Dear World

Dear World is a musical with a book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. With its opening, Herman became the first composer-lyricist in history to have three productions running simultaneously on Broadway. It starred Angela Lansbury, who won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical in 1969 for her performance as the Countess Aurelia.

Dear World
Original Cast Recording
MusicJerry Herman
LyricsJerry Herman
BookJerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
BasisJean Giraudoux's play The Madwoman of Chaillot
Productions1969 Broadway

Based on Jean Giraudoux's play The Madwoman of Chaillot as adapted by Maurice Valency, it focuses on the Countesses Aurelia, Constance and Gabrielle, who deviously scheme to stop businessmen from drilling for oil in the Parisian neighbourhood of Chaillot. The forces of idealism, love and poetry win over those of greed, materialism and science.

Productions and background

The musical had a notably troubled preview period that included multiple changes to the script and score. Lucia Victor, Gower Champion's assistant and a director of several revivals, including Hello, Dolly!,[1] was hired as director, but resigned shortly thereafter, due to "artistic differences" with the musical's star, Angela Lansbury, and the authors, according to The New York Times.[1][2] Peter Glenville was then hired, but resigned following negative reviews during tryouts in Boston, Massachusetts. Producer Alexander H. Cohen stated (in an article in The New York Times of November 19, 1968) that "there was no friction between Mr. Glenville and Miss Lansbury, the composer, the authors or the producer... an advance arrangement had been made with Mr. Glenville to direct the show through last week only."[2] The show's final director, Joe Layton, was then hired, also replacing the choreographer Donald Saddler.[3]

The musical opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on February 6, 1969 and closed on May 31, 1969 after 132 performances and 45 previews. The show was directed and choreographed by Joe Layton, scenic design was by Oliver Smith, costume design was by Freddy Wittop and lighting design was by Jean Rosenthal.

Subsequent productions

Originally conceived as a chamber musical, Dear World fell victim to a massive production that effectively overwhelmed the simplicity of the original tale. After the Broadway closing, Herman, Lawrence, and Lee rewrote the show, "putting back the intimacy that had been undermined on Broadway."[4]

A revised version was produced at Goodspeed Musicals (Connecticut) in November–December 2000, with Sally Ann Howes as Aurelia. This version had a revised book by David Thompson plus three songs written after the musical closed.[5] A concert version was staged by 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco, September 6–24, 2000. This production used the revision by Herman, Lawrence and Lee.[6]

A further revised version was produced at the Sundance Theatre (Utah) from June to August 2002 with Maureen McGovern playing Aurelia. Thompson had revised his previous revision of the book.[7]

The Canadian premiere of this revised version was presented by the Toronto Civic Light Opera Company in May 2012. Directed by Joe Cascone, the production starred Barbara Boddy as Aurelia, David Haines as the Sewer Man and featured Elizabeth Rose Morriss and Daniel Cornthwaite as the young lovers.[8]

The musical had its UK premiere at London's Charing Cross Theatre from February 4 through March 16, 2013. The production was directed and choreographed by Gillian Lynne and starred Betty Buckley as Aurelia and Paul Nicholas as Sewerman. Set design by Matt Kinley, costumes by Ann Hould-Ward, lighting by Mike Robertson, musical direction by Ian Townsend, sound by Mike Walker, and orchestrations by Sarah Travis.[9]

The York Theatre Company (New York City) presented the musical from February 25 to March 5, 2017, starring Tyne Daly as Aurelia.[10] Daly previously starred in a concert version of Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles on September 30, 2016.[11] The concert featured Steven Weber as the Sewerman and Vicki Lewis and Bets Malone as Aurelia's friends.[12]


A corporation has discovered oil under the streets of Paris, directly under a bistro. The Countess Aurelia (known as The Madwoman of Chaillot) lives in the bistro's basement, driven mad because of a lost lover and reminiscing about her past. When the corporation decides to blow up the bistro to get the oil, a young executive, Julian, helps to foil the plan because he has fallen in love with Nina, the bistro's waitress. Aurelia lures the corporation executives to the underground in the sewer system.

Songs (original score order)

Songs (as revised)

† Added in the Goodspeed (2000) and Sundance (2002) versions

Characters and original Broadway cast

  • Countess Aurelia (The Madwoman of Chaillot) – Angela Lansbury
  • Gabrielle (The Madwoman of Montmartre) – Jane Connell
  • Constance (The Madwoman of the Flea Market) – Carmen Mathews
  • The Sewerman – Milo O'Shea
  • Julian – Kurt Peterson
  • The Chairman – William Larsen
  • Nina – Pamela Hall

Awards and nominations

Tony Award

  • Best Actress in a Musical – Angela Lansbury (winner)
  • Best Scenic Design – Oliver Smith (nominee)

Critical response

The show received mostly negative reviews, with critics seemingly "personally offended" by selling tickets to the troubled show. "All the critics came down hard on the book and especially on Herman's score. Time magazine incomprehensibly called the songs 'a total zero'...Martin Gottfried, noting that the plot line had been cut to ribbons, found 'the story impossible to follow'".[13]

Walter Kerr wrote that the musical "is in the main quite charming...the actress [Lansbury] endearing throughout the evening and at her commanding best here." Her song "I Don't Want to Know" is "a song surprised by its own unexpected passion. The effect doesn't always work out for composer Jerry Herman...'Dear World' is attractive when it is staying close to its addled Good is in trouble whenever it turns to the Bad People...Oliver Smith's settings are perfect."[14] Clive Barnes in The New York Times gave Lansbury a positive review: "The minor miracle is Miss connoisseur of musical comedy can afford to miss Miss Lansbury's performance. It is lovely."[15]

According to Steven Citron (p. 181), "[Sally Ann] Howes and the majority of critics now believe that with a rewritten libretto it could be turned into a successful musical."[13]


  1. Zolotow, Sam. "Peter Glenville Taking Over Angela Lansbury's 'Dear World", 'The New York Times October 24, 1968, p. 54
  2. Zolotow.Sam."GLENVILLE YIELDS 'DEAR WORLD' POST; Interim Director Going to a Previous Assignment" The New York Times (abstract), November 19, 1968
  3. Mandelbaum, Ken. Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops (1992), p. 150, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-08273-8
  4. Connema, Richard."Regional Reviews. 'As Thousands Cheer' and 'Dear World'", accessed May 29, 2012
  5. Jones, Kenneth."Sun Sets on Goodspeed's Dear World Revival Dec. 10," Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine, December 10, 2000
  6. Jones, Kenneth. "Dear World Marches in San Fran Concert Revival Sept. 6–24," Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine, September 6, 2000
  7. Jones, Kenneth. "Jerry Herman's Musical, 'Dear World', Spins Anew in Revised Version, June 27-Aug. 17" Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine,, June 27, 2002
  8. Lawrence, Mark Andrew. BWW Reviews: Jerry Herman's 'Dear World'-Revised & Revived by The Civic Light Opera Company", May 29, 2012
  9. Gans, Andrew. "Paul Nicholas, Anthony Barclay and More Will Join Betty Buckley in 'Dear World' at London's Charing Cross Theatre" Archived 2012-12-17 at the Wayback Machine, December 14, 2012
  10. Gans, Andrew. "Tyne Daly Will Star in 'Dear World 'for the York Theatre Company" Playbill, January 11, 2017
  11. Gans, Andrew. "Tyne Daly Stars in 'Dear World' Tonight" Playbill, September 30, 2016
  12. Frankel, Tony. "Los Angeles Theater Review: 'Dear World' ", October 6, 2016
  13. Citron, Stephen. "Chapter:'Dear World'" Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune (2004), (, pp.180–181, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-10082-5
  14. Kerr, Walter. "When Angela Sings 'I Will Not Have It'", The New York Times, February 16, 1969, p.D1
  15. Barnes, Clive. "Theatre: 'The Madwoman of Chaillot' Set to Music", The New York Times February 7, 1969, p. 33
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