Me and Juliet is a 1953 musical comedy written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It is generally considered one of their least successful collaborations, and ran for only 358 performances. Me and Juliet uses the clichéd show-within-a-show framework, also known as a backstage musical. To date, no major commercial revival of the show has ever been attempted.
As many writers have noted, Rodgers and Hammerstein found their greatest success in eschewing social and theatrical convention. Me and Juliet lacked these dramatic innovations and also suffered from mediocre music and lyrics, of which only one song, No Other Love, has become a standard. Ironically, this hit's melody was completely unoriginal, having originated as a theme for an episode of Rodgers's soundtrack to the television series Victory at Sea. Some critics have judged Me and Juliet's score harshly, calling it "downright banal," while at least one original cast member points out that Rodgers and Hammerstein were purposely attempting to parody musical comedy songs with corny lyrics, bad rhymes, and uncomfortably high chorus parts.
The show-within-the-show is also titled "Me and Juliet" and stars famous literary heroes and heroines: Juliet, Don Juan, and Carmen, alongside an everyman named "Me." The main characters includes the chorus singers Jeanie (played in the original Broadway cast by Isabel Bigley) and Larry, the assistant stage manager (Bill Hayes). A love triangle develops when Jeanie's ex-boyfriend, Bob, a lighting technician, becomes jealous of the couple who have been secretly married. Drama ensues and is happily resolved.
Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals typically first performed tryouts in New Haven, CT but a larger stage was needed to accommodate the elaborate sets, so Me and Juliet played in Cleveland, OH at the Hanna Theatre before transferring to Boston then New York. The musical official opened on Broadway on 28 May 1953. After 358 performances at the Majestic Theatre, the cast began a supposed national tour. However, the show closed after an eight-week stint in Chicago. Me and Juliet was not a financial windfall but it did recoup its investment after about six months. The entire cost of the production, $350,000, was provided by RCA Records in exchange for half the profits and the rights to the cast recording.
Cast of Characters
The original Broadway cast featured several noted actors including Isabel Bigley (Jeanie), Bill Hayes (Larry), Ray Walston (Mac), George S. Irving (Dario), Joan McCracken (Betty), and Shirley MacLaine (dancing ensemble).