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1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a 1976 musical with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. It is considered to be a legendary Broadwaymarker flop, running only seven performances. It was Leonard Bernstein's last original score for Broadway.

Original Broadway production

The musical opened on May 4, 1976 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre and closed on May 8, 1976 after 7 performances and 13 previews. It was co-directed and co-choreographed by Gilbert Moses and George Faison.

The musical examined the establishment of the White Housemarker and its occupants from 1800 to 1900. Primarily focusing on race relations, the story depicted (among other incidents) Thomas Jefferson's then-alleged affair with a black maid, James Monroe's refusal to halt slavery in Washington, the aftermath of the American Civil War and Andrew Johnson's impeachment. Throughout the show, the leading actors performed multiple roles: Ken Howard played all the presidents, Patricia Routledge all the First Ladies, and Gilbert Price and Emily Yancy played the White House servants, Lud and Seena. Future Broadway stars Reid Shelton, Walter Charles, Beth Fowler and Richard Muenz appeared in ensemble roles, as did the young African American baritone Bruce Hubbard.

The show was originally intended to be performed as a play-within-a-play, with the show's actors stepping out of character to comment on the plot and debate race relations from a modern standpoint. But this concept was almost entirely removed during the show's out-of-town tryouts in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. By the time the show opened on Broadway, little of the metatheatrical concept remained, aside from certain scenic and costume elements and a few musical references (most notably, the opening number "Rehearse!").

Discouraged by the critical and public response to the work and angry that during the tryouts much of his music had been condensed and edited without his consent, Bernstein refused to allow a cast recording of the musical.

Critical reaction

The initial critical response to the show was resoundingly negative. Critics savaged Lerner's book while largely praising Bernstein's score. After Bernstein's death a concert version of the score, retitled A White House Cantata was recorded and released. That version tended to be reviewed as a classical work rather than a Broadway musical, a tendency encouraged by the casting of the leading roles with opera singers. Differences in the score and performance style make it impossible to judge the original musical fairly from the later recording. The score is considered by many musical theater historians and aficionados to be a forgotten, or at least neglected, masterpiece. Some of the songs have enjoyed some fame outside the show including "Take Care of This House," "The President Jefferson Sunday Luncheon Party March" and "Duet for One (The First Lady of the Land)", a tour-de-force for a single actress portraying both Julia Grant and Lucy Hayes on the day of Rutherford B. Hayes's inauguration. It details the exhausting vote counts that had many questioning his legitimacy.

Reuse of material in other works

Just as he'd done with previously abandoned projects, Bernstein used portions of the score in subsequent works. In Songfest, for example, the setting of Walt Whitman's poem "To What You Said" as a baritone solo was a reworking of the original prelude of the show, in which the chorus hummed a melody played by the violoncello in the Songfest version. (In the show, this music was moved to the emotional low point of the second act, used as background to a Presidential funeral.) The occasional piece Slava! A Political Overture, written in honor of Bernstein's friend Mstislav Rostropovich, blended two numbers from the show, the up-tempo "Rehearse!" and "The Grand Old Party." Early in the opera A Quiet Place, the music for the aria "You're late, you shouldn't have come" derives from that of "Me," a song that in the original show established the meta-theatrical concept that was eventually abandoned. (Some of the music for "Me" can be heard in the Broadway score, most memorably in the song "American Dreaming.") An instrumental section of "The President Jefferson March" was reused in the final movement, "In Memoriam and March: The BSO Forever," of the Divertimento.

Subsequent revivals

The show's only significant revival was a 1992 Indiana University Opera Theatre production, which used a pre-Philadelphia draft of the script and included portions of Bernstein's music that had been excised on the road to Broadway. This production also played briefly at the Kennedy Centermarker in Washington, D.C. in August 1992.

A White House Cantata

After his death in 1990, Bernstein's children and associates sifted through the many variations and revisions of the score and authorized a choral version entitled A White House Cantata, which deleted nearly all the remaining play-within-a-play references. (Some can still be heard in the duet "Monroviad.") BBC Radio broadcast the Londonmarker debut of this work in 1997, and three years later Deutsche Grammophon released a CD recording. Both the London concert and the DG recording were conducted by Kent Nagano with the London Symphony Orchestra. The Leonard Bernstein estate controls the licensing of performances of the cantata version, but refuses to allow the performance, recording, or publication of the original musical.

Recordings of individual numbers

Individual numbers from the work have been recorded and performed by a variety of notable singers. "Take Care of This House" was sung by Frederica von Stade under Bernstein's direction at the inauguration of Jimmy Carter. It has been recorded by Miss Kaye as well as everyone from opera singers Marilyn Horne and Roberta Alexander to theater artists Joanna Gleason and Julie Andrews. "The President Jefferson March" and "Duet for One" both appear in their original (pre-Broadway) versions on an EMI disc called "Broadway Showstoppers," conducted by John McGlinn and sung by Davis Gaines and Judy Kaye. The late African American baritone Bruce Hubbard, a member of the original Broadway ensemble, also recorded Lud's ballad "Seena." It can be heard on his CD For You, For Me, which was reissued in 2005.

Musical numbers (Boadway)

as performed on Broadway

Act I
  • Overture
  • Rehearse!
  • If I Was a Dove
  • On Ten Square Miles by the Potomac River
  • Welcome Home, Miz Adams
  • Take Care of This House
  • Invitations / Lud's Letter
  • The President Jefferson Sunday Luncheon Party March
  • Seena
  • Sonatina
  • I Love My Wife
  • Auctions
  • The Little White Lie
  • We Must Have a Ball
  • The Ball

Act II
  • Entr'acte
  • Forty Acres and a Mule
  • Bright and Black
  • Duet for One (First Lady of the Land)
  • The Robber Baron Minstrel Parade
  • Pity The Poor
  • The Red, White and Blues
  • I Love This Land
  • Finale (Rehearse!)

Musical numbers (Philadelphia)

as performed in the Philadelphia premiere

Act I
  • Prelude
  • On Ten Square Miles by the Potomac River
  • If I Was a Dove
  • The Nation That Wasn't There
  • Welcome Home, Miz Adams
  • Take Care of This House
  • The President Jefferson Sunday Luncheon March
  • Seena
  • The Nation That Wasn't There (Reprise)
  • Sonatina
  • The Nation That Wasn't There (Reprise)
  • Lud's Wedding
  • I Love My Wife
  • Auctions
  • The Monroviad
  • This Time
  • We Must Have a Ball
  • Take Care of This House and The Nation That Wasn't There (Reprise)

Act II
  • Philadelphia
  • Uncle Tom's Funeral
  • Bright and Black
  • The Duet for One
  • Hail Garfield
  • Hail Arthur
  • The Money-Loving Minstrel Parade
  • Pity the Poor
  • The Grand Ol' Party
  • The Red, White, and Blues
  • American Dreaming
  • To Make Us Proud


  • Haagensen, Erik (1992). "The Show That Got Away". Show Music. 25–32
  1. Murray, Matthew. "A White House Cantata", "", March 31, 2008
  2. "A Bernstein Musical Revived — in Part", The New York Sun, March 11, 2008
  3. Holland, Bernard. Review/Music; 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Tries For a Comeback in Washington", The New York Times, August 13, 1992
  4. listing for 2000 recording,

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