Yip Yip Yaphank
Yip Yip Yaphank is the name of musical revue composed and produced by Irving Berlin in 1918 while he was a recruit during World War I in the United States Army's 152nd Depot Brigade at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York.
From idea to the stage
The commanding officer at Camp Upton had wanted to build a community building on the grounds of the army base, and thought that Sgt. Berlin could help raise the $35,000 needed for its construction. Berlin's song, "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," an everyman song for soldiers, would be the basis of a revue full of army recruits—a veritable source of manpower available for him to use. He called for his friend and co-worker Harry Ruby to join him in writing down the flurry of songs that Berlin would create, including "God Bless America," which Berlin would eventually toss out of the play for being too sticky.
In July 1918, Yip, Yip Yaphank had a tryout run at Camp Upton's little Liberty Theatre, before moving on to Central Park West's Century Theatre in August. The show was typical of revues and follies, featuring acrobatics, dancers, jugglers, and also featured a demonstration by Lightweight Boxing Champion Benny Leonard. Included with the performances were military drills choreographed to music by Berlin.
The show had its comedy too, including males dressed as Ziegfeld girls, and Sgt. Berlin himself as the reluctant soldier not wanting to join in reveille during the "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" skit.
The finale, "We're On Our Way to France," was the replacement for "God Bless America." During this act, the whole company wore their full gear, and marched out of the theater, down the aisles and out to the street. During the Century Theatre run, the "performers" stayed at an armory downtown, and would usually march right back to the armory after the evening show.
By September 1918, the production had to move to the Lexington Theatre, where it would eventually end its run. On that night, the audience saw the usual ending, with the battle-ready men marching off to "war," but with a slight diversion. After the main performers were seen marching through the aisles, Sgt. Irving Berlin and the rest of the crew were similarly dressed and marching out of the theater. This time, the men were going off to war, heading to France for real.
After the curtain
The play earned the U.S. Army US$80,000 for Camp Upton's Community Building, though the army never had it built. Irving Berlin did not go to France, but would be listed among other great songwriters and playwrights of the time, well up to the next great war.
The success of this musical led him to volunteer to do a similar revue during World War II, entitled This Is the Army. He also reprised Yaphank's most popular song, "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" (which Berlin himself performed in both productions). Staged on Broadway, Army was such a smash, the military took it to London and Europe, and to the men fighting in the Pacific Theater. The show, as well as the fictionalized story of its production, was also turned into the 1943 motion picture This Is the Army. Yanks A Poppin, a show based on This Is the Army also played in the Pacific Theater.
- "You Can't Stay Up on Bevo"
- "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning"
- "I Can Always Find a Little Sunshine in the Y.M.C.A."
- "Kitchen Police"
- "Dream On, Little Soldier Boy"
- "Mandy (a major song in a minstrel act)
- "We're On Our Way to France"
- Irving Berlin needed a hit song during his time at Camp Upton, and wrote "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In the Morning" as a song for the soldier and not necessarily a heavy-handed patriotic song. To assure its success, Berlin was fortunate to get Eddie Cantor to sing it.
- "Mandy" would be sung by Eddie Cantor in the 1934 movie Kid Millions.
- "Mandy" also later appeared in the 1954 film White Christmas, in a sequence sung and danced by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.
- Laurence Bergreen: "Oh, How He Hated To Get Up In the Morning"