Meet John Doe
Music By: Andrew Gerle
Lyrics By: Eddie Sugarman
Book By: Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman
Distributed By: Broadway Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Based on a 1941 film by Frank Capra which starred Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper, Meet John Doe is a musical featuring a subject with relevance to present day America. When the New American Times newspaper is bought out by wealthy oil mogul and entrepreneur D.B. Norton, many of the staff find themselves a part of yesterday’s news. Ambitious reporter Ann Mitchell (Heidi Blickenstaff) refuses to go down without a fight. In an effort to save her job, she writes a letter to her own column from an everyday American named “John Doe.”
According to the letter, “John Doe” is down on his luck, unable to find a job like many other Americans and is planning on jumping off of the Brooklyn Bridge on Christmas Eve as a protest against a society that will allow hard-working individuals to be forced out of jobs so wealthy professionals can make even more money than they already have. Ann never expects that the letter would become so important to the readers that it would be printed and reprinted with numerous responses to the column.
Employing out-of-work baseball player John Willoughby (James Moye) to pose as “John Doe,” Ann finds herself ghostwriting columns for her creation. And the longer she works with John, the more she realizes that he is more than just a handsome face – he has become the voice of the average American. She begins to develop a respect for the former ballplayer that has the potential to turn into something more. But when her boss decides to try and cash in on John Doe’s popularity, will Ann and John continue the charade or will they come clean with their many fans across the nation.
I had never heard of this musical before listening to the original cast recording of Meet John Doe. I found it to be incredibly enjoyable and quite relative to the present economic times, despite the fact that it takes place during the heart of the Depression. The listener roots for Ann Mitchell as she finds a way to outwit the oil mogul, keeping her job and appealing to the American public with a character that understands exactly what it is like to be an Average Joe during a severe economic downturn.
The songs in Meet John Doe are clever and fun and you find yourself singing along after the first play-through of the soundtrack. The characters of Ann Mitchell and John Willoughby are likable and feel worthy of your support. Listening to James Moye and Heidi Blickenstaff singing together, you can imagine the chemistry of the two performers on stage. You want them to succeed against the ruthless newspaper owner who represents every high-powered mogul willing to let employees go and compromise good product for greater profit.
Meet John Doe is an enjoyable musical with talented and charismatic performers and a great message for the audience. After listening to this original cast recording of Meet John Doe, I would definitely enjoy actually attending the performance live. I am happy to add this album to my musical soundtrack collection. I highly recommend Meet John Doe to all musical lovers out there looking for something new and relevant to the times.