Bells are Ringing


Writers: Betty Comden Adolph Green Jule Styne


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Comedy, Romance
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
1950s, new york city
Cast Size
Orchestra Size
Ideal for
College/University, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre, Star Vehicle Female
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes young adult, adult, mature adult, late teen characters


Ella Peterson is a bright, warm, and imaginative woman, who spends her days in the dingy New York City basement apartment which is the office for Susanswerphone, her cousin Sue’s telephone answering service company. Fortunately for Ella, her switchboard existence is made bearable by the connection she makes with her customers and the different identities she brings to each of them: a snooty Parisienne to answer calls for a French restaurant; a jolly Santa Claus to convince Mrs. Mallet’s son Jimmy to eat his spinach; and a warm and sympathetic motherly type to comfort playwright Jeffrey Moss, a charming and self-destructive alcoholic with whom Ella has fallen in love, sight unseen. This horrifies prim and proper Sue, who implores Ella simply to “give and receive messages” -- especially after crude, suspicious Inspector Barnes of the Vice Squad shows up, with his timid assistant, Francis, to accuse Susanswerphone of being the front for a house of ill repute. Sue, unwittingly, causes just as much trouble for her own business when she falls for J. Sandor Prantz, a vaguely Viennese con man, who moves his record company “Titanic Records” -- in reality, a front for a gambling ring -- into her office. Meanwhile, desperate to save the career of her beloved Jeffrey, Ella skips out on her “house arrest,” evades the inspectors, and tracks Jeffrey to his apartment, where, after a relieved gloat at his handsome appearance, she proceeds to wake him out of his drunken stupor, create a new identity for herself as glamorous mystery woman “Melisande Scott,” and motivate him to write his overdue play, “The Midas Touch.” Like a fairy godmother, Ella proceeds to wander around the city, helping her various clients to realize their creative dreams: dentist Dr Kitchell, a frustrated songwriter, wins a competition for songs about “The Midas Touch”; and Brando wannabe, actor Blake Barton, gets a role in the play after Ella shows up at his drugstore hangout and encourages him to wear a suit. Best of all, Jeffrey Moss falls in love with her -- but after a glamorous party, at which she tries unsuccessfully to fit in, Ella knows that her lies will catch up with her eventually, and that she will have to face the music of her own reality. Trailed by detectives, beset by mobsters, and surrounded by a boisterous crowd of New Yorkers, Ella manages to save the day for Susanswerphone, and for her own heart, as well. With book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Jule Styne, Bells Are Ringing is a joyful, mischievous romp through 1950s New York City, a Cinderella story, and a tale about community and connection. It features famous standards “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over” as well as the playful pining of “It’s a Perfect Relationship,” the show-stopping “I’m Going Back,” and the spicy dance number “Mu-Cha-Cha.”

Lead Characters

Bells are Ringing guide sections