House Of Flowers – 1954 Broadway Cast Recording
The action is set on an island in the French West Indies. It begins on the afternoon before Mardi Gras on the verandah of Madame Fleur’s brothel, Maison des Fleurs, where the girls, each named for a flower, are looking for business. They sing “Waitin’.” Madame Fleur (Pearl Bailey) explains her philosophy to them “One Man (Ain’t Quite Enough).” Capt. Jonas arrives with the news that a wealthy white Frenchman, Monsieur Jamison, has taken on interest in the prize of her establishment, Violet, whose actual name is Ottilie (Diahann Carroll). When Madame Fleur goes off to negotiate with Jamison, Ottilie reveals that she has consulted a witch doctor, a Houngan, who has explained to her how she will know her love is true (“A Sleepin’ Bee”). The girls go into town to see a cockfight, singing “Bamboo Cage.” One of the country boys who has brought a cock to fight is the handsome Royal (Rawn Spearman), whose innocence is comparable to Ottilie’s. The two are immediately attracted to each other, and Royal invites her to live with him in his “House of Flowers.” She agrees. Back at Maison des Fleurs, the girls sing “Two Ladies in de Shade of de Banana Tree.” M. Jamison comes to meet Ottilie. Madame Fleur has learned that Ottilie has gone off with Royal and, worse, plans to marry him. She recalls that she disposed of one of her husbands by having Capt. Jonas seal him in a barrel and toss him into the shark-infested waters. She proposes dealing with Royal similarly. Jonas balks, and she sings, “What Is a Friend For?” Reluctantly, he consents. It will be easier to do, Fleur notes, in the commotion surrounding Mardi Gras. Ottilie brings Royal to meet Madame Fleur, informing her they will be married the next day. Fleur tells them it’s bad luck for the bridal couple to spend the night before the wedding together. Alone on the stage, Ottilie sings “I Never Has Seen Snow.” As the song ends, Fleur and Jonas enter followed by two men carrying a barrel. The next morning Ottilie appears in her wedding dress and informs the assembled she’s “Gonna Leave Off Wearing My Shoes.” The groom, however, has disappeared. Knowing Fleur’s plans for Ottilie, the girls wonder if she had anything to do with his disappearance. They threaten to desert her. She lures them back with “Has I Let You Down?” Capt. Jonas, feeling guilty, goes to see Fleur’s rival, Madame Tango (Juanita Hall), who promises him free run of her house if he shares information that can put Fleur behind bars. As he goes off with one of her girls, she sings “Slide, Boy, Slide.” As it turns out, Royal has escaped the dangers of the sea by taking refuge on the back of a turtle. (Geoffrey Holder thinks of House of Flowers as a “fairy tale with prostitutes.”) Royal recounts his adventures in “The Turtle Song.” When Tango and Jonas come to accuse Fleur of murder, Royal turns up, which allows her to accuse them of malicious slander. As Ottilie and Royal go off together Bailey sings “Don’t Like Goodbyes.”
Mme Fleur: Pearl Bailey Ottilie: Diahann Carroll Mme Tango: Juanita Hall Royal: Rawn Spearman Pansy: Ada Moore Tulip: Enid Mosier Gladiola: Dolores Harper Lord Jamison: Geoffrey Holder Do: Winston George Henriques Don’t: Solomon Earl Green Mother: Miriam Burton Captain Jonas: Ray Walston Mamselle Ibo Lele: Pearl Reynolds The Sisters Merengue: Leu Comacho, Margot Small Mamselle Honolulu: Mary Mon Toy Mamselle Cigarette: Glory Van Scott Chief Of Police: Don Redman Carmen: Carmen De Lavallade Alvin: Alvin Ailey Monsieur Jamison: Dino Di Luca The Houngan: Frederick O’Neal Baron Of The Cemetery: Geoffrey Holder Duchess Of The Sea: Miriam Burton Steel Band: Michel Alexander, Roderick Clavery, Alphonson Marshall Townspeople: Joseph Comadore, Hubert Dilworth, Philip Hepburn, Louis Johnson, Mary Louise, Audrey Mason, Arthur Mitchell, Walter Nicks, Albert Popwell, Sabu, Herbert Stubbs.