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Prolific Composers

Prolific Composers
Cy Coleman

While he never had shows that enjoyed the initial success of Annie, Grease, Fiddler on the Roof, or even Hair, Cy Coleman’s output and contribution to musical theatre is important. In contrast with many of the “one-blockbuster-wonders” that found themselves in the spotlight, Coleman’s output of moderate stage successes extended over four decades. Beginning with Sweet Charity (1966) and extending through I Love My Wife (1977), Barnum (1980), City of Angels (1989) and The Life (1997), Coleman was widely acknowledged as a veteran creative force in musical theatre. While his shows never achieved the status of being musical theatre classics, his music has been recognized as some of the best in theatre. Coleman won five Tonys (nineteen nominations), three Emmys and two Grammy awards. In some ways, his optimistic and energetic music was a contemporary channeling of the indomitable spirit of George M. Cohan.

From the 1969 movie version of Coleman’s Sweet Charity, Sammy Davis Jr. sings “Rhythm of Life”

Jerry Herman

One of the most important voices of musical theatre in the 1960s was Jerry Herman, whose stage offerings swung alternately between mega-hits and dismal failures. After his Broadway debut show, 1961’s Milk and Honey (543 performances), Herman followed up with two shows that became box office gold, established him as one of the new wunderkinds of theatre and became instant theatre classics.

Hello, Dolly! in 1964 was a success due to several factors: Herman’s wonderful score and songs, charismatic legend Carol Channing in the title role, and the genius of director/choreographer Gower Champion and producer David Merrick. The period piece was built around the title character, so to ensure the continued success of the show, Merrick recruited as series of well-known actresses to play “Dolly.” Channing was followed by Ginger Rodgers, Betty Grable, Martha Raye, Ethel Merman, and finally, in an all-black production, Pearl Bailey. The dependence on star-power continued to the casting of the film, where the middle-aged Dolly Levi was played by twenty-seven-year-old Barbra Streisand.

The success of the original show was greatly helped by a recording of the title song by jazz legend Louis Armstrong. In 1964 Armstrong’s version of “Hello, Dolly!” went to the top of the pop charts, temporarily knocking The Beatles out of the #1 spot. It was the only #1 song in Louis Armstrong’s career and the only song in modern musical theatre history to achieve that position.

Herman followed Dolly! with another show which was acclaimed by both critics and audiences, Mame in 1966. Like DollyMame was period piece built around the charm, energy and out-going antics of its female star, in this case, Angela Lansbury in the title role. The show had several show-stopping song-and-dance numbers as well as intimate, tender moments, and although it had over 1,500 performances and gave America some classic songs (including “We Need A Little Christmas”), it was doomed to live in the might shadow of Hello, Dolly, whose 2,844 performances rank it in the top fifteen of longest running shows on Broadway.

Highlights from Goodspeed Musical’s 2013 production of Hello, Dolly!

Though Herman attempted other shows through the ‘70s, only La Cage aux Folles (1983) came close to his Dolly and Mame days. La Cage, with a story based on the French play and film of the same name, was about the relationship between a homosexual club owner, his drag-queen partner, his heterosexual son, finance and her family ran 1,176 performances. The wide swing between mad-cap comedy and heart-wrenching revelation made La Cage aux Folles a Broadway hit. A non-musical version of the story titled The Birdcage was made into a movie in 1996 starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. With just three shows, Jerry Herman had over 6,000 first-run performances on Broadway, a feat only accomplished by one other writer: Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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