Let 'Em Eat Cake (1933)
Book by George S. Kaufman ad Morrie Ryskind
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Music by George Gershwin
In this story, the musical sequel to Of Thee I Sing, President Wintergreen is voted out of office by another ineffectual candidate named Tweedledee. Lacking legal recourse to their woes, the Wintergreens and Alexander Throttlebottom move to New York City and clothe themselves in the blue shirts sewn by Mary. It seems that having a plethora of blue shirts is just the thing to start a revolution, so the Wintergreens and their former Cabinet Officers march on Washington, overthrow the government, and depose Tweedledee.
Wintergreen becomes a dictator and, worse, seems to like it enormously. However, complete control comes at a price and when the League of Nations descends on The Blue House (as it is now known), complications, as they say, ensue—and Wintergreen is rescued only in the nick of time from execution by a military tribunal.
About the play:
The Gershwins seized upon this complex scenario and wrote some of their most exciting work. George's opening, with its contrapuntal musical duel of campaign songs is one of the most interesting pieces he ever wrote. He continued his notion of placing two melodies against each other with the love song "Mine," the only song of the show to gain popularity. But, perhaps, not surprisingly, the show that contained these kernels of satirical wisdom was not embraced by audiences when it opened. Violent labor strikes were breaking out all over the country, and it's unlikely that New York audiences wanted to be reminded of Hitler (brown shirts) and Mussolini (black shirts) as an antidote to chaos. In the end, however, Let 'Em Eat Cake with its ambitious score and biting satire remains a succes d'estime, which Kaufman defined as "a success that runs out of steam."
Let' Em Eat Cake opened on October 21, 1933 at the Imperial and ran 90 performances.
It had not been revived until the Brooklyn Academy of Music presented a concert version in 1986, in conjunction with Of Thee I Sing. It has been presented in several concert version since then, but no major stage revival has yet been produced.
13 men, 7 women, plus a large singing and dancing ensemble; many locations
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The Gershwins' most sophisticated score teams with Kaufman and Ryskind's most pointed satire.