Anyone Can Whistle is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. It is an imaginative fable about a town going through hard times due to having "manufactured a product that never wore out", according to its narrator. The mayoress, Cora Hoover Hooper (Angela Lansbury in the original production), and the town council, Comptroller Schub, Treasurer Cooley, and Police Chief MacGruder hatch a scheme to provide the town with a "miracle" consisting of water pouring from a rock, in the hopes that it will bring tourists to the town and revive its failing economy. However, they are opposed by Fay Apple (Lee Remick), a nurse at the local sanitarium, The Cookie Jar, who brings her 49 patients (or "cookies") to the miracle hoping to prove that it is a fake (which it is.) Eventually, her "cookies" escape, leaving the town council to determine "which is what and who is who." Suddenly a new doctor (or so he claims), J. Bowden Hapgood (Harry Guardino), appears on the scene, who divides the town into "Group A" and "Group 1" claiming one group is sane and the other loony... but refusing to tell which group is what. However, nothing in the town is what it seems. As expected, hilarity ensues.
Anyone Can Whistle was a financial failure, running only nine performances, but some critics saw it as a musical that was simply ahead of its time, and it has gone on to be a cult favorite, even though there has never been a major revival of the show. The Original Cast Recording, which was made after the show had closed, also has a strong following. Among the songs in the show are the title song, "Me and My Town", "Everybody Says Don't", and "With So Little to Be Sure Of". "There Won't Be Trumpets", a song cut from the show before its opening, has also become a cabaret favorite.
Anyone Can Whistle opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on April 4, 1964, and closed after nine performances. Theatre wags often joke that if everyone who claimed to have seen the original production truly had, the show would still be running on Broadway.
In 1995 a concert reading of the show was performed at Carnegie Hall in New York as a benefit for the Gay Men's Health Crisis. The concert was recorded, preserving for the first time musical passages and numbers not included on the original Broadway cast recording. Angela Lansbury served as narrator, with Madeline Kahn taking on the role of Cora. Bernadette Peters and Scott Bakula played Fay and Hapgood. Additional cast included Harolyn Blackwell, Chip Zien, Ken Page, and Harvey Evans -the only cast member to reprise his role from the original production.
This musical was nominated for one tony award.