The History of
The Teahouse of the August Moon

(from the Willows Theatre Company website)


Original 1954 Broadway Program- starring David Wayne (Sakini) and John Forsythe (Fisby)


The Teahouse of the August Moon was not written and then submitted for production, but was written on order when commissioned by its producer, who first saw the theatrical possibilities in the original book.

The producer was the notable actor-director-producer, Maurice Evans, who was so delighted upon reading Vern Sneider's novel (this was late in 1951, when Evans was acting in New York in Dial M for Murder) that he immediately obtained dramatization rights to it, and then assigned a well-known playwright to make a stage adaptation.

This playwright was unable to control the material, was called off the job and Evans then tried again by commissioning John Patrick to do a stage version.

The original novel, The Teahouse of the August Moon, by Vern Sneider, is more or less a close picture of real life as observed by Sneider, who is himself not beyond comparison with his character of Capt. Fisby.

The novel won considerable success when it was published in 1951.

The play-script was finished in the spring of 1953, and that spring and summer were spent in assembling the perfect cast and scenery and other production details that were finally shown to New York audiences at its opening night, Oct. 15, 1953 at the Martin Beck Theatre.

(The world premiere was in New Haven, CT on Sept. 24, 1953, followed by two weeks in Boston as pre-New York tuning-up engagements.)

But even early in the summer of that year, the word was flashing along the theatrical grapevine that a notable hit was on the way.

Original 1955 Souvenir Program

Hundreds of clubs and charitable organizations were bidding for blocks of tickets, more than four months before its premiere. When the opening night came along, none of the advance expectation was disappointed. The reviews were ecstatic, the public mobbed the box-office, and the same kind of fevered demand for tickets went on for over two years, as had characterized the runs of such hits as South Pacific and Oklahoma!

The original production was directed by Robert Lewis, with settings and lighting by Peter Larkin, costumes by Noel Taylor, music by Dai-Keong Lee.

In New York, Teahouse scored a run of 128 weeks (over 29 months) from Oct. 15, 1953 to March 24, 1956, or a total of 1,026 performances - the 20th longest run in the history of the Broadway stage. The show ran up similar records for popularity everywhere, running more than 30 weeks in Chicago.

Teahouse became a favorite in foreign countries. Germany and Austria gave it a kind of popularity no previous play had ever had in those countries. Productions staged by the U.S. Army in Japan and in Okinawa itself drew world-wide attention. Foreign theatergoers had a special relish for a play that showed that Pentagon-made plans, devised without accounting for local manners, customs and prejudices, must be amended by people on the ground, in order to work.

In the season of its original Broadway production, Teahouse made a clean sweep of every prize for theatrical excellence. It captured The Pulitzer Prize, N.Y. Drama Critics' Award, The Donaldson Award, The Theatre Club Award, The Aegis Theatre Club Award, The American Theatre Wing's Antointette Perry Award. This was only the fifth play in theatre history to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the N.Y. Drama Critics' Award.

A film version of the play, starring Marlon Brando as Sakini and Glenn Ford as Capt. Fisby, was released in the fall of 1956.

A musical version of the play called Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen was presented on Broadway early in 1971. It did not receive encouraging reviews and closed quickly.