One of the CDs I purchased recently was the Library of Congress recording of the 1927 show Strike Up The Band. This show was written by George S. Kaufmann, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. I’m finding it amazing how prescient this show is. The show is a satire about war, in this case a war over cheese tariffs with Switzerland. The government doesn’t want to go to war, citing the cost, but the owner of the Cheese Company is adamant, noting that he’ll personally pay all the expenses of the war, and give the government 25% of the profits, if the war is named after him. So, America goes to war with the Swiss.
Act II begins with the citizens rushing off. A Very Patriotic League is organized for those not going to war; its purpose is to make sure everyone is patriotic (“Anybody that doesn’t go to war has got to be twice as patriotic as the soldiers”). Of course, the owner of the cheese company can’t go to war, as he has too many appointments. He feels they must do something to keep up the spirit at home. So, they rename Swiss Family Robinson as American Family Robinson, and they cut William Tell out of the schoolbook because he is Swiss. War is then declared on both parties by Iceland, who states “We are declaring war on both sides, and will find a reason later.” The Swiss want the war held over there, as they offer reasonable hotel rates and many beautiful tours. Some prefer to have it in the US, but the cheese factory owner insists on having it in Switzerland (“For good battles, we ought to get $5.50 a seat!”).
A report discovers that the american cheese is made with Grade B, not Grade A cheese. No one wants to hear it, for that would mean changing all their plans, and everyone would be inconvenienced. They do believe in free speech, but not at a time like this. So the reporter is conscripted.
The story goes on from there. You can read the full synopsis at Musical Theatre International. And now to make my tea and get to work….