The penultimate Rodgers & Hart collaboration introduced the first anti-hero to propel a musical. Joey is an opportunistic cad, but he always seems to land on his feet. He elbows his way into a job at a seedy Chicago nightclub and is soon juggling the affections of a naive chorus girl and a wealthy society dame who just happens to be married. Once Joey has charmed the socialite into setting him up in his own joint, he ditches the chorine and is riding high, playing the big-time operator. When a punk threatens to spill the whole business to the socialite's husband, she decides that she's bored with Joey anyway, dumping him and the club. Having had a taste of his own medicine, you'd think Joey would head back to the sweet kid who really loves him. Wrong. Some things never change, but you know what? He's still on his feet.
Pal Joey opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York on December 25, 1940, starring Gene Kelly and Vivienne Segal. Though some reviewers criticized the show for not following established musical comedy traditions, most critics raved, including the New York Herald Tribune, which called it “an outstanding musicomedy.” The show ran for 374 performances, a total surpassed in 1952 when a Broadway revival featuring Harold Lang and Vivienne Segal played 542 performances – the longest run of any Rodgers & Hart show.
For a more detailed history of Pal Joey, check out the below article in Breaking Character:
Pal Joey: A History of Rodgers & Hart's Bewitching Musical
by Bert Fink