Broadway Musical Musings: Broadway Musical Poster Art - Revisited
A few years ago, I wrote a piece on Broadway poster art, an assessment of the ten most effective posters that advertised their products well. It turns out that this has been one of the most popular articles to run in my blog. It appears that my readership is as excited about this topic as I am.
Since the piece's popularity continues to astound me, I decided to write a part 2. For this round, I am assessing poster art that may or may not be effective, but is so stunningly gorgeous that its effectiveness is irrelevant. The poster is a stunning piece of art.
Top-Ten Gorgeous Poster Art Designs for Broadway Musicals:
The Secret Garden
Though it was hard to decipher at a distance, the closer you got to The Secret Garden poster, the more opulent it clearly was. The picture was a decoupage of sorts, a conglomeration of the rich imagery from musical: lush flowers, a bird and a cobra, images of ghosts, a secret key. It's really quite evocative, especially with its fanned-out design and bright colors contrasted against a dark backdrop.
How beautiful is this impressionist-inspired portrait of Huck Finn and the runaway slave Jim as they float down the river on the raft? The way the characters’ bodies reflect solemnly poised in the water and the way the river almost disappears into the sky, as if it's churning foam to create frothy clouds, is simply stunning. The Big River art work a lovely way to capture the spirit and epic scope of the Mark Twain classic.
The Light in the Piazza
The contrast of light and shadow that so perfectly captures the city of Florence is deftly conveyed in the poster art for The Light in the Piazza. The impressionistic drawing of a young woman on vacation, her hat blowing in the direction of a handsome young man who may be her last hope for love, breathes with a vacationer's anonymity, curiosity and loneliness. The need to escape is both palpable and a touch melancholy. There is a lot of emotion packed into this picture which sums up all of the complex nuances of this unique stage piece. You can almost hear Adam Guettel’s sweeping score playing in the distance as you stand mesmerized by this poster.
Me and Juliet
There is little affection in the world for this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that is the story of an acting company putting on a stage production. A few great songs aside, Me and Juliet has little else to offer other than its very intricate poster design. The art is very detailed; the show's title is carried by cartoon drawings of stage hands. There are characters in all areas of the theatre, from the lighting coves to the dressing rooms. The drawing captures the organized chaos of theatre. For anyone who has ever been backstage at a play or musical, this is all familiar territory. It’s a loving tribute to behind-the-scenes imagery of a professional stage show.
Meet Me in St. Louis
The Broadway production of Meet Me in St. Louis may have been, by many standards, overblown and overproduced. That being said, the poster that accompanied the production was a perfect capturing of the musical's spirit and nostalgia. A boy and a girl in Victorian garb, most-likely in love, suspended in air, their bodies bending to shape a heart around the show's title. At their feet, a little girl daydreams as the World Fair, and the trolley that brings you there, are both colorfully alive in the background. This slice of Americana feels inviting and familiar.
Expressionistic and impressionistic, inspired by French painters, the poster for Dear World is both mysterious and playful. The Countess, also know as a madwoman, peers mischievously over her hands and into the eyes of the viewer. It's a hypnotic poster that gets more and more effective, the longer you stare into her eyes, which, belonging to the great Angela Lansbury, make them all the more bewitching.
My Fair Lady
The Hirschfeld drawing is legendary: a caricature of George Bernard Shaw on high, manipulating a puppet of Professor Henry Higgins who is, himself, manipulating a puppet of Eliza Doolittle. It's a sophisticated and telling image, intelligent and clever. This My Fair Lady art work is so iconic that it became a topic of discussion about the homosexual’s image of God in the Paul Rudnick play Jeffrey. I like to believe that God is whimsical enough to imagine My Fair Lady.
A Little Night Music
Startlingly intricate and just a touch naughty, the poster for the original production of A Little Night Music really requires the viewer to spend some time looking at it up close and personal. At first glance one would see the silhouette of a tree contrasted again the moon hanging in the night sky. Upon closer inspection, one finds the tree branches twisting and turning into a collage of naked lovers reveling in their carnal desires.
On the Twentieth Century
Art Deco style played a big part in setting the mood and tone of the original Broadway production of On the Twentieth Century. That art and architecture movement carried over into the show's poster, a stylized drawing of the elegant and kooky characters boarding the 20th Century, Limited luxury locomotive. The poster, rich in detail, deserves close inspection because a quick glance will never afford you enough time to absorb it all.
Show Boat (1994 Revival)
The 1994 revival of Show Boat was a pageant of seamless resplendence, right down to its ornate poster art. As a riverboat rolls off into a fiery sunset, onlookers stand on the dock and wave them off. The picture is in the style of Currier and Ives print, rich in intricate detail and brimming with history and emotional grandeur. What a perfect way to capture one of America’s greatest musicals, and one of such importance in the evolution of the musical theatre.