Janet Collins and the Cole Porter Musical Out of This World

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Soon after Janet Collins arrived to study in New York, she was cast in her first Broadway production: Cole Porter’s musical Out of This World (1950-1951). Even though her part was a minor character called Night, it included a long solo dance at the beginning of the musical. The performance won her the Donaldson Award for best Broadway dancer. During her shows, Collins was noticed by Zachary Solov, who was working at the time as the ballet master of the Metropolitan Opera House. Solov said of Collins years later, “She walked across the stage pulling a chiffon curtain, and it was electric. The body just spoke.” He was so taken by her performance that he persuaded Rudolph Bing, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, to hire her for their new production of Aida. This hiring marked a significant break from tradition for the Met; Collins would be the first Black artist to be under regular contract with their permanent team. Many years later, Bing stated that his greatest accomplishment from all his years at the Met was breaking the color barrier and hiring Janet Collins. 


Janet Collins, Britannica
Janet Collins, Jacob’s Pillow
Celebrating Black History Month: Spotlight on Janet Collins, Atlanta Ballet
Janet Collins, 86; Broke Ballet Color Line, Los Angeles Times

More about Out of This World

Image of original cast recording
Original cast recording

Out of This World was an original Broadway production which opened December 21, 1950 at the New Century Theatre in New York City. Cole Porter wrote the music and lyrics, and the musical was directed by Agnes de Mille. The dancers were staged by Hanya Holm, who had worked with Cole Porter on his previous work Kiss Me, Kate. Out of This World was based on the S.N. Behrman adaptation of Jean Giraudoux’s play Amphitryon 38. As such, much of the lyrics, choreography, and costumes were much more erotic and risqué than expected for its time and shocked critics. The show ran for 157 performances and closed on May 5, 1951. The show received largely lukewarm reviews and is generally regarded as a flop. The New York Times ran an article on December 22, 1950 which stated that “Although it is difficult to make sex a tiresome subject, Out of This World has very nearly succeeded.”


Janet Collins, The Guardian
Out of This World, Sondheim Guide
At the Theatre; The Cast, The New York Times

Leslie Kim

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