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L’il Abner

Li’l Abner is a musical with a book by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, music by Gene De Paul, and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Based on the comic strip Li’l Abner by Al Capp, the show is, on the surface, a broad spoof of hillbillies but is also a pointed satire taking on any number of topics, ranging from an incompetent United States federal government to standards of masculinity. The Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Michael Kidd and orchestrated by Philip J. Lang, opened on November 15, 1956 at the St. James Theatre where it ran for 693 performances.

The hillbilly town of Dogpatch USA has been declared the “most unnecessary town” in the U.S. and is set to be turned into a nuclear testing site. At the same time, the baby tonic (Yokumberry Tonic) that Li’l Abner has been fed all his life by his mother, Mammy Yokum, is discovered to be a potion that makes men strong and handsome, but also utterly uninterested in romance. But that fact does not deter Daisy Mae, who is determined to win the handsome–but uninterested–Li’l Abner at the Sadie Hawkins Day race. Appassionata von Climax also has her sights set on Li’l Abner, but Daisy has hired the beautiful Stupefyin’ Jones to help her win the race, while von Climax brings in Evil Eye Fleagle to distract the men. The men, meanwhile, take part in an experiment that makes them all good-looking but not interested in women.

The town is ultimately saved when Marryin’ Sam finds a plaque, declaring that its local hero and Town Founder, the Confederate General Jubilation T. Cornpone was, by virtue of his incompetence, so instrumental in the defeat of his own army as to be a hero of the Republic. The race commences, with surprising results. Although Earthquake McGoon captures Daisy Mae, Li’l Abner and she wind up getting married (by Marryin’ Sam).

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