Orchestra parts survived for only five numbers, Krasker says. Orchestrator Larry Moore added several orchestrations from the 1984 revival, wrote such things himself as an overture and entr ' acte , then tried "to make everything sound homogeneous." The joke, says Krasker, is that "in the '20s there were as many as 7 or 8 orchestrators on a Broadway show. So we're just doing it the way they did then."
Problems still existed. In 1927, for instance, musical trims were indicated in the original manuscripts by pieces of paper glued or taped over the parts not to play. Although some of the orchestrations were partially destroyed, says Moore, others could be saved. Moore used the bassoon part to re-create the bass, and re-created brass sections for the 22-member band by building from the two surviving horn parts.
What also helped is that both Gershwin and Kaufman family members wanted to see the 1927 show back on the stage. Anne Kaufman Schneider says that she looks forward to seeing "what my father originally wrote, and not what got fiddled with later on." And Ronald Blanc, attorney for the Gershwin interests, says Mrs. Ira Gershwin alone has spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" since 1983 (when her husband Ira died) hiring copyists and orchestrators to restore the musical scores back to how the Gershwins wrote them.
The reconstruction of the 1927 staging also provided a chance to put "The Man I Love" back in a Gershwin show, Krasker says. It was deleted during the pre-Broadway cutting of "Lady, Be Good!" in 1924, then was kept off Broadway again by the pre-Broadway death of the 1927 "Strike Up the Band" production. But the song became so popular through recordings by such artists as Helen Morgan, says Krasker, that when "Band" was revised in 1930 "the song's popularity precluded its re-use."
The title song, "Strike Up the Band," was in both the 1927 and 1930 shows, says Krasker, then rewritten for the MGM film. Krasker notes that Ira Gershwin himself adapted it in 1936 into the UCLA football song and "for his generosity, Ira was given lifetime season passes to the home football games."
Krasker says two songs are still missing: "Meadow Serenade," for which only the refrain survives, and an untitled band number in the second act which he says may not even have been by the Gershwins.
He replaced "Serenade" with "Soon," a Gershwin standard that replaced "Serenade" in 1930. To replace the band music, Krasker says he and Davis opted for "I've Got a Crush on You" in its original brisk tempo.
"Strike Up the Band" opened on Aug. 29, 1927 in Long Branch, N. J., and expired in Philadelphia the next month. "There are people who think the '27 version was panned by critics and that the show was salvaged in 1930, but that's really not the case," Krasker says. "It actually got very fine notices in '27 but it couldn't attract an audience."
What was the problem?
"I think it was a very daring show and far from what an audience expected in going to see a new Gershwin musical. Kaufman's work was very biting and very critical of the mindless patriotism that can make war seem like a necessary evil. (And) it was the height of the Coolidge years, the war to end all wars was over, and people were very content in their peacetime prosperity.
"By 1930, the Depression was under way, and audiences were more receptive to a show satirizing government and big business. (They) took the edge off by making the war plot part of a dream sequence. And they also wrote a rather large part for comics. Part of the decision to go back and do the '27 show was motivated by our opinion that it wasn't necessary to soften the satire anymore."
Many of the characters and situations are in fact incredibly contemporary. There's Col. Holmes, a White House aide (played by Avery Schreiber) who refuses to comment on anything, including the weather, and a few of the fictitious President's traits may be so familiar that director Davis fears people will think they updated the script.
"This is not a sendup or an update or a spoof," says Davis. "('Strike Up the Band') was already a spoof in 1927." (Col. Holmes was reportedly based on President Wilson's adviser Col. Edward Mandell House.) "I think people will say: 'Surely they rewrote those lines.' And we didn't."
Many people also consider "Strike Up the Band" the precursor to the Gershwins' other political musicals--"Of Thee I Sing," which won the Pulitzer in 1932, and "Let 'Em Eat Cake," produced in 1933. Morrie Ryskind, who revised "Band" for the 1930 production, co-authored the books for both "Sing" and "Cake" with Kaufman.
"Most of their earlier shows had simply consisted of song hits, barely integrated into the action, and a couple of plot numbers," Krasker says. "With 'Strike Up the Band,' the Gershwins began to set entire themes to music which is a practice they continued and expanded in 'Of Thee I Sing.' "
There has been increased interest in both the Gershwins and Kaufman in recent years, and everyone involved with this show clearly hopes it will have a longer life. The show ends its five-week run here, at a cost Davis estimates as "a little under $2 million," on Sept. 11, and attorney Blanc says extending the rights beyond that date "is always a possibility."
Anne Kaufman Schneider says her father thought of his plays as "very good, commercial, theatrical ventures, and I don't think he ever thought about their survival. He wasn't writing for posterity but for himself and for the moment.
"I think he'd be thrilled."