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Musical Theater Lecture 4

Golden Age of Musicals

Jessica López-Barkl

on 21 December 2015

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Transcript of Musical Theater Lecture 4

Musical Theater Lecture 4
Dancer, choreographer, and director. Robbins collaborated on West Side Story, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and with Mikhail Baryshnikov on A Suite of Dances. He created the “Small House for Uncle Thomas” ballet for The King and I and a retrospective of his most successful dance numbers for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.
Jerome Robbins

Playwright, director, and screenwriter.

Best known for his plays Home of the Brave and The Time of the Cuckoo and for the musical books of Gypsy and West Side Story.

Arthur Laurents

Book by George Abbot and Douglass Wallop, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. It is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. It is based off of Wallop’s novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.

Choreographer Bob Fosse met his muse Gwen Verdon on this project. His choreography was then marked by a jazz-dance style that exuded stylized, cynical sexuality. Notable distinction were the use of turned-in knees, sideways shuffling, rolled shoulders, and jazz hands.
Damn Yankees

Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents, based loosely on the 1957 memoirs of Gyspy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist.

Has been referred to as the greatest American musical by numerous critics and writers.
Frank Rich wrote: “Gypsy is nothing if not Broadway’s own brassy, unlikely answer to ‘King Lear.’”

Clive Barnes wrote: “Gypsy is one of the best musicals…[the character of Rose is] one of the few truly complex characters in the American musical…”

Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It is based on “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure,” two short stories by Damon Runyon.
Premiered in 1950.

Won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1951; though it was rescinded later by HUAC.

George S. Kaufman directed.

Richard Watts said: “Guys and Dolls is just what it should be to celebrate the Runyon spirit…[it is] filled with the salty characters and richly original language sacred to the memory of the late Master.”
Guys and Dolls

Based on the novella Gigi by Colette.

Originally a film of the same name from 1958.
The original Broadway production opened in 1973.

The story follows a free-spirited girl living in Paris at the turn of the 20th Century. She is being groomed as a courtesan in her family’s tradition. Before she is deemed ready for her social debut, she encounters the bon vivant bachelor Gaston Lachaille, whom she captivates as she is transformed into a charmingly poised young lady.

Premiered in 1960.

Based on the King Arthur legend as adapted form the T.H. White tetralogy novel The Once and Future King.

Directed by Moss Hart.

It is associated with the Kennedy administration.


Premiered in 1956.

A musical version of George Bernard Shaws’s Pygmalion.

The score was a perfect blending of Loewe’s operetta music with Lerner’s pseudo-Shavian lyrics: the two combined to produce one of the most successful musical comedies ever.
My Fair Lady

Premiered in 1947.

The story involves two American tourists who stumble upon Brigadoon, a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years. Tommy, one of the tourists falls in love with Fiona, a young woman from Brigadoon.

Agnes de Mille did the choreography and incorporated elements of traditional Scottish folk dance: a traditional sword dance, a chase scene, and a funeral dance.

Despite the innovations of the powerful team of Rodgers and Hammerstein, operetta and musical comedy continued to flourish.

Musical stars became household names: Mary Martin, Alan Alda, Rosalind Russell, Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Zero Mostel, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Judy Holliday, Gwen Verdon, Joel Grey, and Carol Lawrence.
Other than Rodgers and Hammerstein

The most successful producer and director of the second half of the twentieth century, Prince produced Sondheim’s musicals (Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeny Todd) and other celebrated Broadway shows, including The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Evita, and The Phantom of the Opera.
Harold S. Prince

Famous classical composer and conductor, Bernstein achieved enormous popular success with On the Town, West Side Story, and Candide. His heavy conducting and composing schedule prevented him from pursuing a steady career writing music for Broadway, but his sophisticated scores earned him the reputation of being one of Broadway’s foremost composers.
Leonard Bernstein

Composer and lyricist, Sondheim began his Broadway career by writing lyrics for West Side Story with Oscar Hammerstein II and later created the concept musicals of Company and Follies.

Stephen Sondheim

Bernstein’s music captured the shrill beat of life in the streets.

Robbins’ energetic choreography gave itself over to wildness and ecstasy.

West Side Story

An ambitious work by four creators – Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Robbins.

About gang warfare in the streets of New York City.

An elaborate operetta score.
A book based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Energetic dances.
West Side Story

Book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Wilson, based on a story by Wilson and Franklin Lacey.

Premiered in 1957.

Brooks Atkinson wrote: “If Mark Twain could have collaborated with Vachel Lindsay, they might have devised a rhythmic lark like The Music Man, which is as American as apple pie and a Fourth of July oration…The Music Man is a marvelous show, rooted in wholesome and comic tradition.”

The Music Man

Annie Get Your Gun showed Irving Berlin’s ability to bring to the musical stage the thoughts, feelings, and aspirations of average Americans.

The story is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860-1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank Butler.
Premiered in 1946.

Was largely popular because of the fame of Ethel Merman, who was considered the best comedienne of her time.
Irving Berlin and Annie Get Your Gun

Kiss Me Kate, which premiered in 1948 is considered Cole Porter’s most theatrically effective and versatile score. It is a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

His last two hit shows: Can Can (1953) and Silk Stockings (1955).

These musicals were still marked by their ingenious lyrics and unusual rhythms.
Cole Porter in the 40s and 50s

Lerner (1918-86) and Loewe (1904-88) American lyricist and composer.

Loewe, a classically trained composer born in Vienna and Lerner collaborated on their first musical score, What’s Up, in 1943.

Their first success was Brigadoon.

They also had success with Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Gigi.
Loewe’s music successfully combined the older operetta tradition with more modern Broadway musical idioms.

Lerner’s versatility as a lyricist was demonstrated in songs whose styles ranged from the sophisticated verbal trickery of Lorenz Hart to the simple treatment of Oscar Hammerstein II.
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

Lerner & Loewe, Kiss Me Kate, Annie Get Your Gun, Guy and Dolls, The Music Man, Gypsy, Damn Yankees, and West Side Story

The Golden Age: The Late 1940s and 1950s
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