As Gershwin shows go, Of Thee I Sing won’t contain many of your favourite tunes. Its best song is the title track and even that only makes it into larger compendiums. But Opera North’s solid revival is still a pleasure.
It’s also timely. This show was premiered in 1931 at the height of the Depression. It follows John Wintergreen, who runs for the Presidency under the banner of Love. He wins America over by proposing to his fiancée in 51 states. “Lincoln said you can’t fool all the people all the time,” goes one bit of dialogue. “Yeah, but people are stupider now” is the response. We can relate to that.
George Gershwin blends Broadway with passages of homage to Arthur Sullivan. Ira never quite gets into WS Gilbert territory. George Kaufman’s book has decent jokes but repeats the same scene about 40 times, endearingly zany or annoying, depending where you are in the evening.
Opera North keep it simple: white stage, bright costumes, lines of chorus members and choreography safe for geriatrics. Star of the evening is Steven Beard’s hilarious Alexander Throttlebottom, the vice-president no one remembers. A more inspired Wintergreen might have made a big difference but William Dazely belts out the tunes well and Rebecca Moon is cute as sweetly piping pie as his fiancée Mary.