What's Up? (musical)

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What's Up?
Music Frederick Loewe
Lyrics Alan Jay Lerner
Book Alan Jay Lerner
Arthur Pierson
Productions 1943 Broadway

What's Up? is a musical derived from a book by Alan Jay Lerner and Arthur Pierson, lyrics by Lerner, and music by Frederick Loewe. This was the first Broadway stage collaboration of Lerner and Loewe.


After meeting, the team of Lerner and Loewe started writing musicals, resulting in The Life of the Party (1942) and their first Broadway production, What's Up?.[1][2]

The musical opened on Broadway at the National Theatre on November 11, 1943 and closed on January 4, 1944, after 63 performances. Directed and choreographed by George Balanchine, with the book directed by Robert H. Gordon, the cast included Jimmy Savo, Johnny Morgan, Gloria Warren, and Pat Marshall.[3][4][5]

According to theatre historian Ken Bloom "Despite the talents on hand, the show was not a hit."[6]



The New York Times reviewer wrote: "No doubt it is only an habitual pessimist who can look at 'What's Up' and find it not altogether to his liking. All the elements of a Broadway musical show are there. The tunes are fairly catchy. Jimmy Savo -- who undoubtedly is among the great folk of the world -- is present."[4]

Theater historian Gerald Bordman wrote that Balanchine gave Savo "one of the evenings most delightful moments with the forlorn little comedian pursuing an Amazonian ballerina...yet the best dancing of the evening came...in Don Weissmuller's show-stopping tap routines...the book revealed that Lerner had a lot to learn about writing librettos."[7]

The musical was "a negligible wartime musical about aviators quarantined in a boarding school for girls with the expected results."[3]

Theatre historian Stanley Green commented: "Even with Jimmy Savo in the cast and George Balanchine as director, it was not an auspicious debut."[8]


  1. ^ "Alan Jay Lerner Biography" songwritershalloffame.com, accessed January 19, 2011
  2. ^ "Alan Jay Lerner Biography, Milestone" tcm.com, accessed January 19, 2011
  3. ^ a b Suskin, Steven. "'What's Up?' listing" Show tunes: the Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers (4 ed.), Oxford University Press US, 2010, ISBN 0-19-531407-7, pp. 214, 217
  4. ^ a b Nichols, Lewis. "The Play:A Group of Young People Sing and Dance the Measures of 'What's Up' at the National" New York Times (article preview), November 12, 1943
  5. ^ George Jean Nathan "'What's Up?' review"Theatre Book of the Year 1943-44, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1972, ISBN 0-8386-7962-5, pp.124-127
  6. ^ Bloom, Ken. "Lerner and Loewe" Broadway: Its History, People, and Places:An Encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, 2004, ISBN 0-415-93704-3, p. 291
  7. ^ Bordman, Gerald Martin. "Chapter: Act Five" American musical theatre: a chronicle (3 ed.), Oxford University Press US, 2001, ISBN 0-19-513074-X, p. 594
  8. ^ Green, Stanley. "Chapter: Lerner and Loewe" The World of Musical Comedy (4 ed.), Da Capo Press, 1984, ISBN 0-306-80207-4, p. 239

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