Redhead – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1959
Ruth (Pat Ferrier), a young actress, is strangled in her dressing room by a redheaded man. The case becomes such a celebrated one that the Simpson Sisters, proprietors of a waxworks museum, decide to include a tableau of the murder in their upcoming show. Their niece Essie Whimple (Gwen Verdon) is the waxworker who must replicate the scene for the exhibit. She’s a nice girl, despite her claims that she “has visions” – one of which we see right then and there of the type of man she’d love to marry. When the grotesque tableau is unveiled, it’s a big success with everyone – except Tom (Richard Kiley), Ruth’s partner in her act. He is a musclebound strong man with friends in high places and low ones, too. Essie falls desperately in love with Tom at first sight. Though Tom is solely interested in having the exhibit closed out of respect for Ruth, Essie is interested in finding out if he’s married. She wants to have ten or twelve children. (With ideas like this lacing the book, don’t expect Redhead to be revived next season.) To keep Tom interested in her, Essie cooks up the story that the strangler visited her and tried to kill her. But soon she realizes there’s only one way she’ll satisfy him: if she can find out who killed Ruth. Her aunts help Essie disguise herself as a man – but they don’t help when they suggest that Essie make a wax head of the murderer, who, supposedly, she has seen up close. Later they’ll attempt a completely different type of disguise for Essie – in which she is transformed from a waxworker to an elegant lady. And that (as it often is in ‘50s musicals) is enough for Tom to be equally interested in her. Though he still wants to see that wax head. Meanwhile, Essie has another vision – this time of the killer. And when we see redheaded Sir Charles Willingham (Michael McAloney) come on the stage, we wonder: is Charles really there to kill her, or is Essie having one of her visions? (Theatergoers had an intermission here in which to make up their minds. Critic Walter Kerr said in his opening night review, “I went out for an intermission cigarette, though, feeling wonderfully certain that no one would kill her. Not that doll.” He was right.) It turns out it was George Poppet (Leonard Stone), the comedian, who was the killer after all, disguised as Sir Charles, who had taken Ruth’s love from him. Though Tom is furious with Essie when he finds out that she wasn’t threatened by the killer at all, he forgives her after she survives a real attack. Naturally they wind up together.
Ruth LaRue: Pat Ferrier Howard Cavanaugh: William Le Massena Maude Simpson: Cynthia Latham Sarah Simpson: Doris Rich George Poppett: Leonard Stone Inspector White: Ralph Sumpter Essie Whimple: Gwen Verdon Tom Baxter: Richard Kiley May: Iva Withers Tilly: Pat Ferrier Alfy, Stage Doorman: Lee Krieger Sir Charles Willingham: Michael McAloney The Tenor: Bob Dixon Inez, the Blonde: Bette Graham Street Customer: Elizabeth Kerr Jailer: Buzz Miller Singers: Mame Wennis, Bette Graham, Amelia Haas, Janie Janvier, Pat McEnnis, Donna Monroe, Marianne Gale, Burt Bier, Bob Dixon, Clifford Fearl, John Lankston, Larry Mitchell, Shev Rodgers Orchestra directed by Jay Blackton