The "new" Gershwin musical, A Foggy Day, is such a hit in its 1999 revival of the 1998 staging at the Shaw Festival in Ontario that it will be extended by 10 performances at the Royal George Theatre.
The musical, spiked with hit George and Ira Gershwin songs, has sold 90 percent of its announced run. It was to close on Oct. 31 but will go to Nov. 14. A Shaw insider told Playbill On-Line the show has caught the attention of commercial producers, who are traveling to scenic Niagara-on-the Lake, about a half hour downstream from Niagara Falls, for a look-see.
The musical, directed by Kelly Robinson, is based on the same P.G. Wodehouse novel and play that inspired the Fred Astaire film, "A Damsel in Distress," but veers from the film script. In the 1930s, George Gershwin thought the novel would make a solid musical comedy, and he and brother Ira began fashioning songs based on the story.
The novel was bought by RKO in Hollywood and in order to accommodate the talent of stars Astaire and George Burns and Gracie Allen, the original story and score were altered.
The Shaw production, although it interpolates tunes not intended for the (unproduced) stage show or the film, "seeks to create -- or recreate -- a musical along the lines George Gershwin proposed over a half-century ago," according to Shaw Festival production notes. "Since stage musicals require more songs than film musicals, we have incorporated several additional Gershwin songs [two from Pardon My English] and, to avoid biographical distractions, changed the name of the central character." The character in the novel is an American songwriter named George, not to be confused with George Gershwin.
The musical is punctuated with classic Gershwin tunes such as "Stiff Upper Lip," "A Foggy Day (in London Town)," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "I Can't Be Bothered Now," "Things Are Looking Up," "Put Me to the Test," "Pay Some Attention to Me" (all from or intended for the "Damsel in Distress" film) plus "Love is Here to Stay" (from the film, "The Goldwyn Follies"; the last song George composed), "He Loves and She Loves" (from Funny Face), "Isn't It a Pity" (from Pardon My English), "Maybe" (from Oh, Kay!) "Luckiest Man in the World" (from Pardon My English), "These Charming People" (from Tip-Toes) and "I Don't Think I'll Fall in Love Today" (from Treasure Girl).
It is believed that A Foggy Day represents the first professional performances of "Put Me to the Test" (heard only as background music in the RKO film) and "Pay Some Attention to Me" (not used in the film).
Reviving -- and/or reinventing the context of -- Gershwin songs is nothing new: The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, My One and Only, Oh, Kay! and Crazy for You all recently did it on Broadway.
For information about the Shaw Festival, one of North America's major seasonal theatre festivals, operating on three stages, call (800) 511-SHAW.
-- By Kenneth Jones