"Dee-lightful Is the Word" for Donnybrook! The 1961 Broadway musical was based on Maurice Walsh's short story "The Quiet Man" which had famously been adapted by director John Ford and screenwriter Frank S. Nugent into the Academy Award-winning 1952 film of that name. The story and film had all of the ingredients of a successful musical, with a colorful Irish setting, larger-than-life characters, and vivid romance. Ultimately, Donnybrook! lasted just 61 performances at the 46th Street Theatre (today, the Richard Rodgers, home of Hamilton) but the show has lived on thanks to its infectious score by Johnny Burke ("Swinging on a Star," "Misty"). Stage Door Records premiered the original cast album on CD in 2018, and now the label has revisited it in a deluxe 2-CD presentation packed with rare and never-before-heard bonuses.
The story of Donnybrook!, adapted for the stage by librettist Robert E. McEnroe, concerns itself with American prizefighter John Enright who arrives in Innisfree, Ireland to buy a house but ends up falling in love with Ellen Roe Danaher, the feisty sister of Will Danaher. And Will just happens to be interested in buying the same house as John...! When the town's resident marriage broker Mikeen Flynn, portrayed by top-billed veteran actor-comedian Eddie Foy, Jr., gets involved, various donnybrooks seem inevitable - except John is harboring a past that has left him unable to fight. Art Lund (The Most Happy Fella) stepped into the role of John, famously played onscreen (as Sean) by John Wayne, while Philip Bosco was cast as Will and Kip Hamilton as Ellen. (Victor McLaglen played Will in the film, and Maureen O'Hara starred as Ellen, with Barry Fitzgerald as Flynn.) Hamilton didn't make it to New York, though: her understudy, Joan Fagan, was promoted less than a week before the musical's tryout was to open in Philadelphia. Susan Johnson had a memorable turn as tavern proprietress Kathy Carey. Innovative choreographer Jack Cole (Kismet, Man of La Mancha) made his directorial debut with the musical co-produced by David Kapp of Kapp Records, whose label would inevitably record the show.
Upon the show's May 18, 1961 opening, reviews were mixed but generally kind with The New York Times and The Herald-Tribune both standouts. Writing for the latter, Walter Kerr lavished praise on the cast: "Susan Johnson is so much in control of the song about her husband's demise ['Sad Was the Day'] that she is able to make an audience say uncle, or encore, with both hands tied - not behind her back, as it happens, but genteelly clasped at her breast...How the company can turn wide-eyed innocent and genuinely straight-faced again after Mr. Foy has walked on his ankles, danced on his knees, and wiped a spinet with his elbows I don't know, but it does." Robert Coleman in the Mirror noted, "Donnybrook! roared into the 46th Street Theatre last night like a gale coming off the Irish Sea. This, despite the facet that it is a musical version of a film called The Quiet Man. Believe us, there's nothing quiet about this one, and in our book, there's the rub."
The boisterous Donnybrook! had the misfortune of opening not long after a superior (and more subtle) version of a popular film, Carnival, and folded after a couple of months. But the showstopping likes of Johnson and Foy's "I Wouldn't Bet One Penny," Fagan's "He Makes Me Feel I'm Lovely," Lund's "I Have My Own Way," and the company's bright title song made Burke's score a favorite of cast album collectors and theatre buffs. No less an eminence than Stephen Sondheim fondly remembered Johnson's "Sad Was the Day," choosing the tune as one of his "Songs I Wish I'd Written (At Least In Part)" list in 2000.
New York's Irish Repertory Theatre staged a well-received revival in 2013 with a cast led by James Barbour and Jenny Powers, and in 2018, Stage Door brought the original Kapp recording to CD in an edition also including the Kapp label's instrumental covers album by The Pete King Orchestra.
As welcome as that release was, Stage Door has pulled out all of the stops for this definitive presentation of Johnny Burke's charming, lively, and melodic score. CD 1 opens with the original Kapp album, newly remastered from a stereo reel-to-reel tape. The disc is rounded out by ultra-rare selections from the Stars for Defense radio program performed by Lund and Fagan as well as original demos of two songs cut from the original score. CD 2 opens with the Pete King Orchestra LP in stereo, continues with pop single sides from The Pete King Chorale (including the CD premiere of the title song) and vocalist Jane Morgan, and concludes with a clutch of previously unreleased instrumental piano demos.
This definitive 2-CD reissue, made possible via current U.K. public domain laws and with the support of the Burke family, features new liner notes from George Dansker as well as a special introduction from Johnny Burke's widow, Mary Burke Kramer. The Deluxe Edition of Donnybrook! is due from Stage Door Records on September 30 and can be pre-ordered directly from the label (where pre-orders typically ship prior to street date) or at the Amazon links below.
The Original Album
- Overture - The Orchestra
- Sez I - Joan Fagan, Darrell J. Askey, Alfred DeSio, James Gannon, Bruce MacKay, Clarence Nordstrom
- The Day the Snow Is Meltin' - Eddie Ericksen
- Sad Was the Day - Susan Johnson and Ensemble
- Donnybrook! - Ensemble
- Ellen Roe - Art Lund
- The Loveable Irish - Art Lund, Charles C. Welch
- I Wouldn't Bet One Penny - Eddie Foy, Susan Johnson
- He Makes Me Feel I'm Lovely - Joan Fagan
- I Have My Own Way - Art Lund
- A Toast to the Bride - Clarence Nordstrom
- Wisha Wurra - Eddie Foy, Alfred DiSio, James Gannon, Bruce MacKay, Clarence Nordstrom
- A Quiet Life - Art Lund
- Flynn - Susan Johnson, Sibyl Bowan, Grace Carney
- Dee-Lightful Is the Word - Eddie Foy, Susan Johnson
- For My Own - Joan Fagan
- Finale - The Company
STARS FOR DEFENSE PRESENT 'DONNYBROOK!'
- Introduction/Overture - Clay Warnick with Ray Bloch and His Orchestra
- Ellen Roe - Art Lund
- He Makes Me Feel I'm Lovely - Joan Fagan
- I Have My Own Way - Art Lund, Joan Fagan
'DONNYBROOK!' DEMO RECORDINGS
- Sunday Morning/Father Finucane's Sermon (Cut Song)
- You Made Very Little Impression on Me (Cut Song)
THE PETE KING ORCHESTRA PLAYS THE MUSIC OF 'DONNYBROOK!' (Kapp KS-3243, 1961)
- If It Isn't Everything
- The Day the Snow Is Meltin'
- Sad Was the Day
- Ellen Roe
- Sez I
- A Toast to the Bride
- I Wouldn't Bet One Penny
- He Makes Me Feel I'm Lovely
- Wisha Wurra
- I Have My Own Way
- Dee-Lightful Is the Word
- For My Own
- Donnybrook! - The Pete King Chorale (Kapp single K-389X, 1961)
- The Day the Snow Is Meltin' - The Pete King Chorale (Kapp single K-389X, 1961)
- If It Isn't Everything - The Pete King Chorale (Kapp single K-407X, 1961)
- He Makes Me Feel I'm Lovely - Jane Morgan (Kapp single K-390X, 1961)
TRACKS 19-31: 'DONNYBROOK!' DEMO RECORDINGS (Piano Themes)