Show History



Where's Charley? is George Abbot's adaptation of the original play, Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas. A classic college farce, Charley's Aunt opened in London in 1892 and broke all historic records for plays of any kind, lasting some 1,466 performances. It went on to inspire four film adaptations and a commercial Broadway run before being adapted by Abbott and Loesser into the musical hit, Where's Charley?


Where's Charley? is a musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by George Abbott. The story is based on the 1892 play, Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas.

Under the direction of the legendary George Abbott and equally revered choreographer George Balanchine, Where's Charley? premiered on Broadway on October 11, 1948, at the St. James Theatre. A huge success, the musical continued its run for 792 performances before closing on September 9, 1950. The original cast starred Ray Bolger, of The Wizard of Oz fame, who won the Tony Award for Best Actor for his role.

The musical then set out on a U.S. touring production and returned to Broadway, opening at The Broadway Theatre for 48 performances, from January 29, 1951, to March 10, 1951. Bolger reprised his role and Abbott again directed.

In 1952, Warner Brothers produced a film version of the musical, directed by David Butler and starring much of the original Broadway cast, including Ray Bolger reprising his role as Charley.

Following on the tails of its hit status in the U.S., Where's Charley? lept across the pond and after a trial run at the Opera House in Manchester, the musical opened in the West End at the Palace Theatre on February 20, 1958, running for 404 performances. It was directed by William Chappell with an entirely British cast that was led by Norman Wisdom as Charley.

Circle in the Square then produced a revival of Where's Charley? on Broadway, opening on December 20, 1974, after twenty previews and running until February 23, 1975. Raul Julia led the cast and was Tony-nominated in the role of Charley.

In 2001, a West End revival was staged in Regent Park's Open Air Theatre as a part of their summer repertory season, running from July 26, to August 16, 2001, and then from March 17-20, 2011, Where's Charley? finally made its way back to New York in a semi-staged production presented as a part of New York City Center's Encores! series. The cast featured Rebecca Luker and Howard McGillin, with Rob McClure as Charley; the production was directed by John Doyle.

Cultural Influence

  • Where's Charley? was the first Broadway show by Frank Loesser, who had made a name for himself as a popular songwriter in revues. It immediately demonstrated the master's easy command of wit and romance, sophistication and hi-jinks. Where's Charley? launched Loesser into the songwriting stratosphere and led to later hit musicals, such as Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.
  • Inspired by the show and role that won him a Tony Award for Best Actor, Ray Boger's ABC sitcom was titled "Where's Raymond?" in its first season in 1953-1954. In the second season, the series was renamed "The Ray Bolger Show."
  • A Where's Charley? cast album was recorded by the original London cast and released by Angel Records.
  • In 1952, Warner Brothers produced a film version of Where's Charley?, based on the musical adaptation and largely featuring the original Broadway cast.


  • The 1975 Broadway revival of Where's Charley? received five Tony Award nominations and four Drama Desk Award nominations.
  • During his stint in the title role on Broadway, Ray Bolger brought the house lights up on the audience nightly, midway through "Once in Love with Amy," and led them in a merry sing-along. It was a show-stopping number, lasting nearly seven minutes.
  • George Balanchine had also worked with Bolger on his previous biggest hit, the groundbreaking On Your Toes, twelve years before Where's Charley?.
  • Loesser's score, much appreciated by the press and the public, has remained largely obscure. This is most likely attributed to a dispute between the musicians' union and the record industry – resulting in a recording ban during the 1948-49 Broadway season that disallowed the making of a cast album. Where's Charley? remained undocumented until a British version was released in the 1960s.
  • In a tribute to the stage musical upon which it was based, and in which most of the cast had originally starred, the movie version of Where's Charley? ends with each of the principal cast members taking a curtain call.
  • Although Warner Bros. and the Loesser estate each finally expressed an interest in making the film available in the future, as of 2014, the 1952 film version of Where's Charley? has never been released onto VHS or DVD for home viewing.