Download Full Text (2.1 MB)
In 1938, Director George Abbott's notion-also jokingly entertained by Larry Hartthat an ancient Athenian comedy by Menander, retreaded by the Roman Plautus and later garnished with English verse by William Shakespeare as The Comedy of Errors could be translated into musical comedy at first seemed so farfetched that it took the fillip of a family matter to push it into the working stage. A great Broadway down named Jimmy Savo just happened to be available and Teddy Hart, the lyricist's actor-brother, just happened to be a dead ringer for him. The ideas jelled. The mischievous merger of classical farce with the tuneful irreverence of Broadway musical theatre caused critical huzzahs and handstands. (" ... a beautiful feast of rollicking mummery," wrote Brooks Atkinson;" ... the greatest musical comedy of its time," rhapsodized Sidney Whipple) Its 1963 revival won The Vernon Rice Award as the year's best Off-Broadway achievement.
With The Boys from Syracuse, the "Boys from Columbia" earned the ultimate reward -their faces graced the cover of TIME magazine as the "American Gilbert and Sullivan." But Rodgers and Hart proved to be unique-as unique as that simplest of success formulas they used time and again over a twenty-four year career-don't have a formula. Innovation and sophistication became their signatures. On Your Toes in 1936 first integrated dance and ballet into the musical play. Pal Joey (1940) -Music Theatre 1973-opened the stage door to the musical anti-hero. With Hart's untimely death in 1943, Rodgers launched an equally successful - but decidedly different - collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein.
Perhaps no single show of the partnership celebrated by Music Theatre this season speaks with such deftly juggled tenderness of heart and toughness of mind as the one you will watch this evening. In that spirit, and in the words of George Abbott's mockingly understated prologue,-"If it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for us!" Enjoy!
Theatre and Performance Studies
La Salle College, "The Boys From Syracuse" (1977). La Salle College Summer Music Theatre. 17.
1977 is unfurling into a banner year for half-century milestones-Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic, Babe Ruth's once untouchable 60 home runs. Next Christmas tide, that landmark musical play, Showboat, will be half a hundred years old.
And 50 years ago this coming November 3rd at New York's Vanderbilt Theatre, A Connecticut Yankee settled in for what was to be a phenomenal duration of 418 performances. The two brash young men who broke in their craft with the Columbia varsity shows and who had the sheer gall to take a Mark Twain novel, add contemporary melodies and to stir in a tangy mix of medieval English and Broadwayese lyrics were composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart. It was not exactly a debut for the upstart team. In 1919, they had sold their first professional song, "Any Old Place With You." Former vaudeville star turned producer, Lew Fields, had attracted attention with the tune in his show, A Lonely Romeo. Complete scores of their sparkling numbers had decorated the hit off-Broadway reviews, The Garrick Gaieties of 1925 and 1926. In 1926 they were already a dynamic small industry of words and music, contributing songs and entire scores to a total of five shows during that year alone. Rodgers and Hart music with books by Herbert Fields made adventurous sorties into new musical comedy territory-the real romantic low-down on how The Colonies won the American Revolution in Dearest Enemy in 1925, free-wheeling psychological fantasies in Peggy Ann in 1926. But, with the comprehensive, disciplined impertinence they displayed in revisiting Ye Olde Camelot via the boldness and color of Ye Olde Song and Dance in A Connecticut Yankee, the partners first lit up the long-running power in their corporate name. Recently, in honoring the indivisibility of their beguiling collaboration, Clive Barnes called Rodgers and Hart "that two-headed animal." Music Theatre takes pleasure in paying tribute to their most humane art all this summer.