Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"A Bell For Adano" at the Shubert, New Haven

When Broadway shows were put through their paces in “out-of-town tryouts”, out of town was often New England. New England has long served as Broadway’s front gate. One such play, the drama “A Bell For Adano” opened “out of town” at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut.

The play was adapted by Paul Osborn from the novel by John Hersey, which told the story of US Army Major Joppolo’s relations with the Sicilian town he is put in charge of during the Allied invasion of Italy, and how, among other things, he manages to replace with a new bell, the ancient bell that was stolen by the Fascists and melted for ammunition.

Produced by Leland Hayward, directed by H. C. Potter, the play starred veteran stage and screen actor Fredric March. They came to New Haven November 9, 1944, and according to the New York Times review of the 10th, the show “was hailed by the audience as one of the brighter finds of the season.”

Also in the cast were Everett Sloan and Harold J. Stone. True to the nature of an out of town tryout, changes were made in New Haven, as the Times reviewer notes, “Several scenes were cut tonight to shorten the running time of the play.”

Less than a month later, on December 6, 1944, the play opened at the Cort Theater in New York City, one assumes at the proper length.

John Hersey, the author of the original novel, also happened to be a Life Magazine editor, which accounts for the generous spread about the play in the December 18, 1944 edition shown above, which also plugged the novel ($2.50). The following year of 1945 proved to be a big one for Hersey, as his novel won the Pulitzer Prize, and a filmed version was made starring John Hodiak and Gene Tierney.

After the movies, and the awards, and Broadway, maybe few people remember New Haven but those that were there. And here.


  1. Thank you for this informative post! I have just read an old letter in which my mother tells my grandmother that she is attending this performance, Nov. 1944.

  2. Ann, thank you so much for commenting. I love to hear from anyone who attended a performance of any play mentioned on this blog (or my New England Travels blog, where I also cover theatre), or knows someone who did. Small world. I hope she liked the show.