Girl Crazy

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Girl Crazy
Girl Crazy programme ethel merman.jpg
Original Broadway programme from 1931
MusicGeorge Gershwin
LyricsIra Gershwin
BookGuy Bolton
John McGowan
Productions1930 Broadway
1932 film
1943 film

Girl Crazy is a 1930 musical by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and book by Guy Bolton and John McGowan. Ethel Merman made her stage debut in the first production and co-lead Ginger Rogers became an overnight star. Rich in song, it follows the story of Danny Churchill who has been sent to fictional Custerville, Arizona, to manage his family's ranch. His father wants him there to focus on matters more serious than alcohol and women but Danny turns the place into a dude ranch, importing showgirls from Broadway and hiring Kate Forthergill (Merman's role) as entertainer. Visitors come from both Coasts and Danny falls in love with the local postmistress, Molly Gray (Rogers' role).

Three subsequent film adaptations adjusted the plot. The most notable, in 1943, starred Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, with the latter playing a combined Kate and Molly.

Productions[edit]

The musical opened at the Alvin Theatre on October 14, 1930 and closed on June 6, 1931 after 272 performances. It was directed by Alexander Leftwich, with choreography by George Hale and sets by Donald Oenslager. This musical made a star of Ginger Rogers, who, with Allen Kearns, sang "Could You Use Me?" and "Embraceable You" and, with Willie Howard, "But Not for Me". Ethel Merman, in her Broadway debut[1][2] sang "I Got Rhythm", "Sam and Delilah", and "Boy! What Love Has Done To Me!" and "became an overnight sensation...that launched her fifty year career."[3] Also of note is the opening night pit orchestra, which was composed of many well-known jazz musicians, including Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey.[4]

"The score was one of the Gershwins' best" according to theatre writer Ken Bloom.[5]

A version with a heavily revised book was presented in 1975 by the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre[6] and in 1979 by the Coachlight Dinner Theater (East Windsor, CT).[7]

In 1992 the show appeared on Broadway in a heavily revised version. It was given a new title, Crazy for You, and a completely new plot, and interpolated with material from other Gershwin stage shows and films, specifically songs written for the Fred Astaire movies of the 1930s such as "Nice Work If You Can Get It" from A Damsel in Distress and "They Can't Take That Away From Me" from Shall We Dance.

"Musicals Tonight!", New York City, presented a staged concert in September 2001.[8]

An abridged version of Girl Crazy was presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC October 2–5, 2008 as part of their Broadway: Three Generations production. Max von Essen played Danny, Jenn Colella played Molly, and Randy Graff played Kate, directed by Lonny Price.[9]

The New York City Center Encores! staged concert was held in November 2009. Directed by Jerry Zaks, it starred Ana Gasteyer, Marc Kudisch, Becki Newton, and Wayne Knight.[10]

The two-time Olympic champion and Emmy-winning television commentator Dick Button starred as Danny in a 1958 production, which also co-starred Jane Connell as Kate and Gordon Connell as Pete; it interpolated Gershwin's "They All Laughed" and "Nice Work If You can Get It" into the score.

Songs (per 1954 published score from Harms, Inc. – New World Music Corp.)[edit]

Original cast[edit]

  • Willie Howard as Gieber Goldfarb
  • Allen Kearns as Danny Churchill
  • Ginger Rogers as Molly Gray
  • William Kent as Slick Fothergill
  • Ethel Merman as Frisco Kate Fothergill
  • Eunice Healy as Flora James
  • Olive Brady as Tess Parker
  • Peggy O'Connor as Patsy West
  • Clyde Veaux as Pete
  • Carlton Macy as Lank Sanders
  • Ray Johnson, Del Porter, Marshall Smith and Dwight Snyder as The Foursome

The pit orchestra included "Red" Nichols, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden.[11][12] Roger Edens was the onstage pianist for Ethel Merman. It was conducted on opening night by George Gershwin himself.[13] The 1953 biopic “The Glenn Miller Story” recreated the “I’m Biding My Time” scene, with Miller (Stewart) playing trombone in the orchestra.

Reception[edit]

It was said by one critic to be "fresh, ingenious...a rich delight".[12]

Film adaptations[edit]

Poster for Girl Crazy (1932)

The 1932 RKO Radio Pictures production was very unlike the stage play except for its score. The film was tailored for the comic talents of Wheeler & Woolsey, a then-popular comedy team. In 1943, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a lavish version starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In 1965, MGM once again made the musical into a film, for Connie Francis. Unlike the previous two versions, the title was changed to When the Boys Meet the Girls. It co-starred Herman's Hermits, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Louis Armstrong, and Liberace. A number of Gershwin songs were retained, including "Embraceable You", "Bidin' My Time", "But Not for Me", "Treat Me Rough", and "I Got Rhythm".

Recordings[edit]

No original cast recording was ever made, as original cast recordings did not exist in the U.S. prior to 1943.[14] Several studio recordings of the score have been released, including an early 1950s version with Mary Martin, but the only one using the full score and original 1930 orchestrations was released by Nonesuch Records (Nonesuch 9 79250-2) in 1990 with Lorna Luft (Kate), Frank Gorshin (Gieber Goldfarb), David Carroll (Danny), and Judy Blazer (Molly).[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morrison, William (1999). Broadway Theatres: History and Architecture. Dover Books on Architecture. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. pp. 154–55. ISBN 0-486-40244-4.
  2. ^ Ethel Merman at the Internet Broadway Database
  3. ^ Vlastnik, Frank; Bloom, Ken. "Girl Crazy" Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time, Black Dog Publishing, 2010, ISBN 1-57912-849-1, p. 132
  4. ^ Wilson, Jeremy. [1] "Origin and Chart Information: I Got Rhythm." JazzStandards.com, 2005.
  5. ^ Bloom, Ken. "Chapter:Aarons and Freedley" Broadway: Its History, People, and Places: An Encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, 2004, ISBN 0-415-93704-3, p. 2
  6. ^ Girl Crazy in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  7. ^ Frankel, Haskell. "Good Gershwin, Pleasantly Sung",The New York Times, May 20, 1979
  8. ^ "'Girl Crazy' listing and reviews" Archived 2010-05-14 at the Wayback Machine, musicalstonight.org, accessed February 16, 2010
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew."Graff, Ashmanskas, Brescia, Osnes, von Essen Explore Broadway: Three Generations Oct. 2–5" playbill.com, October 2, 2008
  10. ^ Isherwood, Charles."Home on the Range and on the Stage",The New York Times, November 21, 2009
  11. ^ The 1953 biopic “The Glenn Miller Story”, starring Jimmy Stewart, recreated the “I’m Biding My Time” sequence, with Miller (Stewart) playing tombone in the pit orchestra. Girl Crazy notes" New York City Center" accessed January 16, 2011
  12. ^ a b Hyland, William. "Girl Crazy" George Gershwin: A New Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 0-275-98111-8, pp. 74, 131 – 132
  13. ^ Wyatt, Robert; Johnson, John Andrew. "Chronology, 1930" The George Gershwin Reader, Oxford University Press US, 2004, ISBN 0-19-513019-7, p. 318
  14. ^ Stempel, Larry. Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010, p. 311
  15. ^ Schwartz, Steve."Review:'Girl Crazy'", classical.net, accessed February 16, 2010

External links[edit]