Opera Scotland

Girl Crazy

Music

George Gershwin (born Brooklyn, 26 September 1898; died Hollywood, 11 July 1937)

Text

Guy Bolton and John McGowan (book); Ira Gershwin (lyrics)

 

Premieres

Pre-Broadway try-out: Philadelphia (Sam S Shubert Theater), 29 September 1930.

First Performance: New York (Alvin Theater), 14 October 1930.

First Performance in UK: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 24 August 1987 (concert).

First Perfrmance in UK (staged): London (Guildhall School of Music and Drama), 12 July 1988.

 

Background

Girl Crazy enjoyed less success beyond Broadway than several of the earlier works of the Gershwin brothers, and was not transferred to London, perhaps due to the seriousness of the economic depression. The book may be confused and trivial, but the music is entirely of high quality, and at least two of the songs, 'I Got Rhythm' and 'Embraceable You' became instant and lasting classics of the genre. Other hits include 'But not for Me', 'Boy! What Love has Done to Me', 'Sam and Delilah' and 'Biding My Time'.

The pit band was not the usual group of theatre players, but an amazing assembly that included Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Gene Krupa. The two leading ladies remain household names. Ginger Rogers, still in her teens, may have made her subsequent career in Hollywood, partnering Fred Astaire, but she had a great theatrical success towards the end of her career, playing the title role of Mame in London's West End. However Ethel Merman was the archetypal Broadway performer, and Kate Fothergill was the role of her legendary Broadway debut. She stole the show.

This is the work that was chosen to launch the ground-breaking Library of Congress series of reconstructions and recordings of Gershwin shows, complete with invaluable historical notes. Recorded in 1990, Girl Crazy was followed by Strike Up The Band!, Lady, Be Good!, Oh, Kay! and Pardon My English. Like Scottish Opera's earlier Edinburgh Festival presentation of 1987, it was conducted by John Mauceri.

In 1992, a new Broadway musical was launched with worldwide success. Entitled Crazy For You, it used such elements of the Girl Crazy plot as could be salvaged, while also interpolating not just the acknowledged hits from Girl Crazy, but also numbers from other Gershwin shows. The result was a complete success.

 

Main Characters

Danny Churchill, a New York playboy (tenor)

Molly Gray, postmistress (soprano)

Slick Fothergill, manager of the ranch casino (tenor)

Kate Fothergill, his wife, an entertainer (soprano)

Gieber Goldfarb, a New York taxi driver (baritone)

 

Plot Summary

The setting is Custerville, Arizona, where we are to believe there exists a 'dude ranch' - a form of early theme park where city folk could go on retreat for a few weeks and pretend to lead a traditional rural lifestyle, as cowboys. This is the creation of Danny Churchill, who has been leading life in the fast lane, so is sent by his father to cool off for a while in rustic isolation on the family estate. Danny has other ideas, and brings with him a chorus of city girls, who will liven the place up. For the real cowboys, used to a life of stupefying dullness, biding their time, things are looking up. Danny travelled from New York to Arizona by cab, but has not yet settled the bill, to the distress of the driver, Goldfarb. Among the arrivals tempted by the prospect of work is Slick Fothergill, who takes over management of the ranch's gambling business. His wife Kate is less happy with their surroundings. Danny's girlfriend, Tess Harding, is also among the arrivals, but Danny has already fallen for the postgirl, Molly Gray, and she for him. His old New York rival Sam Mason also turns up, and while he does love Tess, he decides to  get his revenge on Danny by wooing Molly. Winning a few thousand dollars at the casino, Sam invites Molly to go with him on a trip to Mexico. Danny is hurt. Slick and the others all go too.

Over the border in Mexico, life is also quiet until the Arizona contingent turn up. Danny apologizes to Molly for arguing with her earlier, and wishes her luck with Sam. She realizes her mistake and regrets his departure. She then breaks up with Sam when she discovers he has booked them a single room at the hotel, a touch premature. When Sam gets beaten up, Danny is seen as prime suspect. His escape is helped by Molly and Goldfarb. Slick,  who has been entertained by some Mexican women, is at last forgiven by Kate, and the happy pairings are completed.

The Cast

Danny Churchill
 a wealthy New York playboy
Kate Fothergill
 Slick's wife, an entertainer
Molly Gray
 a postgirl
Patsy West
 a New York switchboard operator
Slick Fothergill
 a San Franciscan casino manager
Vocal Quartet 1
 
Vocal Quartet 2
 
Vocal Quartet 3
 
Vocal Quartet 4
 

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