Opera Scotland

Oh, Kay!

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George Gershwin (born Brooklyn, 26 September 1898; died Hollywood, 11 July 1937)


Guy Bolton and P G Wodehouse (Book); Ira Gershwin (Lyrics)



First Performance: New York (Imperial Theater), 8 November 1926.

First Performance in UK: London (His Majesty's Theatre), 21 September 1927.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc (1928).



Oh, Kay! benefits not just from the excellent lyrics of Gershwin's brother Ira, but also from a well-planned book by the successful pairing of Bolton and Wodehouse. Most of its songs have become recognised as classics of their kind, including 'Clap yo' hands', 'Do-Do-Do' and 'Fidgety Feet'. Perhaps most famous of the lot are 'Someone to watch over me' and 'The Man I Love'. These last two, sung by Kay herself, were composed specially for the show's original star, Gertrude Lawrence.

When the piece opened in London, some adjustments were made to both book and lyrics by Wodehouse, to increase acceptibility for a British audience - including giving the 'Duke' a title.


Main Characters

The Duke

Kay, his sister

Jimmy Winter, a beach house owner

Constance Appleton, his fiancee

Judge Appleton, her father

Larry Potter, a bootlegger

Shorty McGee, a bootlegger


Plot Summary

The action takes place in and near a beach house on Long Island during the Prohibition era. Larry and Shorty are involved in a bootlegging scheme smuggling  in alcohol by means of the Duke's yacht. They take advantage of the fact that the beach house is empty, and its owner, Jimmy, is not expected. Their business venture is threatened by the activities of Jansen, the Revenue officer.

The Duke's sister, Kay, lacks a passport, so is not supposed to leave the vessel. However she is bored, and comes ashore. She is also trying to escape the attentions of Officer Jansen. On last summer's visit she had saved a swimmer from drowning, and reflects on how attractive this young man was.

To the joy of the female population, Jimmy now arrives, with his new fiancée, Constance, in tow. However it seems that he has omitted to ensure that he has been formally divorced, so when it is discovered that the divorce papers have not been signed by his not-yet-ex and that this second wedding would therefore be invalid, Constance is not amused and exits. At this point, Kay, in attempting to escape from Jansen, rushes in, to be recognised by Jimmy as the girl who had saved him the year before. When Jansen arrives it is a simple ruse for Jimmy to pretend that Kay is his new wife. When Constance returns, Kay takes the role of a maid. A letter arrives announcing that the divorce is now finalised, forcing Jimmy to acknowledge his engagement to Constance.

Preparations for the wedding of Jimmy to Constance proceed apace. However the bootleggers are desperate to get their wares out of Jimmy's basement, while the Duke is trying to find his missing sister. Jimmy is confused because of his increasing wariness of Constance and attraction to Kay.

Kay arrives at a solution. The wedding ceremony will be interrupted by Shorty impersonating a Revenue officer. He will arrest Jimmy and with Larry's help will extract the booty from the basement. This evidence of Jimmy's dishonesty is the last straw for Constance. By the time Jansen arrives to arrest Kay as an illegal immigrant her position has been regularised through her marriage to Jimmy.

The Cast

Constance Appleton
 engaged to Jimmy Winter
Dolly Ruxton
Duke of Datchet
Jimmy Winter
 beach house owner
Judge Appleton
 Constance's father
 Lady Kay, sister of the Duke of Datchet
Larry Potter
 a bootlegger
Phillippa Ruxton
Revenue Officer Jansen
Shorty McGee
 a bootlegger

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