New Girl in Town
A woman with a troubled past finds love and a fresh start when she moves back to her childhood home.
Show Essentials
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Full Synopsis

Act One

A waterfront in New York City. Various walks of life are waiting for men to arrive from sea ("Roll Yer Sox Up"). Marthy, a brassy and mature woman, enters and chastises Chris, a drunken Swedish seaman, because he has stood her up while drunk. She informs him that a letter came to the bar for him. His daughter from Minnesota, Anna, is coming to visit. Chris hasn't seen Anna since she was a child; Chris left her on a farm with relatives after her mother died. The letters claim that Anna is a nurse. Chris hurries to clean himself up in order to meet her at the bar ("Anna Lilla").

Meanwhile, at the bar, Larry the bartender and two longshoremen sing a ragtime tune ("Sunshine Girl"). Marthy enters and gets drunk while waiting for Anna. When a weary women enters and downs a whiskey, Marthy is surprised to learn that she is Anna. It is revealed that Anna is a prostitute who has come East after having gotten out of jail. She is hoping that her father can give her a place to stay, despite the fact that he abandoned her and hasn't seen her for years. Marthy assures Anna that her father is a decent guy and has been thinking about her every day since he last saw her.

Chris arrives, cleaned up and sober. Anna wonders why he never tried to find her. Chris apologizes but guarantees her that she has lived a better life on the farm. She reveals the reality of that life: constantly grabbed, seduced and threatened by her cousins and uncles ("On the Farm"). He fails to understand what she is implying. Chris then offers her a place to stay until they depart for a barge in Boston. Chris makes Marthy move out so that Anna can move in. Marthy becomes upset but has no recourse. Her girlfriends recommend that she just shack up with someone else in the meantime, but she feels too old for that ("Flings").

A few days later, Chris and Anna are found on the barge. It is a foggy night as Anna sits on the deck watching the sea; she loves the fog. Chris tells her that all of their family members back in Sweden were sailors. He goes off to bed and encourages Anna to do the same, but she is enjoying the fog too much ("It's Good to Be Alive"). Suddenly, there is a commotion on the front deck. A group of shipwrecked sailors are in an open boat: two of them are in poor condition and taken into the cabin. The third sailor, Matt Burke, is safe and unharmed. He is shocked to see Anna and kisses her, much to Anna's dismay, who pushes him away. Eventually, she softens a bit and brings a coat to Matt. He promptly faints, and Chris has the others carry Matt to his room.

On the street near the New York Waterfront, a crowd and the press wait for the sailors to hear about the heroic rescue tale. Chris is frustrated that the press is ignoring him, even though he is the rescuer. He expresses concern about Anna talking to Matt, but she tells him that her life is none of his business. Later, the reporters press Matt for details, but he refuses to talk. Finally, they implore him to give them something, and he tells them about a girl who has unexpectedly changed his life – Anna ("Look at 'Er").

On the Waterfront two days later, Mr. Alderman, a political figure, gives Chris two tickets to the Check Apron Ball to reward his part in the rescue. Chris runs off to tell Anna. Soon thereafter, Marthy learns of Chris' tickets; she is overjoyed at the thought of going and is certain that Chris will ask her. Matt comes to the Waterfront and asks Marthy if she has seen Anna. Marthy goes off to find Chris and discuss the ball. Left alone, Matt contemplates how great he feels about everything ("It's Good to Be Alive – Reprise"). Anna enters, followed by a traveling salesman. Matt stops the man from bothering her but when he tries to hold her, she pushes him away again. He asks her to the ball; she accepts.

Elsewhere, Marthy finds Chris and asks him to take her to the ball. When she presses the matter, suggesting that Anna might have plans of her own to go with Matt, Chris tells her that he would still refuse to take her; Marthy is not refined enough for the ball. She is hurt by this rejection and feels as though he owes her ("Yer My Friend, Ain't Cha?"). He still refuses, but she twirls him into a dance and takes a ticket from his back pocket.

A few days later, Anna shows Marthy the dress that Chris bought her for the party. Out of jealousy, Marthy takes a dig at her about the dress, reminding Anna that she knows the truth about her past. Chris is not happy that Anna is going with Matt. Marthy leaves after Matt arrives, saying that he loves Anna; she finally tells him that she loves him, too. She asks him to remember that she has never loved a man before, no matter what happens next ("Did You Close Your Eyes"). Chris then enters, and Matt announces that he and Anna are getting married. Anna is just as surprised as Chris to hear this. He does not want his daughter to marry a sailor, and the two men get into an argument. Anna stops them by throwing her new dress on the floor and declaring that she isn't going to the ball. Chris then promises that he won't fight with Matt for the duration of the evening. The two temporarily end their fight.

That evening, people are making their way over to the ball. Inside, the brewery has been decorated in great style. The liquor is flowing, so everyone appears to be having a wonderful time ("At the Check Apron Ball"). Marthy tries to maintain a dignified manner, but as she watches everyone praise Anna and ignore her, her resistance crumbles and she becomes drunk. Much to his dismay, Matt watches Chris parading Anna around to all of the political bigwigs. Mr. Alderman asks Anna to dance, and soon the whole crowd is dancing ("There Ain't No Flies on Me").

Act Two

Still at the dance, Marthy becomes completely intoxicated and fights with Chris when he reprimands her. The Alderman intervenes and encourages them to set a good example; he suggests that they lead a dance. Marthy declines and makes Anna dance with Chris ("Ven I Valse"). After the dance, Marthy tries to approach Anna to harass her, but Matt intercedes. Marthy lashes out and eventually faints. She is taken outside. Anna goes to Matt, but he pulls away from her. Outside of the Brewery, Matt questions Anna about Marthy's statement. Anna finally tells him the truth about her past. He pushes her to the ground and runs out. Chris and a group of politicians find Anna outside and tell her that Senator Malone wants to dance with her, but she refuses and goes for a walk alone, instead.

Now ready to leave Anna and their romance behind, Matt decides to join a crew on a ship going to China. Marthy, regretting what she has done, tells Anna that she should lie to Chris and discredit what Marthy told him. In the midst of this, a group from the ball enters ("Sunshine Girl"). Anna, meanwhile, goes to see Matt and convince him that she has changed, but he continues to reject her. She maintains that what she revealed earlier is actually not true – she has never loved any man before Matt. He doesn't believe her. Marthy tries to apologize for the joke that she played on Matt, but it is too late. He wants nothing to do with Anna and leaves. Marthy feels terrible and vows to reform her ways.

In Chris' room, Anna is crying as her father tries to console her. Chris is preparing to go out on a barge and wants Anna to come with him. He still believes that his daughter is a virgin princess, even though she tries to make him see the truth. Left alone, Anna reflects on the reality of love ("Ballet"). She goes outside, and Henry, a neighborhood produce seller, offers to escort her from the bad part of town to the main street. She consents.

A year passes. Back on the Waterfront, Chris comes looking for Anna. She now lives on Staten Island with Henry, and this is the one day when she visits each week. Matt is back in town from China, and Chris is panicked at the thought that Anna might see him again. Before Chris can intercede, Matt enters and inquires about Anna. Chris quickly reports that she doesn't want to see him anymore and that she is married.

Henry then enters carrying a bushel basket full of potatoes. Anna, who is now wearing coarse, old farm clothes, is also carrying a bushel of potatoes. Henry appears to know nothing of Anna and Matt's past, and actually encourages her to visit with her old friend while Chris helps him deliver the potatoes. Left alone, Anna and Matt reconnect and feel the mutual attraction return. Henry comes back, and as he prepares to leave, she informs him that she is going to stay and talk to Matt. She then confesses to him that she isn't married but that she is working on a farm on Staten Island. She is just trying to be a better person. Her father knows nothing.

Chris returns and tells Anna not to be late for the ferry. She prepares to leave. Matt, however, stops her and asks her to take a later ferry. Chris tries to interfere again, but Anna agrees to dinner with Matt and goes to tell Henry that she'll be taking a later ferry. Suddenly, Marthy enters with a few of her friends. She is dressed very neatly in a long blue skirt with a long club coat. She now works with a group that collects contributions for the Seamen's Home, a place for the poor homeless seamen to hang out ("Chess and Checkers"). She greets Matt quickly but has to get back to collecting donations. Chris asks Marthy what he should do, now that Matt is back in town. Marthy tells him that he cannot control Anna any longer.

Anna comes back from the ferry, no longer wearing her farm dress. She runs into Matt's arms, and the two promise always to be there for one another. Matt takes a new earring from his ear and gives it to Anna. Once again, true love wins out over the many adversities thrown in its way ("Look at 'Er – Reprise").



Cast Size: Medium (11 to 20 performers)
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Check Apron Ball host. He is a man who knows far more about others business than is humanly necessary. With a cheery disposition and warm presence, he is a joy to be around.
Gender: male
Age: 50 to 65
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: D3
The brassy live-in friend to Chris. She is a strong woman with a penchant for drinking. Has an infatuation for Chris.
Gender: female
Age: 45 to 55
Vocal range top: B5
Vocal range bottom: Bb3
The barge captain and former sailor. A large, Swedish man who is light on his feet and ecstatic to reunite with Anna. Very protective and somewhat territorial, he has difficulty prioritizing his relationships.
Gender: male
Age: 50 to 60
Vocal range top: F4
Vocal range bottom: Bb2
A working girl of questionable employment. Streetwise and whip smart, she is a sweetheart with a rough past.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: B5
Vocal range bottom: G4
The quintessential old-timey bar owner, he is always ready to lend a hand and and pour a drink. A very fun loving fellow.
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 60
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: D3
Chris's estranged daughter and the new girl in town. An awful history with men has soured their company to her. She is sharp, blonde, and beautiful.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 21
Vocal range top: B5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Stoker and sailor. A self-admitted dummy, Matt is frightened of being taking advantage of. Strong, lovesick, stubborn.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 28
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Seamen (Johnson, Jung, Moreda, Nola, Oscar, Smith, Svenson), Various Residents Of Town (Mrs. Dowling, Mrs. Hammacher, Mrs. Olson, Mrs. Smith, Pansy, Pat, Pearl, Violet)
Full Song List
New Girl In Town: Overture
New Girl In Town: Roll Yer Socks Up
New Girl In Town: Anna Lilla
New Girl In Town: Sunshine Girl
New Girl In Town: On The Farm
New Girl In Town: Flings
New Girl In Town: It's Good To Be Alive
New Girl In Town: Look At 'Er
New Girl In Town: It's Good To Be Alive (Reprise)
New Girl In Town: Yer My Friend Ain'tcha?
New Girl In Town: Did You Close Your Eyes?
New Girl In Town: At The Check Apron Ball
New Girl In Town: There Ain't No Flies On Me
New Girl In Town: Ven I Valse
New Girl In Town: Sunshine Girl reprise
New Girl In Town: If That Was Love
New Girl In Town: Chess And Checkers
New Girl In Town: Look At 'Er reprise

Show History


New Girl in Town is based on Eugene O'Neill's play, Anna Christie, which made its Broadway debut at the Vanderbilt Theatre on November 2, 1921, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1922.

As in many adaptations, the authors of New Girl in Town changed certain details when musicalizing the story. The musical ends on a much happier note than the original work.

New Girl in Town was created by Broadway veteran George Abbott and Broadway newcomer Bob Merrill as a star vehicle for Gwen Verdon, who had just finished playing the role of Lola in Damn Yankees, a Tony Award-winning performance.


New Girl in Town opened on May 14, 1957, at the Forty-sixth Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers) and closed on May 24, 1958, after 431 performances. The show was well received by both critics and audiences.

The Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City produced New Girl in Town in 2012. This production ran from July 18, through September 14, 2012, and featured Margaret Loesser Robinson, Cliff Bemis, Patrick Cummings and Danielle Ferland (who is best known for originating the role of Little Red in Into the Woods).

Cultural Influence

  • New Girl in Town was so well received that much of the creative team came together a year later for yet another collaboration, Redhead.
  • Composer/lyricist Bob Merrill was best known prior to his Broadway debut with New Girl in Town as the writer of the 1952 novelty tune, "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" popularized by Patti Page.


  • RCA Victor first released the original cast recording of New Girl in Town in 1957.
  • Both Carol Burnett and Martha Raye  have recorded the song, "Flings," from the show.


  • Bob Fosse choreographed the original production of New Girl in Town, and was eager to showcase the talents of Gwen Verdon. He devised a second act dream sequence that depicted life in a brothel. Some audiences found the ballet sequence so scandalous that it actually drew gasps from the crowd, and during its tryout run in New Haven, Connecticut, local police closed the show. The sequence was cut from that production at George Abbott's request but was restored when the show moved to New York.
  • Gwen Verdon's triumph as Anna in New Girl in Town helped to make the idea of a "triple threat" (an actor who can act, sing and dance) a standard by the end of the 1950s.
  • The number, "Cathouse Ballet," was cut when the show tried out in Boston, possibly because it made Anna's former life as a prostitute appear far more appealing than her present circumstances. The producers went so far as to burn the scenery in the alley behind the theatre to prevent the sequence from being restored.
  • According to musical theatre historians, the song, "Elegance," was written for New Girl in Town but not used. Dan Dietz writes in The Complete Book of 1950s Broadway Musicals that for years, rumors have persisted that the number was performed during the tryout, but programs for the New Haven and Boston engagements don't list it.

Critical Reaction

"Charlotte Moore's production is sharp and atmospheric."
New York Daily News, 2012 Irish Rep Production.

"Bob Merrill wrote such a clever and often catchy score for the George Abbott-written 1957 tuner New Girl in Town that it's reason enough to hotfoot it over to the Irish Repertory Theatre for the current revival."
– Theatremania

"A largely upbeat musical based on a downbeat story about just such a lady, New Girl in Town is enjoying a sprightly off-Broadway revival at the Irish Repertory Theatre."
– Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press

Tony® Award

1958 - Supporting Or Featured Musical Actor, Nominee (Cameron Prud'homme)
1958 - Best Musical, Nominee (New Girl in Town)
1958 - Best Actress in a Muscial, Winner (Gwen Verdon)
1958 - Best Actress in a Musical, Winner (Thelma Ritter)
1958 - Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Cameron Prud'homme)
1958 - Choreographer, Nominee (Bob Fosse)
1958 - Musical, Nominee (George Abbott (book), Bob Merrill (music and lyrics), Robert Griffiths and Harold S. Prince (producers))
1958 - Musical Actress, Winner (Gwen Verdon)
1958 - Musical Actress, Winner (Thelma Ritter)
1993 - Best Choreography, Nominee (Bob Fosse)



Based on the play, Anna Christie by Eugene O'Neill


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(Based on the play "Anna Christie" by Eugene O'Neill)
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Music and Lyrics by


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