After tryouts in Boston and Baltimore, I’d Rather Be Right opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on November 2, 1937. A timely social satire, the musical combined the talents of two great theatrical teams: songwriters Rodgers & Hart and playwrights Kaufman & Hart. Directed by co-author George S. Kaufman, the political send-up starred George M. Cohan in the plum role of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This was Cohan’s first Broadway appearance in over a decade, and the excitement over his return set a new record for advance ticket sales on Broadway. Joy Hodges and Austin Marshall played the young lovers, with Florenz Ames, Taylor Holmes, Joseph Macauley and Mary Jane Walsh in featured roles.
Critical response to the show was mostly positive. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Cohan has never been in better form… but it is not the brilliant political satire most of us have been fondly expecting.” However, Richard Watts, Jr. of the Herald Tribune commended Rodgers’ “delightful” score and Hart’s “ingenious” lyrics, and John Mason Brown of the New York Post called the show “gay, witty, topical and audacious… an almost constant delight.” Robert Coleman of the Daily Mirror praised the musical as “an exhilarating cocktail, concocted of romance, hilarity, satire, swing music, tasteful color and vivid personalities.” After transferring to the Music Box Theatre in May 1938, the production closed on June 9, 1938, logging a total of 290 performances.