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Bells Are Ringing

Bells Are Ringing is a musical with a book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Jule Styne.

The story revolves around Ella, who works at an answering service and the characters that she meets there. The main character was based on Mary Printz, who worked for Green’s answering service. Three of the show’s tunes – “Long Before I Knew You,” “Just in Time,” and “The Party’s Over” – became popular standards.

The original Broadway production, directed by Jerome Robbins and choreographed by Robbins and Bob Fosse, opened on November 29, 1956 at the Shubert Theatre, where it ran for slightly more than two years before transferring to the Alvin Theatre, for a total run of 924 performances. It starred Judy Holliday as Ella and Sydney Chaplin as Jeff Moss, Jean Stapleton as Sue Summers, Eddie Lawrence as Sandor, as well as George S. Irving, Jack Weston, and Peter Gennaro.

In Bells Are Ringing, Ella Peterson works in the basement office of her boss, Sue, of “Susanswerphone”, a telephone answering service. She listens in on others’ lives and adds some interest to her own humdrum existence by adopting different identities – and voices – for her clients. They include Blake Barton, an out-of-work Method actor, Dr. Kitchell, a dentist with musical yearnings but lacking talent, and playwright Jeff Moss, who is suffering from writer’s block and desperately needs a muse. As suggested by the song title, Ella considers the relationships with these clients “perfect” because she can’t see them and they can’t see her, yet she derives great pleasure from meddling in their lives.

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