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The Golden Age of Broadway

American Musical Theatre 1943-1968
by

Brian Clements

on 31 August 2012

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Transcript of The Golden Age of Broadway

How to Succeed... - 1961 The Golden Age of Broadway Rodgers
& Hammerstein 1959 Final
collaboration Film starred
Julie Andrews 1943 Considered the beginning to
the Golden Age of Broadway First musical to use
choreography & songs
as part of the plot Other famous
shows by R&H Guys & Dolls
1950 2 Tony Awards
Film starred
Marlon Brando & Frank Sinatra How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
1961 Frank
Loesser Lerner & Loewe 1947 Setting:
A Scottish town that only appears out of the Higlands mist once every hundred years. Actor/Dancer Gene Kelly starred in the film adaptation 1956
Based on George Bernard
Shaw's Pygmalion Audrey Hepburn's voice in the film version was dubbed over by Marni Nixon
Rex Harrison was never comfortable singing and created the unique spoken style he used on Broadway and in the film. Both Broadway & Film versions starred Rex Harrison.
Broadway Eliza: Julie Andrews,
Film Eliza: Audrey Hepburn 1960 Original cast included Richard Burton,
Julie Andrews & Robert Goulet. Richard Harris (1st Dumbledore) played Arthur in the film adaptation The soundtrack was a favorite in the Kennedy White House. Kennedy's favorite line from the show was "Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot. Marni Nixon:
Successful vocalist dubbed
vocals for Deborah Kerr in "The King & I,"
Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" &
Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" Music: Leonard Bernstein (noted American composer)
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim (first Broadway musical gig)
Book: Arthur Laurents (playwright, film maker)
Choreography: Jerome Robbins (influential choreographer) Based on Shakespeare's"Romeo and Juliet." West Side Story Film version starred Natalie Wood Premiered in 1957 Film version won Best Picture and
9 other Oscars in 1961 Meredith Wilson "The Music Man" premiered in 1957
opposite "West Side Story" Won Tonys for Best Musical, Best Actor and 3 other categories Early Works Later Works A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
1960 Sweeney Todd
1979 Company
1970 Gypsy
1959 Into the Woods
1987 Assassins
1990 Stephen Sondheim A Little Night Music
1973 Other important shows 1943-1968 The End of an Age Hair
1968

Defined Rock Musical
Drug use, sexuality, profanity & nudity all controversial
Fully integrated cast Next: Change of the Great White Way (1970-1990) Video Repository Oklahoma - 1943 Man of LaMancha - 1965 Cabaret - 1966 Damn Yankees - 1955 Fiddler on the Roof - 1964 Into the Woods - 19__ Gypsy - 1959 Camelot - 1960 West Side Story - 1957 Guys & Dolls - 1950 A Little Night Music - 1973 My Fair Lady - 1956 The Sound of Music - 1959 Assassains - 1990 Hair - 1968 Forum - 1962 Into the Woods - 1987 Sweeney Todd - 1979 Company - 1970 The Music Man - 1957 R & H Loesser Lerner & Loewe West Side Story Sondheim (Early) Other Shows Depression Era Shows Of Thee I Sing! (1931)
George & Ira Gershwin
Satire on politics
Won Pulitzer for Drama Anything Goes (1934)
Cole Porter
Originally plot included a bomb scare; changed after 125 people killed in accident off coast of New Jersey shortly after reherarsals began
Title refers to the desperation felt in creating the show
Smash hit; several high profile revivals Porgy & Bess (1935)
Gershwins with Dubose Heyward
Most popular American opera
Current revival includes more pop/Broadway style than opera; stars Audra MacDonald The Boys from Syracuse (1938)
Rodgers & Hart
First Broadway musical based on work by Shakespeare (A Comedy of Errors)
Inspired other works of Shakespeare translated into musical theater including Kiss Me Kate (1948), West Side Story (1957) and Rockabye Hamlet (1963) Of Thee I Sing - 1931 Porgy & Bess - 1935 Anything Goes - 1934 The Boys from Syracuse - 1938 Separately, both men made Broadway careers with other partners: Rodgers with Lorenz Hart and Hammerstein with Jerome Kern. Each pair had successes and failures alike.

Rodgers & Hart wrote "A Connecticut Yankee" (1927), "Babes in Arms" (1937), "The Boys from Syracuse" (1938) and "Pal Joey" (1940). Hammerstein and Kern collaborated on "Showboat" (1927) and "Very Warm for May" (1939). While panned by critics, this show provided one of Broadway's favorite standards, "All the Things You Are." Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein were a pair unlike any other. Though many paired composer/lyricists came after, none matched the astonishing output of these two. Their musicals live on today in films, albums, song standards and revivals on Broadway and on tour around the world. Independently, the two were working on a musical adaptation of the play "Green Grow the Lilacs." Neither of their partners were interested in the project, so they decided to work together. Hart's descent further into depression and alcoholism likely fueled the change as well. The show, once named "Away We Go," became a new starting point for musical theater and a duo celebrated still. Awards:
34 Tonys
15 Academy Awards
1 Pulitzer Prize
2 Grammys Fun Fact: R&H wrote one of the first musicals intended solely for television: "Cinderella" (1957). The show starred Julie Andrews in the title role. Cinderella - 1957 A letter from writer Martha Gellhorn to Leonard Bernstein laying bare her feelings about WSS:

"Lenny pot my dearie one; I waited for the right time to write about West Side Story but probably the exact right time will never come, so now on a rainy (can you beat it?) Guernavaca morning, my fourth here, and my first not spent jumping with rage and activity against this house, I shall begin. But I know I am not going to do it well enough.

"How can it be called a "musical comedy"? It is a musical tragedy, and were it not for the most beautiful music, and the dancing which is like flying, people would not be able to bear to look and see and understand. Certainly they would not pile into that giant stadium, paying huge sums, in order to be wracked by fear and a pity which is useless because how can help be offered, how can a whole world be changed?

". . . I was literally frozen with fear. Do you realize there is no laughter in it, no gayety [sic] that comes from delight, from joy, from being young? You do, of course, and all of you knew what you were writing about. The immensely funny song, "Please Officer Krupke" (I will get these titles wrong, but near enough), is not laughter, but the most biting, ironic and contemptuous satire. And I felt it to be absolutely accurate--not the perfection of the wit, in music and words--but accurate as describing the state of mind of those young. Again, the Puerto Rican girls' song, when on longs for the beauty of home and the other mocks, is not laughter; but the hardness of life, the rock of life, a dream of something softer (softer inside, where it counts) as against the icy material measuring rod of modern big city young. The love songs made me cry (they had before, when I heard the whole show twice in one day, listening to Shaw's record in Switzerland.) But this time, with the visual picture there, and the murderous city outside, and in America, where West Side Story becomes a sociological document turned into art, they made me cry like a sieve, from heart-broken pity.

"But what stays in my mind, as the very picture of terror, is the scene in the drug store, when the Jets sing a song called "Keep Cool, Man." I think I have never heard or seen anything more frightening. (It goes without saying that I think the music so brilliant I have no words to use for it.) I found that a sort of indicator of madness: the mad obsession with nothing, the nerves insanely and constantly stretched--with no way to rest, no place to go; the emptiness of the undirected minds, whose only occupation could be violence and a terrible macabre play-acting. If a man can be nothing, he can pretend to be a hoodlum and feel like a somebody. I couldn't breathe, watching and hearing that; it looks to me like doom, as much as these repeated H-bomb tests, with the atmosphere of the world steadily more and more irrevocably poisoned. I think that drug store and the H-bomb tests are of the same family.

"What now baffles me is that all the reviews, and everyone who has seen the show, has not talked of this and this only: the mirror held up to nature, and what nature. I do not feel anything to be exaggerated or falsified; we accept that art renders beautiful, and refines the shapeless raw material of life. The music and the dancing, the plan, the allegory of the story do that; but nature is there, in strength; and surely this musical tragedy is a warning. . . ." Letter from Bernstein to his wife Felicia; July 26, 1957

"... The show -- ah, yes. I am depressed with it. All the aspects of the score I like best -- the `big,' poetic parts -- get criticized as `operatic' -- & there's a concerted move to chuck them. What's the use? The 24-hour schedule goes on -- I am tired & nervous & apey. You wouldn't like me at all these days. This is the last show I do. The Philharmonic board approved the contract yesterday, & all is set. I'm going to be a conductor after all." Letter from Bernstein to his wife Felicia; August 8, 1957

".I missed you terribly yesterday -- we wrote a new song for Tony that's a killer, & it just wasn't the same not playing it first for you. It's really going to save his character -- a driving 2/4 in the great tradition (but of course [f'd] up by me with 3/4s and whatnot) -- but it gives Tony balls -- so that he doesn't emerge as just a euphoric dreamer.

"These days have flown so -- I don't sleep much; I work every -- literally every -- second (since I'm doing four jobs on this show -- composing, lyric-writing, orchestrating and rehearsing the cast). It's murder, but I'm excited. It may be something extraordinary. We're having our first run thru for PEOPLE on Friday -- Please may they dig it!." In 1957, when West Side Story premiered, Bernstein published a log of the show's genesis. This is his typescript:

Excerpts from A West Side Log

New York, 6 Jan., 1949
Jerry R. called today with a noble idea: a modern version of "Romeo and Juliet," set in slums at the coincidence of Easter-Passover celebrations. Feelings running high between Jews and Catholics. Former: Capulets, latter: Montagues. Juliet is Jewish. Friar Lawrence is a neighborhood druggist. Street brawls, double death -- it all fits. But it's all much less important than the bigger idea of making a musical that tells a tragic story in musical comedy terms, using only musical comedy techniques, never falling into the "operatic" trap. Can it succeed? It hasn't yet in our country. I'm excited. If it can work -- it's a first. Jerry suggests Arthur Laurents for the book. I don't know him, but I do know "Home of the Brave" at which I cried like a baby. He sounds just right.

New York, 10 Jan., 1949
Met Arthur L. at Jerry's tonight. Long talk about opera versus whatever this should be. Fascinating. We're going to have a stab at it.

Columbus, Ohio, 15 April, 1949
Just received draft of first four scenes. Much good stuff. But this is no way to work. Me on this long conducting tour, Arthur between New York and Hollywood. Maybe we'd better wait until I can find a continuous hunk of time to devote to the project. Obviously this show can't depend on stars, being about kids; and so is will have to live or die by the success of its collaborations; and this remote-control collaboration isn't right. Maybe they can find the right composer who isn't always skipping off to conduct somewhere. It's not fair to them or to the work.

New York, 7 June, 1955
Jerry hasn't given up. Six years of postponement are as nothing to him. I'm still excited too. So is Arthur. Maybe I can plan to give this year to "Romeo" -- if "Candide" gets on in time.

Beverly Hills, 25 August, 1955
Had a fine long session with Arthur today, by the pool. (He's here for a movie; I'm conducting at the Hollywood Bowl.) We're fired again by the "Romeo" notion; only now we have abandoned the whole Jewish-Catholic premise as not very fresh, and have come up with what I think is going to be it: two teen-age gangs as the warring factions, one of them newly-arrived Puerto Ricans, the other self-styled "Americans." Suddenly it all springs to life. I hear rhythms and pulses, and -- most of all -- I can sort of feel the form.

New York, 6 Sept., 1955
Jerry [Robbins] loves our gang idea. A second solemn pact has been sworn. Here we go, God bless us!

New York, 14 Nov., 1955
A young lyricist named Stephen Sondheim came and sang us some of his songs today. What a talent! I think he's ideal for this project, as do we all. The collaboration grows.

New York, 17 March, 1956
"Candide" is on again; we plunge in next month. So again "Romeo" is postponed for a year. Maybe it's all for the best: by the time it emerges it ought to be deeply seasoned, cured, hung, aged in the wood. It's such a problematical work anyway that it should benefit by as much sitting-time as it can get. Chief problem: to tread the fine line between opera and Broadway, between realism and poetry, ballet and "just dancing," abstract and representational. Avoid being "messagy." The line is there, but it's very fine, and sometimes takes a lot of peering around to discern it.

New York, 1 Feb., 1957
"Candide" is on and gone; the Philharmonic has been conducted, back to "Romeo." From here on nothing shall disturb the project: whatever happens to interfere I shall cancel summarily. It's going too well now to let it drop again.

New York, 8 July, 1957
Rehearsals. Beautiful sketches for sets by Oliver. Irene showed us costume sketches: breathtaking. I can't believe it -- forty kids are actually doing it up there on the stage! Forty kids singing five-part counterpoint who never sang before -- and sounding like heaven. I guess we were right not to cast "singers": anything that sounded more professional would inevitably sound more experienced, and then the "kid" quality would be gone. A perfect example of a disadvantage turned into a virtue.

Washington, D.C., 20 Aug., 1957
The opening last night was just as we dreamed it. All the peering and agony and postponements and re-re-re-writing turn out to have been worth it. There's a work there; and whether it finally succeeds or not in Broadway terms, I am now convinced that what we dreamed all these years is possible; because there stands that tragic story, with a theme as profound as love versus hate, with all the theatrical risks of death and racial issues and young performers and "serious" music and complicated balletics -- and it all added up for audience and critics. I laughed and cried as though I'd never seen or heard it before. And I guess that what made it come out right is that we all really collaborated; we were all writing the same show. Even the producers were after the same goals we had in mind. Not even a whisper about a happy ending has been heard. A rare thing on Broadway. I am proud and honored to be a part of it. The singing voices of Richard Beymer (Tony, in the movie) was that of Jim Bryant, a Hollywood jazz and commercial arranger and bass fiddler, chosen because his singing timbre matched Beymer’s spoken sound. Similarly, Betty Wand, a mezzo-soprano, was hired to do some, but not all, of Rita (Anita) Moreno’s singing. Wand later sued to get a percentage of the movie-album sales, a dispute settled out-of-court. But the most convoluted dubbing problems were those for the voice of Natalie Wood (Maria).

Marni Nixon was employed on a day-to-day basis (no contract was signed) to do only the high or sustained notes that Wood’s less disciplined voice could not manage. And, indeed, the songs were recorded in that manner, with Wood being continually told how "wonderful" she was. While this was going on, Nixon was being told that she would do the full soundtrack, which was hard to believe under the circumstances. But this delicate and deliberate game of musical pawns was played to ensure there would be not clash between star and studio until Wood’s visuals had been completely filmed. When she was finally "in the can," Wood was informed that Nixon had been elected. Wood’s reaction was understandable anger. (later on when she filmed her role in Gypsy, no substitutions were made for her singing voice.)

Nixon’s job then became much more complicated than her dubbing of Deborah Kerr in the filming of The King and I. There, everything had been carefully worked out in rehearsal, with Nixon physically next to Kerr at all music rehearsals. But since Wood had already been filled with musical inaccuracies, Nixon had to compensate for them. On long shots there was no problem, but on close-ups she had to hedge it one way or another. (In fact, Nixon even dubbed Wood’s speaking voice at the very end: "Don’t you touch him!" Te adoro, Anton.")

Due to the web of deception, Nixon felt she deserved a cut of the movie-album royalties. Neither the movie or the record producers would bow to her demands. Bernstein broke the stalemate by volunteering a percentage of his income, a gesture of loyalty-royalty since Nixon had been a performer-colleague of his at New York Philharmonic concerts. (Marni Nixon can be heard singing on the NY Philharmonic's Bernstein Live! CD set.) The Dubbers Sondheim's career began around age 10 when, after his parents' messy divorce, he became friends with James Hammerstein, son of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. Oscar became like a surrogate father to Sondheim and encouraged his writing. At the premiere of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "South Pacific," Sondheim first met Hal Prince withwhom he would later collaborate on musicals. While at the George School, Sondheim wrote a musical titled "By George" about the various goings-on at the school. His peers loved it. The young Sondheim took it to Hammerstein and asked him to evaluate it as if he did not know the composer. Hammerstein said it was the worst thing he'd ever seen. Then he added, "But if you want to know why it's terrible, I'll tell you." Sondheim then started an apprentice program with Hammerstein that is still the envy of all composers. Tailored specifically for Sondheim, Hammerstein gave him four assignments to test his musicality, playwriting and storytelling skills. Sondheim would have to write four musicals with the following conditions: one based on a play he admired, one based on a play he liked but was flawed, one based on an existing novel or short story that had yet to be dramatized and one completely original work. While none of these shows was ever produced, the work led Sondheim into learning the craft of creating a musical from one of the greats. All before he ever attended college or learned any significant classical music theory or dramaturgy. Porter & Weill Carmen Jones (1943) On the Town (1944) Finian's Rainbow (1947) Kismet (1953) Damn Yankees (1955) Once Upon a Mattress (1959) Bye, Bye, Birdie (1960) The Fantastiks (1960) Oliver! (1963) Hello, Dolly! (1964) Fiddler on the Roof (1964) Man of La Mancha (1965) Cole Porter Kurt Weill Notable for his contributions to the American song book and his jazz influences in symphonic works and musical theater. Shows & Songs:
The New Yorkers (1930) - Love for Sale
Anything Goes (1934)
Born to Dance [film] (1936) - I've Got You Under My Skin
Mexican Hayride (1943)
Kiss Me, Kate (1948) Born in Germany, Weill fled the Nazis in 1933 for France an later the United States. He was a well-respected orchestral composer in Europe and took up American music and the musical in particular, much to the chagrin of classical critics everywhere. In these elite circles, Weill was never again seen as the same "serious" composer despite all of his contributions to the stage. Stage works:
The Three-Penny Opera (1928)
Knickerbocker Holiday (1938)
One Touch of Venus (1943)
Street Scene (1947)
Lost in the Stars (1949) Side Note: The Beggar's Opera Written in 1728 by English composer John Gay, "The Beggar's Opera" is one of the few surviving Ballad Operas. These comic operas served as satirical takes on stuffy Italian opera, poking fun at the overblown costumes, egos and storylines typical in the art form. These operas used popular tunes throughout, giving audiences an instant recognition of the songs. Unlike other operas (and much like musicals 200 years later), Ballad Operas did away with recitative, substituting spoken dialogue instead. Cabaret (1966)
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