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"Take Me Along" is a warmhearted musical with a rather strange history. The fact that the musical is based on "Ah, Wilderness," Eugene O'Neill's only comedy, is enough to set it apart, but its real individuality lies in the theatrical landmarks which it established. "Take Me Along" marked songwriter Bob MerriIl's second venture in the musical theatre, and his second musical adaptation of O'Neill, the other being "New
Girl In Town" from "Anna Christie ." Although "New Girl In Town" was not entirely successful in adjusting the O'Neill drama to the rigid requirements of the musical stage, nevertheless it revealed Merrill's talent as a creator of atmospheric and
theatrical songs. "Take Me Along" showed a mature composer in Merrill who had profited by the mistakes of his initial musical work. Mr. Merrill is also responsible for the award winning score of "Carnival" which is enjoying successful New York and
National Company productions. Like Frank Laesser ("Guys and Dolls," "Where's Charlie," "The Most Happy Fella," etc .) Bob Merrill is a product of Tin Pan Alley. It is hard to believe that the composer of "Candy and Cake," and "How Much Is That
Doggie in the Window?" could have produced such memorable and genuinely moving songs as "It's Good to Be Alive," "We're Home," and "Love Makes the World Go 'Round" (the theme from Carnival).
The casting of "Take Me Along" was also unique. The play marked Walter Pidgeon's first appearance in a musical since he left the vaudeville circuit to perform in films like
"Mrs. Miniver," "Madam Curie," "The Last Time I Saw Paris," and "The Executive Suite." Three seasons prior to his assignment in "Take Me Along." Mr. Pidgeon starred in "The Happiest Millionaire" both on Broadway and on tour. It was Mr. Pidgeon's appearance on the TV spectacular, "Meet Me In St. Louis," that persuaded producer David Merrick to sign Mr. Pidgeon as Nat Miller.
To fill the demanding role of Aunt Lil, David Merrick called on the versatile British Actress, Eileen Herlie, who had appeared in his production of Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker." Miss Herlie, who has played Medea in London, as well as leading roles in Shakespeare, is no stranger to the work of Eugene O'Neill: she appeared in the London production of "Anna Christie." Miss Herlie is familiar to American movie
and television audiences through her portrayal of Queen Gertrude in Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet." Miss Herlie is currently appearing in the second American musical "All American," with Ray Bolger.
"Take Me Along'' also created a star . Robert Morse, whose J . Pierpont Finch of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" is playing to SRO audiences in New York, got that all important break as the misunderstood adolescent, Richard. Although he had previously appeared twice on Broadway in "The Matchmaker" (with Eileen Herlie) and the musical comedy, "Say Darling, '' Mr. Morse's talent was left to blush
unseen until "Take Me Along" gave him a chance to blossom as a rising star of the American Theatre.
The most anticipated factor of "Take Me Along" was the return of Jackie Gleason, who had been absent from the legitimate stage since "Along Fifth Avenue" in 1949. Although he shared equal billing with Walter Pidgeon and Eileen Herlie, Gleason's Sid Davis completely stole the show. Uncle Sid gave Gleason the opportunity to use his overwhelming ability of portraying the pathos and comedy which he had previously used in a very limited fashion with his classic television characters the Poor Soul and Reggie Van Gleason, 111. Gleason's Uncle Sid was such a blockbuster that his fellow artists voted him the Antoinette Perry Award for his performance. The "Tony" is the
Broadway equivalent of an Oscar . When presented with the silver medallion by the First Lady of the American Stage, Gleason quipped, "This is a helluvaway to meet Helen Hayes "Take Me Along" closed a few short weeks after Mr. Gleason's departure; a fitting epitaph for such a memorable performance.
"Take Me Along" opened on October 22, 1959 at the Shubert Theatre, N.Y., and closed on December 17, 1960, after successfully weathering the storm of Actor's Equity Strike, for a run of 448 performances .
Theatre and Performance Studies
La Salle College, "Take Me Along" (1962). The Masque Programs. 83.