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I'd Rather Be Right - a bit of nostaliga - or is it?

By Serita Stevens

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An oldie but goodie, Richard Rogers and Moss Hart music in Kaufman and Hart’s Broadway hit, I’d Rather Be Right” is being presented from By George Productions at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre (6339 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood ) from April 26, 2008 through June 1st, 2008.

I'd Rather Be Right: Joe Joyce as FDR

Originally written in 1937, and staring George M Cohan, the play claims to have saved FDR’s reign and showed him in a more favorable light.  He had been popular in 1936 but as Congress began evaluating the New Deal (which ultimately saved the country,) and finding the price too high, FDR then began attacking the elderly Supreme Court who had already ruled against 11 of the 16 New Deal cases.  He ultimately increased the number of judges to six and this fight appears comically in the play. The play gave FDR a boost much needed in his popularity as he went for his third term.

I'd Rather Be Right: Walter Beery as Alf Landon and Joe Joyce as FDR

The story all takes place in New York’s Central Park and revolves around a couple Phil Barker ( Stephen Vendette) and Peggy Jones ( Christina Valo) who desperately want to get married but  Phil can’t get a raise because his boss, Maxell ( Dan Spector) is worried about the country not having balanced the budget.  Strolling along (without secret service?) comes FDR ( Joe Joyce.) At this time, apparently, most of the public still did not know that their president was wheelchair bound.

I'd Rather Be Right: FDR and Peggy Jones (Christina Valo) share ice cream

Taken with the couple and their plight, FDR promises that he will balance the budget and calls in his girl Miss McIntyre ( Kristen Heitman) who brings in the cabinet – Postmaster General Farley ( Tom Walz); Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins –the first woman to have a cabinet post ( Nancy Dobbs Owen);Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau ( Matt Kubicek) and Secretary of State Hull ( Thomas Dolan.)  Try as they might, they cannot come up with anything until Peggy reminds the president of how much women spend on beauty products.

I'd Rather Be Right: FDR talks with Peggy and Phil Barker (Stephen Vendette) about the budget

In one of his fireside chats, complete with fireplace, FDR asks the women to give up their beauty products for a year.  The beauty girls ( Alli McGinnis, Lydie Renee, and Kimberly Wood) sing their rejection of his proposal as does Chief Justice Hughes ( Walter Beery) when its proposed that the court just state that the budget balanced.  Dancing – of which there were many enjoyable pieces, was choreographed by William Mead .

Outside of the three main characters, cast by Peter Matyas of Michael Donovan, CSA, everyone played several different parts –and all were amazingly good.

I'd Rather Be Right: FDR and his fireside chats

Piano by Brian O’Halloran and Percussion by John Harvey added to the enjoyment of the play.  Costumes, hair and wigs were done by A Jeffrey Schoenberg and Robin McWilliams and lighting by Jeremy Pivnick while Carol Ursetti managed the stage. 

The producers say the show was topical then but boy is it sure topical now as Mrs. Sara Roosevelt ( Carol Herman) exclaims at the price of shoes (having gone from $12-16) “When will this end?!”  A refrain that many of us have said about rising gas and food prices.   This is the right time to have revived this wonderful musical.

I'd Rather Be Right: Landon (now a butler) with FDR and his mother Sara's Roosevelt (Carol Herman)

Maybe our new president ( Hillary??) will do another New Deal and save the country once again.

As Roosevelt says in his 4th of July speech: “It’s not about whose president.  The only thing that matters is the people.”

I'd Rather Be Right: FDR and his fireside chats

I’d Rather Be Right made theatre history on Feburary 3, 1939 with its profits despite the fact that tickets had been raised from $1.10 to $2.20!!

Tickets for this bit of nostalgia are $30.  Running time is 120 minutes with concessions available and wheelchair access. 

For more information go to www.plays411/bygeorge


Published on Dec 31, 1969

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