Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.


Red, Hot & Blue

A lively retrospective of Broadway and Hollywood musicals, this exhibition captured the magic and dynamism of a century’s worth of musical theater. Named for Cole Porter’s 1936 Broadway musical, Red, Hot & Blue described the changing moods of the nation over the course of the 20th century, as diverse ethnic and cultural influences blended to form a brilliantly colorful American mosaic.

Red, Hot & Blue showcased the stars, on stage and off, who gave voice and vision to the American experience over the past 100 years. Beginning with 19th-century vaudeville and the slapstick humor of such comedy greats as Harrigan and Hart, Williams and Walker, and Weber and Fields, the exhibition covers an astonishing range of stage entertainment, from the showmanship of Florenz Ziegfeld and the Shuberts to the rise of the first great musical stars, Al Jolson, Ethel Merman, and Sophie Tucker. It brings back the incredible song and dance styles of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland, and the socially conscious musicals of the 1960s.

The core of this exhibition was an original video highlighting some of the greatest musical performances on film. Musical theater stars featured in the video appear again—in photographs, posters, and biographies—on exhibition panels designed to recall the interiors of America’s most beautiful theaters. A companion book (Smithsonian Books) accompanied the exhibition, which was originally on view at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

Red, Hot & Blue was made possible, in part, through the generous support of Turner Classic Movies.

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