Musicals Blog

Composing Teams and Movie Musicals

Broadway has had some superb composer-lyricist teams that have created some of Broadway's best musicals. Of the seven movie musicals that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, six were written by composing teams. Only one of the teams, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, did not write as a team for an extended length of time. The other teams had long and successful careers, writing many hit Broadway musicals, several of which also became popular movie musicals. [read more ...]

Girl Crazy - Gershwin Brothers

"Girl Crazy" was written in 1930 by George and Ira Gershwin. It ran for 272 performances on Broadway and starred two young performers, Ginger Rogers and Ethel Merman. Included in the orchestra were several well-known musicians, such as Glen Miller, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman. Two of the best-known songs from "Girl Crazy" are "Embraceable You" and "I Got Rhythm." [read more ...]

An American in Paris - Gershwin Brothers

"An American in Paris," the Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 1951, has a score by George and Ira Gershwin. All of the songs, however, were from earlier Gershwin plays and movies. Included in the score are "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm" and "Stairway to Paradise." [read more ...]

Porgy and Bess - Gershwin Brothers

Although George and Ira Gershwin wrote many wonderful songs, their masterpiece was the score for the modern opera, "Porgy and Bess." It opened on Broadway in 1935 and ran for 124 performances. The music was composed by George Gershwin and the the lyrics were by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. The opera was based on DuBose's novel and play, "Porgy." [read more ...]

Oklahoma - Rodgers and Hammerstein

In 1943, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II thrilled Broadway audiences with their innovative musical, "Oklahoma." The play used music and dance to help tell a well-developed story about people in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. "Oklahoma" was a huge success on Broadway, running for 5 years and 2,212 performances. [read more ...]

Carousel - Rodgers and Hammerstein

"Carousel" was Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's second musical, coming after their extremely successful "Oklahoma." It was based on the play "Liliom" by Hungarian playwright, Ferenc Molnar. "Carousel" opened on Broadway in 1945 and it ran for 2 years and 890 performances. The original cast included John Raitt as Billy. Like "Oklahoma," the choreographer for "Carousel" was Agnes de Mille. [read more ...]

State Fair - Rodgers and Hammerstein

After composing the scores for two successful Broadway musicals, "Oklahoma" and "Carousel," and while both shows were still playing on Broadway, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the score for a movie musical, "State Fair." The 1945 film score was the only one they ever wrote specifically for a movie. [read more ...]

South Pacific - Rodgers and Hammerstein

The musical "South Pacific" began when Joshua Logan and Leland Hayward purchased the rights to James Michener's novel, "Tales of the South Pacific." They then asked Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to write the music and book for the play. Rodgers and Hammerstein agreed, but Hammerstein asked Logan, who had served in WW II, to help write the book. Next, the decision was made to hire Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin to play the lead roles of Emile de Becque and Nellie Forbush. [read more ...]

The King and I - Rodgers and Hammerstein

A year after "South Pacific" opened on Broadway, Rodgers and Hammerstein II wrote "The King and I." The play was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens who, in the 1860s, was the teacher of the King of Siam's children. [read more ...]

Brigadoon - Lerner and Loewe

Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner wrote several musicals, but they are best known for their highly successful play, "My Fair Lady." Lerner and Loewe are the only composing team that wrote the scores for two movie musicals that won the Academy Award for Best Picture - "Gigi" in 1958 and "My Fair Lady" in 1964. [read more ...]

Paint Your Wagon - Lerner and Loewe

Four years after their success with "Brigadoon," Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe created the musical "Paint Your Wagon." Although the score included some good songs, the play was not too successful, running for only 289 performances on Broadway. The choreography for the Broadway version of "Paint Your Wagon" was developed by Agnes de Mille. [read more ...]

Camelot - Lerner and Loewe

In 1960, after the enormous success of "My Fair Lady," the Lerner and Loewe musical "Camelot" opened on Broadway. The play, based on the T.H. White book, "The Once and Future King," about the legendary King Arthur and his kingdom of Camelot, had a long history before making its way to Broadway. Tryouts started in Toronto and the original play was so long that evening performances ended long after most people's bedtime. It was cut by an hour and a half before it went to Boston and additional numbers were cut prior to the Broadway opening. [read more ...]

Kander and Ebb: From Stage to Film

In the mid-1960s, a new composing team, John Kander and Fred Ebb, were starting to make their mark on Broadway. From 1966 to 1975, the team created five Broadway musicals, including two that eventually became successful movie musicals.

Kander and Ebb's first play in 1965, "Flora The Red Menace," was a flop, playing for only 87 performances. I saw the play in previews and the only thing I remember about it was its one redeeming feature - it starred a new, young actress-singer who would shake up Broadway. Liza Minnelli, the extraordinarily talented daughter of Judy Garland, made her Broadway debut in the lead role. The part earned Minnelli a Tony award and started a long career for her, including several more musicals with Kander and Ebb. [read more ...]