“It’s almost like some kind of murder mystery,” says Kwame Kwei-Armah with clear gusto. “The show was interrupted by the press and somehow the body disappeared.”
The claim made by the artistic director of the Young Vic Theater in London is a Broadway show. Swinging in the dream. Founded in 1890, Louisiana is Shakespeare’s musical genre. Summer night DreamIn late 1939, it allegedly ran for a total of 13 Broadway shows, then sank without a trace. The script itself is gone, save some pages from the Pyramus and Bube section.
So you have to think about why prominent institutions, the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK and Young Vic and the New York Spectator Theater, will come together to reexamine a theatrical footnote for a long-running project that began Saturday. past. Live concert of popular jazz airs that make up the score.
Once you start digging, you need to think about what it is like No to retire Swinging in the dream, sat at the center of a complex web of racial and cultural influence.
Let’s start with the integration team of roughly 110 people – read right – there’s Louis Armstrong at the bottom; Butterfly McQueen and Oscar Polk, frescoes gone With the Wind set, like Puck and Flute; comedian Moms Mabley, as Fifteen; Singer Maxine Sullivan in the role of Titania; and future Oscar nominee Dorothy Dandridge as a pixie. The Benny Goodman Sextet and Bud Freeman’s Summa Cum Laude Orchestra rounded out the pit musicians. (According to Ricky Riccardi’s latest book, A heart full of rhythm, Armstrong and Goodman, fought over who would get the best billing and share it equally).
And there was more: Agnes de Mille was dedicated to choreography; the sets were inspired by Walt Disney cartoons; and along with popular jazz melodies, they also exploded new Damn that dream Poke Jimmy Van Heusen y Eddie de Lange.
Still, this abundance of talent did not guarantee success. The ratings were mixed in the best way and did not help fill the 3,500 seats of the Central Theater, even the highest price of tickets was reduced to $ 2.
The show quickly began to forget. Damn that dream became a favorite of a concert sung by Billie Holiday and Nancy Wilson, among many others.
Members of the RSC ensemble and jazz singer Zara McFarlane will be part of the concert.
“Damn, Dream is a really important jazz standard that I play and accompany people to, so it was really surprising that I didn’t know the roots of a very important production that they put so much money into,” said Peter Edwards, director. of the concert. music director. Swinging in the dream When the RSC contacts you.
The project was launched long before the pandemic, and leaders of the three theaters are not sure what form it will take after this weekend’s concert. But remembering the play sounds less like a range diver, think CSI: Times Square. George C Wolfe meta-show Creating a musical sensation in 1921 and everything that followedHaving a short but popular run on Broadway in 2016 can give you a possible direction.
Gregory Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “I just want to know what happened, why this set collapsed and then why the show disappeared completely.”
At the time, black newspapers were among those divided on the show. An article Pittsburgh Kurye He praised “powerful musical thinking, festivity and soft music,” while others pointed to the many job opportunities for black artists.
New York Amsterdam NewsOn the other hand, he thought that promoting what was considered an unsatisfactory effort would delay “the day that black actors and black art are recognized without lighting a lamp or burlesque.”
“Critics tell us it’s not holding out, it’s not working,” says Kwei-Armah. I wonder why it doesn’t work. And that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work! «
The locomotive towing the train and its many carriages was Eric Charell, a cheerful and confident Jewish director who had fled Nazi Germany and moved to the United States. His first Broadway performance in 1936 was an adaptation of the hit Berlin operetta. White Horse Inn With a cast of 145 people, it’s no surprise that the German musical comedy scene has earned the nickname Ziegfeld.
Charell may have wanted to take advantage of the success Mikado swing (1938) and Hot Mikado (1939), Gilbert and Sullivan’s adaptation of the operetta with two jazzy aromas, but he was not entirely prepared for the thorny questions and problems posed by an integrated show in America before World War II.
“He’s definitely the man of the moment, he’s got a Midas touch,” says Doran Charell. “Are you exploiting this talent or is it a piece of forward thinking thinking?”
Since Charell is “a stranger in our mother tongue,” looking to the future New York Times Co-author, the first champion of popular culture stood out as the American critic Gilbert Seldes.
It was a great opportunity for Jeffrey Horowitz, the artistic director of the New Spectator Theater, not to bring in a black writer. “There is no one on this writing team who knows anything about African American culture and jazz,” he says. They could have Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. I don’t think they thought that. «
Racial and artistic speakers within Swinging in the dream Take a valuable look at the common misconceptions and hanging ideas that shaped American culture in the early 20th century. White actors played aristocrats and lovers, for example, black artists controlled fairy tales and mechanics, not romantic comedy, but romantic presenters.
Another charming adaptation took place with a dance, as de Mille’s choreography was completed with a jitterbug designed by Herbert White, the king of the Harlem ballrooms, who toured the company.
Most viewers complained that Shakespeare was too much and not rocking enough, that Armstrong was lost in a role that did not require him to honk the horn. The producers nervously tried to adjust and gave their stars more time on the trumpet as a result. Wow, nothing worked and Swinging in the dream Closed.
Now only one attractive mystery remains, the story of which has become more attractive than the final product.
“Even if the scenario came up tomorrow, we wouldn’t be interested in it,” Horowitz said. “The real has to do with something else: race, context and who is telling the story.”