Another Evening With Harry Stoones opened (and closed) off-Broadway fifty-eight years ago this week on October 21, 1961. The reviews were so terrible after nine preview performances and opening night that the producers chose to close it rather than continue to lose more money. To commemorate this gigantic flop, this week i’ll be taking a closer look at Barbra’s costumes from the show, which were designed by Ruth Wagner.
Harry Stoones was an evening of sketch comedy created by Jeff Harris. Barbra first met Harris at an audition arranged by her manager Marty Erlichman. Harris had been having trouble finding the right combination of actors who could sing, move well, and be funny. Barbra checked all of the categories and Harris reportedly turned to the show’s musical directer Abba Bogin saying “let’s grab her. She’s fantastic.” The show had a cast of eight which included Dom De Luise and Diana Sands who would go on to originate a role on Broadway which Barbra would later play on screen- Doris in The Owl And The Pussycat. Bogin felt that the show was hurt by the location of the Gramercy Arts theatre, which is still located at 138 E 27th Street in NY, NY. A decade later he said “the show failed because it was too far ahead of its time. Today it would be a smash. It was just too avant-garde.”
During the show, Barbra was featured in nine sketches where she sang three solos and one duet.
This white dress was worn during Part Two of the show, called “The Roaring Twenties” during the finale song “Dream House.” In it Barbra played a newlywed while the rest of the cast was trying to build a honeymoon cottage which kept collapsing.
This long sleeved, white cotton swing dress was a signature silhouette in the 1950’s. These dresses were generally more trimmed than cotton day dresses of the time and had dramatic collars, pleats, buttons, and novelty print fabrics.
The bottom of Barbra’s dress featured a ruffle trim with a layer of sheer, white flocked dotted Swiss fabric. A thick horizontal row of double sided gingham ruffle trim sits above the hem. The dress is gathered at the natural waist beneath the flat waistband. A loose layer of dotted Swiss fabric covers the bodice of the dress. Two vertical dotted Swiss ruffle panels climb up each side of the dress, over the shoulder and and continue down the back. A panel of gingham sits at the edge of each ruffle. A center bodice trim of vertical ruffles reaches the gathered high-neck ruffled collar. Over this is a sheer Swiss dotted peter pan collar. The long sleeves end in Swiss dotted bell cuffs with a French hem. Round, black metallic pailettes with a center hole are scattered over entire dress. Though not visible in any photos, it is likely there was a long invisible zipper closure. Worn beneath the dress was a white cotton half slip with lace scalloped edges. The costume was paired with simple white ballet flats.