Show History



Strike up the Band is a political satire musical with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and a book (in this version) by renowned playwright, George S. Kaufman.  It was truly a juggernaut in its time, a parable tackling the issues of man's inhumanity, absurd militarism and misguided patriotism.  The book aimed to target the wave of jingoism and intolerance that swept the United States in the period during and after the first World War.

The Gershwins aspired to create an American version of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and their music definitely reflects the style.  There are a number of quick patter songs in their vein, and the last couple of songs in particular reflect popular Gilbert and Sullivan tunes like "Ruler of the Queen's Navee" from H.M.S Pinafore and "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" from Pirates of Penzance.


After a book revision when an out-of-town tryout crashed in 1927, Strike up the Band was able to make its way onto Broadway in 1930.  At that time, after the great stock market crash of 1929, American audiences were less idealistic and more jaded towards their surroundings.  They were more receptive to satire on the whole, which drove people into seats at the Times Square Theatre in New York.  The production ran from January 14, to June 28, 1930, closing with 191 performances under its belt.  Though the 1927 version was then packed away, the 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco revived it with a original production in April 2011.  After that, the popular theatre program, Musicals Tonight!, put up a production of the 1927 version in March 2013.

Cultural Influence

  • The Gershwins gave the titular song, "Strike up the Band," to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1936.  The school modified the song to "Strike up the Band for UCLA," and it has gone on to become one of their school songs.
  • Similarly, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney premiered a musical film also titled Strike up the Band in 1940.  The movie and musical are two completely different entities, although the movie does use the Gershwin's song as its main feature.
  • Strike up the Band was the Gershwins' first writing job for a full book musical.  The duo would go on to create the music for such notable shows as Of Thee I Sing, Let 'Em Eat Cake and Porgy and Bess.
  • George S. Kaufman was one of the first playwrights to work on the book of a musical.  He paved the way for many more playwrights to follow in his footsteps.
  • Strike up the Band was the first musical at the time to truly function as a satire of issues facing the nation at the time.  That notion of satire would carry through musicals over the years, from Mel Brooks in The Producers to Trey Parker and Matt Stone in The Book of Mormon.


  • Blanche Ring played Mrs. Grace Draper in the original Broadway production of Strike up the Band.  In 1990, a studio cast recording of the original 1927 score was released, featuring performances from Rebecca Luker, Brent Barrett, Beth Fowler and Don Chastain.