Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence as George and Lily Pepper in "Red Peppers" from Coward's Tonight at 8:30., Digital ID psnypl_the_5460, New York Public LibraryThe topical revues of 1907 – 1938 satirized performance, society and politics. Everything happening in and around New York was fair game. So, it should not be surprising that Noël Coward came in for his share of parodies. Since LPA's current exhibition in the Donald & Mary Oenslager Gallery is Star Quality: The World of Noël Coward and our neighbors, Film Society of Lincoln Center, will dedicate next weekend to Coward's films, this week's blog focuses on one of those parodies.
The Grand Street Follies were unique in the revue sphere. They were run by women and sponsored by a settlement house. The Neighborhood Playhouse was a school and performance space, founded in connection with the Lower East Side community-based Henry Street Settlement. Irene and Alice Lewisohn, its benefactors, had a major influence on American culture through their sponsorship of contemporary music and the nascent modern dance. Agnes Morgan produced the Grand Street Follies under her name and as the Actors-Managers Co. She was also the primary lyricist for the series.
The Agnes Morgan Collection, in LPA's Music Division, includes a Coward parody from the 1929 edition. "A Room with a Bath," on display in the Great American Revue, is billed as "a burlesque of 'Room with a View' sung by Caesar and Roman soldiers."
"...to laze in the tub
And say that one overslept,
Nothing to do except Scrub
One whole day round!"
Inspired by Coward's light romance from This Year of Grace (11/1928-3/1929), it also references a New York all-star revival of Julius Caesar and the recent archeological discoveries of Roman bath structures in England.
To access the Library's Noël Coward digital collection, go to http://exhibitions.nypl.org/NoelCoward