Babes in Toyland: A Musical in Three Acts (Classic Youth Plays of the Broadway Stage)

Babes in Toyland: A Musical in Three Acts (Classic Youth Plays of the Broadway Stage)

Posted by jack_miller | Published 7 months ago

With 1 ratings

By: Glen MacDonough and Victor Herbert

Purchased At: $9.47 (3 new offers)

One of Victor Herbert's most enduring and popular operetta, Babes in Toyland was an immediately success when it was first produced on Broadway in 1903. Hailed by The New York Times as "remarkably successful," the musical went on to have numerous revivals both on stage and screen. For many years it was a staple of summer stock theatres and produced regularly in schools becoming a classic of the American musical stage. Over its 100 year history numerous changes have been made to MacDonough’s original libretto, including adding songs and updated dialogue. Published from an early draft, this edition contains MacDonough’s original version as he envisioned the show.
It was probably 1950 when the obligations of a family dinner forced me, then a six-year-old, to turn off a telecast of "Babes in Toyland." All my subsequent life has been spent wondering what happened next in that story. A few decades ago, I tried to borrow a copy of the libretto, specifying as carefully as I could to Inter-Library Loan that I did NOT want any "adaptation" -- and they sent an adaptation anyway! Now at last, thanks to this Theatre Arts Press edition, I have learned what it was really, originally, all about. And very different indeed it is from its multitudinous adaptations!
Since becoming enthralled with this version of "Babes," I have learned that the basis for this 2018 edition is the Copyright libretto, which was submitted fairly early in the process of shaping the show to the stage. In many ways it differs even from Constantine Grame's restoration of the 1903 first run in Chicago: and every such revision and adaptation I have yet examined weakens the story out of all recognition. In the Copyright libretto, it emerges as a gripping coming-of-age story, full of vital characters, with one of the strongest endings I have ever encountered outside of Chaucer and Mickey Spillane. Apparently by the time it opened on Chicago, it had already been adapted to something coy and cutesy that never gets all that far beyond Mother Goose Land.
I am old enough, and knowledgeable enough about my parents' and grandparents' generation, that I caught most of the 1903-era jokes, and found them by and large deliciously funny, though many more of them than one might expect seemed aimed primarily at the grown-ups in the audience. I fell in love with the principal character, Alan (who doesn't even make it at all into a number of the adaptations), and Roderigo and Gonzorgo are probably the most memorable henchmen ever, at least until the advent of the Minions. Perhaps readers will be surprised to find the Toymaker, the character who sings the famous "Toyland, Toyland, Dear Little Girl and Boy-land" number, turning out to be a villain even more wicked than Uncle Barnaby.
There are some typos -- e.g., very often "friends" should be read as "fiends." Some at least of these may go back to the original Copyright typescript from which the book edition was transcribed. It is almost always easy enough to see what was intended.
For me, this was fifteen dollars very well spent, and a key addition to my home library.

- timothy_murphy

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