Jamaica (musical)

Jamaica is a musical with a book by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy, lyrics by Harburg, and music by Harold Arlen. It is set on a small island off the coast of Jamaica, and tells about a simple island community fighting to avoid being overrun by American commercialism.

Original Cast Recording
MusicHarold Arlen
LyricsE.Y. Harburg
BookE.Y. Harburg
Fred Saidy
Productions1957 Broadway

Arlen's music parodies the popular form of Calypso, which was in vogue in the 1950s, largely as a result of the popularity of Harry Belafonte, for whom the musical originally was written. Belafonte withdrew from the production due to illness, and the musical was tailored around the talents of Lena Horne.[1] Harburg was blacklisted in Hollywood at the time of the writing of the musical,[1] and the satire is unusually pointed. With Calypso so out of fashion the musical now is dated, but many of the issues raised in its songs, including evolution, nuclear energy, and consumerism, remain topical today.


The musical opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on October 31, 1957 and closed on April 11, 1959 after 558 performances. The musical was directed by Robert Lewis and produced by David Merrick, with choreography by Jack Cole, scenic Design by Oliver Smith, costume design by Miles White and lighting design by Jean Rosenthal. The cast included Ricardo Montalbán as Koli and Lena Horne as Savannah, with Ossie Davis as Cicero, Erik Rhodes as Governor, Adelaide Hall as Grandma Obeah, and Josephine Premice as Ginger. Alvin Ailey was the principal dancer.

The song "Boy, Girl, and Island" was originally written for the play, but was cut and replaced by "Take It Slow, Joe."[2]

An original cast recording was released by RCA Victor.


Savannah, a beautiful island girl, longs to escape to New York City to live a life of modern conveniences. She is tempted to accept the marriage proposal of a New York businessman visiting the island. However, when Koli, an impoverished fisherman, saves her younger brother's life during a hurricane, she opts to remain with him.

Cast of characters (in order of appearance)Edit

Song listEdit

Awards and nominationsEdit

Original Broadway productionEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1958 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Ricardo Montalbán Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Lena Horne Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Ossie Davis Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Josephine Premice Nominated
Best Scenic Design Oliver Smith Nominated
Best Costume Design Miles White Nominated


  1. ^ a b Lorenz, Kathleen Phillis. "Spotlight on E.Y. "Yip" Harburg" Archived 2012-02-07 at the Wayback Machine. 42ndstmoon.com
  2. ^ Stanley Green, Encyclopedia of the Musical Theater (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1976) p. 216

External linksEdit