Of Thee I Sing is a musical set in the White House, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, to a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. It opened on Broadway in 1931, and ran for 441 performances. In its time, it was Gershwin's longest-running show, though it produced few hit songs in comparison to some of his other shows.
It won the Pulitzer Prize for the best American play of 1932 (the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer) - one of the signs that the American musical was coming of age. Brooks Atkinson's review in the New York Times called it "a taut and lethal satire... funnier than the government, and not nearly so dangerous."
Musically, it was the most sophisticated of the Gershwin shows up to then, and it used extensive recitative to further the plot. Its songs advanced the storyline in a way not even tried by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in Show Boat, and in a way that would not be seen again until the days of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Of Thee I Sing also has a sequel musical entitled Let 'Em Eat Cake.
The musical was revived in May of 2006, as part of the New York City Center Encores! series. But it has never been filmed, although a television version was produced in 1972. Possibly, it was considered too much of a "hot potato" for Hollywood, or perhaps the authors feared that movie executives would alter the show if and when it was filmed.
Plot (spoilers included)
When John P. Wintergreen runs successfully for President, his campaign platform is love. The staged beauty contest for Miss White House ("sexy" is rhymed with "Mrs. Prexy") is overturned when Wintergreen falls for a simple secretary, who woos him with corn muffins. When they settle down to business in the White House at double desks, her "desk," back-to-back with his, is a fully-loaded tea-table. (See gender role.) However, the lovely Diana Devereaux, a Southern belle of French descent who won the contest and was promised the position of "First Lady," comes back with a vengeance when she proclaims that she will be taking legal action. The French ambassador is brought into the scene for a slight surprise on the behalf of Mr. Wintergreen: Diana is the "illegitimate daughter of the illegitimate son of the illegitimate nephew of Napoleon." It looks as if the President will be impeached for breach of promise (the French try to turn the incident into an international scandal), but Mary saves the day when she announces that she is pregnant - no one would dare impeach a President with a pregnant First Lady.
Many numbers and themes are reused in Let 'Em Eat Cake such as the Supreme Court Judges song and "Wintergreen for President." The Wintergreen's campaign song, "Wintergreen for President" includes parts of folk and patriotic songs such as Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever March, and "Hail, Hail the Gangs all Here." Also, the music introducing the French and the French ambassador includes the opening bars of Gershwin's own An American in Paris.