A to Z Challenge

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “U” is for THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN


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This 1960 musical, with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson (yes, of Music Man fame), was a fictionalized account of the life of Margaret (“Molly”) Brown, who survived the sinking of the Titanic. The original Broadway production opened in 1960 and ran for 532 performances. The opening cast included Tammy Grimes, who won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. (Debbie Reynolds took on the role in the 1964 film version.)

Although the quality is not great, this is a clip, featured on The Ed Sullivan Show, of Tammy Grimes and Prince DeLong singing “Dolce Far Niente” (How Sweet to Do Nothing)

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “T” is for THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG


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They’re Playing Our Song is a 1979 musical with book by Neil Simon, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, and music by Marvin Hamlisch.

Based on the real-life relationship of Hamlisch and Sager, the show portrays a wisecracking composer teamed up with a new, offbeat lyricist. The match isn’t a good one at first, but after the two overcome a number of hurdles they find true love by the final curtain.

They’re Playing Our Song opened on Broadway on February 11, 1979 where it ran for 1,082 performances. It starred Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz (in her Broadway debut). It received four Tony Award nominations.

Here are Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz performing at the 1979 Tony Awards (with an introduction by Henry Fonda!):

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “S” is for SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE


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Inspired by the painting entitled “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, Sunday in the Park with George is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The Broadway production opened in 1984, and won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and two Tony Awards for design.

Starring Broadway stalwarts Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, Sunday ran for 604 performances. There was a 2005 revival in London and a 2008 revival on Broadway. There is a scheduled two-month run at the Hudson Theatre (closing on April 23) featuring Jake Gyllenhaal as George.

Here is Mandy Patinkin, ‘finishing the hat.’

Bonus! And here, on the occasion of Sondheim’s 80th birthday, here are Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin to reprise “Move On.”

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “R” is for RENT


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Rent is what is known as a rock musical (think Hair or Grease). The music, lyrics, and book are all from Jonathan Larson, and Rent is loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème (which is also about the lives of poor young artists).

Rent tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

The musical, which began off-Broadway in 1993, won a Pulitzer Prize and moved to Broadway on April 29, 1996. It won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Musical, among other awards. The production closed on September 7, 1008 after a 12-year run and 5,123 performances. In 2005, it was adapted into a motion picture and featured many of the original cast members.

Here, one last time, is “Seasons of Love” from Rent:

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “Q” is for QUILTERS


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“Q” is always a challenge (as are X and Z, but I don’t choose a theme unless I know I can fill each letter!)

Quilters opened on Broadway on September 25, 1984 and closed on October 14, 1984 after  just 24 performances. Despite an unfavorable review from Frank Rich in the New York Times and its own very short run, the musical was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Quilters has been performed by numerous college and community theater groups across the United States.

Here, Core Theatrics presents Quilters:

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “P” is for PIPPIN


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Directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, Pippin premiered at the Imperial Theater on October 23, 1972 and ran for 1,944 performances before it closed on June 12, 1977. The original cast included John Rubenstein (Pippin), Ben Vereen (Leading Player), Jill Clayburgh (Catherine), and the inimitable Irene Ryan (yes, Granny Clampett) as Berthe (Ryan suffered a stroke in March 1973 and died six weeks later).

Pippin tells the story of a young prince on his search for meaning in and significance of life.

 

As much as I’d like to upload the entire show here, I was able to find a decent-quality clip of the opening number, “Magic to Do,” from the original production. Enjoy!

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “O” is for OKLAHOMA!


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Oklahoma! was the first musical written by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Set in the Oklahoma territory in the early 1900s, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.

The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943 and ran for a then-unprecedented 2,212 performances. In 1955 a film adaptation was released and the show has enjoyed revivals, national tours, and many, many school and community productions.

In this clip (which is actually from the 1998 London production), Australian Hugh Jackman stars as Curly and Londoner Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey.

 

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “N” is for NEWSIES


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The musical Newsies, a Disney production, is based on a 1992 musical film of the same name, which in turn was inspired by the real-life newsboys strike of 1899 in New York City. It opened on Broadway officially on March 29, 2012. The production cost about $5 million to stage, and Newsies recouped its initial investment within seven months, becoming the fastest of any Disney musical on Broadway to turn a profit. It won Tony Awards for Best Choreography and Best Original Score.

Here is a Newsies medley from the 2012 Tony Awards

 

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “M” is for MAN OF LA MANCHA


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Man of La Mancha, the 1964 musical adapted from a non-musical teleplay (1959) Don Quixote, which was inspired by the 17th-century work Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, tells the story of knight Don Quixote, and is a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. Joe Darion (lyrics), Mitch Leigh (music), and Dale Wasserman (book) conceived the 1964 musical. 

The show debuted on Broadway in 1965 and ran for 2,328 performances. It won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical has played in many other countries around the world, with productions in Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Icelandic, Gujarati, Uzbek, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Serbian, Slovenian, Swahili, Finnish, Ukrainian and nine distinctly different dialects of the Spanish language.

Rex Harrison (of My Fair Lady fame) was to be the original star of Man of La Mancha, but the music was too demanding for him. Richard Kiley won a Tony Award for his performance as Cervantes/Quixote, and it is Kiley who sings “The Impossible Dream” here.

Bonus! In another musical by Stephen Sondheim, Merrily We Roll Along is based on a 1934 play by the same name. The show ran for only 16 performances but it was the starting point for a 20-year-old named Liz Callaway. Here’s Liz with her sister Ann Hampton Callaway, singing “Our Time.”

A to Z Musicals ~ ♬ “L” is for LES MISERABLES


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Les Misérables, also known as Les Mis, or Les Miz, is a musical based on the same-titled book by Victor Hugo (1862). It premiered in Paris in 1980, has run continuously in London since 1985, and first opened as a pre-Broadway tryout in December 1986, eventually premiering on Broadway in March 1987. After 6,680 performances, Les Misérables closed in May 2003.

The show is set in early 19th-century France, and tells the story of Jean Valjean, a peasant, who is sentenced to prison for stealing a loaf of bread in order to help feed his sister’s starving child. Valjean escapes and is relentlessly hunted by a police inspector, Javert. Valjean and others are swept up into the revolution, where a group of young idealists make their last stand.

Here is a clip from the 1987 Tony Awards program.

At the end of the day you’re another day older
And that’s all you can say for the life of the poor
It’s a struggle, it’s a war
And there’s nothing that anyone’s giving
One more day standing about, what is it for?
One day less to be living.