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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.

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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 Hammerstein?.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 included ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’, ‘With A Little Bit of Luck’, ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’ and ‘On the Street Where You Live. ’ It was a flawless story with songs integration which achieved an inspiration in the musical film industry. It was a phenomenal performance from the first show, and became Broadway’s longest running musical up to that time. Lerner ; Loewe created another screenplay and score for Gigi in 1958 which won their Academy Award. They also made an unfinished Camelot.Another composer – Leonard Bernstein, is one of the few 20th Century composers to succeed with both theatrical and classical compositions. His Broadway scores included On the Town (1944), Wonderful Town (1953), Candide (1956), 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1976), and a version of Peter Pan (1950). His masterpiece is West Side Story (1957), a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set among New York City’s 1950s street gangs. With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the hit songs ‘Maria’ and ‘Tonight’, it remains one of the most popular musicals of all time.He also lectured in Harvard University during 1972-1973, and taught numerous master classes at Tanglewood. He is best remembered by his two historic ‘Berlin Celebration Concerts’ on both sides of the Berlin Wall with an orchestra representing East and West Germany. Another popular musical – Guys and Dolls, which was composed by Frank Loesser, and was one of the finest musical comedies ever written. With extraordinary score that included ‘I’ve Never Been In Love Before’, ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’, and Luck Be A Lady Tonight’, which have won the actress Vivian Blaine a Tony Award.It also bring Loesser Tonys for Best Musical, Best Score and became one of the most popular musicals of all time. Other Loerrer’s scores include The Most Happy Fella in 1956. Although his adventurous Greenwillow (1960) ended in a disappointing failure but he also wrote How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961), which winning him Tonys for Best Score and Musical. Up and Downs For the Broadway Musicals During the 1950s, American was recovering from World War II, they were also involved in Korean War, and a cold war with USSA.The world has changed dramatically, so it applied to the music industry, Rock ‘n’ Roll became really popular, Television came into being, and became the dominant mass media as people brought television into their homes in greater numbers of hours per week than ever before. Film and Theatres were also flourished during this time. Musicals had enjoyed 50 years of success and were still very well received. In the early 1960s, the issues of civil rights – voter’s rights and voter registration for blacks, integration, and fairness and equality in the workplace, were in the news and on television nearly every day, but mostly absent on Broadway.In 1962, Richard Rodgers produced the first musical he had attempted since the death of Oscar Hammerstein II, in 1960, an original piece called “No Strings,” for which he would write both the lyrics and the music. A show that looked to be socially progressive appeared, upon reflection, to be finicky at best, cowardly at worst. In 1964, songwriting team of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams were signed to write and adapt Clifford Odets’ 1937 play ‘Golden Boy’, it was the first time an audience had been confronted with anger in a musical for a long time.The social and political frustration in ‘Golden Boy’ brought the anger of the musicals of the 1930s to the issue of civil rights. It famous phase like, ‘Who do you fight? ’ ‘When you want to break out? ’ ‘But your skin is your cage? ’ However, at the beginning of 1954, a division grew between Broadway and commercially popular music, Rock ‘n’ roll started to dominate the times. Musicals falling out of step with popular culture during the 1960s, by 1967, young people saw Broadway ‘was your parents’ music,’ which made young audiences to ignore it. In 1964, Beatles were so popular and had 5 singles topped the chart.The New Era for Broadway The reality made Broadway to think in a fresh way to attract young people, and produce more musicals connected to the current environment. For the first time, several big-name pop composers contributed scores to Broadway. Elton John made his Broadway debut, working with lyricist Tim Rice on the transfer of his film score for the stage version of “The Lion King” in 1997. Also Disney offered John and Rice a chance to write a new version of Verdi’s opera “Aida” for Broadway. Elton John wrote at an amazing fast rate that almost one song per day. Some critics say, ‘It’s truly a pop musical, with spoken dialogue’.Another important figure in the pop world – Paul Simon, brought his first score to Broadway from the 1970s. Critics always thought Simon is natural for Broadway, for his sense of narrative was extraordinary and his songs had already provided strong emotional backgrounds for several films. His project ‘The Capeman’ provided a breathtakingly wide-ranging score of gospel, doo-wop, Afro-Cuban bop, and Latin salsa tunes. But ‘The Capeman’ lasted only two months, costing $11 million, and when it folded, it took with it one of the most thrilling scores written for a Broadway show in the last 20 years.Jonathan Larson can be seen as the most contemporary successful composer for Broadway Musicals. He began to write the book ‘Rent’ in the late 1980s, composed music and lyrics. The ambitious score, which required Larson to orchestrate gospel numbers, hymns, tangos, patter songs, and character songs, all to a rock beat. All the audiences and critics love the show, and won him Tony for Best Musical and Best Score, and ultimately, the Pulitzer Prize. The show has run more than 3500 performances, and attracted a new young audience to Broadway.Broadway Musicals – the greatest American Music in the history, you get the story and the music at the same time, is far more than just an immersion in musical nostalgia. It is a stage and the real world gets so close to each other, and shows the real world passion in front of an audience. It also comes to so many other country in the later years, London, Paris, Amsterdam… they are all showing Broadway Musicals as more than ever before. In 1998, the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts debuted with the musical version of ‘Ragtime’. That same year, the Empire Theatre on 42nd Street, was also began a life as the 25-theatre AMC multiplex.The renovation of the Selwyn Theatre as the American Airlines Theatre (a home for the Roundabout Theatre Company) and the addition of a multi-studio rehearsal space next door burnished the transformation of the new 42nd Street. In 21st Century, you still can sing at the ‘42nd Street’, and thinking the artful generation brought us beautiful Musicals all the way along till the modern day.Reference Website: http://www. broadway101. com [1997] http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/ [1998] http://imdb. com/title/tt0024034/ http://kclibrary. nhmccd. edu/decade50. html [2004]

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