All tagged Michael Stewart

Remembering The Grand Tour

Jerry Herman is best remembered for his splashy musical comedies, including Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. In fact, Herman often is unfairly criticized (in some circles) for his catchy, upbeat showtunes and feel-good fare. There is nothing wrong with a joyous showtune, but this generalized assessment of Herman’s work would be incorrect for two reasons. First, within his big hits, Herman wrote plenty of tender, gentle, emotionally-charged songs of subtlety like “Ribbons Down My Back”, “My Best Girl” and “Look Over There.” Second, Herman wrote just as many musicals that looked at the darker side of humanity, and though there is much joy to be found in his scores for Dear World and Mack & Mabel, there is also much sadness. The same can be said for one Herman’s most “un-Herman” musicals, the glorious, if under-appreciated, The Grand Tour. 

Best of the Broadway Book Writers

Writing the book for a Broadway musical is a craft that is fraught with landmines. It is the delicate art of creating the framework for musical storytelling, a house of cards on which to hang the songs and characters that will hopefully yield a fascinating depth and a compelling purpose. When a musical fails, the blame is often put squarely on the musical's book, yet if a show succeeds, the book writer is rarely given the credit they are due. Despite the challenges a book writer faces, there has been a handful of craftsmen who have successfully delivered first-rate books that continue to be as potent and perfect as the days these shows opened. Help me celebrate the unsung heroes of musical theatre, the most-enduring of Broadway musical book writers. 

Bye Bye Birdie Live! Why This Is an EXCELLENT Idea!

Bye Bye Birdie opened on Broadway in 1960, a time when musical theatre began to move in new, more daring, directions. Bye Bye Birdie proved to be an innovative musical that introduced the idea of rock & roll music to Broadway audiences. Yes, the Charles Strouse (music) / Lee Adams (lyrics) score is mostly traditional musical theatre, but it did include three songs that were a pastiche of Elvis Presley-like numbers. Michael Stewart’s book is one of the most finely-crafted original stories ever to be shaped for Broadway: colorful characters, a compelling situation, a touch of ridiculous farce, romance, and a happy-ever-after ending. People often underappreciate how solid the story is because it seems so simple and easy, but the cause/effect relationship between characters and their actions is extremely complicated and well-justified. Marry this complexity of storytelling to a tuneful, often witty score, and Bye Bye Birdie really needs to be acknowledged for the fine piece of musical theatre that it is

Dream Casting Dolly

With Bette Midler preparing to sashay down a grand staircase at Harmonia Gardens as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the forthcoming, 2017 revival of Hello, Dolly!, there has been much speculation about who will play her supporting cast. With a wide range of terrific character actors out there, it is fun to assemble our dream casts to support Ms. Midler as she lends her big personality and voice to the matchmaker with a heart of gold and relentless spirit. This production will be something to look forward to.

It is important to remember that Hello, Dolly! is a musical comedy and that it requires able-bodied comedic actors to pull off the farcical situations. What also needs to be kept in mind is that Bette Midler is a BIG star and that the production will need strong, larger-than-life performers to hold their own next to her dominating personality. Each character needs to be carefully cast with a unique, colorful individual who will shine in their own right. For my money, these are the people I'd love to see working with The Divine Miss M as she spins a web of comedy and romance.