George Gershwin

Girl Crazy, musical

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    As the stock market crash of October 1929 rumbled into the Great Depression, Broadway coasted on the momentum of sheer glamour. The previous decade had seen George Gershwin emerge from obscurity to instant fame with Al Jolson's classic 1920 recording of Swanee, and in ever growing demand to supply music for revues and musicals ranging from the mediocre to the glittering. With his constant collaborator, lyricist brother Ira, he developed an uncanny knack for touching a nerve in the American psyche. As early as 1922 Gershwin had shown serious ambitions as a dramatic composer with the pocket opera Blue Monday, though they would not be fully realized until 1935 with Porgy and Bess. Meanwhile, Rhapsody in Blue (1924), the Piano Concerto (1925), and An American in Paris (1928) -- concert works tickled with demotic tang -- were paced by Broadway musicals whose music became ever more elaborate and richly expressive. Lady, Be Good! (1924), Oh, Kay! (1926), and Funny Face (1927) may be little more than thinly disguised revues worked around boy-meets-girl complications, but studded with numbers destined to become standards and extended with elaborately choreographed dance numbers, they make brisk jazz age counterparts to the elegant divertissements of Rameau. The stillborn 1927 version of Strike Up the Band, which failed at its Philadelphia tryout, is an operetta in all but name. With the revised Strike Up the Band running at Times Square Theater from the beginning of 1930, the Gershwins, at the prompting of producers Alex Aarons and Vinton Freedley, began work on Girl Crazy by Guy Bolton and Jack McGowan. While this story of a New York playboy sent to mend his ways in a small town in the still wild west hovered between farce and fluff, the Gershwins humanized its cardboard characters, lavishing some of their most enduring songs upon them -- "Embraceable You," But Not for Me," "Boy! What Love Has Done to Me," and the incandescent I Got Rhythm, in which an obscure vaudeville singer, Ethel Merman, vaulted into prominence. Even the second-drawer numbers proved viable -- "I'm Bidin' My Time" garnered two chart-topping recordings, while "Bronco Busters," "Sam and Delilah," and "Barbary Coast" are still occasionally rediscovered. The show opened October 14, 1930, at the Alvin Theater with the 19-year-old Ginger Rogers singing the romantic lead. Gershwin conducted the Red Nichols Orchestra at the premiere, with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, and Gene Krupa in the pit. Girl Crazy ran for 272 performances.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Overture
    2. The lonesome cowboy
    3. Bidin' my time
    4. Could you use me?
    5. Bronco busters
    6. Barbary coast
    7. Embraceable you
    8. Goldfarb! That's I'm
    9. Sam and Delilah
    10. I got rhythm
    11. Land of the gay caballero
    12. Mexican Dance, instrumental
    13. But not for me
    14. Treat me rough
    15. Boy! What love has done to me!
    16. When It's cactus time in Arizona
    17. The gambler of the West (not used)
    18. And I have you (not used)
    19. You can't unscramble scrambled eggs (not used)
    20. Something peculiar (not used)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2010 Sony Classical 88697638562
    1999 Philips 454987
    1998 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 60704
    1990 Nonesuch 79250
    1990 Nonesuch 79250
    RCA 62578
    RPO 9002
    Stradivari 6039
    Divertimento Records 31022
    Pro-Arte Records 8020
    Smithsonian Records 107
    Mastersound 11
    Music Club Records 183
    Aurophon Records 31484