall man and, as I hear it, a-a-all man," she sings, drawing out the vowels deliciously. This is Vienna, backed by a spangled, doo-wahhing cowboy quartet. She will return to later as the gun-totin' "bad girl"-turned-entrepreneur, but for now, she moans her way through the title song to Johnny Guitar, wrapping her silky soprano around the smouldering lyrics.

Sure, one of the cowboys is accidentally shot during the number, but the show must go on, and the sudden trio's spur-spinning routine continues around the body. By their final note, our chanteuse has exited and he set slips into place. We're in the Old West now, a saloon on the outskirts of town and a mysterious silhouette appears upstage.. It is Johnny Guitar, that handsome drifter has come to town, no guns but armed with a guitar and accompanied by a running musical gag, a Spanish guitar lick that's played as if out of nowhere, stopping the other performers in their tracks whenever his name is mentioned. Johnny Guitar is alias "gun-crazy" Johnny Logan, Vienna's estranged lover, hired by her "for protection" but hoping to get back into her affections.

There's a bank robbery, a lynch mob, arson, an ambush in a mountain hideout, some hard-boiled lovin' and a clawing, biting, she-brawl denouement. Every plot turn is accompanied by a snappy, sing-along number supported by that smooth cowboy chorus and a tight quartet perched above the action on a riser done up as a bluff. Doo-wop, Southwestern pop and loungey crooning are set in arrangements that allow the cast to show off terrific pipes.


Musical Numbers

  1. Johnny Guitar
  2. Let It Spin
  3. A Smoke and a Good Cup O' Coffee
  4. Branded a Tramp
  5. In Old Santa Fe
  6. What's In It For Me?
  7. Who Do They Think They Are?
  8. Welcome Homee
  9. Johnny Guitar (reprise)
  10. Tell Me a Lie
  11. The Gunfighter
  12. We've Had Our Moments
  13. Bad Blood
  14. Johnny Guitar (reprise)