MasterVoices Presents: OF THEE I SING - Will's New York Nite Life
MasterVoices Presents: OF THEE I SING
MasterVoices presents “Of Thee I Sing”
music and lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin
book by George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind
Carnegie Hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium, Perelman Stage
57th Street & 7th Avenue
Thursday (November 2)
Quick: what factor most makes the 1931 Of Thee I Sing into one of the great works of the American theater? If you said the score by George & Ira Gershwin, almost unbelievably, you’d be wrong. (By Gershwin standards, this particular batch of songs is far from one of their greatest. In fact, where most Gershwin shows have at least a dozen classic songs, a mere three tunes here became standards: the title number, “Love is Sweeping the Country,” and “Who Cares?”) In a way that’s still surprising, this is virtually the only classic musical of its era that became immortal by virtue of its book. The line “Satire is what closes on Saturday night” became one of the legendary George S. Kaufman’s most famous encomiums, but he broke his own rule with this brilliant work of political and musical satire, which played many, many Saturday nights and matinees during the Great Depression, and since. It's the book which makes this one of the few book musicals of the pre-Oklahoma! era that’s regularly revived, although for some mysterious reason, New Yorkers always seem to bring it back during moments of Republican ascendency - shortly before the election of Eisenhower in 1952, then during the Bush II administration in 2006, and now in the days of POTUS #45. (No conspiracy there, of course.) But no matter what your politics are, this is a blissfully funny and tuneful show with the power to unite us all, red and blue alike. It’s satire seems more on target than ever, almost 90 years after it was first written - even though the idea that the fate of a nation can hang on something as trivial as corn muffins somehow doesn’t seem quite as preposterous as it once did.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL & VANITY FAIR, and reviews current shows for THE OBSERVER and THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of eight books including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)