Broadway’s Golden Age Celebrates in New Online Exhibition: NPR

Study of the 1931 Josephine Baker poster by Jean Chassaing.

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A new virtual art exhibit celebrates theatre, movies and television with original sketches from Broadway set and costume designers, and paintings and drawings from shows and theaters.

Helicline Fine Art’s Exhibition You will swell! You will be great! — after the famous text from the musical Gypsy — is the brainchild of theater publicist Keith Sherman, who collects art with his husband Roy Goldberg. Most of the works come from what is considered the Golden Age of Broadway, from the 1930s to the 1960s.

“Having worked in the arts and entertainment for so long, I’m drawn to images from theater and film and television and music and dance,” Sherman said. “And I only buy things I like.”

This sketch of a costume for Carol Channing in Hello, Dollie! is of the original production from 1964.

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This sketch of a costume for Carol Channing in Hello, Dollie! is of the original production from 1964.

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Sherman, who was in his office above Sardi’s restaurant in the Theater District, picked up a costume sketch of an iconic Broadway look.

“In my hands is now a drawing made by Freddie Wittop of the red dress, the red dress Carol Channing wore in the original production of Hello, Dollie!” he said.

It’s the fringed and beaded dress, complete with a feathered hat, that Dolly wears to the Harmonia Gardens, where she is serenaded by waiters with the title song.

“You look at Freddy Wittop’s costume design for Carol Channing and… Hello Dolly! and remember it as a time when great original musicals were made for big stars,” said theater historian Laurence Maslon, who co-produced the PBS series. Broadway† He viewed the exhibition online.

“You look at these exhibits and these drawings through what you know today. And you just marvel at the personal skill of the artistry in pen and ink and watercolor and pencil that these titans of the mid-20th century had.”

Coney Island, as seen in a curtain in the musical on the city, by set designer Oliver Smith.

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Coney Island, as seen in a curtain in the musical on the city, by set designer Oliver Smith.

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Maslon was particularly captivated by a pen-and-ink drawing by set designer Oliver Smith. It’s the curtain for Coney Island Ballet in the 1944 musical on the city, which was the Broadway debut for songwriters Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The sketch is a fantasy of roller coasters and twinkling coastal attractions in blue and brown. Maslon said, “You have been transported to this most magical place simply by the skill of his rendering and his vivid imagination.”

The exhibit is filled with treasures like this – a drawing of Jo Mielziner’s scenery for Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a hot tin roof, caricatures of the great Al Hirschfeld, paintings of theater interiors and actors filling their stages.

Keith Sherman showed me a colorful cubist portrait from 1931. “If you recognize this image, it’s an iconic poster of Josephine Baker,” Sherman said. “This is the original drawing. This is a gouache whose poster was created by an artist named Jean Chassaing.”

Richard Whorf’s painting of the ‘Til the Clouds Go By movie set, from 1945.

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Richard Whorf’s painting of the ‘Til the Clouds Go By movie set, from 1945.

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We looked at a painting of a 1940s movie set; a New York scene in a brownstone street, it belonged to Frank Sinatra. “This is the film set of a movie called Until the clouds roll by“, which was a biography of composer Jerome Kern, Sherman said. “The film was directed by a man named Richard Whorf who painted this painting and we believe he gifted it to the Sinatras. Frank Sinatra and June Allyson are pictured in the painting… It’s a beautiful slice of Hollywood in an old-fashioned movie set with the klay lights shining on the actors.”

Keith Sherman said this online exhibit gives him the opportunity “to let others share in the love we’ve felt for a long time. And I’m just having a great time with it.”

You will swell! You will be great! will be available online until August 31.

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