Of Thee I Sing
Love gets in the political way of a campaign for presidency; will it be true love or the oval office?
Available through MTI for Professional Licensing ONLY. The Amateur Licensing rights are not available through MTI.
Show Essentials
12
Roles
+ Ensemble
PG
Rated
2
Acts

Full Synopsis

Act One

We open to a campaign parade in support of Mr. John P. Wintergreen for President & Mr. Alexander Throttlebottom for Vice President. The mass of campaigners hold various signs in support of Wintergreen ("Wintergreen for President").

Elsewhere, in a hotel room, the National Campaign Committee – political bosses Louis Lippman and Francis X. Gilhooley, newspaper magnate Matthew Arnold Fulton, Senator Carver Jones and Senator Robert E. Lyons – have assembled to discuss the campaign. While waiting for the President, they try to remember whom they nominated for Vice President. Finally, Throttlebottom enters and quickly reminds them that he is the nominee for Vice President. He politely asks to decline the nomination, but the committee insists it is too late to back out and that he will love being Vice President. Wintergreen follows shortly, ready to celebrate his nomination. The committee, however, is worried that some people may not be satisfied with the campaign, especially since they sold Rhode Island. They decide that they need to find a different course of action.

Just at that moment, a chambermaid enters, and Fulton decides to get her opinion as an American citizen. He asks her what she wants more than anything else. Her first answer is money, but the committee believes trying to talk about money will bring up the sore subject of Rhode Island. They ask her again, and she decides the next best thing would be love. They seize on that notion, deciding that Wintergreen must find a typical American girl and fall in love with her. With the idea in motion, they set off to have a national beauty contest to select Miss White House, the lucky girl whom Wintergreen will marry.

We now move to Atlantic City, where the 24 contestants of the beauty contest wait to find out who will be the President's bride ("Who Is the Lucky Girl to Be"). As the girls wait, members of the National Campaign Committee convince Throttlebottom to live life as a hermit and that, as Vice President, all he needs to do is hide and write speeches; he takes the role with pleasure and leaves immediately.

Wintergreen comes to meet the contestants before they are taken to judging, but finds that he is overwhelmed with the pressure of having to fall in love with one of the ladies. They leave for judging, and he confesses to Fulton's assistant, Mary Turner, about his nerves. He explains that he doesn't even know these girls or if they have any talents that will help him raise a family. Turner tries to console him, saying that many girls have good home abilities such as cooking and sewing. She uses herself as an example, arguing that she has a job and can also bake amazing corn muffins. He quickly realizes that Mary is the girl for him, and professes his love for her, asking if she will love him, too.

The Committee returns with the winner of the contest. They have chosen Diana Devereaux, a beautiful, somewhat forward Southern girl. Wintergreen protests, telling them all that he chooses Mary Turner to be his bride because she makes corn muffins and he loves her ("Finaletto: Act I"). Outside of Madison Square Garden, banners hang and a band is playing in favor of Wintergreen. The love campaign is clearly working. Secretaries Jenkins and Benson are musing over the success of the campaign ("Love Is Sweeping the Country").

We find the Committee in the middle of a presentation inside Madison Square Garden. Senator Jones must speak loudly to be heard over a wrestling match that is happening in front of him. He eventually gets interrupted by Throttlebottom, who has forced his way through policemen to get his chance to speak. He appears to have written an incredibly long speech, but keeps getting interrupted with loudspeaker announcements as he tries to begin. Finally, he is overshadowed by the entrance of WIntergreen and Mary Turner. Wintergreen proposes to her, just as he has done in 47 other states. However, she agrees to marry him only if he is elected president, leaving their fate to the American people ("Of Thee I Sing").

Time moves forward to Election Day; it is subsequently revealed that Wintergreen has emerged the winner. Time progresses again; the steps of the Capitol are lined with military members and Supreme Court Justices. The day has come for Wintergreen's inaugural address and his wedding to Mary Turner. Suddenly, a vengeful Diana Devereaux appears, claiming she has been jilted since she was the original pick to be the future First Lady. The Supreme Court takes to a vote and issues a decision in favor of Mary Turner and her corn muffins. Diana is chased off, and all celebrate the happy wedding day ("Finale: Act I").

Act Two

In the Oval Office, it is evident that Mary is sharing the space: the desk is divided in half, one side for a man and one side for a woman. A group of male and female secretaries, led by Jenkins and Miss Benson, remark on how wonderful it is to work in the White House ("Opening: Act II").

As Jenkins and Benson continue on with their work, we see a tour group move through, led by a guide. Jenkins and Benson review yet another notice of the ongoing furor over Diana Devereaux's rebuff. Another tour enters, this one including Throttlebottom, who impresses the guide with his knowledge about the Vice President. The guide then informs him of the Vice President's duty to preside over the Senate, and he rushes off to fulfill this duty. Mary and the President enter the office to begin their day; his duties include various Presidential issues, while she tends to getting enough food to entertain their many guests that evening. Mary insists that, in order to sustain the many dinners and evenings full of political figures, she needs a bigger allowance. Just as an argument over money is beginning, an announcement regarding the promotion of Campaign Committee's various members is made. They all discuss matters in the country until Fulton feels he must inform the President of the uproar that Devereaux has caused. Many large parts of the country are beginning to demand Devereaux for his wife. The situation seems desperate until Wintergreen pulls everyone's spirits up, believing they will be able to overcome Devereaux with a good show.

Later, Wintergreen invites reporters in for a press conference, who explicitly ask about Devereaux. The President and Mary skillfully avoid their questions, answering with vague proclamations of the strength of their own love ("Who Cares"). As the reporters leave, the Wintergreens plan the rest of their crusade. They decide that he will sing on the radio and she will bake corn muffins for the unemployed, which will surely win back the country.

Just as all is seeming to be remedied, the French Ambassador enters with six soldiers. He reveals that after some research, Diana Devereaux has been found to be distantly related to Napoleon ("The Illegitimate Daughter"). It is now a matter of French importance that Diana receive the prize she won: a marriage to the President. The Committee urges that Wintergreen either leave Mary or resign from the Presidency. He refuses both propositions, stating that he loves Mary and that he will continue to fight for his Presidency.

Some time later, we find the campaign committee in a corridor of the Capitol, secretly discussing the impeachment of Wintergreen. They now realize that they must remember the Vice President's name because he will become President once Wintergreen is out. Luckily, Throttlebottom has been watching them and reminds them who he is. They inform him of his chance to become President, and he is quite excited by the news. Just as the Committee is leaving, Wintergreen enters and runs into Throttlebottom. Wintergreen pieces together that Throttlebottom is his successor and tries to help him out by describing the job of President, all of which he is going to put in his new book.

We move to the Senate Chamber, where Throttlebottom is dutifully presiding ("Senator from Minnesota"). Throttlebottom wants the Senators to consider Wintergreen's impeachment, but they insist that they must discuss some important matters first, such as a tribute to Paul Revere's horse. They finally get to the matter of the President's impeachment. The Senate brings back Diana Devereaux to tell her sad story. It does not seem good for the President as Senators begin to vote him guilty but, just in time, Mary Wintergreen enters, revealing that she is pregnant. The Senate decides that they cannot impeach a young father, and all celebrate the news ("The Senate").

Back in the White House, Jenkins and Miss Benson are discussing the news and arguing over the arrival date of the new baby. Wintergreen enters, confirming the date to prove that he and Mary conceived after they were married. Fulton then arrives to tell Wintergreen that the American people are behind him once again, but is interrupted by the French Ambassador. The Ambassador reveals that France wants the baby, using the argument that, had Wintergreen married Devereaux, the baby would have been French. From France's perspective, America now owes them a baby. When Wintergreen refuses, the Ambassador threatens him, but Wintergreen remains defiant.

Finally, it is the day of the baby's birth and representatives from around the world have arrived to present gifts for the child ("Oh, Trumpeter, Blow Your Golden Horn"). Wintergreen is waiting anxiously as the Chief Justices debate the sex of the baby. The French Ambassador continues his demand that the baby be given to France, but Wintergreen still refuses. The Ambassador severs diplomatic relations and insists this will lead to war.

It is soon revealed that Mary has actually given birth to twins – a boy and a girl. This angers the French Ambassador even more, and he demands a solution. Wintergreen suggest that Diana Devereaux marry the Vice President and have her own babies for France, to which everyone agrees happily. To the excitement and celebration of all, Mary brings the babies out to Wintergreen. The President has made everything right again ("Finale Ultimo").

Casting

Casting

Cast Size: Flexible
Cast Type: Mainly Men
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Louis Lippman
Secretary of Agriculture. Knows nothing about agriculture. Southern. Talkative, with a put-upon air of self-import. Bit of a lush.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 55
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Francis X. Gilhooley
Secretary of the Navy. Uneasy, but stern. Always second-guessing and worried about the committee's plans. Quick to dramatic decisions and action.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 50
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Matthew Arnold Fulton
Chairman of the committee. Confident, unyielding, and gruff. A good public speaker. Smooth and slightly arrogant. Maintains the political party as his top priority, even when it pains him.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 65
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Senator Robert E. Lyons
Senator from the South. A Southern gentleman. Often paints on an insincere smile, and is more cutthroat than he first appears.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 65
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Senator Carver Jones
Senator from the West. Unsentimental. A man who simply does what he has to do in any given situation.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 55
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Alexander Throttlebottom
Vice-Presidential candidate. Not passive, but always seems to get looked over and/or forgotten. Knows nothing about government. A cog in the committee's plan to put Wintergreen in office.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 55
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: A3
John P. Wintergreen
A gambler and forgetful, but good-hearted. An old-fashioned man's man. Strong-willed and willing to do whatever work is necessary to maintain his presidency. Loves his wife wholeheartedly.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 55
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Sam Jenkins
Wintergreen's private secretary. Respectful. Jovial. Always there to do the President's bidding and to act as a sort of unofficial advisor.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 30
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Diana Devereaux
A Southern belle with a sharp twang. Flirtatious and talkative. Prone to extreme emotions. Distraught.
Gender: female
Age: 20 to 28
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: C4
Mary Turner
A strong-willed workingwoman. Can hold down a job and a household. Charming. Intelligent. Feminine. Loves her husband and will do whatever necessary to defend him.
Gender: female
Age: 22 to 30
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Miss Benson
Mary's private secretary and a secretary for Wintergreen as well. A kind, smart woman with a chipper, sunny disposition. Also serves as Mary's midwife.
Gender: female
Age: 22 to 30
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: B3
The French Ambassador
A man of all business who comes to the White House to inform Wintergreen and the committee that France stands behind Diana's lawsuit. Blunt, even when he is just the messenger.
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 60
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: C4
Ensemble
Photographers; Policemen; Supreme Court Justices; Secretaries; Sightseers; Newspapermen; Senators; Flunkeys; Guests
Full Song List
Of Thee I Sing: Overture
Of Thee I Sing: Wintergreen For President
Of Thee I Sing: Who Is The Lucky Girl To Be?
Of Thee I Sing: Because, Because
Of Thee I Sing: Some Girls Can Bake A Pie
Of Thee I Sing: Love Is Sweeping The Country
Of Thee I Sing: Of Thee I Sing
Of Thee I Sing: A Kiss For Cinderella
Of Thee I Sing: Hello, Good Morning
Of Thee I Sing: Who Cares?
Of Thee I Sing: The Illegitimate Daughter
Of Thee I Sing: The Senator From Minnesota
Of Thee I Sing: Jilted, Jilted
Of Thee I Sing: Posterity Is Just Around The Corner
Of Thee I Sing: Trumpeter Blow Your Golden Horn

Show History

Inspiration

Of Thee I Sing is inspired by the American political system. The musical lampoons American politics and politicians. Though inspired by the politics of the Depression-era when it was written, many have found resonance in modern politics when the show has been produced more recently.

Productions

Of Thee I Sing was a smash hit receiving critical and box office success when it opened at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway on December 26, 1931. It ran for 441 performance a mammoth run for 1930-31 and closed on January 14, 1933. The cast included William Gaxton as John P. Wintergreen, Lois Moran as Mary Turner, Grace Brinkley as Diana Devereaux, Victor Moore as Alexander Throttlebottom and George Murphy as Sam Jenkins. Sam H. Harris produced it.

Of Thee I Sing returned to Broadway several months later at the Imperial Theatre. This production opened on May 15, 1933 and ran for 32 performances before closing again on June 10, 1933. The return engagement included some of the same cast members, such as William Gaxton and Victor Moore, it also featured new actors, for example Ann Sothern in the role of Mary Turner.

The show was then revived at the Ziegfeld Theatre  in 1952, running for 72 performances between May 5 and July 5.

Since then, Of Thee I Sing has been revived several times in the U.S. and in London.

The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players did a production of Of Thee I Sing in 1990. Then, Ian Marshall Fisher's Lost Musicals series mounted a concert production at the Barbican Centre in London in August of 1996.

New York City Center Encores! did a staged concert version of the show in May of 1996. Directed by John Rando, the star-studded Encores! cast featured Victor Garber, Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Laura Thompson.

Cultural Influence

  • Of Thee I Sing won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1932, making it the first musical ever to do so. The Pulitzer Prize Committee stated, "Of Thee I Sing is not only coherent and well-knit enough to class as a play, but it is a biting and true satire on American politics and the public attitude towards them.... The play is genuine and it is felt the Pulitzer Prize could not serve a better purpose than to recognize such work.
  • Of Thee I Sing is the second installment of a political trilogy of musicals by the Gershwins and Kaufman and Ryskind. The first show in the trilogy is Strike Up The Band, and the last is Let Em Eat Cake, which is a sequel to Of Thee I Sing.
  • NPR broadcast a National Radio Theater version of Of Thee I Sing, starring John Cullum in1984; the BBC broadcast this version in both 1984 and 1992.
  • In the 1930s, the Marx Brothers had intended to produce a film adaptation of the musical, but then they decided to make Duck Soup instead. Many scholars draw parallels between Of Thee I Sing and Duck Soup, even going so far as to suggest that the musical helped provide inspiration for that Marx Brothers classic.

Trivia

  • Since the Pulitzer Prize was considered a literary award, George Gershwin as composer was not cited for his work on Of Thee I Sing. In 1998, at the centennial of his birth, he was posthumously awarded an honorary Pulitzer.
  • All three Broadway versions of Of Thee I Sing were directed by bookwriter George S. Kaufman.
  • Of Thee I Sing was William Gaxton and Victor Moore's first comedic pairing; the duo would go on to work together in six more Broadway musicals.
  • Of Thee I Sing was the longest-running Gershwin show during George Gershwin's lifetime.
  • Since 1918 only eight musicals have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama - of those eight, six are MTI Musicals: Of Thee I Sing (1932), Fiorello! (1960), How To Succeed... (1962), Sunday In The Park With George (1985) Rent (1996) and Next To Normal (2010).

Critical Reaction

"It is hard to imagine a more engaging or timely theatrical essay in satire."
– American Theatre



"The authors... have fitted the dunce's cap to politics and government and crowded an evening with laughter.... Best of all, there is the score... music pours out in full measure and in many voices"
– The New York Times

Drama

1932 - Pulitzer Prize -, Nominee (Drama)

Pulitzer Ptize for Drama

1932 - Pulitzer Prize, Winner (George S. Kaufman; Morrie Riskind; Ira Gershwin)

Connect

Playbill Vault (Original)
Playbill Vault (1933 Revival)
Playbill Vault (1952 Revival)

Billing

Requirements

You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
George and Ira Gershwin's/George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind's
OF THEE I SING
 
Music and Lyrics by
Book by
 
GEORGE and IRA GERSWHIN
GEORGE S. KAUFMAN and MORRIE RYSKIND
 
The Authors are to receive billing credit in all forms of publicity and advertising under the control of the Producer, where and whenever the title of the Play appears. The names of the Composer, Lyricist and Bookwriter shall be equal in size, type, coloring, boldness and prominence. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominent than the billing to the Authors except for the title of the Play. No person (including without limitation the Producer) shall be accorded possessory credit (i.e.,Director's Production of" or "Producer's Production of" with the title of the Play)
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included
LIBRETTO/VOCAL BOOK30
PIANO VOCAL SCORE2
STUDY GUIDE1

Production Resources

Resource
PRODUCTIONPRO
REFERENCE RECORDING

STANDARD ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
BASS
CELLO
DRUMSBELLS , CHIMES , RACHET , TAMBOURINE , TRIANGLE , TYMPANI , VIBRAPHONE , WOOD BLOCK , XYLOPHONE
FULL SCORE VOL. 1 OF 4
FULL SCORE VOL. 2 OF 4
FULL SCORE VOL. 3 OF 4
FULL SCORE VOL. 4 OF 4
HORN
PIANOPIANO
REED 1FLUTE , PICCOLO
REED 2OBOE
REED 3ALTO SAXOPHONE , BASS CLARINET , CLARINET
REED 4ALTO SAXOPHONE , BASS CLARINET , CLARINET
REED 5CLARINET , TENOR SAXOPHONE
TROMBONE
TRUMPET
TRUMPET 2
TRUMPET 3
VIOLA
VIOLA 2
VIOLIN
VIOLIN 2
VIOLIN 3