Daily Archives: June 22, 2018

We’re Not Dead Yet!: Broadway Musicals in Revival

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Did you grown up singing along with the cast recording of Broadway musicals?   If you are of a certain age, perhaps you did.  My mother had many of them, and I enjoyed singing along, whenever I knew the words.  Home was so very far away from New York in those days, so the cast albums (I’m talking old 78s and 33 1/3s) were the closest you could get to the plays themselves.  This was before the internet, when many areas of the country only got three television channels.  This was before cable.  Yes, I am old.  But I always remember how much fun I had listening to the musicals.  And I know I am not alone.

So what musicals have been the most popular through the years, popular enough to keep bringing them back, that is?

1. Porgy and Bess (music by George Gershwin, book and lyrics by Ira Gershwin , based on the book by Dubose Heyward)**

Porgy and Bess premiered in 1935 on Broadway, and has been brought back to Broadway seven times!  Part of the popularity is the story and part, possibly the larger part, is the music by George and Ira Gershwin.  And it is the most revived musical on Broadway.

2. The Threepenny Opera (music by Kurt Weil, book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht)

The Threepenny Opera premiered in 1933; it has been revived six times.  This play was adapted from the book The Beggar’s Opera written in 1728.  This musical may qualify as being from the oldest extant source!

3. Show Boat (music by Jerome Kern, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

Before Hammerstein teamed up with Richard Rodgers he was famous in his own right.  He just became more so in the famous partnership.  This musical has also been revived six times.  “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” are always show stoppers.

4. Peter Pan (music by Mark Charlap and Jule Stine; book and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh)

Peter Pan is the fourth most restaged musical.  I’m sure you thought it would be on the list somewhere!  It’s a perennial favorite for all ages, and those of us old enough will remember that Mary Martin starred as Peter in the first show in 1954.  She was the mother of Larry Hagman who became a star in I Dream of Jeannie, and became a megastar in Dallas.

5. Guys and Dolls (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows)

This musical premiered in 1950.  Some from younger generations may be surprised that Marlon Brando starred in the film adaptation, singing and dancing.  Nathan Lane starred in the 1992 revival.  I’m sure that was a good one.

6. Fiddler on the Roof (music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein)

Next is one you probably thought should have been higher up on the list.  The book was based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, telling the story of the Jews living in the Soviet Union and how they lived there.  It first premiered in 1964 and was an immediate hit.  The movie was wonderful, too.

7. Carousel (music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

Now we come to the famous pairing of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  This was the second play in their partnership.  Oklahoma was the first, and it changed the way musicals were written and performed.  Carousel only cemented their fame, and they were even nominated for a Tony award.

8. West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents)

West Side Story is the eighth most popular revival.  I’m surprised it’s not higher on the list.  But perhaps because it was based on one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays was what made it so popular (aka Romeo and Juliet).  You can’t go wrong with Shakespeare…  It premiered in 1957, and was so popular it came back to Broadway three years later.

9. Pal Joey (music by Richard Rodgers; book and lyrics by Lorenz Hart, based on the book by John O’Hara)

The character and stories from this musical were based on short stories by John O’Hara that appeared in the New Yorker; he later published these stories as a novel.  The play received mixed reviews from the critics, but ran for ten months, so it was popular.  Not smash hits like with Rodgers and Hammerstein…

10. Oklahoma (music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

Speaking of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma is the next most revised musical.  This one was the first by the duo.  This musical broke the mold.  The singing was part of the dialogue, not just song and dance numbers interspersed in between dialogue.


Some people in the business aren’t sure all of the old favorites should be revived.  Some of the shows continue stereotypes, while others deal with abuse or misogyny.  And what about the revivals taking away room for new musicals to come to town; others have concerns about this possibility too.

In a November New York times article, Georgia Stitt, a composer, lyricist and musician, posted this on social media last fall as the 2017 season was  being announced:

“With respect to the creatives who will be employed by these projects, I will say I’m concerned about a Broadway season that includes PRETTY WOMAN, CAROUSEL and MY FAIR LADY all at the same time.  In 2017 is the correct message really “women are there to be rescued?   It’s frustrating that the material people seem to want to throw their energy into is old properties where women have no agency, and then there is the real scarcity of women on the creative teams.”

–Georgia Stitt (@georgiastitt) November 22, 2017

Creative teams have sought to rework problematic classic musicals, either by changing wording (only possible with permission from the writers’ representatives), or by rethinking staging.

Critiques of My Fair Lady have focused not only on the show’s final exchange, but on the Pygmalion narrative itself.  “Oh gosh, it is very, very sexist,” Julie Andrews, who originated the role of Eliza on Broadway in 1956, told an interviewer last year. “Young women in particular will and should find it hard.”

Pretty Woman, which will be staged for the fall 2018 season, faces different challenges, as a new musical with no pre-existing book or score. It will have a production in Chicago this spring and is then scheduled to open on Broadway in August.

Some artists think that there are a few musicals that need to be revived.  What about Funny Girl, 1776, Titanic or A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?  Grand Hotel, anyone??

A few final words about musicals:  This year Love Never Dies will be shown in North America for the first time.  The sequel is set in New York, ten years after the ending of the Phantom of the Opera ends.  It started in Detroit and now is coming to TPAC.  And yes the music and lyrics are by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

** So what exactly do these musical terms mean? The music itself, often called the score, is often written by a different person than the person who writes the lyrics, (a.k.a. the words in the songs).  Think of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Then think of Andrew Lloyd Webber or Stephen Sondheim. Both of these men often wrote the words and music for their productions. The book is the words, the actual story of the musical, sometimes based on a book, as in Phantom of the Opera.

Sources:

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More Chills! More Thrills!

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Have you been on the edge of your seat, waiting for this next installment of my Suspense Spectacular? (Just answer Yes; let’s get an atmosphere going.) My previous post introduced a few big names in the genre. We also honored the predecessors of today’s hits. Today, I’ll start by focusing on female stars of the genre. Lastly, we’ll dig up hidden gems from authors you might not expect.

Writing for The Atlantic, Terrence Rafferty claims that “Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels.” He says, “They don’t seem to believe in heroes as much as their male counterparts, which in some ways makes their storytelling a better fit for the times.” Without shying away from murder – be it most gruesome – the insightful women who have flourished within “domestic noir” write with “awareness of that inside-out sort of violence” that occurs so often in real life. (1) So, if you’re looking for a psychological edge, you’ll be spoiled for choice among women authors in this genre.

Incidentally, I learned that several male writers use female pen names within this genre. (2) That makes marketing sense, as their readers are more likely to be women. (3) Considering the history of women authors using masculine noms de plume – their only option if they hoped to be taken seriously – it’s ironic that men can now use women’s names in order to increase their own profitability as authors!

Don’t worry. This is not a blog post about The Patriarchy. But I hope to highlight some of the writers of this genre who actually are women – not men using women’s names. (Yes, I did double-check them all! My search history got a little weird.) You can find summaries of intriguing titles online.

Women of the Genre

  • Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train; Deep Water.
  • Katherine Neville, The Eight. This “historical thriller/whodunnit/magical story” paved the way for works like The Da Vinci Code, Kostova’s The Historian, and Mosse’s The Labyrinth. (4)
  • Tana French, The Secret Place. In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad series).
  • Amy Greene, Long Man. A small, East Tennessee community desperately searches for a missing toddler before the TVA floods their town.
  • Sarah Waters, Fingersmith. Readers love this Dickensian tale’s twists and turns.
  • Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl confronts the myth that “women are … naturally good,” a misconception that “robs [them] of any sort of will.” (5)
  • Megan Abbott, You Will Know Me.
  • Denise Mina, Garnethill (Garnethill trilogy); The Field of Blood (Paddy Mehan novels); Still Midnight (Alex Morrow novels).
  • Minette Walters, The Ice House; The Sculptress; The Scold’s Bridle.
  • Dorothy B. Hughes, Ride the Pink Horse; In a Lonely Place.
  • Donna Tartt, The Secret History. “[It’s] both an intellectual novel of ideas and a murder mystery without the whodunnit element.” “[An] amazing book that combines crime and Greek language and mythology with Donna Tartt’s beautiful writing style.” “[This] was one of the most unique reading experiences of my life.” (6, 7, 8)
  • Alex Marwood, The Darkest Secret.
  • Libby Fischer Hellman, A Bitter Veil. Reviewers call it “gripping,” “poignant,” “terrifying,” “viscerally effective.” (9)
  • Vicki Hendricks, Miami Purity. A raw, erotic story.
  • Liane Moriarty, The Husband’s Secret.
  • Tess Gerritsen, Playing with Fire. I love this review: “OMG Tess Gerritsen, give me my life back! I’ve never been so consumed by a book — let alone one about a…diabolical cursed violin score, toddler psychopath, and WWII-era Italy? Yeah, I was as skeptical as you probably are, but somehow it all works. I couldn’t stop tearing through the pages… What a whirlwind!” (10)
  • Renée Ahdieh updates the story of Scheherazade (1001 Nights) in The Wrath & the Dawn.
  • Alison Gaylin, What Remains of Me.
  • Jessica Knoll, Luckiest Girl Alive.
  • Val McDermid, The Mermaids Singing (Tony Hill series); A Place of Execution.
  • Margaret Millar, How Like an Angel; A Stranger in My Grave.
  • Sophie Hannah, Woman with a Secret.
  • Barbara Vine (real name, “Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE”) was a prolific writer of intense psychological thrillers and murder mysteries. Award-winning titles include Make Death Love Me, A Fatal Inversion, The House of Stairs, and King Solomon’s Carpet. Reading thrillers written by an English baroness sounds like a good idea to me. (11)

As you can see, there are so many incredible women authors to choose from; I found it difficult to stop adding names to the list!

Now, by “Deep Cuts,” I mean a few things: lesser-known works by famous authors, works of suspense by authors who normally write within a different genre, or even books you might pick up without knowing what thrills lie in store.

Deep Cuts

  • Agatha Christie sometimes falls into the “cozy mystery” subgenre, thanks to her Miss Marple But And Then There Were None is a deliciously frightening work.
  • Steven King, master of horror, also writes suspense that takes place in a monster-less world. The Long Walk and The Running Man are two examples, published under pseudonym Richard Bachman. (12)
  • Dan Brown wrote tech thriller Digital Fortress before finding fame with The Da Vinci Code.
  • Herman Koch’s The Dinner finds two families deciding how to deal with their teenage sons, who have committed a violent crime, over dinner. The evening starts off civil enough, but inevitably unravels. (14)
  • Gogol, Pushkin, Tolstoy, and others shine in the lesser-known tales collected in The Greatest Russian Stories of Crime and Suspense (Otto Penzler, editor). (15)
  • Roald Dahl, beloved children’s author, wrote some truly twisted short stories for adults. I have to say, it was eye-opening to stumble upon them as a young girl!

Nothing beats a page-turner when it comes to summer reads; and I’ve certainly given you a lot to choose from here. So come to the library, check out a book, and beat the heat with a chilling tale of suspense!

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