Paint Your Wagon is a Broadway musical comedy, with book and lyrics by Alan J. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story centers around a miner and his daughter and follows the lives and loves of the people in a mining camp in Gold Rush-era California. Popular songs from the show included “Wand’rin’ Star”, “I Talk to the Trees” and “They Call the Wind Maria”. (While the name in this title is pronounced as in the currently popular spelling “Mariah,” the original spelling is the classical spelling of “Maria.”)
The musical ran on Broadway in 1951 and in the West End in 1953. In 1969 the film version also titled Paint Your Wagon was released. It had a highly revised plot and some new songs composed by Lerner and André Previn.
In the California Wilderness in May 1853, a crusty old miner, Ben Rumson, is conducting a makeshift funeral for a friend. Meanwhile his 16-year-old daughter Jennifer discovers gold dust. Ben claims the land, and prospectors start flocking to the brand new town of Rumson (“I’m On My Way”). Two months later Rumson has a population of 400, all of whom are men except for Jennifer. Prospector Jake Whippany is waiting to save enough money to send for Cherry and her Fandango girls (“Rumson”), while Jennifer senses the tension building in town (“What’s Going On Here?”). Julio Valveras, a handsome young miner forced to live and work outside of town because he is Mexican, comes to town with dirty laundry and runs into Jennifer, who volunteers to do his laundry. They also talk to each other (“I Talk to the Trees”). Steve Bulmarck and the other men ponder the lonely nomadic life they lead in the song “They Call the Wind Maria”.
Two months later the men want Ben to send Jennifer away, and he wishes her mother was still alive to help him (“I Still See Elisa”). Jennifer is in love with Julio (“How Can I Wait?”), and when Ben sees Jennifer dancing with Julio’s clothes, he decides to send her East on the next stage. Jacob Woodling, a Mormon man with two wives, Sarah and Elizabeth, arrives in Rumson where the men demand Jacob sell one of his wives. To his surprise, Ben finds himself wooing Elizabeth (“In Between”) and wins her for $800 (“Whoop-Ti-Yay”). Jennifer is disgusted by her father’s actions and runs away, telling Julio that she will be reunited with him in a year’s time (“Carino Mio”). Cherry and her Fandango girls arrive (“There’s a Coach Comin’ In”). Julio learns his claim is running dry which means he has to move on to make a living and that he will not be there to greet Jennifer when she returns.
A year later in October, the miners celebrate the high times in Rumson now that the Fandango girls are around (“Hand Me Down That Can o’ Beans”). Edgar Crocker, a miner who has saved his money, falls for Elizabeth and she responds, although Ben does not notice since he thinks Raymond Janney is in love with her (he is). Another miner, Mike Mooney, tells Julio about a lake that has gold dust on the bottom and he considers looking for it (“Another Autumn”). Jennifer returns in December, having learned civilized ways back East (“All for Him”). Ben tells his daughter that he will soon be moving on since he was not meant to stay in one place for long (“Wand’rin’ Star”). The next day as Cherry and the girls are packing to leave they tell her about Julio leaving to find the lake with a bottom of gold. Raymond Janney offers to buy Elizabeth from Ben for $3,000, but she runs off with Edgar Crocker.
Word comes of another strike 40 miles south of Rumson and the rest of the town packs up to leave except for Jennifer, who is waiting for Julio to return, and Ben, who suddenly realizes that Rumson is indeed his town. Late in April, Julio appears, a broken man. The now dying Ben welcomes him and Julio is amazed to see Jennifer is there. As they move toward each other, the wagons filled with people move on.
The musical opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on November 12, 1951, and closed on July 19, 1952, after 289 performances. The production was directed by Daniel Mann, set design by Oliver Smith, costume design by Motley, lighting design by Peggy Clark, music for dances arranged by Trude Rittman, with dances and musical ensembles by Agnes de Mille set to the orchestrations of Ted Royal.
It starred James Barton (as Ben Rumson), Olga San Juan (Jennifer Rumson), Tony Bavaar (Julio Valveras), Gemze de Lappe (Yvonne Sorel), James Mitchell (Pete Billings), Kay Medford (Cherry), and Marijane Maricle (Elizabeth Woodling). Burl Ives and Eddie Dowling later took over the role of Ben Rumson. De Mille later restaged the dances as a stand-alone ballet, Gold Rush (by wikipedia)
The 50-year European copyright limit on recordings allowed the original Broadway cast recording of Paint Your Wagon, originally released by RCA Victor in 1951, into the public domain early in the 21st century, and British bottom-feeder reissue label Prism Leisure has responded by pressing up its own version. The sound quality is good, suggesting that someone simply went to a record store and bought the latest RCA CD for transfer, though, of course, the original was recorded in mono under what are now thought of as primitive conditions. Still, cast members James Barton, Olga San Juan, Tony Bavaar, and Rufus Smith come through loud and clear in their performances of the memorable Western-tinged score for the Gold Rush story, including the songs “They Call the Wind Maria,” “I Talk to the Trees,” and “Wand’rin’ Star.” And there is a bonus track of “They Call the Wind Maria” by Vaughn Monroe, whose RCA recording, contemporary to the show, is also in the public domain in Europe. The RCA version of the cast album is to be preferred for its superior sound and packaging over what is essentially a legal bootleg, but for casual listeners on a budget, this one will serve. (Although technically issued only in Europe, the album was readily available at a modest price in the U.S. upon release.) (by William Ruhlmann)
James Barton (as Ben Rumson)
Tony Bavaar (Julio Valveras)
Olga San Juan (as Jennifer Rumson)
Gemze de Lappe (as Yvonne Sorel)
Marijane Maricle (as Elizabeth Woodling)
Kay Medford (as Cherry)
James Mitchell (Pete Billings)
Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra
01. I’m on My Way (Chorus / Robert Penn / Rufus Smith / Dave Thomas) 3.54
02. Rumson (Robert Penn) 0.48
03. What’s Going on Here? (Olga San Juan) 3.28
04. I Talk To The Trees (Tony Bavaar) 3.31
05. They Call the Wind Maria (Chorus / Rufus Smith) 3.17
06. I Still See Elisa (James Barton) 3.17
07. How Can I Wait? (Olga San Juan) 4.13
08. In Between (James Barton) 2.40
09. Whoop-Ti-Ay! (Chorus) 1.45
10. Carino Mio (Tony Bavaar / Olga San Juan) 2.46
11. There’s A Coach Comin’ In (Chorus) 1.58
12. Hand Me Down That Can O’Beans (Chorus / Robert Penn) 1.44
13. Another Autumn (Tony Bavaar / Rufus Smith) 2.52
14. All For Him (Olga San Juan) 2.28
15. Wand’rin’ Star (James Barton / Chorus) 2.31
16. They Call The Wind Maria (bonus track) (Vaughn Monroe) 2.50
Music: Alan Jay Lerner / Book & lyrics: Frederick Loewe