By Ethan Mordden
Vividly recreating the original excitement of experiencing a song-and-dance express, Broadway infants spotlights the lads and ladies who made a distinction within the improvement of yankee musical comedy. Mordden's account beneficial properties such exhibit humans as Florenz Ziegfeld, Harold Prince, Bert Lahr, Gwen Verdon, Angela Lansbury, Victor Herbert, Liza Minnelli, and Stephen Sondheim, and such musicals as Sally, Oh Kay!, something is going, express Boat, Oklahoma!, Follies, Chicago, and numerous others. whereas theatrical historians characteristically have emphasised the position of the authors of musicals, Mordden additionally examines the non-public varieties of the administrators, choreographers, and manufacturers, with the intention to show not just what the musical grew to become yet what it was once. the quantity comprises an intensive discography--the first of its kind--which bargains an almost self-contained heritage of recorded exhibit song.
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Extra info for Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the American Musical
Today, a reenaction of the Ziegfeldian Girl loitering in her amazing sequins is a wild card, a face without eyes. " And the show's title tells us. For all the weight Ziegfeld put on The Girls, few of them were promoted to the front lines, though many of them went on to a form of greatness in Hollywood. The true Follies stars were the singer-comedians, the names that resonate today. There was Nora Bayes, who helped kick off the first two Follies, thereby proving the revue's close association with vaudeville (and putting a kink in the career of Sophie Tucker, who was so good that Bayes had her fired).
Without Ziegfeld, Sandow was an imposing hunk; under Ziegfeld's care he became, for those Who Counted, Collectable. A more appropriate attraction for Ziegfeld, in the light of his later endeavors, was Anna Held, a star of European music halls whom Ziegfeld saw in London. Other producers might lure, bribe, or impress a potential client. Penniless and unknown, Ziegfeld courted Held, literally: she was to become his first wife. A more exacting theatre would have found her wanting, for her soprano was thin, her line reading spiritless, and her dancing an oblique walk.
He completed the job—not by perfecting the form, but reducing it to its essentials. That's what made it fresh. George M. was also the first legendary personality in the musical, the first person many people knew well for things he said and did. There are biographies of Harrigan and Hart, and of Victor Herbert; but the men themselves don't figure much in theatre lore. Has anyone heard a good story about Ivan Caryll? Or Harry B. Smith? Even Julian Mitchell, for all his historical links, is recalled merely as a quiet gentleman who went into directing because deafness impeded his career as an actor.