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Bard SummerScape Presents Of Thee I Sing, the Gershwin’s Delightful Political Satire, a Red-White-and-Blue-Blooded American Romp in Bard’s Celebration of “Prokofiev and His World”


Mark Primoff

“Stinging satire of national politics in a hilarious and original musical comedy”

– New York Times, January 3, 1932

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Bard SummerScape’s rediscovery of “Prokofiev and His World” leaps the continents from the Soviet Union to Depression-era America with a new production of George and Ira Gershwin’s riotous, charmingly satirical musical Of Thee I Sing, which will open in LUMA Theater of the Richard B. Fisher Center on Friday, August 1, with additional performances on August 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.  Will Pomerantz is director and choreographer of the new staging, which features set designs by Louisa Thompson, costumes by Carol Bailey, and lighting by Justin Townsend.  Bard’s own James Bagwell conducts the ensemble.  There are afternoon as well as evening shows, and the matinee on Saturday, August 2 will be preceded by an enlightening and entertaining Opera Talk, free of charge.

Bard’s revival is very timely in this year of a seemingly endless political campaign – not least because the path-breaking Gershwin comedy hasn’t been revived on the Great White Way since the Truman administration!  Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and the unaffiliated alike can unite in 2008 by enjoying this 1931 Broadway classic.  George Gershwin’s swinging, jazzy score has lyrics by his brother Ira and a tart book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind (the team responsible for such Marx Brothers classics as A Night at the Opera, The Cocoanuts, and Animal Crackers).  Of Thee I Sing was a smash hit, running for 441 performances on Broadway – at the time, the longest run of a “book” musical.  Additionally, it won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (the first) and was later published in book form (another first).

To top all of that, Of Thee I Sing launched the political career of the fictitious bachelor candidate John P. Wintergreen, and gave birth to the indelible moniker of his perpetually forgotten vice-president, Alexander Throttlebottom.

Of Thee I Sing boasts a story line about Wintergreen’s bid for the presidency on a platform of “love,” and the search by his handlers for a hook to snare voters: a beauty contest, staged to find him a bride (Miss White House).  But Wintergreen falls for a secretary named Mary Turner and her mouthwatering corn muffins instead of their choice, Diana Deveraux.  The spurned beauty queen, of French descent, seeks justice with help from her ancestral countrymen.  It turns out (in a rollicking choral number), that she is “the illegitimate daughter of the illegitimate son of the illegitimate nephew of Napoleon,” and the French try to turn the incident into an international scandal.  Mary Turner Wintergreen saves the day when she announces that she is pregnant – no one would dare impeach a president about to become a father!

The inimitably Gershwinian musical numbers include a song for the Supreme Court Judges (even on Broadway the high court plays an important role in presidential elections), and the campaign ditty “Wintergreen for President,” which borrows heavily from such favorites as Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here.”  The music introducing the unlikely and hilarious French contingent includes the opening bars of George Gershwin’s wildly popular American in Paris, composed a few years earlier.

The only available cast recording – made by Capitol Records in 1952, with the Broadway revival cast that starred Jack Carson and Paul Hartman – doesn’t include such original show numbers as “(Here’s) a Kiss for Cinderella” or  “I Was the Most Beautiful Blossom”, but they’ll all be heard at Bard, along with everything else from the original score.  Nevertheless, the Broadway authority Ethan Mordden has called the 1952 cast album the “best of all” Gershwin show recordings – as cited in the liner notes for the CD reissue, now available on Angel/EMI Classics.  Those notes also state that Of Thee I Sing is “the show (along with Showboat) that many people have in mind when they use the phrase ‘golden age of musical theater.’”  Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times found the 1952 revival “just as funny as it was originally…  Still a marvelous carnival with a subject that is always timely and worth kicking around.”  And that was 48 years before anyone had heard of chads (hanging or otherwise)!

Will Pomerantz is staging a full production in LUMA Theater at Bard’s Fisher Center.  For SummerScape audiences it will be a hugely entertaining and well-timed look at a seminal work in the evolution of the modern Broadway musical.  Bard’s cast for Of Thee I Sing includes John Bolton as Wintergreen; Amy Justman as Mary Turner; Amanda Flynn as Diana Deveraux; Andy Gale as Throttlebottom; and Marcus DeLoach as the French Ambassador.

So tap your toes, vote your funny bone, and remember to vote early and vote often – there are nine chances this summer and ONLY at Bard!

Ticket and additional information about Of Thee I Sing and Bard SummerScape follows.

Of Thee I Sing

George Gershwin (music) and Ira Gershwin (lyrics):

Only NINE performances!

Friday, August 1, 2008 – Sunday, August 10, 2008

Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin

Book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind

Conducted by James Bagwell

Directed and choreographed by Will Pomerantz

Louisa Thompson, set designer

Carol Bailey, costume designer

Justin Townsend, lighting designer


Richard B Fisher Center for the Performing Arts


August 1, 6, and 7 at 8 pm

August 2*, 9, and 10 at 3 pm

August 3 at 7 pm

August 6 at 2 pm

August 8 at 5 pm

Tickets: $45 (General Admission)


* Opera Talk in LUMA Theater on Saturday, August 2 at 1 pm – free and open to the public

Also at Bard SummerScape

Karol Szymanowski: King Roger and Harnasie

July 25 & 31 and August 2† at 8 pm

July 27** and August 3 at 3 pm

Tickets: $25, $55, $75

Thursday performance (July 31): $20, $45, $65

** Opera Talk with Leon Botstein on Sunday, July 27 at 1 pm – free and open to the public

† August 2 – round-trip transportation by coach from Columbus Circle.  Reservations required: call (845) 758-7900 for information and reservations.

The 19th annual Bard Music Festival – “Prokofiev and His World”

Weekend One: August 8–10

Weekend Two: August 15–17

Bard SummerScape – Ticket Information

For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, phone the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit


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This event was last updated on 07-11-2008