A History On The Gershwin's Musical "Oh, Kay!" History Essay

2786 words - 12 pages

Jack D’Emilio
David Loud
History of Musical Theatre
30 October, 2018
Just An ​Oh, Kay! ​Paper
George Gershwin is no stranger to producing a musical filled to the brim with hit songs,
and his 1926 composition ​Oh, Kay! ​is no exception. Gershwin collaborated on the show with his
brother Ira, a uniquely gifted lyricist, directly after their first collaboration together ​Lady, Be
Good​, which opened on Broadway in 1924 (starring Fred and Adele Astaire). Guy Bolton took
another turn with the brothers by writing the book of the musical, with the help of P.G.
Wodehouse, each one of the two being a gifted humorist of the time in their own right. The star
of the musical was chosen before either the book or the songs were even written, simply due to
the fact that not many stars (if any at all) shone brighter than Gertrude Lawrence. Coming off of
her success in the producer Andre Charlot’s (aptly named) ​Charlot’s Revue of 1926​, where the
esteemed critic Alexander Woollcott labeled Lawrence as “the ideal star.” The musical also
starred Victor Moore, another accomplished performer who would later originate the role of
Moonface Martin in Cole Porter’s 1934 hit, ​Anything Goes​, as well as several other impressive
credits. Oscar Shaw, another verifiable star of the time, also starred, having previously worked
with Wodehouse and Bolton on the Jerome Kern musical ​Leave It to Jane​. The original
Broadway production opened at the Imperial Theater on November 6th, 1924, and closed in June
of the following year after 256 performances.
The producers of the original production (Alex A. Aarons and Vinton Freedly) imagined
Oh, Kay!​ more in the style of the Jerome Kern-helmed Princess Theater shows, featuring simpler
sets and a farcical story. The musical is set in 1926 (a year with plenty of jazz, but a sharp
shortage of alochol due to Prohibition) and opens in the decadent Long Island estate of Jimmy
Winter as it is being cleaned with “The Woman’s Touch” by a team of young ladies who admire
and glorify Jimmy. Soon it is discovered that Jimmy’s home has been stashed with illegal booze
by the English bootlegger, the Duke of Durham, and his American assistants, “Shorty” McGee
and Larry Potter. Duke and Larry discuss what to do about Jimmy’s imminent arrival until they
are interrupted by two of the young cleaning ladies (namely, the twins Dolly and Phillipa
Ruxton). Duke exits to find Shorty for help formulating a plan to move the stock out as quickly
as they can, while Larry ends up flirting with the twins through song (how else?). After the
number we briefly meet a character who seems to be snooping around the joint--but he leaves as
Jimmy arrives with Constance in tow, his somewhat testy second wife. We learn that Jimmy
certainly has been married before, but only because of a “silly drunken college dare” that led to
Jimmy filing for an annulment.
After the two exit, we meet Shorty, who tells Duke he scared away the butler and his wife
that Jimmy had ordered to be...

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