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"Roberta" 1933 Broadway poster.jpg
MusicJerome Kern
LyricsOtto Harbach
BookOtto Harbach
BasisGowns by Roberta, a novel by Alice Duer Miller
Productions1933 Broadway
1935 Film version
1969 Television version

Roberta is a musical from 1933 with music by Jerome Kern, and lyrics and book by Otto Harbach. The musical is based on the novel Gowns by Roberta by Alice Duer Miller. It features the songs "Yesterdays", "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "Let's Begin", "You're Devastating", "Something Had To Happen", "The Touch of Your Hand" and "I'll Be Hard to Handle".


The original Broadway production opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on November 18, 1933, and ran for 295 performances closing on 21 July 1934. It starred Tamara Drasin (billed as Tamara), Bob Hope, George Murphy, Lyda Roberti, Fred MacMurray, Fay Templeton, Ray Middleton (billed as Raymond E. Middleton), and Sydney Greenstreet. Hope, Murphy, MacMurray and Greenstreet were not yet the Hollywood stars they would soon be, and Middleton was not the Broadway leading man he would become after Annie Get Your Gun.

An Australian production opened at His Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne on December 22, 1934. The cast featured Madge Elliot and Cyril Richard.[1]

Original Broadway cast[edit]

Jerome Kern in 1933

Other versions[edit]

The play was made into a 1935 film by RKO starring Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Randolph Scott. The film omitted "The Touch of Your Hand" (sung by a minor character), "Something Had To Happen", and "You're Devastating" (originally Middleton's big song in the show), but added the Kern songs "I Won't Dance" (lifted from the flop Kern show Three Sisters)[2] and "Lovely to Look At" (written for the 1935 film and nominated for an Academy Award).[3] These two additions became so popular that they are now frequently included in revivals and recordings of Roberta.

A radio adaptation of Roberta was presented on Philip Morris Playhouse on CBS May 14, 1943. Mary Martin and William Gargan starred in the program.[4]

In 1952, MGM remade Roberta under the title Lovely to Look At. This remake also included the two songs added to the 1935 film. It starred Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Red Skelton, Ann Miller, Gower Champion, Marge Champion, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, was made in Technicolor and reuniting four members of the previous year's Show Boat (Grayson, Keel and the two Champions).

In 1958, it was made into a made-for-TV-movie starring Bob Hope, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Howard Keel and Janis Paige.[5]

The show was also presented on television in a highly adapted, modernized 1969 NBC color telecast. This production was presented by Bob Hope, who reprised his original stage role, inserting many new, then-topical jokes about current events. Others in the cast included Michele Lee, John Davidson, Eve McVeagh, and Janis Paige (who sang "I Won't Dance" with a male chorus).

In 2014, New World Records released a complete recording of the score, reconstructed by Larry Moore, with Rob Berman conducting the Orchestra of Ireland and a cast of American, British, and Irish performers, including Jason Graae, Annalene Beechey, Kim Criswell, Patrick Cummings, Tally Sessions, Diana Montague, Laura Daniel, Jeanne Lehman, John Molloy, and Eamonn Mulhall.


  1. ^ "MUSIC, STAGE & FILM". The Age (24, 866). Victoria, Australia. 24 December 1934. p. 10. Retrieved 9 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ Taylor, John Russell; Jackson, Arthur (1971). The Hollywood Musical. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 28–29.
  3. ^ Awards for Roberta (1935) at Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ "Air Ya Listenin?". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. May 14, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved July 21, 2015 – via open access
  5. ^ Roberts 2009, p. 302.


External links[edit]