Milk and Honey is an original musical by Jerry Herman and Don Appell. It began preveiws on October 9, 1961, opened on October 10, 1961, and closed on January 26, 1963, it had one preveiw and 543 total preformances in the Martin Beck Theatre, a Broadway venue. Milk and Honey had its world premire at the Shubert Theatre, New Haven on August 28, 1961. It then played the Colonial Theatre, Boston, from September 5-23, 1961. Music and Lyrics were written by Jerry Herman, with a book by Don Appell. It was staged by Albert Marre, choreographed by Donald Saddler, and produced by Gerald Oestreicher. It starred Robert Weede, Mimi Benzell, and Molly Picon. It received five Tony Award nominations.
Milk and Honey was Jerry Herman's first Broadway book musical following his successful Off-Broadway revues I Feel Wonderful, Nitecap, and Parade. It is considered by some to be Jerry Herman's best score.
It was a hit in its day, being nominated for several Tony awards, and running for 543 performances, a very respectable run indeed - especially considering that it was going up against How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Carnival!, and No Strings.
From a purely artistic sense it may seem strange that such a long running, critically acclaimed musical, by a well known composer, is not better known. Perhaps the main reason for its demise is historical - its breezy assurance that the State of Israel is an indisputably good thing is perhaps irretrievably "dated" after several decades of troubled history.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording was recorded in Webster Hall, New York City, New York. It was prooduced by George Avakian and Joe Linhart. The Lp, CD, and Score are all somewhat rare, with the CD costing as much $88 on amazon.com.
The calmness of a morning street scene in modern Jerusalem is shattered when a policeman orders a Yemenite boy to remove his flock of sheep to a side street. Phil Arkin, an American visiting his married daughter, defends the boy, and in the ensuing fracas he meets Ruth Stein, a tourist travelling with a group of widows from the United States. She is impressed with Phil's command of Hebrew as he explains the meaning of the word Shalom.
They keep running into each other and together they celebrate Israel's Independence Day. Their friendship begins to deepen and Phil's conscience starts troubling him. Although he has been separated from his wife for many years, he does not think it right to continue seeing Ruth since he is still a married man. Phil's daughter Barbara, however, likes Ruth and invites her to go with them to the farm that she and her husband own in the Negev. After some hesitation, Ruth accepts.
On the farm - called a Moshav - Phil tries to talk Barbara and David, her husband into going back to Baltimore with him. But the young man vows his devotion to his country and is joined in its praise by his neighbours, including his cynical friend Adi, who claims he would rather live in the city.
Phil, who is falling in love with Ruth, asks her to stay at the Moshav a little longer. In fact, he is even thinking of building a house of his own there that he would like her to share.
Meanwhile, the group of touring widows comes to visit the Moshav. When they eye the virile young farmers, the ladies, led by Clara Weiss reveal their hopes of finding suitable husbands. Though their dreams are quickly dashed when all the men turn out to be married, Clara is still optimistic.
Later, Phil tells Ruth that he has bought the property for a home, and she gives him her approval. But Barbara is shocked at the news, and urges her father to tell Ruth about his marriage. Reluctantly he does, but he also tells her why she must remain. At a wedding ceremony that they attend Phil and Ruth, envious of the younger people, express their deep love for each other and, forgetting the consequences for the moment, go off together.
Phil energetically feels the spirit of the new land and goes out to work the fields with the other farmers. Barbara, however, brings news that Ruth, realising the consequences of living with a married man, has run away to Tel Aviv, and Phil goes off to bring her back. When they are alone, David, convinced that Barbara really longs to go back to the United States, asserts that he would go anywhere to be with her.
In Tel Aviv, Phil finds Clara at the Cafe Hotok, but she refuses to tell him where Ruth is. When he leaves, Clara accidentally meets Sol Horowitz, a widower from Jerusalem, and they promptly show mutual interest. Alone, she seeks her late husband's permission to remarry if Sol proposes.
Back at the Moshav, Phil, after much inner conflict, realises that it would be wrong to live with Ruth. Although she comes back to him he tells her that she must leave.
At Lydda Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, the touring widows are preparing to board the aeroplane home. Phil and Ruth have their final, brief moment together during which he promises to fly to Paris, where his wife lives, and plead for a divorce. Ruth boards the plane with the hope that somehow Phil will succeed and she will be able to come back to him.
Original Broadway Cast
Awards and Nominations
Book by Don Appell; Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman; Produced by Gerald Oestreicher nominee
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman nominee
Molly Picon nominee
Costume Design by Miles White nominee
Gerard Oestreicher nominee