The Dream (1939)
Production still from Swingin’ The Dream, 1939
Thomas “Fats” Waller (Music)
29 November – 9 December, 1939
A jazz interpretation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream that played the cavernous Center Theatre in the fall of 1939. It ran for only 13 performances despite having all of the above, plus Maxine Sullivan as Titiania (Armstrong was Bottom, and McQueen was Puck), comedian "Moms" Mabley as Quince, the Benny Goodman Sextet on one side of the stage and Bud Freeman's Summa Cum Laude band on the other, as well as Don Voorhees conducting a 50 member pit band in the center. In addition, Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie De Lange wrote the score, including the hit "Darn That Dream" for the show. the show also featured songs by an array of jazz composers such "Ain't Misbehavin" by Fats Waller, "Jeepers Creepers" by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" by Jimmy Hugh with lyrics by Dorothy Fields.
Why did it fail? Reviews at the time say it had too much Shakespeare and not enough jitterbug. Others say it was the wrong venue for a show that needed the audience closer to the action in order for the music to have the full effect. We can't tell if the critics are right because no complete script has ever been found, and this was the last true Broadway production in the theater, although it was later used for a season of opera, and subsequently for ice shows before it was torn down in 1954. (Source: Al Hisrchfeld Foundation)