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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (musical)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Original Cast Recording
Music Arthur Schwartz
Lyrics Dorothy Fields
Book George Abbott
Betty Smith
Basis Betty Smith's novel
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (novel)
Productions 1951 Broadway

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a musical with a book by George Abbott and Betty Smith, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and music by Arthur Schwartz.

The musical is based on Smith's autobiographical novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but when Shirley Booth was cast as Aunt Sissy, a secondary character in the novel, the prominence of this role was expanded and tailored to Booth's comedic talents, diminishing the relative importance of other characters, in particular young Francie, through whose eyes the plot of the novel unfolds.


After two previews, the Broadway production, directed by Abbott and choreographed by Herbert Ross, opened on April 19, 1951 at the Alvin Theatre, where it ran for 267 performances. In addition to Booth, the cast included Johnny Johnston as Johnny, Marcia Van Dyke as Katie, and Nomi Mitty as Francie. Van Dyke was honored with a Theatre World Award. The musical director was Max Goberman.[1]

Booth's performance proved to be both an asset and detriment to the production, since it was an audience pleaser but detracted from what should have been the story's primary focus, the struggles faced by Johnny and Katie as their marriage slowly crumbles.[2]

Goodspeed Opera House mounted a revised production relegating Aunt Sissy to a supporting role in 2003. An Encores! staging at New York City Center two years later starred Emily Skinner.

A cast recording of the original production is available on a compact disc released by Sony.


The musical tells the tale of the working class Nolan clan at the turn of the 20th century. The father, Johnny, is an optimistic but undependable singing waiter who spends his paycheck in the neighborhood saloon. His hard-working wife Katie is a disappointed realist weary from years of broken promises, daughter Francie idolizes her father, and Aunt Sissy is the victim of a string of romantic misadventures with common-law husbands, each of which she insists on calling 'Harry' after her first lover.



  1. ^ IBDB
  2. ^ Details about this production are told for the first time in Love Is The Reason For It All...The Shirley Booth Story by Jim Manago, with radio research by Donna Manago, and foreword by Ted Key.BearManor Media, ISBN 978-1-59393-146-9.

External links