Music by George Gershwin.
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin.
Book by Guy Bolton & P. G. Wodehouse.
Previewed in Philadelphia, October 1926
Opened November 8, 1926 at the Imperial Theatre
We inaugurate our 2014 Theatricals season with a classic
Gershwin-Bolton-Wodehouse musical comedy from the heart of the
Prohibition, 1926’s Oh, Kay!.
Long Island playboy Jimmy Winters arrives at his swank Southampton cottage with his new bride just as a gang of English bootleggers (led by a down-and-out, yacht-poor duke) is stashing 500 cases of illegal hooch in his basement. To make matters worse, news arrives that Jimmy’s first wife is refusing to sign the divorce papers, so his new bride (uh, his second wife) storms out in a huff, just as one of the bootleggers and the Duke’s sister, Lady Kay, posing as Jimmy’s maid to escape the G men, enters the room and pulls a gun on Jimmy. And that’s just to get things rolling. Intrigue, romance, champagne and laughter flow freely in this fast-paced comedy filled with plenty of slapstick, jokes, great dance moves and totally light-hearted fun.
And the music!–a host of dazzling Gershwin gems include the classics “Do, Do, Do”, “Maybe” (absolutely to die for), “Clap Yo’ Hands”, “Fidgety Feet” and the haunting, unforgettable “Someone To Watch Over Me”..
Scene 1 A Southampton Beach at night. An empty beach house on Long Island with plenty of flappers around? Sounds like a perfect place for smuggling hooch! As early evening bathers frolic along the dunes (“THE MOON IS ON THE SEA”), the three principals in the Finer And Better Bootlegging Company—the down-on-his-luck Duke of Durham (whose yacht, just about the only thing he still owns, provides the company’s means of transport) and his two dubious sidekicks, Larry Potter and Shorty McGee, meet up to discuss business and their new shipment of whiskey, gin and champagne “mixed with magnesia” (“WHEN OUR SHIP COMES SAILING IN”). Shorty expresses concern that the Duke’s sister, Lady Kay, who is also a member of the company, has come ashore and is being chased by Revenue Officer Jansen. In a panic, the Duke heads off to save her (“I’ll baffle him! I’ll put him right off the track!), but immediately puts himself off-track with two local beauties, Philippa and Dolly Ruxton, whom he introduces to his partners. Shorty and the Duke again head out to find Kay and get her back out to the yacht while Potter flirts with the twins (“DON’T ASK”).
Shorty soon discovers Lady Kay hiding under a rowboat and tells her she better get back to the yacht or she’ll wind up in prison, but she isn’t worried! (“as the proverb says, there’s no arrest for the wary and I’m going to be very wary!”) She borrows Shorty’s “busy Bertha” to protect herself, and admits to him that she’s come ashore because she is in love with a very polite swimmer she’d saved from drowning last summer and she’d read that they were giving him a beach party that night (“but he didn’t show!”). Shorty scolds her for “worrying them all sick” but he thinks he sees Jansen in the distance and runs off to head him off while Kay ponders love and dreams of someday finding hers (“SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME”).
Scene 2 The living hall of Jimmy Winter’s Southampton cottage. Just down the beach in the home of local man-about-town Jimmy Winter, breaking news of his unexpected return for the season has set his adoring female friends to work cleaning and dusting (“THE WOMAN’S TOUCH”). This is awful news for the Finer And Better Bootlegging Company, since they’ve already stashed 300 cases of hooch in Jimmy’s basement and were planning to store their new shipment there too! A paniced Duke and Potter storm in, only to find that the ever-resourceful (if usually looped) Shorty has scared off the hired help by telling them the place is haunted and decides to protect their investment by impersonating the butler. “You’ve taken a great load off my mind,” exclaims the Duke. “Yes,” responds Shorty, “and a mind like yours was never built to hold weights.”
Just then Jimmy arrives, with his new wife, Constance Appleton…who almost immediately begins to worry that she might have married a playboy. They exit. Shorty enters (tipsy and with some of his new boss’ “pre-war” in his hands). Revenue Officer Jansen enters and confronts Shorty. Jimmy re-enters. Constance re-enters. And everything is almost set aright when Jimmy discovers a letter that announces his first wife has refused to sign the annulment papers! Constance, of course, is outraged and goes off to repack for a hotel. Jimmy bemoans to Shorty his bad luck with women but tells him that there is a wonderful woman who saved him from drowning the summer before of whom he often dreams. Shorty, realizing he’s speaking of Lady Kay, is shocked! Constant leaves in a huff, and Jimmy escapes his woes with his bevy of Southampton girlfriends (“DEAR LITTLE GIRL”) and retires for the evening while Shorty gets confused by the Ruxton twins, which makes him think he’s got to quit drinking.
Suddenly there is a crash of thunder and a shot. Kay leaps through the living room window and runs into Jimmy, who immediately recognizes her as his “little mermaid”. Just as suddenly, Revenue Officer Jansen enters in hot pursuit of “the girl from the Rum fleet” who has just knocked him on the head with a gun! Kay and Jimmy pretend they are “Just Married” (the sign on Jimmy and Constance’s luggage). Jansen storms out. Jimmy tell Kay that he’s married…to two women! “I suppose you thought I was just another wife you’d forgotten about…What are you going to do with the collection when it’s complete? Present it to the nation?”) Jansen storms back in and though they ward him off, they realize she needs to spend the night (“MAYBE”).
Scene 3 The same. The following morning, The Duke shows up still frantic about Kay’s disappearance, so Potter and friends attempt to lighten his mood (“CLAP YO’ HANDS”). As they depart to continue the search, Jansen barges in to verify Jimmy’s story of the previous evening. Kay and Jimmy continue to play their newlywed roles, but now with plenty of real affection (“DO, DO, DO”) and Jansen storms out in disgust, just as Constance returns with her father, Judge Appleton in tow to confront Jimmy, while Kay manages escapes to Jimmy’s bedroom. Just then (this is 1920s musical comedy remember) all of Jimmy’s girlfriends show up (“There appear to be women in every nook and cranny of your house!” declares the Judge), a letter arrives announcing that Jimmy’s divorce has been finalized after all, and, trapped by his own sense of fair play, Jimmy reluctantly announces his engagement to Constance. Kay starts with shock in his bedroom and everyone demands (in mock operatic recitative to the tunes of “MAYBE” and “CLAP YO’ HANDS”) who it is—a ghost? the butler? Kay enters dressed as…Jane, “only Jane”, his maid, and as it happens, Jimmy announces—to Shorty’s horror—his butler’s wife! Satisfied at last, the Judge and Constance declare the wedding will be in the garden that very afternoon and Kay vows to win him back before it’s too late (“SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME” reprise).
Scene 1 Jimmy’s garden. That afternoon, all assemble in the garden for a wedding rehearsal (“BRIDE AND GROOM”), complete with Kodak cameras! and Kay, disguised now as Jane the maid, goes to work to win back her man (ably assisted by the well-oiled Shorty, as butler and erstwhile hubby), the basic strategy being to get Constance to throw Jimmy over, since Jimmy is far too honorable to renege on his promise, no matter how much he loves Kay.
All of the madcap goings-on of Act I continue here. Revenue Officer Jansen keeps showing up and getting made a fool of. The Duke, Potter and the Ruxton twins run into each other again and while Dolly heads off with the Duke to help him look for “the prints” (“The Prince of Wales?” “No you silly ass, foot-prints…I’m still looking for my sister!”)…and to make like an ocean liner and cozy up to a peer, Potter woos Phil (“FIDGETY FEET”)…remember, this is still a 1920s musical comedy.
First up in Kay’s plan, is a wild rehearsal luncheon, complete with fish on the floor, Tabasco Sauce, a pudding filled with Dutch Cleanser, and used finger plasters in the soup…now the Judge storms out in a huff. But although Kay endeavors desperately to win Jimmy over and although Jimmy even declares his love for her (“SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME” Jimmy reprise), he feels honor-bound to marry Constance. So Kay is forced to put her ultimate plan into action! Dressed as a revenue agent, Shorty crashes into the garden just as the Judge begins the ceremony and arrests Jimmy for bootlegging and appoints Potter as Special Deputy to “confiscate” the liquor in Jimmy’s basement. The plan works like a charm…sort of. What Kay didn’t plan on is Jansen showing up yet again and outs Shorty as a fake, arrests everyone, and announces he found Kay with Jimmy in the middle of the night “in blue pyjammies.” A mortified Constance calls off the wedding, and Jimmy and the Finer And better Bootlegging Company get locked in the basement!
Scene 2 & 3 Jimmy’s basement & Jimmy’s patio. How does this all turn out? Well, we’ll leave a little for you to see for yourself. But remember…this is a 1920s musical comedy!
Press on The Shedd production of Oh, Kay!
, stage managerJonathan Edwards
, assistant stage manager
Cosmo Cole, sound & lightingHeidi Knight-Meigs
, properties masterConnie Huston
, master painterAnn Olson
, costumes assistantEmily Kidder
, rehearsal pianistKristina Gribskov
, production managerJan Easton
, house managerJim Ralph
, executive producer