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Pins and needles.

With more than 1,100 performances, Pins and Needles was the most successful Broadway musical of the Depression era. The original run from 1937 to 1940 featured members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and parodied current events in song and dance from a pro-union standpoint. As the cast was made up of cutters, basters and sewing machine operators, participants could rehearse only at night and on weekends, and initial performances were presented only on Friday and Saturday nights. The show began in the theater the ILGWU used as a meeting hall with two pianos, costumes that came from the actors' closets and no critics in attendance. However, word of mouth was so positive that soon the participants had to quit their factory jobs and the production expanded to eight shows a week. New songs and skits were introduced every few months to keep the show topical.

Musical theater during the Depression was no longer simply a fanciful escape, but also an avenue for the voices of American workers. Pins and Needles took a lighthearted look at young working life in a fast-changing, politically charged society with skits that spoofed everything from European dictators to bigotry. The production gained so much popularity that the cast performed it for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House in 1938.

Pins and Needles was the only hit ever produced by a labor union and the only time a group of unknown non-professionals brought a successfu musical to Broadway. The production was revived in New York in 1978 and in London in 2010.

RESOURCE: Labor Arts Cultural Initiative - Songs from Pins and Needles laborarts.org

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Title Annotation:Clippings
Publication:Sew News
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2014
Words:273
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