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5 Golden Age Musicals That Deserve Revivals

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |


Golden Age gems that should join 'Carousel' and 'My Fair Lady'

The Golden Age of the American Musical is generally considered the 1940s through the 1950s, though most scholars name its conclusion with the 1964 production of Fiddler on the Roof. It was an age when many of the most beloved and enduring musicals in Broadway history lit up the Great White Way. The musicals of this period varied widely in subject, but were marked by an unprecedented narrative incorporation of musical elements. As Corrine Naden writes in The Golden Age of American Musical Theatre: 1943-1965: “But now, the song or dance either more fully explained the conversation or extended or changed it. Everything was totally integrated and, for the first time, the choreography…actually advanced the plot.”

With revivals of the Golden Age classics Carousel, My Fair Lady and Hello, Dolly! currently delighting theatregoers – and productions of West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate slated to join them in 2019 – let’s take a look at some other musicals of the Golden Age that are ripe for revival.

The current revival of ‘Carousel,’ along with ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and ‘My Fair Lady,’ is an example of the enduring power of Golden Age musicals (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)

The current revival of ‘Carousel,’ along with ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and ‘My Fair Lady,’ is an example of the enduring power of Golden Age musicals (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)

 

Brigadoon

This Lerner and Loewe classic of 1947 was once an oft-produced property in professional and amateur theatre, but in recent years hasn’t received the love it deserves. The story of two hunters who happen upon a mystical village in the Scottish Highlands that appears once every hundred years contains an atmospheric score that blends traditional Broadway with an old world flavor, perfect for the romance between the American Tommy and Brigadoon’s wistful maiden Fiona. His “Almost Like Being in Love” and “The Heather on the Hill” are some of Lerner and Loewe’s finest numbers, as is her “Waitin’ for My Dearie.”

 

Lady in the Dark

In its day (1941), Lady in the Dark was one of the most daring musicals ever produced on Broadway, delving into the world of psychoanalysis. The musical’s central character, Liza Elliott, is an editor of the fashion magazine Allure. Suffering from depression, Liza visits a psychiatrist, each of her sessions becoming a musical sequence that reveals the symptoms behind her insecurities. Kurt Weill wrote the music to Ira Gerswhin’s lyrics, the duo producing Broadway standards such as “My Ship,” “Tschaikowsky” and “The Saga of Jenny,” and Moss Hart fashioned the groundbreaking book. In 2019, City Center will present a concert of Lady in the Dark as part of their MasterVoices series. Could a Broadway revival be imminent?

 

The Most Happy Fella

 

Though Guys & Dolls and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying tend to be the frequently produced titles among Frank Loesser’s musicals, it’s his 1956 The Most Happy Fella that needs a full-scale Broadway revival, complete with its lush original orchestrations. Based on the Sidney Howard play They Knew What They Wanted, The Most Happy Fella follows the story of Tony Esposito, an older vineyard owner in California’s Napa Valley who has been enjoying a mail order romance with the young waitress Rosabella. When the two finally meet, she learns that Tony has not been entirely forthcoming about who he is or what he looks like. Can love still happen in spite of it all? The score brims with terrific musical theater classics such as “Joey, Joey, Joey,” “Standing on the Corner,” “Big D” and “My Heart Is So Full of You.”  

 

Bloomer Girl

In 1944, coming on the heels of the game-changing Oklahoma!, Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg, Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy created a musical that was reminiscent of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, but cutting edge in its own way. Bloomer Girl is a story of women’s rights and abolitionism, set in the Civil War era. Evelina Applegate, the daughter of a hoopskirt manufacturer, rails against her father’s wishes and embraces the latest fashion, the comfortable bloomer pants. That may sound trite, but Evelina is a progressive in a conservative time, refusing to marry her fiancée until he frees his slave. The score is chock-full of poignant numbers such as “It Was Good Enough for Grandma” and “The Eagle and Me,” not to mention the lovely “Evelina” and “Right as the Rain,” which became popular standards of the 40s.  

 

Lost in the Stars

Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country is a riveting and harrowing book that continues to be taught and classrooms the world over. Set in 1949 South Africa (the musical premiered in ‘49 as well), the musical adaptation known as Lost in the Stars follows a black Anglican priest who must journey from his small village to the city of Johannesburg, where he encounters situations that challenge his faith, including racial disparity, murder and the loss of his son. Kurt Weil’s music and Maxwell Anderson’s lyrics are achingly palpable with raw emotion, especially in songs such as “Trouble Man,” “Cry, The Beloved Country” and the title number.

 

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

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