Miss 1917

Miss 1917
Miss 1917
The Musical Comedy

Programme excerpt
Music Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern and Others
Lyrics Harry B. Smith, Otto Harbach, Henry Blossom and Others
Book Guy Bolton
P. G. Wodehouse
Productions 1917 Broadway

Miss 1917 is a musical revue with a book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse, music by Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern and others, and lyrics by Harry B. Smith, Otto Harbach, Henry Blossom and others. Made up of a string of vignettes, the show features songs from such musicals as The Wizard of Oz, Three Twins, Babes in Toyland, Ziegfeld Follies and The Belle of New York.[1]



In 1916, Charles Dillingham and Florenz Ziegfeld produced The Century Girl, with music by Irving Berlin. Despite mildly positive reviews, the show closed without recouping its investment.[2] On their next production, which was to be called Miss 1917, they hired Jerome Kern and Victor Herbert to compose the score and Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse to collaborate on the book. Kern and Bolton had collaborated on the Princess Theatre musicals Nobody's Home (1915) and Very Good Eddie (1915). British humorist and playwright Wodehouse then joined them for several innovative musicals there.[3]

Involvement of George Gershwin

The show is mostly known today as George Gershwin's introduction to musical theatre.[4] During rehearsals for Miss 1917, Gershwin conducted the pit orchestra and played the piano.[2] He was hired in October 1917, being paid $35 each week. As the rehearsal period extended, Gershwin earned more money.[5] He would later record Kern's "The Land Where the Good Songs Go", which was used in the revue, as a piano roll in January 1918.[5]

While working for the show, Gershwin and his brother Ira Gershwin befriended Herbert and Kern, keeping "in contact with some of the major figures on Broadway".[5] Sunday night concerts held in New York City held by the show's cast introduced Gershwin's "There's More to a Kiss Than the Sound" and "You-oo, Just You", both with lyrics by Irving Caesar.[5]

"...Gershwin had begun work on Broadway as a rehearsal pianist for the Jerome Kern and Victor Herbert musical Miss 1917. Within months, his talent as a composer was noticed by everyone in the show and he was quickly put under contract by Harms Music..."

Gershwin's involvement with Miss 1917 brought the composer to the attention of music producer Harry Askins, who in turn mentioned him to Max Dreyfus, "one of the giants of music publishing".[4]

1917 Broadway production

The producers of the show "had demanded extremely elaborate staging for the revue", so no out-of-town tryouts were held, and the show premiered directly on Broadway on November 5, 1917, at the Century Theatre.[2][6][7] The production was staged, directed, and supervised by Ned Wayburn, with choreography by Adolph Bohm. The creative team also included set designer Joseph Urban, who built a rotating thrust stage for the theater. Costume design was attributed to eight designers, including Paul Chaflin, Willy Pogany, and Max Weldy. The original cast starred comedian Lew Fields, Andrew Tombes and Vivienne Segal. The cast also included Bessie McCoy Davis, Bert Savoy, and Irene Castle; the comedic tag-team Van and Schenck also performed in the production.[6] Castle was singled out in many reviews, but disliked her own performance; Eve Golden wrote: "But she was unhappy with her own performance: "I found myself hopelessly lost as a solo number. I had no training for dancing alone and I should never have tried it." Irene went on at 10:30pm, toward the middle of Act 2. She later claimed to have objected to the late hour ... the program reveals the real problem: she followed a jazzy dance number [with] George White and Ann Pennington."[8]

Kern originally wanted Segal to sing "They Didn't Believe Me" in the revue, though Dillingham and Herbert preferred her to sing "Kiss Me Again". Segal's siding with the latter caused tension among the creative team.[6] According to a member of the production crew, technical rehearsals were interrupted several times due to disagreements in staging and choreography; at one point, Kern sought to close the show early, though Ziegfeld wouldn't have it.[9]

Miss 1917 was generally well-received, gaining a rave review from The New York Times.[10] Though successful with critics, the revue failed to attract an audience.[11] As a result, the show closed on January 5, 1918, after only six weeks of performances, due to slow ticket sales.[2][12]

Subsequent events

A month after Miss 1917's Broadway closing, on February 21, 1918, items used in the show were sold in an auction, raising $11,300, according to The New York Times. Most of the items for auction were bought by J. J. Shubert.[13] The following day, Sam Harrison of the New Amsterdam Theatre bought the performing rights to the musical.[14]

In a New York Times interview, Ziegfeld stated that he hoped to stage the musical internationally under a new title. One of these productions included a London transfer, to take place in March 1920, as well as a national tour in the United States. However, in a later article, the Times reported that Ziegfeld cancelled these engagements; the writer of the article said that, according to "production sources," the original creative team would not allow Ziegfeld to stage the show internationally, due to major staging and plot changes that would make the humor more accessible to international audiences.[9]

Musical numbers

Act I
  • "The Mosquitos Frolic"
  • "The Society Farmerettes"
  • "(We're) Crooks"
  • "Papa Would Persist in Picking Peaches"
  • "A Dancing M.D."
  • "That's the Picture I Want to See"
  • "The Honor System"
  • "Good-bye Broadway"
  • "(I'm) The Old Man in the Moon"
  • "The Land Where Good Songs Go"
  • "Follow On"
  • "In the Good Old Summer Time"
  • "Dinah"
  • "Under the Bamboo Tree"
  • "(The) Yama Yama (Man)"
  • "Sammy"
  • "Kiss Me Again"
  • "(Be My Little Baby) Bumble Bee"
  • March of the Toys"
  • Toy Clog Dance"
Act II[1]
  • "We Want to Laugh"
  • "A Dancing Courtship"
  • "Who's Zoo in Girl Land"
  • "Midnight in Dreamy Spain"
  • "Oh What a Beautiful Baby"
  • "The Palm Beach Girl"


Although no official cast recording was made, brief excerpts from some of the songs used in Miss 1917 can be heard on the compilation album, "Jerome Kern: Silver Linings", which was officially released on July 22, 2008.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Song List of Miss 1917". IBDB: The Official Source for Broadway Information. The Broadway League. http://ibdb.com/production-songs.php?ShowNo=6125&ProdNo=8607. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Miss 1917, musical revue (collab. with V.Herbert)". Classical Archives. http://www.classicalarchives.com/work/571304.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Kenrick, John. "History of The Musical Stage 1910-1919: Part I", Musicals 101.com: The Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, TV and Film, accessed May 27, 2008
  4. ^ a b Pollack, Howard (2006). George Gershwin, His Life and Career. California: University of California Publishing. pp. 89. 
  5. ^ a b c d Hyland, William. "Gershwin: A Biography". Google Books. Greenwood Publishing Group (2003). http://books.google.com/books?id=EoKvjKEsf0MC&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=george+gershwin+miss+1917&source=bl&ots=lIK02_dM_J&sig=dqFKk-lumDEWRxDn7jJpQD01oyI&hl=en&ei=j45-TYmqBcyEtgeQmeDXCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CDEQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=george%20gershwin%20miss%201917&f=false. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Bordman, Gerard Martin (1978). American musical theatre: a chronicle. New York: Oxford University. pp. 373–374. 
  7. ^ Viagas, Robert (November 5, 2010). "Today in Theatre History: November 5". Playbill. http://www.playbill.com/news/article/73183-Today-in-Theatre-History-NOVEMBER-5. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  8. ^ Golden, Eve. "Vernon and Irene Castle's ragtime revolution"
  9. ^ a b "'Miss 1917' Musical Cancels International Stagings". The New York Times. June 12, 1918. 
  10. ^ "'Miss 1917' A Hit At The Century". The New York Times. November 6, 1917. 
  11. ^ Jasen, David A (2002). P.G. Wodehouse: A Portrait of a Master. Music Sales Group: Music Sales Group. pp. 71–72. http://books.google.com/books?id=9L2kjKQ8CvYC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=miss+1917+pg+wodehouse&source=bl&ots=mdINhOuhf4&sig=F5FTKkNkABfictY2f3RzJDfcScQ&hl=en&ei=FbF-TZvKDNK5tgeZwOjRCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=miss%201917%20pg%20wodehouse&f=false. 
  12. ^ "Miss 1917". Broadwayworld.com. http://broadwayworld.com/shows/backstage.php?showid=1660. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  13. ^ ""Miss 1917" Brings $11,300 at Sale". The New York Times. February 21, 1918. 
  14. ^ "Boys Century Plays". The New York Times. February 22, 1918. 
  15. ^ Kern, Jerome. "Silver Linings". Classical Archives. http://www.classicalarchives.com/album/026724651526.html. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 

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