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The Great American Revue
"It's Great! But Why is it Here?" Musical Revue Research Guide, Part 2
In the Research Guide, Part I, I advised that the easiest way to find information at LPA is by name or title. I advised that the research can benefit by compiling a list of every person in or involved in a production and serendipity can come your way. That third dancer from the left can become a star and/or obsessive collector or just happen to have the right piece of information in a clipping file. Sometimes, however, you can do your research prep and be looking in a logical place when you find something that should not logically be there.
One of the most discussed artifacts found for The Great American Revue was an unknown song by George Gershwin. The George White Scandals, an annual series from 1919 through the 1920s, featured dancing, innovative designs by Erte and John Wenger, and comics, but is best remembered now as the revue series that gave impetus and visibility to George Gershwin at the start of his career. His too-short career was incredibly productive. White included and/or commissioned his early ballads, his novelties, and his towering Rhapsody in Blue. For the Act II finale of the 1921 edition, White selected Gershwin’s “Laugh Your Cares Away.” So if you are researching George Gershwin and hoping to find it or another lost, neglected song, you would logically focus on George White and the Scandals.
You would not go to the Hippodrome Theater or its producer, R. H. Burnside. Yet, Great American Revue’s newly discovered Gershwin was found in the Music Manuscripts in the vast R. H. Burnside Collection of papers, designs and music scores spread over the Theatre and Music Research Divisions. We expected to find Sousa, or the very early Cole Porter (for Hitchy-Koo of 1919) and Elsie Janis (for her Our Gang series), but the Gershwin piano score was a surprise. We will never know if Gershwin submitted it in the hope of working with the producer or whether it had been given to Burnside by a performer or musician.