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Sale 2511 Lot 104
"Pet Shop Drop." Backdrop design for Act One, Scene Two of the 1940 Broadway production of Pal Joey, directed by George Abbott at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Mixed media, with chalk, wash, airbrush, and correction fluid on blue paper. 500x650 mm; 19 3/4x25 3/4 inches. Titled in lower margin, with Mielziner's stamp in lower left margin, the United Scenic Artists union stamp in lower right, and their official registration stamp on verso, titled and marked "Design No. 4085." Loosely taped to window matte.
Estimate $4,000 - 6,000
Pal Joey was based on John O'Hara's short story series for The New Yorker. He revised the stories as a novel and approached Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart to adapt it for a musical.
Premiering on Christmas Day of 1940 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, the opening-night cast included Gene Kelly in his first lead role as ne'er-do-well nightclub owner Joey Evans, Vivienne Segal as Vera, his financial and romantic partner, and June Havoc, as vengeful chorus girl Gladys. Though it received mixed reviews, it ran for 374 performances over 10 months, which was the third-longest run of any Rodgers and Hart musical. It became increasingly popular through revivals and the 1957 film starring Frank Sinatra.
The Pet Shop scrim is notable for being the backdrop against which one of the two most famous songs of the play, "I Could Write a Book" (the other being "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered") was performed by Joey to the smitten Linda, who are seen through the shop window, facing the audience.