The Jersey Mecca cocktail lounge in Newark, NJ really starts jumping one rainy evening when Addie Bemis, a soft-spoken librarian, decides its time to live it up.
"Write me a play that is full of fun and gaiety," Helen Hayes told Anita Loos one day over lunch. Tired of playing in serious, weighty melodramas, Hayes longed for a role that would be lively, spirited, and, most importantly, fun. Little did she imagine that the play Loos had up her sleeve was Happy Birthday, a rollicking and fast-paced comedy set in a Newark cocktail bar where Addie, the role Hayes would play on Broadway in 1946, is required to spend three-quarters of the play in a drunken stupor, imagining glowing bottles and singing cash registers as she transforms from a prim and proper tea-totaling librarian into a swilling, singing, dancing sexpot. How’s that for fun?