Color and The Great American Revue

By Barbara Cohen-Stratyner
April 27, 2012
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Design by Robert Ten Eyck Stevenson for the Greenwich Village Follies

Design by Robert Ten Eyck Stevenson for the Greenwich Village Follies

This blog channel is inspired by the current exhibition at the Library for the Performing Arts, The Great American Revue: How Florenz Ziegfeld, George White and their Rivals Remade Broadway, which is on view through July 27, 2012. The material on display is drawn from the collections of LPA’s Research Divisions.

“Color,” our key image, is one of a set of designs for elements of performance by Robert Ten Eyck Stevenson, created for the Greenwich Village Follies of 1926. Other designs for that scene included “Light,” which is all white and sparkling, and “Scenery,” which resembles Carol Burnett’s famous curtain gown for her Gone with the Wind parody.

The Greenwich Village Follies, created by John Murray Anderson, was distinguished by its emphasis on design. Anderson and producers A. L. Jones and Morris Green, commissioned design sets by multiple designers. While Ziegfeld used one principal scenic designer, Joseph Urban, from 1915 through 1931, Anderson employed 6 – 10 for each edition.

The color spectrum shows up often in revue design schemes, since costuming the chorus frequently meant designing the same costume in multiple colors. The Jones and Green Collection includes a huge bound costume swatch book, which was too fragile to display, with a spectrum of chiffon. A memo in the book described a candy box scene for 12 dancers in different colors, adding “Costume designs are attached. Lyrics will be written if you are interested.”