Friday, October 18, 2013

Summer and Smoke Production History

               Production History of Summer and Smoke

Summer and Smoke first premiered at Margo Jones' Theatre '47 in Dallas, Texas, in 1948 under Jones' direction. Having been an early supporter of Tennessee Williams, and having worked as the assistant director on the premiere of The Glass Menagerie, Jones had gained Williams' confidence, and he was happy to give her the rights to stage Summer and Smoke. The famed theatre critic for the New York Times, Brooks Atkinson, made the journey to Dallas to see the premiere. While complimentary of Williams' writing, Atkinson wrote that the piece was in need of rewriting, recognizing, too, that Jones' directing was problematic.

     Undaunted by criticism, Jones took her production to New York, where it opened at the Music Box Theatre on October 6, 1948 with a set by Jo Mielziner, who designed the original sets for Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as well as Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. The incidental music was composed by Paul Bowles, the composer and novelist who also wrote the music for The Glass Menagerie, going on to also compose the incidental music for Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth and The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore.

                                                                           Paul Bowles, circa 1930s

The original Broadway cast, as listed on the Broadway Internet Database was as followed:

Tod Andrews as John Buchanan, Jr. 

Monica Boyar as Rosa Gonzales 

Sid Cassel as Papa Gonzales 

Marga Ann Deighton as Mrs. Winemiller 

Donald Hastings as Young John 

Anne Jackson as Nellie Ewell 

Ellen James as Rosemary 

Spencer James as Vernon 

William Layton as Dusty 

Betty Greene Little as Mrs. Bassett 

Arlene McQuade as Young Alma 

Earl Montgomery as Roger Doremus 

Hildy Parks as A Girl 

Margaret Phillips as Alma Winemiller 

Ralph Theadore as Dr. Buchanan 

Raymond Van Sickle as The Reverend Winemiller 

Ray Walston as Archie Kramer  
 The play was a critical and financial failure, running for only 102 performances, versus the still running Streetcar Named Desire, which would close after 855 performances.

The revival of Summer and Smoke at the Circle In the Square Theatre in New York City, under José Quintero's direction, opened on April 24, 1952, and was a surprise hit,  running for 356 performances. The production established Off-Broadway as a serious contender to Broadway, and made a star of Geraldine Page, who played Alma. The ensemble cast also included Lee Richard, Walter Beakle, Estelle Omens, Lola D'Annuzio, Kathleen Murray, Bill Goodwin, Jason Wingreen, Gloria Scott Backe, Duncan Bancroft, Emilie Stevens, Robert Randall, Sydney G. Stevens and Bernard Bogin.
 Nine years later, Page recreated the role of Alma in the 1961 film version, directed by Peter Glenville.
                                           Danish poster for the 1961 film version of Summer and Smoke

The cast of the film included the following:

Laurence Harvey as John Buchanan, Jr
Rita Moreno as Rosa Zacharias
Una Merkel as Mrs. Winemiller
John McIntire as Dr. Buchanan
Thomas Gomez as Papa Zacharias
Pamela Tiffin as Nellie Ewell
Malcolm Atterbury as Rev. Winemiller
Lee Patrick as Mrs. Ewell
Max Showalter as Roger Doremus (as Casey Adams)
Earl Holliman as Archie Kramer
Pepe Hern as Nico  

Trailer for the 1961 film:

                                                               Spanish film poster for Summer and Smoke

There was a Broadway remounting of Summer and Smoke in 1996, which opened, and rapidly closed, at the Criterion Center Stage Right. The Roundabout Theatre production starred Harry Hamlin as John and Mary McDonnell as Alma. The reviews of David Warren's production were brutal, with Ben Brantley, writing in The New York Times, calling the production a "shrill, oddly boisterous interpretation of a work that, like so many of Williams's emotionally crippled characters, begs only to be treated gently."

The rest of the cast of this production was as follows:

Ken Jenkins as The Reverend Winemiller 

Roberta Maxwell as Mrs. Winemiller 

Celia Weston as Mrs. Bassett 

 Chad Aaron as Young John 

Carl D'Amore, Ensemble 

Geoffrey Dawe, Ensemble 

Emilio Del Pozo as Papa Gonzales 

Todd Lawson, Ensemble 

Adam LeFevre as Roger Doremus 

Lisa Leguillou as Rosa Gonzales 

Will McCormack, Ensemble 

Nathalie Paulding as Young Alma 

James Pritchett as Dr. Buchanan 

David Reilly, Ensemble 

Hayley Sparks as Nellie Ewell 

Todd Weeks as Dusty/ Vernon/ Archie Kramer 

Elizabeth Zambetti as Pearl/ Rosemary 


 There is a University of Wisconsin-Madison connection to Summer and Smoke. Composer Lee Hoiby (1926 –2011), who is pictured above, was a native Madisonian and graduate of UW-Madison, Class of 1947. Hoiby, a child prodigy, went on to study with Darius Milhaud and Gian Carlo Menotti upon leaving Madison upon graduation. In 1970, Hoiby, working with playwright/librettist Lanford Wilson, transformed Williams' play into an opera. Hoiby's Summer and Smoke premiered at the St. Paul Opera, Minnesota, in 1971, and is considered Hoiby's masterpiece, one which is frequently staged.

                     Anna Viemeister as Alma in the 2010 Manhattan School of Music production.
One of the most recent stagings was in 2010 at the Manhattan School of Music under the direction of Dona D. Vaughn. The production provided a new recording of the piece, which was reviewed in Opera News' issue of November 2011 by David J. Baker:

"The Manhattan School of Music has provided a great service by reviving and recording Lee Hoiby's Summer and Smoke, a movingly apt adaptation of the play by Tennessee Williams. Created in 1971, it is an opera, above all, that captures the tortured refinement of Williams's heroine and shares something of her fragility."

See the full Opera News review:

Listen to two excerpts from the Manhattan School of Music production:


Norma Saldivar's production of Summer and Smoke will be the third produced by

University of Wisconsin-Madison's University Theatre. The previous productions were as


1954 at the Play Circle Theatre, April 13-14.

1961 at the Main Stage Theatre, July 20-22.

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