A Musical Comedy in 2 acts, 5 scenes. Music by George Gershwin; Book by Guy Bolton & Fred Thompson; Lyrics by Ira Gershwin.
Liberty Theatre, New York - 28 December, 1925 (192 perfs)
Winter Garden Theatre, London - 31 August, 1926 (182 perfs)
The American cast included:
Jeannette MacDonald, Robert Halliday, Amy Revere, Andrew Tombes, Harry Watson Jnr., Queenie Smith, Allen Kearns, Gertrude McDonald, Lovey Lee
The London cast included:
Peggy Beatty. Vera Bryer, Laddie Cliff, Dorothy Dickinson, Allan Kearns, John Kirby, Evan Thomas
"The Three K's" are a vaudeville trio stranded in Palm Beach. Al and Hen, the two men in the group are the brother and uncle of its girl member, "Tip-Toes". They wangle a thousand dollars from one of Tip-Toes many admirers, dress her in style and set her on the trail of Steve Burton, the glue magnate. By the end of the evening, Tip Toes and Steve have fallen in love.
(adapted from A Chronicle of American Theatre by Gerald Boardman)
It’s a busy day at the Palm Beach train station in 1925 where at the height of its frenzy, the land rush is on in the Sunshine State (“Florida”). In the crowd, Rollo Fish Metcalf, a dandy with a roving eye, unexpectedly runs into his wealthy socialite wife, Sylvia, who is in the midst of planning a party for her visiting brother, Steve, the glue-works scion worth “seven millions.” Rollo manages to convince his wife that he is “girl blind,” and the Metcalfs playfully express their affection for each other.
Rollo offers to wait at the station for the three vaudevillians whom Sylvia has engaged to entertain at her soiree for Steve the next evening. After a long trip, the “Komical Kayes”—Al, Tip-Toes, and Uncle Hen—are thankful to disembark from the train, especially Tip-Toes, who, travelling frugally without a ticket, has spent most of the trip in their trunk dodging the porter. When, to his surprise, Rollo discovers that Tip-Toes is one of the performers, he pays off the troupe and sends them away.
Once, Rollo had enjoyed a flirtation with Tip-Toes that ended when she discovered he was married, and naturally, he is afraid that she might let that piece of news slip to Sylvia.
Properly recompensed by Rollo, the Kayes decide to remain in Palm Beach, hoping to snag a millionaire for Tip-Toes as a sort of retirement plan. As Al says, “The soles of my shoes are so thin, I can stand on a dime and tell whether it’s heads or tails.” While Al and Uncle Hen run off to find rooms, Tip-Toes is rescued from the porter who had been hounding her by Steve, who hopes he hasn’t been too “fresh.” As he leaves, she muses that some people aren’t “fresh” enough.
At the Palm Beach Surf Club that afternoon, things are in full swing, especially at the gaming tables. Sylvia implements her plan to smooth some of the rough edges off the unsophisticated Steve by arranging for lessons in the finer things (bridge, dancing, music, golf, and elocution) from two awfully nice girls, Binnie and Denise. Meanwhile, the three Kayes make plans to pass Tip-Toes off as Roberta Van Renssalaer, an affluent character from their act.
On her quest for the true love of a millionaire, Tip-Toes (as Roberta) unwittingly lands in a game of “Pig-in-a-Poke” and is kissed by Steve, her savoir from the train station earlier that morning. The attraction is as powerful as it is immediate, and “Roberta” and Steve both know it.
Al, on a quest of his own, makes the acquaintance of Binnie and Denise, who decide that they should spend the evening at the Blues Café.
Regretting her subterfuge with Steve, Tip-Toes makes it clear to her family that she doesn’t want to kid some man into believing that she is something she isn’t: “Sincerity! That’s the big thing with me; I know that now.” As Al and Uncle Hen deal with this blow to their scheme with characteristic quarrelling,
Tip-Toes is almost run over by a car. And while it looks as though Tip-Toes has narrowly escaped serious harm, it turns out that the accident has caused some form of amnesia whereby she truly believes that she is Roberta Van Renssalaer. Relieved that Tip-Toes is safe, Al and Uncle Hen are none too eager to set the record straight, allowing Tip-Toes to remain as Roberta.
The next evening on Steve’s yacht, preparations are made for the party and the welcome of his special guest. Even as Roberta, Tip-Toes knows she has something wonderful in Steve and together they rejoice in their good fortune in finding one another.
Al and Uncle Hen’s plan is beginning to backfire: It seems that “Roberta” is going to leave them penniless. Being a Van Renssalaer, there is no reason she should be constrained by the Kaye family budget, much to the consternation of the men. Steve, however, is ecstatic, unaware that everything is about to unravel. In trying to keep his flirtations secret from Sylvia, Rollo reveals Tip-Toes’s true identity to Steve, who is crushed. Confronted, as she emerges from her amnesia,
Tip-Toes admits to the scheme but tries to assure Steve that she really has fallen for him and not his money. Steve has a confession of his own: “We’ve been living off our capital—and we’ve struck bottom.
Well, they can’t kid me about owning a glue factory anymore; that’s something!” Leaving the yacht, he encourages Tip-Toes to go after one of the fourteen millionaires’ sons at the party.
Upset, but determined to prove to Steve that she loves him, Tip-Toes conspires to stay on his yacht that evening and confronts him on his return: “I’m on this boat and I’ve got to stay here all night without a chaperone.” Her shocking determination convinces him.
The next day, Tip-Toes settles the Kayes’ extravagant hotel charges by performing a dance from their act. As Steve presents her with an engagement ring, Tip-Toes exclaims: “Look how it sparkles! Isn’t it marvellous what they do with imitation jewellery now-a-days?”She then learns that Steve really hasn’t lost his fortune, just in time for everyone to reunite.
—Mark Trent Goldberg
Mark Trent Goldberg is the Executive Director of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts
- "Waiting for the Train" (Opening) - Ensemble
- "Nice Baby" - Sylvia, Rollo, Ensemble
- "Looking for a Boy" - 'Tip-Toes' Kaye
- "Lady Luck" - Guests
- "When Do We Dance?" - Steve, Binnie, Denise, Guests
- "These Charming People" - 'Tip-Toes' Kaye, Al, Hen
- "That Certain Feeling" - 'Tip-Toes' Kaye, Steve
- "Sweet and Low Down" - Al, Denise, Binnie, Peggy, Guests
- Finale - Ensemble
- "Our Little Captain" - 'Tip-Toes' Kaye, Boys
- "Looking for a Boy" (reprise) - 'Tip-Toes' Kaye, Steve
- "It's a Great Little World" Steve, Sylvia, Al, Binnie, Denise, Ensemble
- "Nighty-Night" - 'Tip-Toes' Kaye, Steve
- "Tip-Toes" - 'Tip-Toes' Kaye, Ensemble
- Finale - Entire Company
Scenes and Settings:
Scene 1: Platform of the Palm Beach Station, Florida.
Scene 2: The Gambling Casino.
Scene 1: Deck of Steve's Houseboat.
Scene 2: Lobby of the Everglades Inn.
Scene 3: The Everglades Inn.