Bud and Lou make Broadway debut June 19, 1939

Abbott and Costello’s first and only Broadway show, “Streets of Paris,” opened at the Broadhurst Theater (235 West 44th Street) on June 19, 1939. The boys, who were then in their second year as regulars on the Kate Smith radio show, were billed below veteran comedian and burlesque alumnus Bobby Clark (1888-1960). Clark had been part of a stage and film comedy team, Clark and McCullough, until his partner’s death in 1936. Bud Abbott had seen Clark and McCullough perform in burlesque when he worked in the box office of the Casino Theater in Brooklyn twenty years earlier. The Abbott and Costello film Mexican Hayride (1949) was based on another of Clark’s Broadway hits.

Brazilian singer and dancer Carmen Miranda (1909-1955), and Gower Champion (1919-1980) and Jeanne Tyler, “America’s Youngest Dance Team,” also made their Broadway debuts in “Streets.” Miranda returned to Broadway in Olsen and Johnson’s hit 1941 revue “Sons o’ Fun,” and made several Technicolor musicals at Twentieth Century-Fox. After serving in World War II, Champion teamed up with Marjorie Belcher, who also became his wife. Champion became one of Broadway’s most sought-after director/choreographers.

New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson called “Streets of Paris” “Paris-a-poppen,” a reference to the hit show “Hellzapoppin'” featuring comedians Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson who, along with the Shuberts, also co-produced “Streets.” Atkinson noted that Abbott and Costello were “pretty funny fellows,” and when they and Bobby Clark appeared together in the same sketch, the event “ought to be worth some sort of prize.” Variety wrote, “Comedians Bobby Clark and Abbott and Costello had the audience screaming at times.” Wolcott Gibbs in the New Yorker found the comedy “fast, elementary, vulgar, funny, and more than a little reminiscent of something you saw or read a long time ago.” Burns Mantle in the New York Daily News said the revue was “one of the top scorers in its class” and was “Hellzapoppin'” “with a shade more class.”

Bud and Lou did several classic routines in the show, including “Hole in the Wall,” “Lemon Table,” and “Crazy House,” which stopped the show every night.

“Streets of Paris” ran for 274 performances, until February 1940. Michael Todd bought the rights to the revue and opened it at the New York World’s Fair that summer in an abbreviated version with Bud, Lou and Gypsy Rose Lee. Brooks Atkinson wrote, “Abbott and Costello are a little funnier than they were originally, which was funny enough.”

The Shuberts wanted Abbott and Costello and Carmen Miranda for another musical, but Bud and Lou made their film debut later that year in One Night in the Tropics (1940), and became movie stars with the release of their second film, Buck Privates, in January 1941. Although they made several appearances in Times Square movie theaters over the years, they never appeared in a Broadway show again.

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