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Cover to Original Cast Recording

A musical comedy in 2 acts, 18 scenes: Libretto by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; suggested by the novel Subways Are For Sleeping by Edmund G. Love: Music by Jule Styne;

St James Theatre, New York - 27 December, 1961 (205 perfs)


Act I begins early one winter morning on a deserted mid-Manhattan street. An alarm clock rings and four nattily attired characters enter through a board fence around a construction project and from an open manhole. Cheerfully, they hymn the joys of the carefree life in which the most pressing problem is to find an out-of-theway place to sleep. Fire escapes, lofts, museums, subways - it doesn't need to be comfortable, just free. A fellow refugee from today's tensions and complexes, Tom Bailey enters and joins them in their exuberant declarations of independence from the world of dull, "solid folk".

The scene changes to the executive office of Madame Magazine, elegantly decorated for the Christmas holidays. Pert, sophisticated Angie McKay, a staff writer for the magazine, has been planning a European vacation. Her boss, Myra Blake, however, reminds her that she must first complete a feature story describing the ways and means of a special breed of New York's bums, the well-dressed drifter. Preliminary research has revealed that Tom Bailey, a one-man employment agency who finds other drifters odd jobs and sleeping quarters (for a ten-cent fee), is the man to contact in his "office," a waiting room bench at Grand Central Station. Angie must cancel her Bon Voyage dinner at the Twenty One Club to interview him. Disappointed, she agrees to man her station, but ruefully adds: "We should do a story on career girls like us. Emotionally, we're charity cases, too. We go home to empty hours".

Like a herd of lemmings headed for the sea, heads buried in their newspapers, hands clutching brief-cases, commuters arrive at Grand Central Station to be shunted to their offices and their deadening routines. Tom Bailey strolls in, carrying a newspaper and that universal sign of bourgeois propriety, an attaché case. Tom's office, however, is less conventional - a bench where he recommends jobs to his clients. One of them is Charlie Smith, a likeable sponger who survives chiefly on dinner invitations wangled from old school chums. He tells Tom of the Bon Voyage dinner he will attend that evening in honour of a magazine writer. In fact, Charlie is on his way to another friend's hotel room to borrow a dinner jacket for the occasion. Angie comes in and goes to Tom's "private" bench. To get her story, she is masquerading as a stranded girl from out-of-town in need of
a place to spend the night. Tom gives her some important tips on how to avoid police detection in waiting rooms: always seem to be on your way somewhere - he has carried the same train ticket to Buffalo every day for three years; always read a newspaper, but never a book - you can sit there all day so long as you look as if you're about to leap to your feet any minute to catch your train. So much for the daytime, unless you want to vary the routine by visiting museums. The reward for his elaborate design for living, Tom tells Angie, is that he is responsible to no one but himself.

In a corridor of the Brunswick Arms, a shabbily genteel hotel, Charlie Smith disgustedly tells his friend Max that he won't need his dinner jacket. He went to the Twenty One Club, but found the dinner had been canceled. Max, a shy type, asks Charlie to go to the hotel room of a girl he sees every night across the court and tell her Max would like to meet her.

In her sparsely furnished room in the Brunswick Arms, shapely, blonde Martha Vail sits unconcernedly buffing her nails, scantily clad in a bath towel - she's "sick," she tells the manager through the locked door, and thus avoids, temporarily at least, forcible eviction.

Charlie knocks at Martha's door; she invites him in and Charlie meets his match in meal-mooching. Martha's "system" is to invite a gentleman caller to her room on the pretext of a date, order food over the telephone and pass the bill to the gentleman. Now, she's eleven hundred dollars behind in her rent, and eviction seems inevitable. Martha, a former Miss Watermelon, Miss Cotton Blossom and Miss Southern Comfort, came to New York from Mississippi to conquer the world. But, somehow, the world remained unconquered. In a hilarious account of a one-woman nightclub sketch she has written to break into show business, she tells Charlie she was and would again be a Shoo-In if permitted to perform her bewildering mish-mash of "pop" and classical vocal styles, ballet and hoofing, rudimentary musical comedy and cliché-ridden grand opera. Moved to sympathy for a fellow "artist" Charlie gives her his last five dollars to pay for the chow mein she has ordered. Accepting what he considers a professional challenge, he voluntarily undertakes to liquidate all her remaining debts as well.

From a subway station phone booth, Angie reports her progress to the magazine. When Tom joins her on the station platform, he and a group of seasoned, chattering commuters give Angie intricate New York Subway Directions. As they lyrically 'Ride Through the Night', Tom shows Angie the excitement and danger of subway sleeping. Tom does have one steady job: walking a vacationing couple's dog for a dollar and a half a day. Spent frugally, this is enough to supply him with his life's simple wants. Separately, Angie and Tom muse on their growing fondness for each other in a romantic ballad.

In the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, Tom demonstrates the gentle art of sleeping in an unoccupied mummy's sarcophagus. He tells Angie that until a few years ago he was a wonder boy financial genius. He financed highways, supermarkets, housing projects on credit and checks alone. One day, a check bounced, landing him in jail. Now, he finds a life of minimum comforts safer and more fun.

Charlie and Martha, at opposite ends of the stage, lyrically discuss, via telephone, the problem of her rent money. By this time, the hotel has turned off Marta's heat, hoping to freeze her out. Her sole concession: she has deigned to don black gloves.

On a street filled with harried holiday shoppers, Angie confesses to herself that Tom has come to mean much more to her than a subject for a magazine article. In Times Square, Tom, dressed as a Community Chest Santa Claus, attempts to kindle enthusiasm in the hearts of fellow charity Santas. Modeling his pep talk on King Henry V's speech to his soldiers before the Battle of Agincourt in the Shakespeare play, he commands each one to 'Be a Santa' and thus manages to work them into a frenzy of goodwill and holiday spirit. A joyous, spectacular Cossack-like dance follows.

At Rockerfeller Plaza, Tom and Angie stand beside a pasteboard chimney, collecting money from passers-by. A magazine photographer strolls by, recognises Angie and compliments her on her recent article. Understandably, Tom's Christmas benevolence evaporates instantly. Angie has no choice but to confess that he has unwittingly been supplying material for her new article.

As Act II opens, Angie is sitting on a subway platform bench, alone and disconsolate. Charlie enters and sits beside her. He recognises her from a picture in the paper which had announced her now-cancelled trip. She tells him her story and adds that she is not going to follow through with her article on Tom nor return to the magazine. When Angie tells Charlie that her employers have offered a substantial reward for information regarding her whereabouts, Charlie begins to see how he might raise the money for Martha's rent. Under the pretext of finding a place for her to spend the night, he phones the magazine. His reward? Just enough to pay Martha's hotel bill.

Tom and the other Community Chest Santas are turning in their collections. Tom has forgiven Angie and wants to find her. In Martha's hotel room, Charlie tells the towel-clad Martha that he has found a way to pay her rent, and now can show her off to the outside world. But when he and Martha find out that Tom and Angie love each other, they forego the reward money and Martha resigns herself to the towel once more. Reunited, Tom and Angie explore the elaborate French Wing of the Metropolitan Museum.

Tom has been told by the apartment house doorman that the dog he walks daily has "packed up his Yummies" and gone to Florida to join his lonesome owners. Thus his basic dollar and a half income is gone. But Charlie reminds Tom that he can always pick up tips by taking coffee orders - in fact, he can open up a full-scale coffee service of his own. In a parking lot where the "subway sleepers" meet in jubilant free assembly, friends improvise an imposing coffee-making machine from odd scraps of plumbing, housed in a bathtub. Martha comes into the parking lot - in clothes! When Charlie expresses his delighted disbelief, she explains that a sympathetic hotel detective from her hometown, Jackson, Mississippi, is responsible for her long-delayed re-entry into the world.
Tom decides he won't, after all, tie himself down to the rigours of the business world, but write, with Angie, a book about his experiences, Subways Are For Sleeping. He hands over the new coffee business, lock, stock and bathtub, to Charlie and Martha.

- Curtis F Brown - from the original LP liner notes

Musical Numbers:


  1. Subways Are For Sleeping - Sleeper#1, Sleeper#2, Sleeper#3, Sleeper#4
  2. Girls Like Me - Angela
  3. Station Rush - (People Who Are Going Places) - Ensemble
  4. I'm Just Taking My Time - Tom
  5. Subways Directions - Tom, Angela, Subway Riders
  6. Ride Through the Night - Tom, Angela, Subway Riders
  7. I Was a Shoo-In - Martha
  8. Who Knows What Might Have Been - Angela, Tom
  9. Swing Your Projects - Tom
  10. Strange Duet - Martha, Charlie
  11. I Said It and I'm Glad' - Angela
  12. Be a Santa - Tom, Angela, Santas, Shoppers


  1. Subway Incident - Angela, Teenagers
  2. How Can You Describe a Face? - Tom
  3. I Just Can't Wait - Charlie
  4. Comes Once in a Lifetime - Angela, Tom
  5. What Is This Feeling in the Air? - Tom, Angela, Charlie, Entire Company

Cast: (in order of appearance)

  • Sleepers
  • Myra Blake
  • Angela McKay
  • Tom Bailey
  • Station Guard
  • J. Edward Sykes
  • Bill
  • Harry Shelby
  • Gus Holt
  • Charlie Smith
  • Jack
  • A Drunk
  • Max Hillman
  • Martha Vail
  • Mr. Pitman
  • Delivery Boy
  • Lancelot Zuckerman
  • Freddie
  • Mac, a Caretaker
  • Social Worker
  • Photographer
  • Models; Teenagers
  • Joe, the Museum Guard
  • Relief Doorman
  • Mr. Barney

Singers; Dancers

Scenes and settings:

Act 1

Scene 1: A Street in New York at the present time.
Scene 2: Executive Office of Madame Magazine.
Scene 3: Grand Central Station.
Scene 4: A Subway Platform.
Scene 5: A Corridor in the Brunswick Arms.
Scene 6: Martha's Room.
Scene 7: A Street.
Scene 8: The Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum.
Scene 9: A Telephone Booth.
Scene 10: A Street near Madison Square Park.
Scene 11: Times Square.
Scene 12: Rockefeller Plaza.

Act 2

Scene 1: The Subway.
Scene 2: A Street.
Scene 3: Martha's Room.
Scene 4: The French Wing of the Metropolitan Museum.
Scene 5: A Street.
Scene 6: A Parking Lot.


Original cast recording starring Sydney Chaplin and Carol Lawrence - Fynsworth Alley 302 062 1232