Original Broadway Poster
1998 Carnegie Hall concert
Jubilee is a musical comedy with a book by Moss Hart and music and lyrics by Cole Porter. It premiered on Broadway in 1935 to rapturous reviews. Inspired by the recent silver jubilee of King George V of Great Britain, the story is of the royal family of a fictional European country. Several of its songs, especially "Begin the Beguine" and "Just One of Those Things", became independently popular and have become part of the American Songbook.
The musical opened on Broadway in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression. It had strong reviews and was considered "one of the great theatrical events of the 1930s." It ran for 169 performances. Although the original arrangements were lost after 1946, the musical was reconstructed and produced several times in concert versions by different companies in New York and London, from 1986 to 2004.
Cole Porter and Moss Hart took a four-and-a-half month "around the world" luxury cruise on the Franconia, with their families, friends, and assistants accompanying them. Their intention was to write a new musical on the trip, and songs and scenes were inspired by their ports of call. For example, the song "The Kling-Kling Bird on the Divi-Divi Tree" came about after a trip through a botanical garden in Jamaica. Playing off the recent celebrations in Britain for the silver jubilee of King George V, they created a plot about a royal family, filled with characters based on their famous friends. For example, the swimmer who becomes an actor is a spoof of Johnny Weissmuller, and the well-known party hostess Elsa Maxwell was portrayed as Eva Standing.
When an impending revolution threatens their regime, the Royal Family decides to abandon responsibilities and pursue their private dreams. The King meets party hostess Eva Standing; the Queen becomes enamored with swimmer-turned-actor Charles Rausmiller; the Prince pursues singer Karen O'Kane; and the Princess is wooed by playwright/composer/actor Eric Dare. When the hostile uprising proves to be a hoax, the four return to power, bringing with them the commoners who have taught them some important life lessons.
The musical opened at the Shubert Theatre in Boston on September 21, 1935 for a three-week pre-Broadway tryout period. The Broadway premiere opened at the Imperial Theatre on October 12, 1935 and closed on May 7, 1936, after 169 performances. Changes in the lead lessened its appeal. The production was supervised by Hassard Short, who also was the lighting designer, directed by Monty Woolley, choreographed by Albertina Rasch and Tony De Marco, and with set design by Jo Mielziner.
The cast included
- Melville Cooper as the King,
- Mary Boland as the Queen,
- Charles Walters as the Prince James,
- Margaret Adams as Princess Diana,
- May Boley as Eva Standing,
- Mark Plant as Charles Rausmiller,
- June Knight as Karen O'Kane,
- Derek Williams as Eric Dare, and
- Montgomery Clift as Prince Peter.
The New York Times reported on the musical's Boston opening (in September 1935), writing about Hart's book that it combines "satire, sentiment and humor in good proportion." Porter's score and lyrics were said to be "original and tuneful." Special mention was made of Mary Boland: "Miss Boland played the ingeniously sentimental matron with gusto and enthusiasm, wore royal robes or a one-piece bathing suit with equal aplomb, sang a bit, and danced with every sign of enjoyment."
"is a rapturous masquerade...Each of the guilds that produce our luxurious musical shows has shared equally in the general excellence of an upper-class song-and-dance arcade...It is an excellent fable-good humored, slightly romantic and eminently pragmatic...The music is jaunty, versatile and imaginative...Mary Boland is the queen of the book and the performance and a carnival of comic delights."
Burns Mantle of the NY Daily News declared Jubilee, "the most satisfying musical comedy produced in an American theatre within the length of trustworthy memories." Reviewers admired the "book", giving the show a strong plot and solid writing integrated with the music. They quickly picked "Begin the Beguine" and "Just One of Those Things" as favorite songs.
Despite the popular success, the musical was not signed by a theatrical leasing company for stock or amateur performances after its initial run. Performances between 1936 and 1948 were negotiated by the producers Max Gordon and Sam Harris.
In 1985, Bill Tynes, producer of The New Amsterdam Theatre Company, hired Larry Moore to reconstruct the show for his 1986 series. Tynes specialized in producing classic musicals in concert at The Town Hall in New York. He intended to use the concert presentation for a backers' audition, hoping to generate financial support for a major revival of the show.
The reconstructed musical opened in concert version in March 1986 at The Town Hall, staged by James Brennan, with a cast that included Paula Laurence as The Queen,Robert Fitch as the King, Reed Jones as the Prince, Alyson Reed as Karen O'Kane, Carole Shelley as Eva Standing, Patrick Quinn as Eric Dare, Rebecca Luker, and Roderick Cook as the Prime Minister.
The show has been produced twice by Ian Marshall Fisher's "Lost Musicals In Concert" series in London. The second production, using the BBC Orchestra, performed in November 1999 at Her Majesty's Theatrewas broadcast in December 1999 by the BBC Radio-3.
On October 10, 1998, a concert version was staged at Carnegie Hall, New York City, for the benefit of the Gay Men's Health Crisis. Directed by Herbert Ross, with choreography by Danny Daniels, Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Pierre Dulaine, the cast included Bea Arthur as The Queen, Tyne Daly as Eva Standing, Sandy Duncan as Karen O'Kane, Michael Jeter as The King, Alice Ripley as The Princess, Stephen Spinella as Eric Dare, Bob Paris as Mowgli, and Philip Bosco as Prime Minister. The New York theatre company "Musicals Tonight!" presented a staged concert in October 2004.
The 1986 reconstructed Jubilee will play for five weeks from the 13th of June 2012 at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick, London. This production will be produced by AlmostNormalltd and will be the first full professional staging of the musical in the United Kingdom.
- "Begin the Beguine/Waltz Down the Aisle" - Xavier Cugat and His Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra with vocal by Don Reid
- Begin the Beguine/Just One of Those Things/Me and Marie/When Love Comes Your Way/Why Shouldn't I? - Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
- "Begin the Beguine/Me and Marie/Why Shouldn't I?" - Joe Haymes and His Orchestra
- "Just One of Those Things" - Nat Brandywynne and His Orchestra, Ted Fiorito, Richard Himber, Freddie Martin and His Orchestra, Garland Wilson
- "Me and Marie" - Johnny Green and His Orchestra
- "Waltz Down the Aisle" - Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
- "When Love Comes Your Way/Me and Marie" - Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra
- "Why Shouldn't I?/A Picture of Me Without You" - Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra with vocals by Bob Eberle/Kay Weber
- "Why Shouldn't I?/When Love Comes Your Way" - Johnny Green and His Orchestra
- "Begin the Beguine" - Artie Shaw and His Orchestra
- "'Jubilee' history and listing", 42ndstmoon.org, accessed January 11, 2011
- (No by-line), "A Preface to Jubilee", The New York Times, October 20, 1935, p. X3
- Dale, Michael."Cole Porter and Moss Hart's Jubilee: Still Smart, Funny and Tuneful", broadwayworld.com, October 19, 2004
- Special to the New York Times, "Jubilee Scores in Boston Opening", The New York Times, September 23, 1935, p. 20
- Atkinson, Brooks. "Mary Boland in Jubilee", The New York Times, October 14, 1935, p. 20
- (no author), "Bill Tynes, Artistic Director Of New Amsterdam Theater" New York Times, January 10, 1987
- Holden, Stephen. "Stage:'Jubilee'", New York Times, March 4, 1986, p. C17
- Holden, Stephen. "'Jubilee,' Where 'Beguine' Began", New York Times, February 28, 1986, p. C1
- Cook correction per audio recording of a performance in which he identifies himself
- (no author). "Lost American Musicals Brought to West End", whatsonstage.com, 9 March 1999
- "Synopsis of article: "It's a Cole night at Her Majesty's; Patrick O'Connor reports on the return of Cole Porter's royal satire, Jubilee", The Evening Standard (London, England) (highbeam.com), November 19, 1999
- "Jubilee listing" sondheimguide.com, accessed August 26, 2009
- Jubilee, October 2004 listing", musicalstonight.org, accessed August 26, 2009