Filichia Features: Check out The Day Before Spring This Summer

Filichia Features: Check out The Day Before Spring This Summer

Aren’t reunions fun?

Well, yes and no.

A quarter-century before Ben, Phyllis, Buddy and Sally learned that lesson in Follies, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe made that same point in their musical about a tenth-anniversary college reunion.

The Day Before Spring opened on November 22, 1945 – precisely 18 years before the Kennedy Assassination, which would, of course, impact another Lerner and Loewe musical: Camelot.

Happily married is Peter Townsend (not Pete Townshend; that’s someone else). But what of his wife Katherine? She seems satisfied enough but she did recently read that best-seller The Day Before Spring by Alex Maitland – and found that his story was based on their story.

For when they were students at Harrison University, Katherine and Alex were en route to eloping when his car broke down. And who happened to come by and help? Peter, with whom Katherine fell in love and chose to marry instead of Alex.

Alex’s novel is – at least to Katherine – thinly veiled. The only (albeit profound) difference is that here the college sweethearts wind up marrying and living a wonderfully adventurous, travel-filled and wealthy life. Katherine muses that she could have had all that if she’d stayed with this best-selling-author-to-be.

So while Peter is hot to head to Harrison, Katherine is torn on attending the reunion. What if Alex is there – or isn’t?

When friends and fellow alums Bill and May Tompkins say that Alex will definitely attend, Katherine decides she must, for better or worse, go along for the ride that could be bumpy or smooth.

We meet Alex when he’s at the school addressing a group of adoring female fans. But as Peter later confides to his assistant Gerald, he’s there to see Katherine.

Original cast of The Day Before Spring

Another alum, Chris, is at the reunion in hopes of landing a husband. But her prey is not Alex, but Peter. “My Love Is a Married Man,” she unabashedly sings.

Old situations; new complications. Peter has no interest in Chris, which isn’t at all true for Alex and Katherine. Lerner made the perfect choice for a song when Alex sees Katherine, for he says what everyone wants to hear at reunions: “You Haven’t Changed at All.” Loewe offered many bountiful melodies that ranged from Latin to languid with this being the loveliest of them all.

Also at the class reunion are Sigmund Freud, Plato and Voltaire. No, Harrison University isn’t their alma mater; they merely show up in a dream ballet.

It’s the first of two. Does the prospect of staging a couple of them sound daunting? Be consoled that The Day Before Spring otherwise requires very little dancing. Besides, ballets needn’t be lengthy. Just get across the point in Act One that Katherine weighs advice from Plato (“Stay with Peter!”), Voltaire (“Make Alex your lover!”) and Freud (“Run away with Alex!”).

Katherine takes Freud’s advice, leaving Peter shocked when he reads her goodbye note. He goes chasing after her and – guess what! – Alex’s car has broken down once again and in the same spot.

When Peter finds them, the second dream ballet teaches Katherine that the husband you know is better than the husband you don’t.

The New Haven tryout had the Variety critic unequivocally state that the “show has freshness, an appealing score, (and) bright lyrics.” Boston critics were even more enthusiastic. The Globe called it “the best truly sophisticated musical in years. Unless the crystal ball is deceiving us, it is the musical hit of the season.”

Well … it wasn’t, for such words as “likeable” (Times), “polite” (Herald-Tribune) and “pleasant” (Post) don’t create stampedes at the box office. Many who saw the show at the York Theatre Company in 2007 agreed instead with the critics from the News (“refreshing as a June breeze”), Telegraph (“I recommend it to you without reservation”), World Telegram (“brilliant”), Journal American (“a welcome addition to the town’s top musicals”) and Mirror (“It belongs on your ‘shows-to-see’ list”).

And perhaps it belongs on your “shows-to-do” list, too. Although The Day Before Spring managed only a five-month run, audiences may not have then been ready for a musical that so frankly questioned marriage even if its ultimate message favored the institution.

Who knows how many 1945 audiences were immediately alienated by the Alexandre Dumas quotation that was pasted above the proscenium arch: “The chains of wedlock are so heavy that it takes two to carry them -- sometimes three.”

Those who now produce the show might well see that message over the proscenium getting sad nods of recognition from their audiences. Whether you use it or not, do consider opening your production on March 19. It is, of course, the day before spring.

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You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at