All in Music That Makes Me Dance
The Broadway composing team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick were behind some of Broadway’s most beloved musical scores, having crafted the character-driven showtunes for musicals such as The Apple Tree, She Loves Me, and the most well-known of their masterpieces, Fiddler on the Roof. Even when one of their shows had trouble catching on with audiences and the critics, the score was always a first-rate example of their craftmanship and their ability to capture humanity with melody and whimsical wordplay. This was the case with the 1960 Tenderloin, the follow-up to their Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello!, with which the musical is often compared due to many similarities in theme and style.
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.