Subways Are for Sleeping was a Broadway musical produced by David Merrick with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It was directed and choreographed by Michael Kidd with music by Jule Styne. It starred Orson Bean as Charlie Smith, Sydney Chaplin as Tom Bailey, and Phyllis Newman as Martha Vail.
The musical was inspired by the experience of writer Edmund G. Love who slept on subway trains throughout the 1950s and encountered many unique individuals. These experiences inspired an article on subway homelessness in Harper's magazine (March 1956) and later published as a book titled "Subways Are For Sleeping" in 1957.
With the profits from his book, Love then embarked on a bizarre hobby: over the course of several years, he ate dinner at every restaurant listed in the Manhattan yellow-pages directory ... visiting these restaurants in alphabetical order.
Subways Are for Sleeping opened as a musical comedy at the St. James Theatre on December 27, 1961 to mostly negative reviews from newspaper critics. The show was already laboring under a handicap, due to lack of publicity. Broadway musicals of this period were traditionally advertised on posters displayed in New York City's buses and subway stations. But the New York City Transit Authority refused to carry advertising for "Subways Are for Sleeping" — the only show the NYCTA ever refused to advertise — out of concern that the posters would be perceived as officially sanctioning the right of vagrants to sleep in the subways.
Faced with poor reviews, and denied the traditional outlet for advertising their show, Merrick and press agent Harvey Sabinson invited individuals who had the same names as prominent New York theatre critics to see the show; afterward, they used their favorable comments in print ads. Thanks to photographs of the seven "critics" (the better-known Richard Watts was not a black man), the ad was discovered by a copy editor to be a deception. The alert went out and the ad was pulled from most newspapers, but not before running in an early edition of the New York Herald Tribune.
Merrick had conceived the ploy years earlier, but was unable to use it because he could not find someone with the same name as New York Times drama critic Brooks Atkinson. Atkinson had held the position from 1925 to 1960.
The clever publicity stunt allowed the musical to continue on Broadway, where it eventually turned a small profit. It closed on June 23, 1962 after 205 performances; Phyllis Newman later won the 1962 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. Miss Newman's costume in this show consisted entirely of a towel.
Edmund G. Love went on to write a bizarre novel, "An End to Bugling", with the following premise: in 1963, on the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate troops that saw action in that battle -- only the Confederates, not the Union troops -- are mysteriously whisked out of Heaven and returned to the battlefield, unaware that 100 years have passed. Alleged hilarity ensues.citation needed