How Now, Dow Jones is a Broadway musical comedy. From an original concept by Carolyn Leigh, the book was written by Max Shulman, the lyrics by Leigh herself, and the music by Elmer Bernstein. The original production, which premiered at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 7 December 1967, was produced by David Merrick and directed by George Abbott. The lead parts were played by Tony Roberts (Charley), Marlyn Mason (Kate), Brenda Vaccaro (Cynthia), and Hiram Sherman (Wingate); other now-familiar names in the original cast included Tommy Tune as the Waiter, and Barnard Hughes as Senator McFetridge.
Although nominated for several Tony Awards -- best actors (Roberts and Vaccaro), best director (Abbott), best musical (Merrick), and best score (Bernstein and Leigh) -- only Sherman won, for best featured actor in a musical. The show, criticized for a certain level of slickness, has been rendered a Broadway failure (after 220 performances there), but one of the songs -- "Step to the Rear" -- has had some appeal. The script today might seem a bit dated due to topical and cultural references, but Leigh's lyrics are quite clever, and the lively music -- from the experienced hand of film composer Bernstein -- employs appropriately popular elements while at times giving a nod to "classical style (the latter in such songs as "Shakespeare Lied" and the patently tongue-in-cheek "Rich is Better").
(Note: for some reason, the title of this musical lacks a question mark.)
Characters and setting
(Note: the bare list from the libretto is expanded here with fuller names, descriptions, and additional characters derived from information in the scenes.)
"The entire action takes place in present day New York City."
Act I. Kate is frustrated that her engagement has gone on for three and a half years, only because Herbert has been expecting the Dow Jones average to hit the magic mark of 1000. She meets Charley, and they find that they share not only suicidal tendencies but also an attraction.
Cynthia, who recently met Wingate at a party and worships him, visits him in his office; Wingate, who is married, sets her up in an apartment as his mistress. After she leaves, Wingate and his fellow tycoons try to talk Senator McFetridge out of using an investigation of Wall Street to help his next election campaign.
After spending the night, Charley is smitten with Kate and wants them to travel the world together, but Kate turns him down, still hoping for a steady life with Herbert.
Having lured all other types of investors, Wingate now wants to convince widows and orphans to take their money out of safe bank accounts. But his customers' men don't have the kind of gawkiness that would win over old ladies. He notices Charley out on a window ledge about to jump, stops him, and finds him to be just the right kind of man for the job. Charley quickly becomes successful at charming rich widows into betting on the stock market.
Meanwhile, Kate finds out she's pregnant from her one-night stand with Charley. She loses her resolve to tell him when his childhood sweetheart Sue Ellen Bradbury and her father show up at their meeting place: now that Charley has turned out not quite the total failure Mr. Bradbury thought he was, Charley and Sue Ellen are engaged. In desperation, during her next Dow Jones update, Kate ignores the true figures given to her and announces that the Dow has reached 1000.
There is initial euphoria among investors such as the widows and Kate's doctor. But soon it is discovered that the announced figures were false. After all the tycoons eliminate each other as the perpetrators, they narrow down Kate as the suspect, but Senator McFetridge does not believe the scenario and plans to explose Wall Street corruption in a news interview. The rest try to find Kate.
Wingate visits Cynthia at her new apartment to ask if she knows where Kate is. It turns out that he has never taken advantage of their arrangement since it was first set up. He tells her that if the market crashes, the apartment will have to go. Cynthia brightens up when he asks her come with him to stand by his side when the national panic happens.
Wingate, Cynthia, Herbert, and Charley find Kate in her apartment. Even though she lied in order to get Herbert to marry her, she really doesn't love him. The matter of her pregnancy by Charley causes Wingate nearly to faint at the thought of what this entire illicit affair would do to the image of Wall Street. Left alone, Kate and Charlie resolve against suicide. Charlie is determined to come up with a solution and to make a life with Kate.
At Wingate's brokerage, the bottom is about to fall out. Even the Senator is resigned to having to live off of only his congressional salary from now on. Suddenly Charley comes in with Kate and the solution to the problem: the legendary old man A.K. himself, in a wheel-chair. Wall Street respects everything A.K. does in the stock market. Doddering near the end of his one sane hour a day, A.K. is convinced by Charley to buy up all the stocks that are now up for sale and thereby save the U.S. economy.