I recently had the opportunity to see a rare production of TIP TOES ) at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, located in the general Los Angeles area. The show was staged in a small compact theatre which lended itself well to a feeling of intimacy. For those of us in front row seating a bit of restraint was required to quell the desire to join the dancers on stage in some of the more exhuberant numbers.
Yes, I'm a confirmed lover of Broadway musicals, movie musicals as well as select dinner theatres, professional and amateur theatre -- well performed staged productions. I thoroughly enjoyed this show in every sense of the word from the solo performances, the duo songs and acts, to the whole ensemble grand finale'. There are several familiar songs performed in "Tip Toes" including "Looking for a Boy" with lyrics "I am just a little girl (boy), looking for a little boy (girl) ..."; "That Certain Feeling"; "Sweet and Low-Down."
This production attracted me on two counts which includes familiarity with the professional acting career of cast member, Richard Horvitz, who carried off his humorous role in fine fashion with just the right finesse' to keep the audience laughing, and my being enamoured with much of the music of George Gershwin. I've previously written about my introduction to Gershwin musical compositions but was unfamiliar with this particular show among his earliest hits as a young man in his late twenties.
The program, with commentary by the local co-producer, Brian O'Halloran, revealed an interesting personal account of his meeting some years earlier with a petite Broadway star, he describes as "a feisty little lady named Queenie Smith." Years had passed since her Broadway performances in numerous shows and she was teaching a children's acting class just over Kellogg Hill and from where I live, a few miles down the freeway in the city of Covina toward L.A. Many years were to pass, then Mr. Halloran's friend, Mark Trent Goldberg showed him the orchestrations of "Tip Toes" in the Beverly Hills office of the Ira and Lenore Gershwin Trust. The orchestrations for this show had previously been unexpectedly recovered, then restored with a subsequent 1998 Carnegie Hall concert and recording.
Tip Toes was a 1925 musical hit with music and lyrics by George and his older brother, Ira Gershwin. I was fascinated to read an article written especially for the show's program by Miles Kreuger, President of The Institute of the American Musical, Inc. He writes an account of the activities of George Gershwin who started his career, as did many songwriters, just trying to sell a song as a "song plugger" on Tin Pan Alley after he had dropped out of high school. In only three years, he had his first song published. In 1924, when George would have been only twenty-six years old, though he had songs previously in a "dozen shows," he and Ira "collaborated...on a show that changed the entire style of musical comedy during the 1920's: "Lady Be Good!" (12-1-24), starring Fred and Adele Astaire."
The musical activities of George Gershwin during 1924, then 1925, when "Tip Toes" opened on Broadway December 28, were amazing in their number. George was writing and often performing in various settings and for a variety of shows in differing stages of production, requiring his presence: Washington, Newark, Baltimore, Philadelphia, London -- all pre-airlines with no quick easy transportation, so travel to Europe and return would have been by ocean liner. Even the genres of music he was writing was expansive with the commission from orchestral director, Paul Whiteman for his first major concert piece, "Rhapsody In Blue", the music of which captured my soul when I first heard it many years later about which I previously wrote. "Concerto in F" was written on commission from the New York Symphony Society. Mr. Kreuger notes "George sailed back to New York to discover that he was the first composer ever pictured on the cover of Time magazine (7-20 issue)."
Along with numerous other music compositions a favorite of many, including me which probably contributed to my fascination and romanatic notions of France, was his composition in 1928 of "An American In Paris." Years later this became a very popular movie which I enjoy watching to this day starring Gene Kelley and Leslie Caron, but you can experience this music with the trailer on the New York Times link.
My purpose is not to critique the individual performers or to analyze this rejuvenation of "Tip Toes," as compared with additional musicals Gershwin wrote, or those written by others. I simply reiterate I thoroughly enjoyed this production. I liked the Gershwin music and songs, and the performers who brought this show to life in a thoroughly professional, entertaining, fun-filled, lively evening.
If I could be an "angel" (one who finances productions), I would be sorely tempted to provide the backing to see this "Tip Toes" show moved to a larger stage, perhaps, even ultimately to find itself once again on Broadway. They have a cast that could be just as comfortable on a Broadway stage as at the Whitefire Theatre -- or maybe more so!