By Ethan Mordden
"Music and ladies are the soul of musical comedy," one critic wrote, early within the Forties. yet this used to be the age that sought after greater than melody and kickline shape its musical indicates. the shape have been operating on empty for too lengthy, as a formulation for the meeting of spare parts--star comics, general love songs, rumba dancers, Ethel Merman. If Rodgers and Hammerstein hadn't existed, Broadway could 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, begin with powerful characters and surroundings: Oklahoma!'s murderous romantic triangle set opposed to a frontier society that has to profit what democracy is on the way to deserve it; or Carousel's dysfunctional kinfolk visible within the context of sophistication and gender war.
With the power and sometimes outrageous humor that Ethan Mordden's readers take with no consideration, the writer levels in the course of the decade's classics--Pal Joey, woman in the dead of night, 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 megastar received so into her position that she suffered paranoid hallucinations and needed to be hospitalized; the smutty persist with the women, damned as "burlesque with a playbill" but final because the longest-run musical in Broadway historical past; Lute track, within which Mary Martin and Nancy Reagan have been chinese language; and the 1st "concept" musicals, Allegro and Love existence. Amid the thrill, whatever innovative happens. The Nineteen Twenties created the musical and the Thirties gave it politics. within the Nineteen Forties, it came across its soul.
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Additional info for Beautiful Mornin': The Broadway Musical in the 1940s
Ziegfeld had put Show Boat on in 1932, three years after the original had closed; but that was a remounting of the original: the whole thing as it had been, with some cast changes. To produce a new version of an old show, one would have to have . . well, not just a hit show but a great show. And, by 1940, what would that even be? 2 STARS The star vehicle was the easiest musical to produce, because this extraordinarily central figure could walk onto the stage—even, into the first day of rehearsals—with an evening's worth of material all built-in.
Because I could always slap you around when ever I wanted to. Why O'Hara thought that these stories would suit the by then strait format of musical comedy is a question that no one has answered. 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.
Bolger made himself a novelty, playing a character far removed from the goofy sidekicks and hoofers he was known for (not to mention his Scarecrow in the film The Wizard of Oz). Still, there was nothing as solid as a talent absolutely guaranteed to be big and do big and stay big, and that, in the Broadway musical circa 1940, was Ethel Merman. Since her discovery in Girl Crazy (1930), Merman had spent the years sharing top bill* "Wait Till You See Her" did become a standard, but it was actually dropped from the show just before the New York opening.