Available for in-person lectures in: Chicago
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Rodgers & Hammerstein:
The Creation of “Oklahoma!”
See and hear the dramatic story of how Richard Rodgers (who had lost his longtime lyricist, Larry Hart) and Oscar Hammerstein (who had lost public acceptance) found unimaginable success when they found each other. Their 1943 collaboration became an instant masterpiece of popular culture and defined the modern musical play. (To illustrate the creative process, we’ll see scenes from the fabulous 1999 Trevor Nunn-Hugh Jackman London revival.)
The Creation of “Carousel”
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1945 “follow-up” to their ground-breaking first musical “Oklahoma!” was an extraordinary achievement in its own right. It is considered to have the most beautiful score Richard Rodgers ever wrote in his long career, and was named by Time magazine as the greatest musical of the 20th century.
The Creation of “South Pacific”
Badly needing a hit, Rodgers & Hammerstein decided to base their next show on an obscure new book of short stories by a first-time author named James Michener. The book subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize – and so did their show, an enormous success which put Rodgers & Hammerstein squarely at the center of American popular culture. We’ll see how South Pacific came to be in this multimedia presentation illustrated by photos, graphics and film clips, and hear plenty of its hit tunes.
The Creation of “The King and I”
The last of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s four great musical plays of the 1940s and early ‘50s was written as a vehicle for its female star and ended up as a star-making vehicle for its unknown opposite lead. The cumulative effect of the four landmark shows in eight years so drained Rodgers & Hammerstein that they never attempted anything as serious or ambitious again. We’ll see how “The King and I” came to be in this multimedia presentation illustrated by photos, graphics and film clips, and hear many of its beloved songs.
The Creation of “The Sound of Music”
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s last show — written in 1959, the year before Hammerstein died — was a distillation of many elements that were present in their four previous landmark musicals, and became, in the 1965 movie version, bigger than all the rest. We’ll discover the absurd way that Rodgers & Hammerstein became involved with the project — and speculate how Hammerstein might have written the lyric to “Do-Re-Mi”!
Lerner & Loewe:
The Creation of “My Fair Lady”
We’ll celebrate this universally beloved show by following its long journey from its beginnings as Shaw’s 1912 play “Pygmalion” and then as a popular 1938 film. Then we’ll learn how Lerner and Loewe managed to fashion this difficult material – an intellectual drawing room comedy – into such a stunning musical theatre triumph.
The Creation of “Camelot”
This star-crossed show, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s last great musical, almost killed two great talents — Lerner and director Moss Hart were both hospitalized during its pressure-packed tryout period, which rendered “Camelot” not completely ready for its Broadway opening night. It took two events, one unlikely and the other tragic, to make “Camelot” into a hit — and then into the legend it became.
Bock & Harnick:
The Creation of “Fiddler on the Roof”
The stories of Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem seemed an unlikely subject for a musical, and certainly of limited appeal. We’ll see how genius director-choreographer Jerome Robbins guided his creative team to find universality in the material, and how they made a “Jewish musical” that struck a responsive chord in virtually every country in the world.
The Creation of “She Loves Me”
This secret treasure of a show from 1963 is the perfect musical: perfectly integrating dialogue and song; perfectly balancing the traditions of musical comedy and operetta; perfectly combining head and heart…and perfectly charming! See and hear how this classic was adapted from its source, the wonderful 1940 Ernst Lubitsch-Jimmy Stewart film “The Shop Around the Corner” (which also served as the basis for the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film “You’ve Got Mail”).
The Creation of “The Music Man”
This singular musical theatre classic was written by a single person –– Meredith Willson, a fellow with a most unusual background before his monster hit first show opened in 1957, when he was 55. This presentation examines the range of Willson’s many talents, and follows his five-year struggle to write a musical about his beloved Iowa hometown, and then to find a producer for it, and finally a star.
Kander & Ebb:
The Creation of “Cabaret”
This 1966 landmark show was the first successful American concept musical. We’ll define the term and demonstrate how producer-director Harold Prince led his writers into uncharted musical theatre territory as they created a new kind of musical. And then we’ll see how producer Cy Feuer and director Bob Fosse perfected Prince’s work in their extraordinary film version six years later.
The Creation of “Chicago”
This 1975 musical was shaped by its director, Chicago native Bob Fosse. The show was subtitled “A Musical Vaudeville” because many of the numbers in the memorable score were pastiches of a particular vaudeville performer or type of act. You’ll hear the historic originals, then the songs they inspired. On the way, you’ll learn a lot about the city of Chicago in the 1920s, and about Maurine Watkins, the enigmatic author of the 1926 play on which the musical is based.
Sondheim with Others & Alone:
The Creation of “West Side Story”
This brave, brilliant musical tragedy, born into a world of musical comedy, took years to crystallize for its creators, then overcame daunting challenges just to get onstage. Famous buddies Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents were creating their Romeo and Juliet musical when Bernstein realized he was spreading himself too thin by also trying to write the lyrics. They tapped the unknown 25-year-old Stephen Sondheim, who completed the creative foursome with a soulfulness that would be rare in his body of work, and the bite that the daring project needed.
The Creation of “Gypsy”
Librettist Arthur Laurents signed on to producer David Merrick’s musicalization of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee’s autobiography when he realized the show should really not be about her, but about her impossible stage mother. Young Stephen Sondheim and veteran tunesmith Jule Styne were then forced to pair up by the dictates of star Ethel Merman and went on to write one the most memorable scores in Broadway history.
The Creation of “A Little Night Music”
Stephen Sondheim’s most delightful and approachable show of his mature period has its basis in “Smiles of a Summer Night”, a 1955 comic film by…Ingmar Bergman! If you love Sondheim, you’ll delight in examining his brilliant lyrics onscreen and enjoying his surprisingly tuneful melodies. If you don’t like Sondheim, come anyway for his most popular song ever, “Send in the Clowns” — and then be prepared to be surprised by how much you like this show!
The Land of Oz:
The Creation of “The Wizard of Oz”
This legendary 1939 film is the most watched movie of all time. It’s so well-known that even its backstory is familar. But there’s a far more fascinating story behind the usual backstory: MGM studio intrigue; amazingly bad decisions reversed in the nick of time; and one brilliant, audacious choice early on by a man who received no screen credit that was critical in making “The Wizard of Oz” the beloved classic it became.
The Creation of “Wicked”
The longest-running Broadway show of this century plays off the most popular Hollywood movie of the last century. The Wizard of Oz inspired Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel, which imagined the life of the Wicked Witch of the West before Dorothy. And that inspired Stephen Schwartz to write the score for his first successful musical in almost 30 years!
The first & last great musicals of the 20th century:
The Creation of “Show Boat”
“Show Boat” has been unanimously acclaimed the first great American musical, so far ahead of its time that there would be no comparable achievement for nearly two decades. This multimedia presentation examines how composer Jerome Kern and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II created this monumental 1927 masterpiece from Edna Ferber’s sprawling contemporary novel. It will also touch upon early musical comedy and operetta —and not so incidentally, America’s tortured racial history in the twentieth century.
The Creation of “Ragtime”
The 1998 “Ragtime” is the last great musical of the 20th century, the bookend to “Show Boat.” It shares the time period and many of the themes of that show, and is also based on a popular novel. We’ll discover how brilliantly composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens found material for their songs in E.L. Doctorow’s ground-breaking novel, and how their masterpiece was a culmination of techniques developed over 100 years of musical theatre.
4th of July:
The Creation of “1776”
Before this remarkable 1969 show, a Broadway musical had never depicted an historical event so dramatically, melodically — and even accurately! See the inspiring story behind this unusual pre-Hamilton achievement, the brainchild — and only musical — of a man with a dream, a pop songwriter named Sherman Edwards, who had never even written lyrics before!
The Creation of “Guys and Dolls”
This 1950 show has been called the perfect musical. But how was its perfection attained? Learn the amusing—no, preposterous!–story of the creation of this classic, of how brilliantly songwriter Frank Loesser and book writer Abe Burrows worked around various obstacles to adapt Damon Runyon’s stories of New York gamblers into a comic masterpiece.
The Creation of “Porgy and Bess”
George Gershwin’s 1935 musical theatre masterpiece was a labor of love that had been gestating for years – and perhaps the bravest and most audacious musical show ever to be presented on Broadway. It triumphed over its difficult birth and a variety of issues, extraneous to its artistic merits, to achieve its present consensus stature as the great American opera.
Cole Porter and the Great Depression
Isn’t it ironic that the worst economic period in America’s history was the career high point of our most elegant songwriter, Cole Porter? Between the stock market crash in 1929 and Pearl Harbor in 1941, Porter wrote the scores for twelve shows and four films, took a round-the-world cruise — and was permanently injured in a horseback riding accident. This program wends its way through this packed period in Porter’s life and notes what was going on at the same time in the outside world.
The Creation of “Funny Girl”
Fanny Brice’s daughter wanted a musical that would commemorate her late mother. At the same time, a raw teenage talent named Barbra Streisand, who reminded many people of Fanny Brice, was trying to break into show business. These two separate quests happened to align, in an amazing cosmic coincidence that resulted in a hit show — and the launch of one of the most successful entertainment careers in more than fifty years.
In 2014, WGN legend Roy Leonard wrote a wonderful profile on Charles Troy and his lectures. You can read it here: Charles Troy Profile.