All tagged Michael Stewart

Remembering I Love My Wife

Some musical are period pieces, written with the intention of telling a story in another and place. Other musicals are written as contemporary stories, starting out relevant and feeling edgy and new, only to become dated quickly. Their shelf-life is short for the reason that times change, attitudes change, vernacular changes, and what is relevant today could be irrelevant tomorrow. One musical that enjoyed popularity when it opened in the `1970s, but that hasn’t exactly held up against the test of time is I Love My Wife

Remembering Barnum

Long before there was a film called The Greatest Showman, Broadway had its own musical version of the life of P.T. Barnum. This show, simply called Barnum, featured a score with music by Cy Coleman (Sweet CharityCity of Angels), lyrics by Michael Stewart (I Love My Wife) and a book by Mark Bramble (42ndStreet). Using the three-ring circus as the conceit for telling Barnum’s rise to fame as the King of Flim-Flam, much in the way Cabaret was set within a cabaret and Chicago within the confines of a vaudeville show, Barnum utilized its setting as a metaphor the risks that come with becoming a success, walking that proverbial tightrope known as “life”. 

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.