Theatre Review: "Three Men on a Horse"

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario – The play begins in a small suburban house in Ozone Heights, New Jersey, the home of a young couple named Erwin and Audrey Trowbridge. Erwin works in an office where he writes verses for greeting cards, and this morning he's feeling the pressure of having to come up with 67 new Mother's Day poems by the end of the week. As if this weren't enough, Audrey finds a notebook in which Erwin has written some cryptic names and numbers, and she leaps to the conclusion that he is seeing other women. But these names do not belong to girls, he explains: they belong to horses!

Erwin has taken to picking race-track winners as a harmless pastime, the way that some people might do crosswords. He tells Audrey he wouldn't consider really gambling, as they can barely get by on his salary as it is. But he keeps track of the money that he might have won and it's a whopping sum, several times his annual income. Frantic about work deadlines looming, Erwin flies off the handle when another of Audrey's unexpected shopping bills arrives. Instead of going to the office, he starts bar-hopping in the city, where he meets a group of small-time gamblers who are down on their luck -- until they discover Erwin's remarkable gift for picking winners!

"Three Men on a Horse" opened on Broadway in January 1935 and ran for over 800 performances. A durable classic of the American theatre, it has enjoyed three Broadway revivals, including one in 1993 that starred television's "Odd couple," Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. It also appeared on Broadway as the musical "Let It Ride" (1961).

George Abbott (1887-1995), the play's co-author and original director, is one of the great figures of the Broadway stage. As actor, director, playwright, producer and "play doctor," Abbott contributed to over 130 Broadway productions in a career that spanned most of the twentieth century. As a writer, he specialized in spicy melodramas such as "Broadway" (1926) and in musicals such as "On Your Toes" (1936), "The Boys from Syracuse" (1938), "Where's Charley" (1951) "The Pajama Game" (1954), "Damn Yankees" (1955) and "Fiorello" (1959). He also directed many other successful productions of both musical and non-musical plays. Renowned as a great gentleman as well as a great director, he was always referred to as "Mr Abbott," though his nickname was "Mr Broadway." An autobiography entitled Mister Abbott was published in 1963, and a gala tribute entitled "George Abbott: A Celebration" played for one night on Broadway in May 1976.

Click the "listen" icon above to hear Grant Golden's review of "Three Men on a Horse."