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The Gershwins are A-OK

From The Shedd’s musical revival to the sounds of Brazil

People consuming illegal substances produced by locals in the boonies, cops storming in to bust it up, tempestuous affairs … Breaking Bad? Weeds? No, it’s the Gershwins’ bubbly 1926 musical comedy Oh, Kay!, which those indefatigable musical revivalists at The Shedd are staging June 20-29. 

Nearly 90 years later, George and Ira Gershwin’s immortal music still sounds fresh and omnipresent, but this is no shallow jukebox musical repackaging or musty exhumation. What makes Shedd revivals so valuable is the deep respect for the creators’ original intentions (often lost in revivals and unseen for generations) and assiduous historical research. 

This time, the producers worked with the curator of the defunct Gershwin Trust and even the Library of Congress to find old boxes of material that contained not merely the original Broadway version of the show — but the preview version that opened earlier in Philadelphia. Just like today, ’20s musicals were often heavily changed between opening night and their Broadway premiere, and not always entirely for the better. (Great theater composers’ most famous songs, including the Gershwins’, actually won fame when repurposed after being cut from earlier shows.) 

This 1994 restoration actually includes the best bits from both Philly and Broadway versions of the famous show, and that means that it contains not just the hits (most famously, “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Do, Do, Do”) but also neglected gems like “Maybe,” “The Moon is On the Sea,” “When Our Ship Comes Sailing In” and a half dozen more. It retains the bubbly slapstick humor imbued by co-writers P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton. Directed by The Shedd’s veteran team of Richard Jessup and Robert Ashens, it’s a rare chance to hear one of the Gershwins’ most vivacious creations as they originally created it. 

Still another musical revival happens Saturday, June 21, at The Jazz Station, courtesy of Sao Paulo’s Choro Das 3, which has played for millions of Brazilians at major public events. The three sisters and their dad play a variety of instruments (flute, piccolo, seven-string guitar, mandolin, banjo, clarinet, piano, pandeiro tambourine) with such engaging élan that their revival of choro (the century-old Brazilian mélange of African rhythms, European harmonies and South American styles that comprises the Brazilian analog of North American jazz) never sounds musty or academic. They make a good pairing with the great Oregon trumpeter Tom Bergeron’s Brasil Band, whose jazz is deeply influenced by Brazilian sounds, and who will both open for and join in with the visitors.