main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

main menu

The Gold Diggers

   

The Gold Diggers

By Avery Hopwood

Directed by Philip Kerr

Graphic Design by CAP Design

Laughter prevails when wealth and love collide in roaring 20s New York City

February 9 - 12 2006

UM School of Music

Department of Theatre & Drama

 

Overview     Press Release     Program     Photos

 

Overview

 

In the years before unions enabled chorus girls to earn a living wage, rich businessmen sought the company of these beautiful and lively performers. Many believed that the men preyed upon the women by offering them expensive gifts in return for certain favors. In The Gold Diggers, Avery Hopwood turns the tables in true comic fashion by making the women a lot more predatory and wily than the men. “Why shouldn’t we girls capitalize on what nature has given us? We’ve got to live – and what’s more, we’ve made up our minds to live darned well!” One wonders who is exploiting whom in this situation comedy where young and middle aged, single and married, innocent and world-wise, look for love, or at least a comfortable life.

The Neil Simon of his day, Avery Hopwood was one of the most financially successful – and funniest – playwrights of the 1920s. The Gold Diggers, written in 1919, was a big hit, spawned numerous movie adaptations, and forever coined the phrase ‘gold digger’ as part of the English vernacular. Avery Hopwood’s legacy includes UM’s Hopwood Awards, a program established to encourage creative writers.  As part of the Award’s 75th Anniversary, the Department of Theatre and Drama is thrilled to present this rarely performed comic gem featuring live music by Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings, musical direction by James Dapogny.

 

Press Release

UM DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE & DRAMA PRESENTS AVERY HOPWOOD’S

LIGHTHEARTED COMEDY ON THE SEARCH FOR LOVE, THE GOLD DIGGERS

ANN ARBOR — In conjunction with the 75th Anniversary of the Hopwood Awards, the UM Department of Theatre & Drama presents The Gold Diggers by Avery Hopwood. A lighthearted comic gem about wealth and love, The Gold Diggers plays February 9 at 7:30 PM, February 10 & 11 at 8 PM, and February 12 at 2 PM at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. Philip Kerr, professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama, directs. The play features live period music by Phil Ogilvie’s Rhythm Kings with musical direction by James Dapogny, a professor in the School of Music.

Hopwood wrote The Gold Diggers for producer David Belasco, who was looking for a ‘star’ vehicle for one of his starlets, Ina Claire. Hopwood had gotten the idea for the play while sitting in the Ritz in New York with Kay Laurel. As the two sat waiting, Laurel called out to a girlfriend who had just entered: “Hello, Gold Digger.” “Gold Digger?” asked Hopwood. “Yes,” responded Laurel, “Why shouldn’t we girls capitalize what nature has given us — our good looks and our ability to please and entertain men? We’ve got to live- and what’s more, we’ve made up our minds to live darned well!” Hopwood’s play would ultimately forever coin the phrase ‘gold digger’ as someone who uses charm to extract money or gifts from others.

The Gold Diggers opened on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre on September 30, 1919. The show presented beautiful women, the latest in Bendel fashions, and a questionable, but entertaining, portrayal of the lives of chorus girls. After Prohibition struck in 1920, audiences reveled in the champagne atmosphere that surrounded the performance, billed as the most “sparkling” comedy in town. It ran for two years, the second longest running play at that time and one of Hopwood’s record-breaking four concurrent running shows on Broadway in 1920. The play ran in London in 1926 with Tallulah Bankhead in the lead role of Jerry Lamar for 179 performances. It was first adapted for the screen in 1929 as The Gold Diggers of Broadway followed by The Gold Diggers of 1933, 1935, and 1937 with choreography by Busby Berkley.

The story follows innocent and demure chorus girl Violet Dayne who has fallen in love with the well-to-do Wally Lee. Unfortunately, Wally’s uncle Stephen disapproves of the match so Violet turns to her friend, mentor, and fellow chorus girl Jerry Lamar for help. When Stephen arrives to save his young nephew from the machinations of the girls, he mistakes Jerry for Violet. Using a bit of reverse psychology, Jerry attempts to shock him, hoping to have him relent when he meets the real Violet, only to have it backfire when Stephen falls for her. When Jerry confesses the deception, Stephen storms out. In the end, however, love and happiness prevail for both Violet and Jerry.

   Director Philip Kerr, who directed Hopwood’s The Best People in 1998 for the Department of Theatre & Drama, has moved the setting of the play to the mid-1920s to take advantage of costumes and music from the time period. Joining Kerr and Dapogny on the artistic team are costume designer Zelma H. Weisfeld, professor emerita of Theatre & Drama, assistant professor Gary Decker as set designer, and undergraduate student Stephen Siercks as lighting designer. Sarah-Jane Gwillim, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Theatre & Drama, serves as assistant director while undergraduate student Erin Farrell, who last worked with Kerr on Romeo and Juliet, serves as choreographer.

   Beginning winter term of 2006, the University of Michigan will observe the 75th Anniversary of the Avery Hopwood and Jule Hopwood Awards. In recognition of this bequest and its legacy, the anniversary will take the form of an ongoing celebration including events scheduled during the term and beyond, all open to the public. 
Information on all the events is available online at http://www.vpcomm.umich.edu/hopwood/.

 

Program

Click here to view The Gold Diggers program.

 

Photos

Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings
the gold diggers
Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings
 
cast of the gold diggers
the gold diggers
The Chorus Girls
 
erin farrell
Alexandra Odell and lauren Lopez
Erin Farrell
Alexandra Odell
Rachael Soglin
the gold diggers
Rachael Soglin
 
cast of the gold diggers
Nick Lang
Cast
Nick Lang
the gold diggers
Adam H. caplan
Rebecca Schwartzstein
Adam H Caplan
Alexandra odell
daniel strauss
Alexandra Odell
Daniel Strauss
adam h caplan and alexandra odell
Nick lang and lauren lopez
Adam H. Caplan and Alexandra Odell
Nick Lang and Lauren Lopez
adam h caplan and eric james schinzer
adam h caplan
Adam H Caplan and Eric James Schinzer
Adam H Caplan
adam h caplan and alexandra odell
cast of the gold diggers
Adam H. Caplan and Alexandra Odell
Cast
alexandra odell
karenanna creps
Alexandra Odell
Karenanna Creps
mikala bierma
rachael soglin and daniel strauss
Mikala Bierma
Rachael Soglin and Daniel Strauss
adam h caplan and alexandra odell
 
Adam H. Caplan and Alexandra Odell
 

 

main navigation bar - top row

main navigation bar - bottom row

Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower

×