By Ethan Mordden
"Music and ladies are the soul of musical comedy," one critic wrote, early within the Nineteen Forties. yet this used to be the age that sought after greater than melody and kickline shape its musical indicates. the shape were operating on empty for too lengthy, as a formulation for the meeting of spare parts--star comics, favourite love songs, rumba dancers, Ethel Merman. If Rodgers and Hammerstein hadn't existed, Broadway might have needed to invent them; and Oklahoma! and Carousel got here alongside simply in time to announce the hot formulation for Writing Musicals: Don't have a formula.
Instead, commence with powerful characters and surroundings: Oklahoma!'s murderous romantic triangle set opposed to a frontier society that has to profit what democracy is to be able to deserve it; or Carousel's dysfunctional relatives noticeable within the context of sophistication and gender war.
With the power and infrequently outrageous humor that Ethan Mordden's readers take without any consideration, the writer levels during the decade's classics--Pal Joey, girl at nighttime, in town, Annie Get Your Gun, Phinian's Rainbow, Brigadoon, Kiss Me, Kate, South Pacific. He additionally covers illuminating trivia--the undercover agent mystery the woman Comes throughout, whose superstar acquired so into her function that she suffered paranoid hallucinations and needed to be hospitalized; the smutty stick to the ladies, damned as "burlesque with a playbill" but last because the longest-run musical in Broadway heritage; Lute track, during which Mary Martin and Nancy Reagan have been chinese language; and the 1st "concept" musicals, Allegro and Love existence. Amid the joys, whatever progressive happens. The Nineteen Twenties created the musical and the Thirties gave it politics. within the Forties, it stumbled on its soul.
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Additional resources for Beautiful Mornin': The Broadway Musical in the 1940s
To comprehend the 1940s, especially the Rodgers and Hammerstein influence that transformed the musical within the decade, we need to see how the concept of a successful musical changed. It had been a disposable money-spinner. Now it would be a cultural essential, something that would stay with us indefinitely in its complete truth as a Broadway show. Like the Mona Lisa and Carmen, it would be eternally on view, not just "recalled" in a radio medley by Gladys Swarthout and James Melton or summer-tented.
Both, typically, were Cole Porter shows. Merman had sung Gershwin, Youmans, and Arthur Schwartz in one work each and would get to Irving Berlin twice. Porter and Merman, however, collaborated five times, because no one but he could taste so surely of her dirty grandeur, her effortless uniting of class, place, era, gender—that is, proletarian Golden-Age show-biz Big Lady glamor—just by being who she was. It's outrageously apropos: Porter the Yale man and Merman the upstart as a matched set. But they were, as he designed her entrance "I prevail" number, her loony friendship duet, her torch song, and so on; and as she worked into it so ingenuously that one wonders if she got all the double meanings.
Maybe O'Hara had never seen a musical and had no idea how limited its humanistic purview really was. In any case, he invited Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart to collaborate with him on the project, and the team, just then struggling (and failing) to discover life in that dying swan of a seal opera, Higher and Higher, agreed. George Abbott signed on to produce and direct and Robert Alton declared himself happy to choreograph—so at least four experienced musical comedy men thought the material workable.