Opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre, New York on July 2, 1929. 111 performances. Music by George Gershwin. Lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Gus Kahn. Book by William Anthony McGuire, based on the novel by J .P. McEvoy. Directed by William Anthony McGuire. Dances staged by Bobby Connelly. Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. Cast included Ruby Keeler, Eddie Foy, Jr., Frank McHugh, Jimmy Durante, Lou Clayton, Eddie Jackson, Barbara Newberry, Harriet Hoctor, and Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.
The Gershwins were hard at work on a musical called EAST IS WEST when producer Florenz Ziegfeld abruptly called off the project and replaced it with this adaptation of the J. P. McEvoy novel. Gus Kahn’s lyrical assistance was required, as George and Ira struggled with a short work schedule and a woefully incomplete book. The highlight of SHOW GIRL occurred during the tryouts in Boston when Al Jolson jumped out of his seat in the audience and sang a chorus of “Liza” to his new wife, Ruby Keeler, the show’s leading lady. This impromptu bit of stagecraft continued during the first few weeks of the show’s New York run. The financial failure of SHOW GIRL led Ziegfeld to halt payment of the Gershwins’ royalties; they sued and Ziegfeld countersued by claiming that George and Ira had failed to deliver a hit show. The coming stock market crash would largely put an end to the career of “The Great Ziegfeld.”