Park Avenue (musical)

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Park Avenue
Music Arthur Schwartz
Lyrics Ira Gershwin
Book George S. Kaufman and Nunnally Johnson
Productions 1946 Broadway

Park Avenue is a musical with a book by George S. Kaufman and Nunnally Johnson, music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The plot focused on the many divorces and marriages of the rich and "black tie" set. The production performed poorly and was Gershwin's last work for Broadway.[1]

Background and production[edit]

Gershwin wanted Park Avenue to be a change from period shows such as Oklahoma!. The plot was based on Nunnally Johnson’s short story "Holy Matrimony", published in the Saturday Evening Post.[2] He wrote "smart" lyrics like "We live in an age that’s the pinnacle of the cynical", but the show's theme of divorce could not hold the audience's attention for an entire evening, and in 1946 American audiences wanted more. The book stuck too closely to Johnson’s short story and an overly-long second act consisted more of spoken words than songs.[3]

The production was in pre-Broadway out-of-town tryouts for 5½ weeks.[2] The musical opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on November 4, 1946 and closed on January 4, 1947 after 72 performances. Directed by Kaufman with choreography by Helen Tamiris, the cast featured David Wayne as Mr. Meachem, Ray McDonald as Ned Scott, Martha Stewart as Madge Bennett, Leonora Corbett as Mrs. Sybil Bennett, Mary Wickes as Mrs. Betty Nelson, and Arthur Margetson as Ogden Bennett.

An Equity Showcase concert, New York City, ran in 1999.[4]

Synopsis[edit]

The preparations for the wedding of young lovers Madge Bennett and Ned Scott are proceeding at the Long Island summer home of her mother Sybil and her 4th husband Ogden. The guests are the rich habitués of Park Avenue, who divorce and re-marry so often that their lawyer, Mr. Meachem, becomes confused as to who is married to whom. Between husbands, the women discuss what to do with their time ("Don't Be A Woman if You Can"), listing their choices over clothing and nail polish. Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Meachem praise the "divorce capitol", "Sweet Nevada", as they waltz. Madge and Ned see the crumbled marriages around them and decide to call off their wedding plans ("Goodbye to All That").

Songs[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Brooks Atkinson theatre critic for The New York Times wrote, "Some of the most imposing people in show business are collaborating on a singularly unimposing musical comedy... The snobberies of the people they are satirizing have infected the writers... They are too fascinated by their astringent style to write a good, earthy musical show. It ain't funny, McGee." [5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Schneider (1999). The Gershwin Style. Oxford University Press US. pp. 260–261. ISBN 9780195090208. 
  2. ^ a b Zolotow, Sam. "Park Avenue Bow is Set For Tonight", The New York Times, November 4, 1946, p. 43
  3. ^ Thaxter, John (Monday 31 March 2008 at 10:20 by John Thaxter). "Park Avenue". What's On. The Stage Newspaper Limited. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  4. ^ Equity Showcase Park Avenue, 1999 Equity Showcase, 1999, accessed August 12, 2009
  5. ^ Atkinson, Brooks. "The Play", The New York Times, November 5, 1946, p. 41

References[edit]

  • Furia, Philip. Ira Gershwin (1997), Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-511570-8, p. 201

External links[edit]