Broadway's Golden Age Celebrated in New Online Exhibit: NPR

Broadway’s Golden Age Celebrated in New Online Exhibit: NPR

Study of the Josephine Baker poster from 1931 by Jean Chassaing.

Helicline Fine Arts


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Helicline Fine Arts

A new virtual art exhibit celebrates theatre, film and television with original sketches by Broadway set designers and costumers, as well as paintings and drawings from shows and theatres.

Helicline Fine Art Exhibition You will be Swell! You will be awesome! — according to the famous lyrics of the musical Gypsy — is the brainchild of theater publicist Keith Sherman, who collects art with her husband Roy Goldberg. Most of the works come from what is considered Broadway’s golden age, from the 1930s to the 1960s.

“Because I’ve been working in arts and entertainment for so long, I’m drawn to images of theatre, film, television, music and dance,” Sherman said. “And I only buy things I like.”

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

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

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

“Now I have in my hands a drawing created by Freddie Wittop of the red dress, the red dress that Carol Channing wore in the original production of Hello Dolly!” he said.

It is the frilly beaded dress, complete with feathered hat, that Dolly wears to Harmonia Gardens, where it is sung by waiters along 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 great stars,” said theater historian Laurence Maslon, who co-produced the PBS series. Broadway. He viewed the exhibit online.

“You look at these exhibits and these drawings through what you know of today. And you simply marvel at the personal skill in the art of pen, ink, watercolor and pencil that those mid-twentieth-century titans 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 taken with a pen-and-ink drawing by set designer Oliver Smith. This is the curtain for the Coney Island Ballet in the 1944 musical On the city, which marked the Broadway debut of songwriters Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The sketch is a fantasy of roller coasters and glistening seaside attractions in blues and browns. Maslon said, “You are transported to this most magical place simply by the skill of his rendering and his overflowing imagination.”

The exhibit is full of treasures like this – a set design by Jo Mielziner for Tennessee Williams Cat on a hot tin roof, caricatures of the great Al Hirschfeld and paintings of theater interiors and actors who filled their stages.

Keith Sherman showed me a colorful 1931 Cubist portrait. “If you recognize this image, it’s an iconic Josephine Baker poster,” Sherman said. “Here is the original drawing. It is a gouache from which the poster was made by an artist named Jean Chassaing.”

Painting by Richard Whorf of the film set ‘Til the Clouds Go By, from 1945.

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Painting by Richard Whorf of the film set ‘Til the Clouds Go By, from 1945.

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We looked at a painting of a 1940s movie set; a New York scene on a street with brownstones, it belonged to Frank Sinatra. “This is the set of a movie called Until the clouds pass‘, which was a biography of composer Jerome Kern, Sherman said. Frank Sinatra and June Allyson are featured in the painting…It’s a nice slice of Hollywood in an old-school movie set with the klieg lights shining on the actors.”

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

You will be Swell! You will be awesome! will be available online until August 31.

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