Monday, September 12, 2016

Gershwin series part one

Lady be Good, Music by George Gershwin. Lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Book by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson. 1924 Broadway. 1926 West End.

Tip Toes, Music by George Gershwin. Lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Book by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson. 1925 Broadway.

George Gershwin passed away at the age of 38 from a malignant brain tumor. By that point he had composed an incredible body of music that survives till this day. His brother Ira found new collaborators but devoted his late life to compiling George's music and correspondence for the Library of Congress. He lived to the age of 86.

I was introduced to the Gershwin's through a high school production of Crazy for You (1992). The show took the premise of Girl Crazy (1930) and cherry picked from their song catalog for the score. Tommy Tune and Twiggy had starred in 1983's My One and Only which was a similar hybrid of old and new. Nice Work If You Can Get It (2012) and the stage adaptation of American in Paris (2014) would follow suit. I lined up the song list for these shows and saw they share many of the same songs. "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "But Not For Me," and "S'Wonderful," appear in three out of four.

There's a reason new books are written for the Gershwin catalog. The brother's original shows have extremely creaky librettos relying on thin romantic farces to showcase the stars. When their first shared Broadway show, Lady Be Good, was revived at Encores in 2015 the New York Times called it "a featherweight farrago of romantic contrivances that wears out its daffy appeal long before the curtain falls."

But oh those songs.

Lady Be Good included "Fascinating Rhythm" and "'The Half of It, Dearie' Blues." The song "The Man I Love" was cut. It would be cut from two more shows before becoming a standard on its own.

Tip Toes introduced "Looking for a Boy" and "Sweet and Low Down."

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