Who Cares?

In 1937, George Gershwin asked Balanchine to come to Hollywood to work with him on Samuel Goldwyn’s “Follies.” Tragically, Gershwin was felled by a brain tumor before he completed the ballet music for the film. Thirty-three years later, Balanchine choreographed Who Cares? to 16 songs Gershwin composed between 1924 and 1931, including “Strike Up the Band,” “Sweet and Low Down,” “Somebody Loves Me,” “Bidin’ My Time,” “‘S Wonderful,” “That Certain Feeling,” “Do Do Do,” “Lady Be Good,” “The Man I Love,” “Build a Stairway to Paradise,” “Embraceable You,” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” “Who Cares?,” “My One and Only,” “Liza,”  and “I Got Rhythm.” Kay’s orchestrations draw extensively on Gershwin’s own piano arrangements of his songs. Balanchine used the songs not to evoke any particular era but as a way to portray an exuberance that is both broadly American and charged with the distinctive energy of Manhattan.

George Gershwin (1898-1937) was an American composer and pianist whose first success was the song “Swanee” in 1919. After Rhapsody in Blue was commissioned in 1924 by Paul Whiteman, Gershwin was taken seriously as a composer. In the 20’s and 30’s he wrote a series of successful musicals and film scores as well as An American in Paris (1928) and the folk opera Porgy and Bess (1934-1935). From 1924 his brother Ira Gershwin wrote nearly all of the lyrics to his vocal music. Gershwin also wrote in the classical idiom, including the Piano Concerto in F Major, and a set of preludes for solo piano.

Hershy Kay (1919-1981) established himself as a preeminent orchestrator of musicals with Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town in 1944. His works for ballet include Cakewalk, Clowns, Western Symphony, The Concert, Stars and Stripes, Who Cares?, and Union Jack; his works for musical theater include Peter Pan, Once Upon a Mattress, Candide, A Chorus Line, Evita, and Barnum. A composer in his own right, Hershy Kay also reconstructed Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra, which later became the Balanchine ballet Tarantella. Mr. Kay’s work also includes a children’s record, Mother Goose.

Repertory notes provided courtesy of and adapted from New York City Ballet Online Repertory Index. Additional sources: Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works, An Eakins Press Foundation Book, published by Viking (1984); and Repertory in Review: 40 Years of the New York City Ballet by Nancy Reynolds (1970; The Dial Press).  Photo credit: Photo © Paul Kolnik
The George Balanchine Trust - Who Cares?
Choreography:  George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Music:  Excerpts of George Gershwin arranged by Hershy Kay
Composer:  Gershwin, George / Kay, Hershy
Premiere:  1970
Average Length:  41 minutes
No. Dancers:  24