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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.