Strike Up the Band (musical)

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This article is about the 1927 stage musical. For the 1940 film musical, see Strike Up the Band (film).
Strike Up the Band
Sheet Music
Music George Gershwin
Lyrics Ira Gershwin
Book Morrie Ryskind
Productions 1930 Broadway
1998 Encores!
2002 Off-Broadway

Strike Up the Band is a 1927 musical with a book by Morrie Ryskind, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and music by George Gershwin. It ran in Philadelphia that year, unsuccessfully, and on Broadway in 1930 after the original book by George S. Kaufman was revised. The story satirizes America's taste for war: America declares war on Switzerland over a trivial trade issue.

Aside from the title tune, the 1940 Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney musical film Strike Up the Band had no relation to the stage production.

The 1927 version will get a rare stage production in Cheltenham, England at the Cheltenham Playhouse on 21, 22, 26 - 29 November 2014. This will use the original libretto and score and not interpolate any of the 1930 songs.

The overture is often performed as a stand-alone concert work.


The original book by George S. Kaufman centered on Horace J. Fletcher, a Babbitt-like cheese tycoon who tries to maintain his monopoly on the American market by convincing the United States government to declare war on Switzerland. The story ended darkly.

The 1930 plot by Ryskind, softened the political overtones, increased the emphasis on romance and added a happy ending. It relegated the war plot to a dream sequence. The incident that incites war concerned chocolate instead of cheese.[1]


Act 1[edit]

Workers at the Horace J. Fletcher American Cheese Company sing their daily vocal exercises ("Fletcher's American Cheese Choral Society") to start the day and greet The foreman Timothy Harper, manager C. Edgar Sloan, and owner Horace J. Fletcher. Fletcher is pleased with the President signing a new bill imposing a fifty percent tariff on imported cheese. Mrs. Draper arrives to ask Fletcher to do charitable work with her in order to get close to him. Her daughter Anne goes to meet Timothy, though her mother disapproves of the relationship ("17 and 21"). Fletcher receives news that someplace called "Switzerland" has sent a telegram protesting the tariff. Fletcher tells Sloane to send a messenger to the hotel of Colonel Holmes, the President's adviser. Mr. Fletcher's daughter Joan enters and wants him to handle James Townsend, a reporter who wrote an article calling her a snob. After she leaves, Townsend arrives to interview Fletcher about Switzerland's response to the tariff.


During its original 1927 pre-Broadway tryouts, the political satire closed in Philadelphia, fulfilling original librettist's George S. Kaufman's definition of satire as "what closes on Saturday night."[2][3] The original is heavily influenced by Gilbert and Sullivan.[1]

The Gershwins revised the story with Ryskind for the 1930 Broadway run; they also removed the song The Man I Love, now a Gershwin standard, from the show. They added a dozen new songs and rewrote the lyrics or even changed the melodies of many of the 1927 songs. The new score is less Gilbert-and-Sullivan and more swing-influenced.[1] Directed by Alexander Leftwich and choreographed by George Hale, the revised production opened on Broadway at the Times Square Theatre on January 14, 1930 and closed on June 28, 1930 after a moderately successful run of 191 performances. The cast included Dudley Clements and Blanche Ring.[3]


The Gershwins' first fully integrated score for a book musical was influenced by the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.[4] The pit band was the Red Nichols Orchestra, which included Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, Jimmy Dorsey, and Jack Teagarden.

The overture is often performed alone as a concert work. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12][13][14] [15][16][17][18] [19][20][21][22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30][31] [32][33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40][41][42] [43][44] [45][46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] [55]

The title song, "Strike Up the Band", was given to the University of California, Los Angeles by the Gershwins in 1936 as "Strike Up the Band for UCLA" and has become one of the school songs. [56]

In 1990, a studio cast recording of the original 1927 score (and some of the 1930 songs), featuring Rebecca Luker, Brent Barrett, Beth Fowler and Don Chastain, was released on the Nonesuch label.[57] At the same time, the 1930 version was recorded with the same cast but not released. This recording was finally released in 2011 by PS Classics.[1]

1927 song list[edit]

1930 song list[edit]


Music from Strike Up the Band has frequently been re-arranged for performance by different types of musical ensembles.

Don Rose, using Gershwin's original score and notes, augmented the orchestration of the overture to facilitate a performance by a full symphony orchestra (which features more players than a traditional pit orchestra). This version is the one commonly performed by symphony orchestras.

Luther Henderson[58] and Sammy Nestico[59] created arrangement for Brass ensemble. Désiré Dondeyne[60] made an arrangement for wind Orchestra, Warren Barker[61] for Concert band. Martin Caron,[62] member of Duo Caron did a transcription for formation four pianists-eight hands. Also note Gerry Mulligan,[63] Mark Hayes[64] (Choir arrangement) and Carl Strommen[65] (Arrangement for wind instruments).


  1. ^ a b c d Jones, Kenneth. "Starry Studio Recording of Strike Up the Band Is Dusted Off for Release by PS Classics"., April 5, 2011
  2. ^ Furia, Philip. "Chapter:Sweeping the Country, 1930-1933" Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist, Oxford University Press US, 1997, ISBN 0-19-511570-8, pp. 81, 87-88
  3. ^ a b Suskin, Steven. "'Strike Up the Band', 1927" Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers Oxford University Press US, 2010, ISBN 0-19-531407-7, pp. 67, 69
  4. ^ Strike Up the Band at
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  57. ^ Strike Up the Band studio cast recording at
  58. ^ Swing That Music, A Tribute to Louis Armstrong - InstantEncore by Canadian Brass
  59. ^ Strike Up The Band, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Professional Editions-Jazz Ens - Hal Leonard Online
  60. ^ windmusic Strike up the band Ouverture
  61. ^ Strike Up the Band - Conductor Score
  62. ^ Festival international de Duo-Piano du Québec from Voir (Archives), August 6, 1998.
  63. ^ Gerry Mulligan by Craig Hanley - Klinkowitz Discography
  64. ^ Sheet music Strike Up the Band! Arranged by Mark Hayes.
  65. ^ Gershwin By Special Arrangement Flute Oboe Book And CD

External links[edit]