European American Music Distributors Company is a member of the Schott Music Group

Kurt Weill

Johnny Johnson

SubtitlePlay with music in three acts
Text informationBook and lyrics by Paul Green
Year(s) composed1936
Text AuthorPaul Green
InstrumentationReed 1(cl, Ebcl, bcl).Reed 2(cl, bcl, asax, bsax)-2tpt.tbn-timp.perc-Hammond org(pno)-gtr(banjo)
DurationFull Evening, 65 minutes of music
PremiereFirst production: November 19, 1936; New York, NY; 44th Street Theatre; Group Theater; Lee Strasberg, director; Lehman Engel, conductor
Authorized translationsGerman: Fred Berndt and Jörg Gronius

Authorized Adaptation: German - Richard Weihe

SynopsisIn a small American town, circa 1918, Johnny Johnson, a peace-loving young man, is pressured by his fiancée Minny Belle to enlist to fight in World War I. He joins up, determined not to fight but to end the war through peaceful means. In Europe he captures a German sniper but lets him return to enemy lines, encouraging him to stoke resistance to the war among the German troops. When gunfire ensues, Johnny gets shot in the buttocks and winds up in the hospital, where he witnesses the effects of laughing gas. He steals a canister of it and breaks into a meeting of the Allied commanders, where they are preparing for a big battle and casually tallying the number of soldiers who will die. Johnny releases the gas, and the commanders collapse into hilarity and send him back to the Front with an order to end the war. When Johnny proclaims the end of hostilities both sides are overjoyed, but by then the laughing gas has worn off and the Allied commanders have revoked the order. Johnny is accused of spying and the fighting resumes. He is arrested, returned to America, and committed to a mental hospital. Ten years pass, and Johnny learns that Minny Belle has married his hometown rival, Anguish. Prematurely aged, Johnny is finally released and in the final scene he hawks handmade toys (no soldiers) on a street corner as a patriotic rally goes on in a nearby stadium. As the drums of war grow louder, Johnny lifts his voice in a song of hope against the cruelty and dishonesty of humankind.
RolesSINGING ROLES: Mayor • Minny Belle Tompkins (soprano) • Grandpa Joe • Johnny Johnson (high baritone) • Aggie Tompkins • Captain Valentine (baritone) • Sergeant Jackson • Private Harwood • Chief of Allied High Command • French Nurse (soprano) • American Priest (tenor) • German Priest (baritone) • Dr. Mahodan (baritone)

SPEAKING ROLES: Anguish Howington • Dr. McBray • Johann Lang • Brother George • photographer • messenger • villagers • orderlies • generals • officers • soldiers • politicians • madmen

NOTE: With judicious doubling, a cast of twenty should be sufficient.
Kurt Weill Foundation work page

Partner Links

  • Schott Music
  • Universal Edition
  • Weill On Broadway