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GPO Prog02 part3:GPO Prog02 part3 19/05/2011 15:22 Page 83

do a show with Cole Porter, but, as he later recalled, “Aarons thought Cole was old hat – even before he was new hat.” When mounting an original story, it was customary in the 1930’s for a producer to hire popular stars and then fashion a vehicle to suit their talents. Freedley at once decided he wanted the comedy team of William Gaxton and Victor Moore, fresh from their triumph in Of Thee I Sing, and that rising young lady with the powerful pipes, Ethel Merman, who had made her Broadway bow in Girl Crazy. At that moment, Merman was in Hollywood and Gaxton and Moore were appearing in Let ‘em Eat Cake. Undeterred, Freedley contacted the three writers abroad and told them of his plans. On May 4, 1934 Freedley, confined to a wheelchair (doctors were unable to determine if he had had a heart attack or was suffering from heat stroke), was pushed up the gangplank aboard the Majestic and set sail for London to confer with his authors. While in London, he hired Howard Lindsay to direct his new show. It was necessary for Freedley to corral his three new writers at one place. Bolton did not want to travel to Paris, where Wodehouse was conferring with Lindsay, nor would Wodehouse go to London. Porter was touring the Rhine. A compromise was struck, when the group agreed to meet at the Frence coastal community, Le Touquet-Paris Plage. With Bolton as the primary author and Wodehouse adding his whimsical touches throughout, an outline for a show to be called Hard To Get was delivered to Porter, who, a few weeks later, turned up at Freedley’s hotel with a sheaf of song sheets. Freedley was entranced by the selections and returned with confidence to New York. By mid-July the Wodehouses decided to make Le Touquet their permanent home and, while it was being redecorated, stayed at the Royal Picardy Hotel, where Hard To Get was assuming final form. On August 15, Freedley received the completed Bolton-Wodehouse manuscript: and the following day Porter returned to America on the Ile de France with the score. It was announced that rehearsals would begin September 10 and that Gaxton and Moore were signed. Ethel Merman would join them if motion picture contracts permitted. Like the plot of the show itself, what seemed like

The brand new Ile de France preparing to sail from New York 1927

smooth sailing suddenly hit a reef. The script called for Barbara Frisbee to sail for London with her British fiancé Eric Oakleigh. Her father wants to prevent the marriage and tells his former employee Jimmy Crocker that, if he sails and breaks up the wedding, he will be rehired. On the ship, Jimmy meets Moon, Public Enemy no 13, a nightclub singer Jenny (who loves Jimmy) and Elmer Purkis, a veteran screenwriter. Purkis helps Jimmy discredit Eric by thinking up plot devices from old movies. A fake bomb is created from a barbell, and, while Jenny is singing, it is rolled out before the terrified passengers. Instead of Jimmy grabbing it and becoming a hero to Barbara, Eric swiftly tosses it overboard. In Act Two, the entire ship is gripped with terror that more danger lies ahead, a mood that Jenny attempts to dispel with her big revival number. Freedley was fearful that the rather derisive attitude toward Hollywood might ruin chances of a film sale, and he was torn between rejecting it and

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Grange Park Opera 2002 Programme  

Grange Park Opera 2002 Programme

Grange Park Opera 2002 Programme  

Grange Park Opera 2002 Programme