Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim

Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim

Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim

Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim

Synopsis

The classic musicals of Broadway can provide us with truly enchanted evenings. But while many of us can hum the music and even recount the plot from memory, we are often much less knowledgeable about how these great shows were put together. What was the inspiration for Rodgers and Harts Pal Joey, or Rodgers and Hammersteins Carousel? Why is Marias impassioned final speech in West Side Story spoken, rather than sung? Now, in Enchanted Evenings, Geoffrey Block offers theatre lovers an illuminating behind-the- scenes tour of some of the best loved, most admired, and most enduring musicals of Broadways Golden Era. Readers will find insightful studies of such all-time favorites as Show Boat, Anything Goes, Porgy and Bess, Carousel, Kiss Me, Kate, Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story. Block provides a documentary history of fourteen musicals in all--plus an epilogue exploring the plays of Stephen Sondheim--showing how each work took shape and revealing, at the same time, production by production, how the American musical evolved from the 1920s to the early 1960s, and beyond. The book's particular focus is on the music, offering a wealth of detail about how librettist, lyricist, composer, and director work together to shape the piece. Drawing on manuscript material such as musical sketches, autograph manuscripts, pre-production librettos and lyric drafts, Block reveals the winding route the works took to get to their final form. Block blends this close attention to the nuances of musical composition and stagecraft with trenchant social commentary and lively backstage anecdotes. Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Kurt Weill, Frank Loesser, Leonard Bernstein, Sondheim, and other luminaries emerge as hardworking craftsmen under enormous pressure to sell tickets without compromising their dramatic vision and integrity. Opening night reviews and accounts of critical and popular response to subsequent revivals show how particular musicals have adapted to changing times and changing audiences, shedding light on why many of these innovative shows are still performed in high schools, colleges, and community theaters across the country, while others, such as Weills One Touch of Venus or Marc Blitzsteins The Cradle Will Rock, languish in comparative obscurity. Packed with information, including a complete discography and plot synopses and song-by-song scenic outlines for each of the fourteen shows, Enchanted Evenings is an essential reference as well as a riveting history. It will deepen readersappreciation and enjoyment of these beloved musicals even as it delights both the seasoned theater goer and the neophyte encountering the magic of Broadway for the first time.

Excerpt

In many ways the preparation of this book brings me back to my childhood, where Rodgers and Hammerstein as well as Bach and Beethoven were frequent and compatible visitors. I cannot remember a time when my father, a professional jazz violinist and part-time lawyer (before he metamorphosed into a full-time attorney and part-time classical violinist), was not playing Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" on the piano, invariably in the key of Eā™­. Like many Americans in the 1950s, our family record library included the heavy shellac 78 R.P.M. boxed album of South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza and the lighter 33 R.P.M. cast album of Carousel with Jan Clayton and John Raitt. A major event was the arrival of Rodgers andHammerstein Oklahoma! and South Pacific in their newly released film versions. Keeping in tune with Rodgers and Hammerstein mania, I played every note and memorized many words of the songs contained in The Rodgers and Hammerstein Song Book and read Hammerstein's librettos in the (then) readily obtainable Modern Library edition of Six Plays by Rodgers & Hammerstein.

My family was one of the eighteen million to purchase the cast album of My Fair Lady, and my sister quickly mastered the dialect and memorized the lyrics for all the roles. With the dawn of the stereo era in the late 1950s, we purchased The Music Man to test out our new portable KLH record player. My parents, transplanted New Yorkers who settled near San Fran-

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