Anyone Can Whistle

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Anyone Can Whistle is a three-act musical with a book by Arthur Laurents and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It was the second show to feature Sondheim writing his own music as well as lyrics.

It tells the story of a destitute town, run by the corrupt mayor Cora Hoover Hooper (the musical stage debut of Angela Lansbury), who has a 0% Approval Rating. She and her cronies need a way to earn revenue, so they figure it out - a fake miracle, of water gushing from a rock. It draws in tourists and pilgrims and is a smashing success until nurse Fay Apple, who works at the local insane asylum, wants the "miracle water" for the patients. Soon, the loonies start mingling with the pilgrims, and they can't sort out who is who.

Enter one J. Bowden Hapgood, who does just that... by sorting them into Group A and Group 1.

The musical was a notorious flop, plagued by problems throughout rehearsal (including a cast member dying), and ran only 9 performances.


Tropes used in Anyone Can Whistle include:


  • 0% Approval Rating: Cora
  • BSOD Song: "See What It Gets You."
  • Crowd Song: "Miracle Song," "Simple," "The A-1 March," and part of "The Cookie Chase."
  • Cut Song: A few, including "There Won't Be Trumpets" (which was re-added to the licensed score), "There's Always a Woman," "The Lame, The Halt, and the Blind," and an alternate version of "With So Little To Be Sure Of."
  • Fifteen Minutes of Fame: The result of the fake miracle.
  • Final Love Duet: "With So Little To Be Sure Of."
  • Insane Troll Logic: "Simple" is full of it.
  • "I Want" Song: "Anyone Can Whistle," "Me And My Town," "A Parade in Town," and "There Won't Be Trumpets," to a certain extent.
  • Mind Screw: "Simple."
  • Patter Song: "Everybody Says Don't."
  • Rock of Limitless Water - The supposed "miracle". Subverted in that it's being pumped in from behind the scenes.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: The politicians become this when they pull their fake miracle.
  • Troll: Sondheim speculates part of the reason that the show flopped was because it made fun of the audience. "Simple" is one huge exercise in trolling from Hapgood, both towards the other characters and to the audience. You might call it Troll: The Musical.
  • Villain Song: "I've Got You to Lean On," which is a jazzier version.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Fay Apple poses as a French lady.