Broadway Musicals

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  • Topic: Musical theatre, Broadway theatre, Theatre
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  • Published : December 14, 2010
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BTEC in Music Practise (Year 1)



Broadway Musicals

When we are talking about the Broadway Musicals, we would think about the theatre music. In the very early 20th Century in America, the theatre music was booming, there were thirty-three legitimate Broadway theatres in New York, over 3,000 professional theatres across the United States, and more was going to be built to meet the audience demand. The famous actor was Al Jolson, a ‘charismatic performer’ in Broadway. His performance saved Warner Bros. from bankruptcy. The Singing Fool which made the gross income of $5.5m, a biggest income only to be exceeded by Gone With The Wind eleven years later.

Following the Wall Street crash in 1929, many New York theatres were closed, stage stars such as Fred & Adele Astaire, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Maurice Chevalier, Marilyn Miller, Helen Morgan, Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald, followed Al Jolson to Hollywood. Since then Hollywood started to make musical films, for example, Whoopee, Dames, Top Hat, 42nd Street, Walt Disney's Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, and The Wizard of Oz, which they were all made before the 1950s.

In the 1950s, Musicals almost reached a high note, with Irving Berlin's ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, ‘Call Me Madam’ Cole Porter's ‘Kiss Me Kate’ and ‘Silk Stockings’, and Richard Rodgers' Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King & I and South Pacific, all four written with his new partner, librettist and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. The songwriter Frank Loesser’s Guys & Dolls; other musicals included Singin' In The Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane, High Society, An American in Paris, The Band Wagon, The Great Caruso and Royal Wedding.

The Most Influential Composers

There are also some influential composers and lyricists working on Broadway in the 1950s – Irving Berlin; Cole Porter; Frank Loesser; Harold Rome; Meredith Willson; Lerner & Loewe; Leonard Bernstein, and of course Rogers and Hammerstein II. Here I would like to introduce some of the songwriters and lyricists:

When you are talking about the film The Sound of Music, everybody would know the songs ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Edlwise’, but who wrote them – Richard Rogers and Oscar HammersteinⅡ. They both graduated from Columbia University, they have been collaborated with other people before they started working together in the 1940s and 1950s. They together produced songs and lyrics for Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). The Sound of Music remains among the best and most popular musicals of all time. After Hammerstein's death in 1960, Rodgers continued to compose. His later works include Do I Hear a Waltz (1965), Two By Two (1970), Rex (1976) and I Remember Mama (1979). He also won a Tony for the music and lyrics to No Strings (1962). His career spanned for 6 decades, and produced more than 50 stage and screen musicals. He is considered one of the greatest writers in American musical theatre.

Another most memorable musical is My Fair Lady, which was written by Lerner & Loewe. Alan Jay Lerner started his writing lyrics at Harvard, providing material for several Hasty Club Shows, he contributed material to various supper club revues before meeting composer Frederick Loewe in 1942. Frederick Loewe was born in Vienna Austria. He studied composition and had an early piano career when he was in Vienna. He composed for the theatre in the 1930s, later on he met Alan Jay Lerner, and started to work together. After their early work - The life of the Party, What’s Up and the Day Before Spring, they had their first hit – Brigadoon in 1947; and in 1951 they wrote Paint Your Wagon, featuring songs ‘I Talk To The Trees’; ‘They Call The Wind Mariah’, which they enjoyed modest success. In 1956 they produced My Fair Lady, which was an award-winning masterpiece. The cast includes Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, and Stanley Holloway. The songs...
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