Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on the Musical Theatre in America

By Glenn Loney | Go to book overview

The Greenwich Village Follies of 1919.

GINNINE COCUZZA

The Greenwich Village Follies of 1919 established John Murray Anderson as a young producer to be watched and imitated. In the course of his career he "created--in many cases [wrote]--and produced thirty-four major musical comedies and revues (twenty-nine on Broadway, five in London), seven circuses for the Ringlings, four aquacades for Billy Rose, eleven pageants, sixty-one movie-house stage shows and twenty-four elaborate night-club shows." 1

While completing his education in Europe, Anderson was exposed to some of the finest stage producer/directors of the period. He studied with Beerbohm Tree and worked for Sir Herbert Tree for two years. He also studied in Paris and with Max Reinhardt in Berlin. He was familiar with the work of Harley Granville-Barker, David Belasco, and Edward Gordon Craig. His concept of the producer/director corresponded to his idea of the European régisseur, who "knows something about everything which goes into a show." 2 As he was fond of telling interviewers, "I've been influenced very much by Gordon Craig, for he was the pioneer, and I've developed a producing theory of my own--even for musical comedy, where theories are not supposed to apply. My underlying belief, confirmed by observation, is that simplification is much needed."3 Simplification was to be achieved with the new stagecraft. "Much can be done with lights for settings. . . . It would be possible to have only scenery furnished by illumination, outside of a few draperies." 4 Other possibilities were the elimination of stage makeup, the utilization of masks and motif curtains, and the introduction of simple, elegant costumes to replace the elaborate trick or quick-change clothes which were then a popular gimmick. "You can gain better effects in a revue by posing girls beautifully gowned in graceful postures than by having a row of them kicking in uniform wildness." 5

In New York, Anderson staged high society galas and small, elegant cabaret revues for Paul Savin's Palais Royale on Broadway at Forty-eighth Street. These cabaret restaurant revues competed with the Ziegfeld and

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