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Musical Theatre Today

2700 F St.: Musical Theatre Today
Forget everything you thought you knew about Broadway-style shows because this performance gives you an insider’s look at modern musical theater—musical theater today.
Theater, Backstage, Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays

The Gift of Nothing

Cuesheet: The Gift of Nothing: A World Premiere Kennedy Center Commission
Mooch, a charming and curious cat, wants to get the purr-fect holiday gift for his best friend Earl, a lovable pup. But what do you get your best friend who has everything?
Animals, Musicals, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation

American Voices

KC Festival: American Voices
Here’s your opportunity to “go backstage” at the Kennedy Center and see and hear about the unique pleasures and pitfalls of classical, musical theater, jazz, gospel, country, and pop singing.
Backstage, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Opera, Jazz, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

Singer

Article: The Real Life of a Singer
A mini-course in starting a singing career
Music, Young Artists, Musicals, Jobs in the Arts, Opera, Rock & Roll

Singer

Article: What It Takes to Become a Professional Singer
So, you want to be a singer. What's next? A beginner's guide to starting a vocal career
Young Artists, Music, Jobs in the Arts, Opera, Musicals, Broadway

Singing Audition

Article: The Ins and Outs of Trying Out
Pointers for your next singing audition
Musicals, Opera, Music, Young Artists, Jobs in the Arts

Singing at Piano

Article: No Singer is an Island
Some thoughts on being a musical teamplayer
Music, Young Artists, Jobs in the Arts, Musicals, Broadway, Rock & Roll, Opera

Kathryn Bostic

Article: Q&A with Kathryn Bostic
Kathryn Bostic, music arranger for Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963, shares her thoughts on sharing stories through music and music’s central role in the Civil Rights Movement.
America, Backstage, Composers, History, Musicals, Controversial

Singing on Stage

Series: So You Want to be a Singer?
What does it really take to become a professional singer?
Young Artists, Music, Jobs in the Arts, Musicals

Young Female Singer

Article: Advice on Taking Care of Your Voice
Debunk myths about singing and learn the ABC's of how your voice works
Young Artists, Broadway, Jazz, Musicals, Opera, Rock & Roll

Martha Graham

Collection: Women in the Arts
From providing historical inspiration to preserving cultural traditions to pushing the boundaries of creativity, explore the contributions women have made and continue to make to the arts.
Dance, Dance Legends, Music Legends, Musicals, Literature, Poetry, Theater

comedy and tragedy masks

Collection: Theater Resources
Take a peek behind the red curtain and discover the artistry and history behind the world of theater. Explore the playwriting process first-hand, learn about the cultural impact of performance, and read and perform some of the most influential works of the 20th century.
America, Art Venues, Backstage, Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings!

Collection: Opera Resources
Get out your opera glasses and prepare to take a look at the history and evolution of an art form over four hundred years old. Learn how singers train and condition their voices, become familiar with some of the stage’s most tragic love affairs, and discover how theatre and music combined can tell epic stories in unforgettable ways.
Choreographers, Composers, Europe, Musicals, Orchestra, Opera, Tragedy, Theater

Stage Fright

Article: Scare Away Stage Fright
Help your child let go of performance fears
Backstage, Ballet, Broadway, Dance, Family, Musicals, Opera, Orchestra, Young Artists

A Female Singer Performing

Article: Taking Care of Your Vocal Athlete
A resource for parents of young singers with a guide to choosing the right teacher
Musicals, Music, Family, Jazz, Opera, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll

musical theater students

Article: When the Show Biz Bug Bites
Some tips to guiding your child to a life in musical theater
Musicals, Theater, Young Artists, Broadway, Music

East High School Dancers

Article: Encouraging Your Students to Become Choreographers
Use these great ideas to get your students choreographing at your school
Broadway, Choreographers, Dance, Musicals, Theater, Young Artists

South Pacific

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Adapting a Musical
This lesson explores the implications of developing a musical from a literary text or an historical event, and includes suggestions for immersing students into the creative process of building a musical.
Broadway, History, Music, Musicals, Literature

Gilded age painting

Grades 9-12 Lesson: Arts of the Gilded Age
Learn about and discuss characteristics of the Gilded Age. Using books, internet and other media, research the various fine and performing art forms popular during that time period.
Opera, Musicals, Architecture, Ballet, Music, Theater

frog prince

Grade 5 Lesson: Finding Your Own Frog Prince
Students will use a traditional tale, “The Frog Prince,” and Jon Scieszka’s variation of it, The Frog Prince Continued, to create improvised scenes and then a book for a mini-musical.
Folklore, Musicals, Popular Culture

Nobody's Perfect

Video Series: Nobody's Perfect: Page to Stage
Explore the creation of the Kennedy Center's Theater for Young Audiences and VSA Arts production of Nobody's Perfect, including how American Sign Language was incorporated into a lively musical (ASL captioning is included in every episode in this series).
Jobs in the Arts, Language, Literature, Theater, Young Artists, Backstage, Musicals, Accessibility

Stephen Schwartz

Video Series: An Evening with Stephen Schwartz
From his time at Juilliard to his grand success on Broadway, follow the path of Stephen Schwartz, the composer/lyricist of such legendary works as Godspell, Pippin, and his most recent Broadway hit, Wicked. Excerpted from the Kenndey Center event moderated by Michael Kerker, ASCAP Director of Musical Theater, this series invites you into the world of one of the American theater's most talented artists.
Theater, Music, Popular Culture, Broadway, Composers, Musicals, Backstage

Elephant and Piggie

Video Series: Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play
Explore the creative process behind the writing, music, and design of the musical Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play! This video series features clips from the performance and takes you behind the scenes to hear from author/illustrator/lyricist Mo Willems and others on the creative team.
Backstage, Musicals, Literature, Animals, Playwrights & Plays

Nobody's Perfect

Flash Interactive: Nobody's Perfect
There’s more to live theater than meets the eye, peek at backstage theater culture to meet the challenges and the collaboration of talents who to bring a script to life.
Young Artists, Theater, Music, Jobs in the Arts, Language, Backstage, Musicals

Interactive: Dancing With Gregory Hines
In this video-based interactive, Gregory Hines is your guide through the diverse and exciting history, people, and techniques of tap.
Backstage, Broadway, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, History, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals

Abraham Lincoln

Audio Series: Abraham Lincoln and Music
Abraham Lincoln was one of America's most unmusical presidents - he could neither play an instrument nor carry a tune
History, Music, Presidents, Theater, America, Opera, Musicals

Red curtain

Audio Series: Musical Theater in America
Through examples of the best that Broadway musicals have to offer, explore the history of musical theater in America; its structure and elements of a musical; musical theater's role in making social commentary, and its legacy.
Broadway, Musicals, America, Jobs in the Arts, History, Theater, Young Artists

Phantom Toolbooth cast

Audio: The Phantom Tollbooth: Page to Stage
Follow the process of bringing Norton Juster’s beloved book from the golden age of children’s literature to the stage. Commissioned by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, this world-premiere musical tells the story of Milo, who comes to realize that life is more exciting than his wildest dreams. This inventive musical features a melodious score by Arnold Black and witty lyrics full of wordplay by Pulitzer Prize and three-time Tony winner Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me).
Literature, Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Music, Backstage, Musicals

Knuffle Bunny

Audio: Knuffle Bunny: Page to Stage
Follow the process of bringing Mo Willems’s beloved children's book to the stage. Commissioned by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, this world-premiere musical tells the story of Trixie, her parents, and Trixie's favorite stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. This fun musical features an up-beat score by Michael Silversher with lyrics by Mo Willems.
Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Music, Puppets, Literature, Musicals, Backstage

Willie from Blues Journey

Audio: Blues Journey: Page to Stage
Join playwright Jerome Hairson and director Scot Reese as they bring the story of Blues Journey from page to stage, developing the original book of blues lyrics into a fully realized play, rich with musical performances. Blues Journey follows the life of a blues performer as he learns to play, finds fame, and witnesses the blues evolve into rock-and-roll in this world premiere Kennedy Center original production based on the children's book by Walter Dean Myers.
Blues, Music, Theater, Jobs in the Arts, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Musicals, Backstage

Musical theater kids

Audio: Write Your Own Musical
Heather Nathans, Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Maryland, is joined by Joe Stein and Sheldon Harnick (writers of Fiddler on the Roof) and Stephen Schwartz (who wrote Pippin, Godspell, and Wicked) to talk about how a musical gets written.
America, Art Venues, Backstage, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater, Young Artists

Lion King on Broadway

Audio: Disney Musicals
In an odd turn, the Broadway musical - exported by Walt Disney to cartoons in the 1930s - was returned to Broadway by Disney in the 1990s.
Broadway, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Musicals, Theater, Popular Culture

arts quote

Arts Quotes: E.Y. Harbug
"Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought."
Broadway, Musicals, Music

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Oscar Hammerstein
"All the sounds of the earth are like music."
Broadway, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Theater

Jerome Robbins instructing

Arts Days: October 11, 1918: Where Broadway Meets Ballet
The man born Jerome Rabinowitz infused 20th-century choreography with a uniquely American flavor. The work he did for ballets like Fancy Free displayed his penchant for freely mixing elements of many different types of dance: jazz, ballet, modern, and folk.

That creativity was burnished by Robbins’ work on a string of legendary Broadway musicals, from West Side Story to Fiddler on the Roof and Gypsy. A 1981 Kennedy Center Honor recipient, Robbins balanced his theatrical projects with ballet choreography throughout his career. With his dancing feet planted firmly in both camps, it’s no surprise Robbins won Tony Awards®, Academy Awards®, and served as ballet master of the New York City Ballet in the 1970s.
Musicals, Ballet, Dance, Choreographers, Dance Legends, Innovators & Pioneers

Fiddler on the Roof

Arts Days: September 22, 1964: Mazel Tov! It’s a Hit!
It was just a simple story of a Russian Jew with five daughters, based on a book by Joseph Stein. But thanks to Jerry Bock’s music, Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, and Zero Mostel’s unforgettable turn as Tevye the milkman, Fiddler on the Roof became one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. Tevye tries hard to preserve the traditions of his childhood, but as his daughters grow up, fall in love, and leave the family’s village, he struggles to accept change.

In songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” Tevye’s family’s life is recounted with both hilarity and poignancy. Fiddler would go on to be the first musical to break the 3,000-performance mark on Broadway.
Broadway, Musicals, Europe, Folklore, History, Theater, World Cultures

Agnes De Mille

Arts Days: September 18, 1905: Dance Queen of Broadway
Her father William and her uncle Cecil were both big-shot Hollywood directors, so perhaps it was genetic that Agnes de Mille sought a life in the arts. She studied piano, considered acting and took dance lessons, and choreographed big dance sequences for movies like Cleopatra and ballets including the sensational Rodeo (which received 22 curtain calls). Yet it was as a choreographer for the theatrical stage that de Mille really found her calling.

The dance routines she created were anything but routine. Musicals like Carousel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and especially Oklahoma! revolutionized musical theater by the way de Mille incorporated her choreography right into the plot, further rounding out characters’ personalities, and blending folk dance with ballet.
Backstage, Broadway, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Musicals, Theater

A Chorus Line

Arts Days: September 27, 1983: One Singular Sensation
There are 17 of them up on the bare stage—chorus dancers, known as “gypsies” in musical theater lingo. They audition, then wait, wait some more…most are sent home empty-handed. This trying experience was captured by a young dancer/choreographer (and former gypsy) named Michael Bennett. Bennett took the audition process and added a slew of talented singer/dancer hopefuls and a fabulous score by Marvin Hamlisch.

The show’s minimal sets and costumes kept the audience’s focus right where it should be: on the singing and the dancing as each character sings and shares his or her story about how they wound up at the audition. Sometimes funny, always moving, the show’s cinema-like staging includes jumps from one character to another, stage dissolves, and close-ups.
Broadway, Musicals, Art Venues, Theater

West Side Story

Arts Days: September 26, 1957: Tonight, Tonight
Behind the hit musical about the rival white “Jets” and the Puerto Rican “Sharks” is an updated, urban retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The inspiration and innovation was provided by a boatload of talent; Stephen Sondheim wrote the sophisticated lyrics, Leonard Bernstein the historic music.

Jerome Robbins directed and choreographed the revolutionary dance sequences like the Shark Girls’ exuberant “America” and the Jets’ “Cool.” Audiences saw how violent gang warfare shattered the dreams of star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony. The musical drew big crowds, shocking them all with the death of two young men at the end of Act One and of Tony at the close of the play. As stunned viewers exited the theater, few doubted the universality of Shakespeare’s love story.
Broadway, Musicals, America, Choreographers, Composers, Controversial, Playwrights & Plays, Shakespeare, Popular Culture

The John F. Kennedy Center

Arts Days: September 08, 1971: America’s Home for the Arts
In 1958, President Eisenhower signed legislation to build a national cultural center in Washington, D.C. Yet in the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Congress decided that the center would be a “living memorial” to our 35th president, who had worked tirelessly to elevate the role of the arts in America.

Opening night saw the debut performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, written in memory of the fallen president; other performers included the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Berkshire Boys Choir. Since that night, the Center has welcomed and entertained millions as the finest performers from around the globe have graced its multiple stages. In addition, its Education Department touches more than 11 million young people, teachers, and parents each year.
Architecture, Art Venues, Backstage, Ballet, Choreographers, Composers, Dance, Dance Legends, America, Innovators & Pioneers, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Opera, Theater

Gene Kelly

Arts Days: August 23, 1912: Dancing Up a Storm
Dancer, actor, choreographer, boyishly handsome good guy—that was Gene Kelly, the fellow who bought a one-way ticket to New York City when he was a young man and soon landed a Broadway lead.

Kelly pushed for Hollywood to make more musicals and wound up dominating the musical revival in the 1940s and 50s. In timeless movies like Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, Kelly’s elegant dancing stole the show.

He made it look so easy, yet his dancing demanded great strength, technical skill, and expression. In his choreography and in his performances, he melded everything from classical ballet to jazz to athletic prowess to tap dancing. And by the way, he could sing, too.
America, Choreographers, Dance, Dance Legends, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars

Leonard Bernstein

Arts Days: August 25, 1918: Bernstein’s Bold Baton
You might find it odd that Leonard Bernstein was the first American-born and trained music director of the New York Philharmonic. But historically speaking, he was also the first American classical music conductor to earn worldwide acclaim.

Bernstein, who was awarded Kennedy Center Honors in 1980, was applauded for his ability to convey all the facets of a composer’s music and its meaning when he was conducting—or when he was teaching at his Young People’s Concerts. He also wrote orchestral pieces, ballet scores, choral and chamber music, the score for the film On the Waterfront; and of course, the music for Broadway’s Candide and West Side Story.

Held in extremely high regard by musical colleagues, Bernstein’s passion and intensity for conducting, writing, and playing music never ebbed over his lengthy career.
America, Composers, Broadway, Music, Music Legends, Musicals, Orchestra

Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz

Arts Days: August 15, 1939: The Great and Powerful Oz
The Wizard of Oz, based on a book by L. Frank Baum, is one of the most spectacular fantasy musicals Hollywood ever generated. Surely the audience gasped in delight when Dorothy opened the door of her twister-flung farmhouse for her first peek at Oz and the black-and-white image erupted into glorious Technicolor.

Between the antics of the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man; the green fury of the Wicked Witch of the West; and the bluster of the Wizard himself before he is revealed as a fake, there is much to savor about this gem of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The film went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards.®
Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Popular Culture

Giacomo Puccini

Arts Days: December 22, 1858: For the Love of Opera
Are you surprised to learn that Giacomo Puccini was the latest in a long line of musicians in his family? For a while, he served as a church organist and choirmaster, but then he happened to enjoy a night at the opera: Verdi’s opera, Aida. Puccini was so inspired by what he heard and saw that he decided he, too, would compose operas.

He went on to create some of the world’s best-known ones, from La Boheme to Turandot. Over the next decade or so, Puccini composed what were arguably his three most successful operas in a row—Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and La Boheme. Influenced by composers from Verdi to Richard Wagner, Puccini’s operas contain scores of passionate beauty and intensity.
Composers, Opera, Music Legends, Music, Musicals, Europe

Scene from Aida

Arts Days: December 24, 1871: Love on the Nile
One of Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest operas, Aida, made its debut in Cairo, Egypt at the Khedivial Opera House. Why there? Well, an Egyptian prince named Ismail Pasha had commissioned Verdi to write the opera in the first place, paying him 150,000 francs to do so—equivalent to about $32,000 today.

Verdi composed the music for the story of Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is enslaved in Egypt, and her star-crossed relationship with Radames, an Egyptian soldier. Interestingly, Verdi was miffed that no members of the general public were in attendance at this premiere, so he considered the performance in Milan, Italy, the following year to be its true debut.
Musicals, Opera, Africa, Composers, Music, Folklore

Lillian Russell

Arts Days: November 22, 1880: Broadway’s Beauty
In the late 1870s, 18-year-old Helen Louise Leonard arrived in New York City in the hopes of becoming an opera star. After a bit role in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, the beautiful blonde singer was discovered by theatre owner Tony Pastor. He changed her name and introduced her on opening night as “Lillian Russell, the English Ballad Singer.”

Russell’s gorgeous soprano and voluptuous figure earned her the nickname “America’s Beauty,” and she kept the press busy with her penchant for living life to the fullest. Russell starred in more than 24 musical comedies, many of which were written expressly for her. While none of her musicals are performed today, Lillian Russell is still remembered as one of the early 20th century’s most important Broadway stars.
Broadway, Theater, America, Musicals, Opera, Music Legends, Music

Le Chat Noir

Arts Days: November 18, 1881: Come to the Cabaret
Today you think of these clubs as famous nightspots where celebrities like to hang out in Hollywood or New York. But back in Paris in the late 19th century, they were referred to as cabarets, and Le Chat Noir was perhaps the most legendary. Located in Paris’ fashionable, bohemian Montmartre neighborhood, Le Chat Noir, or “The Black Cat,” was envisioned by owner Rodolphe Salis as part nightclub, part salon.

Seated at crowded tables were well-known Parisian celebrities and their artist associates from around the world. On any given night, you could rub elbows with painter Pablo Picasso, composer Claude Debussy, or perhaps Jane Avril, the can-can dancer whom Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized in several paintings. They and countless others would talk, drink, flirt, and enjoy live performances. The party lasted until 1897, when the place closed up shop.
Art Venues, Europe, Popular Culture, Musicals

George Bernard Shaw

Arts Days: July 26, 1856: Voice of the People
Hmmm… could the fact that George Bernard Shaw started out as a newspaper arts critic have something to do with his interest in expressing his political and philosophical opinions freely?

In his 60 some plays, Shaw always found a way to criticize social mores by poking holes in the conventions of 19th century life. Pygmalion, upon which the smash Broadway musical My Fair Lady would later be based, examines class differences, while Major Barbara considers whether it is right to use money earned from the sales of weapons for charitable purposes.

Some of these satirical themes generated controversy among early theatergoers, but Shaw didn’t care. “My way of joking is to tell the truth,” he once said. Shaw’s “joking” earned him both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay for My Fair Lady.
Literature, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Theater

George Cohan

Arts Days: July 03, 1878: Yankee Doodle Cohan
Though documents tell us otherwise, George Cohan insisted all his life that he was actually born on the Fourth of July—better to tie into the spirited patriotic songs he wrote like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

No matter what day he was really born, Cohan’s singing and dancing legacy began at a young age when he and his family cavorted around the nation on the vaudeville circuit. In his teens, he was churning out musical comedies in which music and dance advanced the plot in some way—a new way of writing a play and a source of many of his Tin Pan Alley hits.

Few performers on the Broadway stage made a greater mark than Cohan on the history of musical comedy.
Composers, Musicals, America, Broadway, Music, Music Legends

Arthur Laurents

Arts Days: July 14, 1918: From Brooklyn to Broadway
Arthur Laurents, the playwright and lyricist who wrote the book for West Side Story, one of the world’s most beloved musicals, had another source in mind when he conceived of the tragic tale of Maria and Tony. He was thinking of Shakespeare and his play, Romeo and Juliet, and this pair of lovers whose family conflicts stand in the way of their feelings for one another.

Though the theme wasn’t new, Laurents set his characters’ love affair in an urban setting, with rival gangs standing in for the families Shakespeare had put at odds. Laurents worked closely with composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim to create the Broadway version of West Side Story.
Broadway, Playwrights & Plays, Musicals, Theater, Shakespeare

Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Stephen Sondheim

Arts Days: March 22, 1930 and 1948: Two of a Kind
If you displayed the pages of music written by these two legendary Broadway composers who share a birthday, it would stretch around the block many times over—sort of like the crowds standing in line at their shows. Sondheim’s brought us Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, and Sunday in the Park with George, among others. He also wrote the breakthrough lyrics for West Side Story, which premiered in 1957 and marked his big break.

For his part, Lloyd Webber has no less musical theater credentials. In Cats and Phantom of the Opera, his songs “Memory” and “The Music of the Night,”  plus “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, showcase Webber’s standard composing style, which melds together elements of rock, jazz, pop, and classical music.
Broadway, Musicals, Playwrights & Plays, Composers, Theater

John Kander

Arts Days: March 18, 1927: Razzmatazz On Broadway
Along with lyricist Fred Ebb, the composer John Kander created some of the most memorable tunes you’ll ever hum. Like “New York, New York”—Kander came up with that unforgettable melody and Ebb added the words. The men also collaborated on the musicals Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and others. Together they understood the conventions of musical theater better than just about anyone.

But it wasn’t always that way. Kander wrote the music for a show called A Family Affair in 1962. Kander clicked with the show’s producer Harold Prince, who thought he was a terrific musician and hired him and Ebb to write the music and lyrics for Flora, the Red Menace. In 1966, their work on Cabaret led to the Tony Award® for Best Musical. For nearly five decades, Kander and Ebb were the longest running musical/lyricist partnership in Broadway history.
Backstage, Broadway, Composers, Music, Musicals, Music Legends, Theater

The King and I

Arts Days: March 29, 1951: Culture Clash
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had collaborated on five other musicals, including The Sound of Music, by the time they turned out the words and music for The King and I. The musical starred Gertrude Lawrence as Anna, an Englishwoman hired by the King of Siam (today we call it Thailand), to teach reading, writing, and speaking English—to his children.

King Mongkut was played by Yul Brynner, a Russian actor who shaved his head for the stage role. Tackling a range of complex issues, from cultural clashes to gender roles, The King and I included the well-known “Getting to Know You,” a touching song about making new friends. The show ultimately went on to win the Tony Award® for Best Musical.
Broadway, Musicals, Theater, Popular Culture

Vaudeville Theatre

Arts Days: February 28, 1883: Make ’em Laugh, Make ’em Cry
Vaudeville was a type of variety show with a bunch of back-to-back quick skits: A singing, tap-dancing man up first, then a dog riding a bike, then a few folks doing a comedy routine. And on and on for hours. If you could spin plates, sing well, or imitate various animal sounds, you, too, might have wanted to jump up on stage!

At its peak, thousands and thousands of performers worked the vaudeville circuit—a series of shows held at venues around North America. With everything from Yiddish theater to minstrel shows and contortionists to jugglers on the bill, vaudeville showcased the cultural diversity of 20th century America.

But vaudeville could not compete with the “moving picture show”—the form of entertainment we now call movies. Vaudeville shows went into a steep decline as movies became more popular.
America, Art Venues, Musicals, Theater, Comedy

Minstrel show

Arts Days: February 06, 1843: Minstrel Stage Debut
As a uniquely American form of musical entertainment in the 19th century, minstrel shows would shock most people today for the racist caricatures they exploited. White performers uses burnt cork to darken their faces and hands, mocked black people as lazy and ignorant, and, pretending to be slaves working for white masters, danced and sang songs about life on the plantation.

On this day, at the Bowery Theater, the Virginia Minstrels—four performers led by Dan Emmett—performed what’s considered to have been the first full-length minstrel show, or “minstrelsy."
Controversial, Theater, Musicals, America

High School Musical

Arts Days: January 20, 2006: Musical Theater’s Comeback
Sad but true, in a movie age of stunning special effects and computer animation, the days of musical theater seemed to take a back seat.

That is until the jump start sparked by Disney's original television film High School Musical, a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that tells the story of Troy and Gabriella–two high school juniors from rival cliques that audition together for the high school musical.

The film premiered on this day in 2006 and since then has become a phenomenal sensation around the world.
Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Television, Popular Culture, Young Artists

Harold Prince

Arts Days: January 30, 1928: Theater Royalty is Born
Harold Prince, American theater producer and director, is associated with many of the best known Broadway musicals of the 20th century.

Born on this day in New York, NY, Prince landed his first job out of college in the office of legendary theater mogul George Abbott. Under Abbott's guidance, he learned the craft of creating original musical theater productions.

Prince co-produced a number of popular musicals in the 1950s and 60s including The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Cabaret. In the 1970s, he met composer Stephen Sondheim and almost exclusively produced all of Sondheim's musicals.

In 1976, Prince directed his first of many operas for the New York City Opera. Since then he has directed two of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals, Evita and The Phantom of the Opera. Prince has received 21 Tony Awards, more than any other individual, for his work as both a producer and director.
Broadway, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals, Theater

Evita

Arts Days: January 10, 1996: Evita Hits the Big Screen
Casting catastrophe and celebrity coup? The film adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1978 Broadway musical Evita stars pop music singer Madonna and Spanish actor and singer Antonio Banderas. The story traces the life of Eva Perón, beloved Argentinean first lady and spiritual leader.

Prior to the film’s release, critics were skeptical of the casting, unsure if Madonna was best suited for the lead role. Evita, however, was warmly received and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.
Broadway, Controversial, Movies & Movie Stars, Musicals, Latin America, Popular Culture

Mel Brooks

Arts Days: June 28, 1926: Blazing Laughter
He acts. He directs. He writes movies and songs. And he makes us laugh!

Mel Brooks is one of the funniest, most versatile fellows ever to grace a movie screen or write a tune. The shows he’s created, like The Producers and TV’s Get Smart series parodies everything from Adolf Hitler—yes, Hitler—to TV detective shows to scary movies. Brooks’s longtime creative partnership with actor Gene Wilder paved the way for some of his most popular comedies including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

Most importantly, Brooks used satire to push comedy a little bit further than anybody had before, sometimes leaving audiences a little bit shocked—but always laughing.
Broadway, Comedy, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars

Oliver

Arts Days: June 30, 1960: The Boy Who Asked for More
Drawing on themes and characters Charles Dickens created in his 1838 novel Oliver Twist, composer Lionel Bart wrote the words and music to a stage version of the story, which he called Oliver!

Dickens’s book was about Oliver, a lonely orphan boy, the adults who abused him with too much work and too little compassion, and a few kind people he meets along the way. Despite the serious subject matter, the infectious melodies of songs like Food, Glorious Food and Consider Yourself became lodged in listeners’ memories. In fact, Oliver’s modest request for more porridge—“Please sir, I want some more”—became one of the best-known lines to go straight from Dickens’s pen to Bart’s libretto.

Ultimately, Oliver’s happy escape from a cruel life to a happy one with his long-lost grandfather, delighted audiences.
Broadway, Musicals, Theater, Literature

The Musical Grease!

Arts Days: June 07, 1972: Grease is the Word
Nobody thought that a musical about a bunch of working-class 1950s high school kids known as “greasers”—obsessed with fast cars, rock and roll, and each other—would go on to shatter Broadway records for the longest-running show. But it did and 3,388 performances later, Grease was still the word on everyone’s lips. Audiences followed the antics of a cute couple named Danny and Sandy and their pals as they sang and danced through summer-fling memories, teenage disappointments, and promises of eternal friendship.

The play, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, was loosely based on their own high school experiences and touched on some hard-hitting themes like gang rivalry and teenage pregnancy. But it was the music that had audiences dancing in the aisles and lining up to buy tickets year after year.
Broadway, Musicals, Popular Culture, Rock & Roll, Theater

Cole Porter

Arts Days: June 09, 1891: The Great American Song Man
Composer/lyricist Cole Porter was playing violin by age six and the piano just two years later. He preferred the piano, and good thing, too. Some of the most sophisticated melodies and wittiest pop standards ever written came from Porter’s genius at the keys, everything from “Night and Day,” and “Begin the Beguine,” to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,”—songs that have been recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Fred Astaire. Oh, and there were the musical comedy shows he created, too, such as Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes, shows that are staged in theaters all over the world still today.

Porter was also one of the authors of “The Great American Songbook,” the body of musical works created for Broadway shows and musical theater between the 1920s and the 60s.
America, Composers, Music, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Musicals

Judy Garland

Arts Days: June 10, 1942: A Star Is Born
At 13, singer/actress Judy Garland was signed to the MGM Studios—a bit old for a child star, but still on the young side for adult roles. But a series of movies with Mickey Rooney, such as Love Finds Andy Hardy, helped the studio find the right place for the teen, who shot to worldwide superstardom in the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will always be identified with Garland.)

Her fans loved her voice so much that any movie in which she didn’t sing was pretty much guaranteed to disappoint at the box office. On the other hand, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Harvey Girls, filled with memorable songs, were big hits. Garland is still considered one of the greatest vocal interpreters of the 20th century.
Movies & Movie Stars, America, Music Legends, Musicals, Music, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Shuffle Along

May 23: May 23, 1921: Breaking Broadway’s Barriers
The early 20th century ragtime and jazz musicians Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle had a major hit on their hands when they co-wrote Shuffle Along, the first major Broadway musical by, for, and about African Americans. All told, the show ran for more than 500 performances. It played in Washington, D.C. and other locales before lighting up Broadway, where police were assigned on show nights to help ease traffic congestion.

Shuffle Along also made stars of dancers like Josephine Baker and singers like Paul Robeson. Many songs became popular hits. But by today’s standards, some aspects of Shuffle Along are offensive. For example, though the actors were all African American, they applied makeup to their faces to darken them further, and borrowed stock characters from minstrel shows. As the show’s popularity spread by word of mouth, the audiences were filled with black and white theater patrons alike.
Broadway, Innovators & Pioneers, Musicals, Jazz, Controversial, Theater

Rajaharischandra

Arts Days: May 03, 1913: Hooray for Bollywood
“Bollywood” is a catchy term for the Hindi-language film industry featuring big dance numbers, lots of emotion, and many attractive actors. The nickname is a play on the words “Hollywood” and “Bombay,” a city in India now known as Mumbai, where most filming takes place.

When Raja Harishchandra premiered on this day, crowds flocked to see the film about an Indian king who sacrifices his kingdom and family in honor of a wise man named Vishvamitra. The silent movie was such a smash that more copies had to be printed. Overnight, the Bollywood phenomenon was born.

Today’s Bollywood movies typically run for two or three hours; are filled with song and dance; tell interwoven stories about boys and girls falling in love; and almost always have a happy ending. Many have become hits around the world. Outside of India, the highest-grossing Bollywood film to date has been Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, filmed in New York City, of all places.


India, Musicals, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, World Cultures

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