All in Music That Makes Me Dance
The composing team of Rodgers and Hart had more than their share of hits throughout their prolific career as composer and lyricist (respectively) writing for the musical theatre. One of their bigger successes was the 1938 musical I Married an Angel, which was adapted from a Hungarian play called Angyalt Vettem Felesegul by János Vaszary. For I Married an Angel, the duo took the responsibility for writing the show’s book, a task they traditionally (but not always) turned over to the likes of George Abbott or Herbert Fields.
The composing team of Robert Wright and George Forrest were attracted to taking the music of other composers and adapting it into scores for musicals. They did this this with the musical of Edvard Grieg for the 1944 operetta Song of Norway and the 1965 Anya which drew from the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff. This is not the say that the team merely stole the music from these composers. They wrote lyrics to the music, adjusted music where necessary, assembled it in motifs, and even wrote their own melody here and there. Their most successful venture of this kind would be the 1953 Kismet, a show that utilized the compositions of Russian composer Alexander Borodin.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber often gravitates toward writing musicals that are both family friendly and that will ignite the curiosity of the kid in us all. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cats continue to be revived, again and again, particularly for their universal appeal. And yet, perhaps the most family-friendly and imaginative of all of Webber’s musicals to date is one about anthropomorphized racing trains. I am, of course, referring to Starlight Express, which opened in London’s West End on March 27, 1984 where it ran for 7,409 performances. The musical came to Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre in 1987, and despite having the London creative team in tow, it made the journey with major revisions from its London incarnation. Starlight Express ran on Broadway for 761 performances and won a singular Tony Award for John Napier’s costume design.
An old school musical comedy that was not only a perfect star vehicle for an over-the-top leading lady, but also a fine example of a lost art of comedy filled with melody, romance, and pure joy, was the 1950 Broadway outing Call Me Madam. Starring the indelible Ethel Merman, and brimming with a parade of terrific Irving Berlin tunes, Call Me Madam may have had a corny plot, but it provided a night of carefree, escapist theatergoing.