Remembering Grind

An eagerly anticipated musical of the 1984-1985 Broadway season was Grind, set to be Harold Prince’s big project of the time, but ultimately part of a sequence of lulls in what was an otherwise prolific career of genius and artistry. Grind was an edgy musical that depicted the harsh divide between races in burlesque theatre of Chicago in the 1930s. With a book by Fay Kanin, and a score by Larry Grossman (music) and Ellen Fitzhugh (lyrics), Grind was an ambitious piece of musical theatre that had a hard time settling into what it wanted to be. Sometimes, it played like a broad comedy, sometimes it felt as though it was aiming for serious drama, and the show-within-a-show moments often left audiences feeling like they were watching a musical revue, even when those numbers were making commentary about what was happening onstage. Still, there was something special about Grind sometimes did work, and much of that came from just how daring it set out to be. 

Murder on Broadway! Broadway’s Murder and Mystery Musicals

I don’t know why, but I have murder and mystery on the mind lately and it got me thinking about Broadway musicals that have these two intriguing elements central to their makeup. Though the murder mystery musical hasn’t exactly been a regular item among Broadway musicals, there certainly have been occasional attempts over the years. Some of these have been enormous successes, others have been resounding flops, but each has been a unique stab at trying to kill within this compelling genre. Today, we look at some of these musicals. 

Remembering Hazel Flagg

Helen Gallagher is an actress who came very close to being one of Broadway musicals’ biggest stars, on a par with Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, or Gwen Verdon. Always one of the standout supporting players in such musicals as High Button Shoes, Make A Wish, and Pal Joey, for which she won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. It was inevitable that she would ultimately land a starring role in a Broadway musical that would launch her career into the stratosphere where it belonged. That vehicle, for all intents and purposes, should have been the 1953 musical Hazel Flagg wherein Gallagher played the title character.

Remembering King of Hearts

When I was in college in the 1990s, my favorite course was The History of the American Musical Theatre. The stories, the evolution of the form, the music, the musicals themselves all played into the interests I had been cultivating for years, listening to cast albums and reading librettos checked out of the local library. I adored this class so much, in fact, that I took it four times, once as a for-credit class within my major, and three other times as an independent study. With each round, the professor catered my experience so that I would hopefully learn something new and not just repeat old material. On round three, he chose musical theatre flops to be my focus. As the class explored musical theatre by the decade, I would study the flops of the same period, often going to the college library and finding old theatre reviews bound in these enormous binders. When we started on the 1970s, this is when I happened upon a show I hadn’t heard of, a charming piece of musical theatre that, although imperfect in so many ways, had little  bursts of brilliance. That musical was King of Hearts