Celebrate Lucille Ball's 109th Birthday With "Hey, Look Me Over" From Wildcat
The short-lived musical was Ball's only Broadway appearance.
Today, August 6, 2020, marks the 109th birthday of television legend Lucille Ball.
On her beloved sitcom I Love Lucy, Ball's character, Lucy Ricardo, was desperate to appear in the stage shows put on by her bandleader husband, Ricky. In real-life, Ball only made one appearance on Broadway, in the short-lived 1960 musical Wildcat.
With a score by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, a book by N. Richard Nash, and direction and choreography by Michael Kidd, Wildcat told the story of Wildcat "Wildy" Jackson (Ball), a woman with dreams of striking oil but no idea how to (not to mention, no money). With the help of a foreman named Joe Dynamite (Keith Andes), Wildy finds 10 acres of land, and chaos promptly ensues when she has Joe falsely arrested after he resists her charms.
There were problems from the get-go. Out-of-town reviews were tepid, the Broadway opening was postponed after a blizzard kept the sets and costumes stranded in trucks on the New Jersey Turnpike. Ball, then 49, carried the show on her shoulders, and when she fell ill (at one point, she collapsed onstage), they decided to close the show for several weeks so she could recover. (It ultimately never reopened following a nine-week shutdown.)
But the production, more importantly, showed how much power Ball wielded as an industry icon. Nash, who had imagined the character as a woman in her 20s, rewrote the script once Ball expressed interest in not only starring, but producing, too. Her company with former husband Desi Arnaz, Desilu, invested $360,000 in the show in exchange for 36 percent of the profits and the rights to the cast recording. Ball also had casting approval over her leading man.
While the show ultimately flopped, Coleman and Leigh's score did yield one enduring number, "Hey, Look Me Over." Here, Ball performs it with co-star Paula Stewart on The Ed Sullivan Show, a clip that's widely believed to be the only footage ever to surface of her original performance.