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Sing for Your Supper

In spite of the vast array of talent and hard work that went into the creation of Sing for Your Supper, the musical met with extreme challenges during its unprecedented eighteen months of rehearsal and its ten-week run that ended when the FTP was shut down. The talent included writer and lyricist John La Touche (1914–1956), composer Ned Lehac (1899–2000), lyricists and composers Harold Rome (1908–1993) and Robert Sour (1906–1985), and dancer and choreographer Anna Sokolow (1910–2000). The challenges included cast members leaving for other theater jobs. Dancer Gene Kelly (1912–1996) opened in a Cole Porter production shortly after leaving the FTP, and Will Lee (1908–1982)—who much later achieved fame as Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street—was hired away from Sing for Your Supper to perform in Clifford Odets’s Golden Boy. The play also suffered attacks from the House Un-American Activities Committee, chaired by Martin Dies, Jr., which singled it out for extravagance and inefficiency. Although the poster shown here places the production at Maxine Elliott’s Theatre, it actually opened at the Adelphi because the former theater had another booking by the time the play was finally ready to open.

Sing for Your Supper, 1938 or 1939. Silkscreen poster. Federal Theatre Project Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (044.00.00)
Digital ID # fto0044

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/federal-theatre-project/musical-theater.html#obj0

Melodies on Parade

Musical theater was a very prominent component of the Federal Theatre Project. Presentations ranged from musical revues to operettas and operas to modern musical productions. Several productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were staged as well as a very rare production of Giovanni Batista Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, a landmark Italian opera. One little noted instance of brilliant writing was the script and lyrics by John La Touche (1914–1956), then in his early twenties, for the musical revue Melodies on Parade, seen in the New York area. La Touche went on to become one of the most respected writers for the stage. Shown here is a stage set and images of Melodies when it was performed outside as part of the “Caravan Theatre” of the FTP. The portable stages allowed many small towns and rural areas the first opportunity to see professional stage productions.

Melodies on Parade production dance number, ca. 1936. Photograph. Federal Theatre Project Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (042.00.00)
Digital ID # ftp0042

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/federal-theatre-project/musical-theater.html#obj1

Outdoor Caravan Theater

Musical theater was a very prominent component of the Federal Theatre Project. Presentations ranged from musical revues to operettas and operas to modern musical productions. Several productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were staged as well as a very rare production of Giovanni Batista Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, a landmark Italian opera. One little noted instance of brilliant writing was the script and lyrics by John La Touche (1914–1956), then in his early twenties, for the musical revue Melodies on Parade, seen in the New York area. La Touche went on to become one of the most respected writers for the stage. Shown here is a stage set and images of Melodies when it was performed outside as part of the “Caravan Theatre” of the FTP. The portable stages allowed many small towns and rural areas the first opportunity to see professional stage productions.

New York City Caravan Theater audience in Crotona Park, ca. 1936. Photograph. Federal Theatre Project Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (041.00.00)
Digital ID # ftp0041

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/federal-theatre-project/musical-theater.html#obj2

Set Design for Melodies on Parade

Musical theater was a very prominent component of the Federal Theatre Project. Presentations ranged from musical revues to operettas and operas to modern musical productions. Several productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were staged as well as a very rare production of Giovanni Batista Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, a landmark Italian opera. One little noted instance of brilliant writing was the script and lyrics by John La Touche (1914–1956), then in his early twenties, for the musical revue Melodies on Parade, seen in the New York area. La Touche went on to become one of the most respected writers for the stage. Shown here is a stage set and images of Melodies when it was performed outside as part of the “Caravan Theatre” of the FTP. The portable stages allowed many small towns and rural areas the first opportunity to see professional stage productions.

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  • Melodies on Parade set design, ca. 1936. Ink and watercolor. Federal Theatre Project Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (043.00.00)
    Digital ID # ftp0043

  • John Le Touche. Melodies on Parade script, ca. 1935. Federal Theatre Project Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (040.00.00)
    Digital ID # ftp0040

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/federal-theatre-project/musical-theater.html#obj3

Bassa Moona: The Land I Love

One of the more unusual FTP productions was Bassa Moona, a dance opera, which had its premiere December 8, 1936, at the Lafayette Theatre in New York City’s Harlem. The African American cast of forty actors and thirty dancers was directed by Nigerian immigrants Momodu Johnson and Norman Coker. The play was heavily imbued with aspects of ritual drawn from Nigerian life that included war dances, witch doctors, and heavy drumming, recalling aspects of the “Voodoo” Macbeth, which was performed earlier in the year at the same theater. The play provided one of the earliest acting jobs for Rosetta LeNoire (1911–2002), goddaughter of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who is best known for her role on television’s Family Matters.

Scene from Bassa Moona, 1937. Photograph. Federal Theatre Project Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (017.01.00)
Digital ID # ftp0017_01

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/federal-theatre-project/musical-theater.html#obj4

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Return to The Plays and the Players List Previous Section: Modern Drama | Next Section: Vaudeville