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St. Louis Woman


A Musical Play in 3 Acts, 12 Scenes. Book by Ama Bontemps and Countee Cullen. Based on the novel God Sends Sunday by Ama Bontemps. Music by Harold Arlen. Lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Opened 30 March, 1946 - Martin Beck Theatre: closed 6 July, 1946 (113 perfs)


Set in St Louis in 1898. the story is one of Little Augie, a jockey who is on a winning streak. He is enamoured of Della Green, the belle of St Louis but she is the girlfriend of Biglow Brown, the proprietor of the local bar. Della does not wish to be tied down to Biglow, however and once she has had enough of his rough ways, she is off. Browns previous mistress, Lila is still around and this, not unnaturally provides and produces complications. And then there is the barmaid, Butterfly. She is in love with Barney, another jockey, but unlike Little Augie, Barney is older and not that lucky. But Butterfly doesn't want things to go too far with Barney until she gets that elusive wedding ring.

It's cakewalking time and Augie attracts the attention and admiration of Della with his virtuoso performance of the cakewalk. Things go so well between them that they agree to set up home together and prepare plans to marry. But, things are not destined to go smoothly. While Augie is off at the racetrack, Della gets an unwelcome visit from Biglow Brown. When she refuses to have anything more to do with him he beats her. It is at this point that Lila enters and begs Biglow to take her back. Augie returns and a shot is fired. Brown believing he has been shot by Augie swears a curse on him although it was, in fact, Lila who fired the gun.

Although Augie is suspected by everyone that he killed Biglow Brown, it is at Brown's funeral that Lila confesses. However, the curse cast by Brown seems to be working. Augie's horses are no longer winning and Della blames herself for all the problems that have overcome them. She leaves, pretending that she wants a better life than that which can now be provided by Augie.

Della's new friend, the new bar-owner, nonetheless tells Augie of Della's true feelings.

Augie believes the curse to be so much mumbo-jumbo. He'll win his next race and he and Della can get back together again. He does - and they do!


(in order of speaking)

Choral Group: Olive Ball, Rhoda Boggs, Miriam Burton, Rosalie King, Maude Russell, Zelda Shelton, Lori Wilson, J. Mardo Brown, John Diggs, Leon Edwards, Lorenzo Fuller, Theodore Hines, Jerry Laws, Arthur Lawson, Merritt Smith, Charles Welch.

Dancers: Rita Garrett, Dorothea Greene, Gwendolyn Hale, Betty Nichols, Marguerite Roan, Royce Wallace, Enid Williams, Theodore Allen, Smalls Boykins, Norman DeJoie, Frank Green, Lonny Reed, Arthur Smith, George Thomas.

Musical Numbers:

  1. Li'l Angie Is a Natural Man (Sweeten' Water) - Badfoot
  2. Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home - Della Green
  3. I Feel My Luck Comin' Down - Little Augie
  4. (I Had Myself a) True Love - Lila
  5. Legalise My Name - Butterfly
  6. Cakewalk Walk Your Lady - Drum Major: Quartet: Competing Couples: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Della Green, Little Augie.
  7. Come Rain or Come Shine - Della Green, Little Augie
  8. Chinquapin Bush - Children
  9. We Shall Meet to Part, No Never - Piggie
  10. Lullaby - Della Green
  11. Sleep Peaceful, (Mr. Used-Te-Be) - Lila
  12. Funeral Scene: Leavin' Time - Choral Group
  13. Come Rain or Come Shine (reprise) - Della Green
  14. (It's) A Woman's Prerogative - Butterfly
  15. Ridin' on the Moon - Little Augie, Ensemble
  16. Least That's My Opinion - Badfoot
  17. Racin' Form - Leah
  18. Come On, Li'l Augie - Ensemble
  19. Finale - Entire Company

Scenes and Settings

The action takes place in St. Louis, 1898.

Act 1

Scene I : A stable, early afternoon of a day in August.
Scene 2: Biglow's bar, late afternoon, the same day.
Scene 3: Outside Barney's room, at twilight.
Scene 4: A ballroom, evening of the same day.

Act 2

Scene 1: Augie's and Della's home, late afternoon, the following week.
Scene 2: The alley.
Scene 3: Funeral Parlour.

Act 3

Scene 1: Augie's and Della's home, early evening.
Scene 2: The alley.
Scene 3: The bar.
Scene 4: The stable.
Scene 5: Street corner close to the race track.