Posts Tagged ‘musicals’

Worst Slide Story

May 1, 2009

Totally off-topic but thoroughly amusing: Worst Slide Story.


Road Trip

April 17, 2009

I’m heading to NYC for a few days with my son. We plan to see a Broadway show (of course), do some of the touristy things, and eat fun and exotic foods. I’m also going to drag him to the New York Public Library so I can spend time with the Billy Rose Theatre Collection. I’m hoping to find the name of at least one duo from the minstrel or vaudeville era or to find examples of people singing duets in the shows. When I return, I’m also planning to visit the Harvard Theatre Collection in the Houghton Library. They have programs from both minstrel and vaudeville shows. Ideally I would love to find descriptions of how the duos performed, but absent that, I may be able to make some extrapolations if I know what songs, what shows, what theaters, and so on. Actually I think I have a good how idea how the vaudeville acts performed from listening to numerous recordings of duets in the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Duets in Broadway shows of the 1940s and 50s

January 26, 2009

I promised this a while back. Go here for a list of the duets from the most popular of the Broadway shows of the 1940s and 50s. 

An explanation about which shows are in my list: The Internet Broadway Database reports over 150 musicals that opened on Broadway between 1950 and 1959, including revues and revivals. I have chosen only the ones that had significant runs after opening, were revived during the 1950s, or had a film adaptation during the 1950s or later. Certain less successful shows are included because the composer and/or lyricist are important figures in American music, such as Leonard Bernstein, or in American musical theater. The list is not meant to be comprehensive but rather representative of what Americans were hearing and seeing on stage and in the theater during the 1950s.

Making the connection between American musical theater and duos

January 26, 2009
Muttering to myself…
  • Vocal duets are inherently dramatic. Two voices suggests two people. The voices interact, even if they sing in unison. That interaction defines the dramatic elements and adds a layer to the interpretation of the text. 
  • Duets can be found throughout opera and other forms of musical drama but less so in other forms of vocal art music, such as lied or chanson. Duets in American popular music are directly connected, historically and paradigmatically, to musical theater. This is due in part to the fact that popular music in America, at least until the advent of rock and roll, was intertwined with musical theater–Broadway, revues, variety, vaudeville, minstrelsy.
  • Musical theater, for a long time, provided the model (as well as the material) for the musical and rhetorical structure of duets. For example, voices in alternation suggest a dialogue. If the same text is sung by both, then two viewpoints (possibly in opposition) exist. The point at which the voices join implies a connection or a reconciliation.

Pick Yourself Up

January 23, 2009

President Obama’s inauguration speech included a number of important historical and literary references or allusions, from the New Testament to Abraham Lincoln to George Washington to Dr. Martin Luther King. My personal favorite, though, was to Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. Obama’s line, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” is a sly reference to the song”Pick Yourself Up” in Swing Time, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

I wonder if his mother sang that line to him (“pick yourself, dust yourself off, and start all over again”) every time he fell or got hurt or didn’t succeed at something or had some kind of setback, as my mother did to me. All these years later, I still find myself using these lines as a mantra to get through difficult times. There are many other lines my mother would sing to us, as if all of life’s instructions could be conveyed through the hooks of songs from musical theater.

That may be the real power in America’s Broadway shows–the didactic and instructive potential through memorable textual and melodic lines.

YouTube Playlist

November 23, 2008

Click on the Videos link on the right to connect to the YouTube playlists that I am creating. Or go straight to my playlist page on YouTube.

Musicals in the 1950s

July 28, 2008

South Pacific


Music by Richard Rodgers; lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; book by Rodgers, Hammerstein and Joshua Logan

Guys and Dolls


Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser; book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

The King and I


Music by Richard Rodgers; books and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Paint Your Wagon


Music by Frederick Loewe; books and lyrics by Alan J. Lerner

Kiss Me Kate


Music and lyrics by Cole Porter

Pal Joey

Original 1940; revival 1952

Music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart



Music and lyrics by Cole Porter; book by Abe Burrows



Music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest; adapted from music by Alexander Borodin; book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis

Wonderful Town


Music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; book by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov



Music and lyrics by Harold Rome; book by S. N. Behrman and Joshua Logan

The Pajama Game


Music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross; book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell

Damn Yankees


Music by Richard Adler; lyrics by Jerry Ross; book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop

Bells Are Ringing


Music by Jule Styne; lyrics and book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green



Music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Richard Wilbur, John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Stephen Sondheim, and Leonard Bernstein; book by Lillian Hellman and Hugh Weeler

Li’l Abner


Music by Gene De Paul; lyrics by Johnny Mercer; book by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank

My Fair Lady


Music by Frederick Loewe; lyrics and book by Alan Jay Lerner


Original 1947; revival 1957

Music by Frederick Loewe; lyrics and book by Alan Jay Lerner


Original 1945; revival 1957

Music by Richard Rodgers; books and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Music Man


Book, lyrics, and music by Meredith Willson

West Side Story


Music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by Arthur Laurents



Music by Jule Styne; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by Arthur Laurents

Little Mary Sunshine


Music, lyrics, and book by Rick Besoyan

The Sound of Music


Music by Richard Rodgers; lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; book by Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse, and Maria Augusta Trapp