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Judith A. Sebesta

(b Akron, OH, Sept 24, 1902; d New York, NY, Oct 7, 1986). American producer. After graduating from Smith College, Crawford moved to New York to pursue further training in acting at the Theatre Guild, where she performed in two productions before abandoning her acting career. During her time at the Guild, Crawford met Harold Clurman and Lee Strasberg; in 1931, the triumvirate formed the influential Group Theatre, for which she directed five productions and developed the musical Johnny Johnson (1936) with Kurt Weil and Paul Green. She resigned from the company to focus on producing, to which she dedicated the remainder of her career. Her most celebrated productions include many musicals, such as Porgy and Bess (1942), One Touch of Venus (1943), Brigadoon (1947), and Paint Your Wagon (1951).

As a producer, Crawford was valued for her keen management skills and financial acumen. In the face of great emotional difficulties—tangling with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the destruction of her Connecticut home by fire, and embezzlement of personal funds by a trusted assistant—she continued to produce up to the final decade of her life....

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Sept 8, 1896; d New York, NY, July 30, 1983). American lyricist and librettist. He studied at Columbia University, where he was a contemporary of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and served in the US Navy before becoming director of publicity and advertising in 1919 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (from 1924 known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM). He wrote verse in his spare time, and was asked by Jerome Kern to supply the lyrics for Dear Sir (1924). He also worked with Vernon Duke, Jimmy McHugh, and Ralph Rainger. But he is best remembered for the numerous songs he wrote in collaboration with arthur Schwartz , beginning in 1929 with the revue The Little Show (with “I guess I’ll have to change my plan”). Other collaborations with Schwartz include Three’s a Crowd (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931, containing the hit “Dancing in the Dark”). Their professional relationship extended over a period of more than 30 years to the production of the musical ...

Article

G. J. Cederquist

(b Rockford, IL, 1960). American stage director. Having begun college as a journalism major, Griffin changed fields to study theater at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (BA 1982). He continued to study at Illinois State University where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Directing. After moving to Chicago in 1988 his directing career has focused on musical theater, a field in which he has won eight Joseph Jefferson Awards. His aesthetic tends towards the paring down of the large-scale musical and providing such works a more intimate and chamber piece quality.

Griffin is a renowned interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s works, including productions of Saturday Night (a world premiere), Passion, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George, Pacific Overtures (a unique all-male production which later transferred to the Donmar Warehouse [London] and won an Olivier Award), and Follies. Each of these productions originated at Chicago Shakespeare Theater where Griffin is associate artistic director. Previously he was the artistic director of the Drury Lane Oakbrook. He made his Broadway debut in ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Oct 24, 1904; d Palm Springs, CA, Dec 20, 1961). American librettist and director. As a young man he worked as an office boy for theatrical producer Augustus Pitou and started to write plays in the early 1920s. His first musical, Jonica (1930, written in collaboration with Dorothy Heyward), was a failure, but he made an impact with Once in a Lifetime (1930). His next offerings, Face the Music (1932, music by Irving Berlin) and a revue, As Thousands Cheer (1933, Berlin), won great acclaim. He is perhaps best known for the comedies he wrote in collaboration with george s. Kaufman , but the two also produced librettos for musicals, including I’d rather be right (1937, music by Richard Rodgers). Other major Broadway shows were The Great Waltz (1934, music by J. Strauss), Jubilee (1935, lyrics and music by Cole Porter), and ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Concord, NH, July 26, 1860; d New York, NY, Nov 20, 1900). American librettist, lyricist, and producer. He studied law and worked on a western cattle ranch before becoming a writer for the Boston Post. He then began to write plays, achieving success with A Bunch of Keys (1883) and A Rag Baby (1884), the latter of which was produced by Tony Pastor. Both works were farce-comedies. Though in Hoyt’s hands these rather simplistically conceived shows, with their thin plots and their reliance on existing musical material, were transformed into recognizable musical comedies; he wrote full-length librettos and assigned a single composer to write a basic score (though still allowed for the traditional practice of interpolating of songs). He also preferred to write on American subjects. In collaboration with such composers as Edward Solomon, Percy Gaunt, and Richard Stahl, Hoyt produced a series of popular shows which included ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Nov 16, 1889; d New York, NY, June 2, 1961). American librettist and director. He first worked as a journalist, serving for a time as head of the drama desk at the New York Times, but resigned in order to write his own plays. His first libretto, produced in collaboration with Marc Connelly, was for Helen of Troy, New York (1923; music by B. Kalmar and H. Ruby) and established his reputation for witty and satirical writing. He then created two important shows for the Marx Brothers, The Cocoanuts (1925; I. Berlin) and, with Morrie Ryskind, Animal Crackers (1928; Kalmar and Ruby), and also collaborated with Ryskind on the libretto for the highly successful Of Thee I Sing (1931; G. Gershwin), the first musical to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama, and Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933; Gershwin). Kaufman contributed both libretto and lyrics for ...

Article

Lara E. Housez

(Elliot )

(b Mansfield, OH, Jan 10, 1949). American playwright, director, and photographer. He attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he majored in Middle Eastern history, and the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he graduated with an MFA in Design. Lapine moved to New York to work as a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He eventually left the visual arts for a career in theater, where he wrote and produced a workshop version of Twelve Dreams (1978) and authored and directed the plays Table Settings (1978); Luck, Pluck and Virtue (1994); The Moment When (2000); Fran’s Bed (2005); and Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing (2008). Lapine collaborated with composer william alan Finn on the musicals March of the Falsettos (1981) and Falsettoland (1990), later presented together as ...

Article

Paul R. Laird

(b Brooklyn, NY, July 14, 1917; d New York, NY, May 5, 2011). American writer and director. After attending Cornell, Laurents wrote for radio before creating the plays Home of the Brave (1945) and The Time of the Cuckoo (1952) for Broadway. He was blacklisted for political reasons in the early 1950s and lived abroad for a few years. Laurents’s most famous writing credits in the musical theater are the books for West Side Story (1957) and Gypsy (1959), two of the most powerful musical plays in the genre’s history. He revealed his ability to craft a terse, explosive book for the former, effectively setting up the songs and dances while also delineating characters. In Gypsy, Laurents helped create memorable characters and nostalgically evoke the worlds of vaudeville and burlesque. His continuing Broadway work included directing I can get it for you wholesale...

Article

Paul R. Laird

[Lichtman, Joseph ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, May 3, 1931; d Key West, FL, May 5, 1994). American dancer, choreographer, and director. Layton joined the dancing chorus of Oklahoma! in 1947, followed by appearances as a dancer in such shows as High Button Shoes (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Miss Liberty (1949), and Wonderful Town (1953). While in the army in the early 1950s, Layton started to choreograph and direct. He spent two years in the mid-1950s in France as a dancer and choreographer with the Ballet Ho de George Reich. Returning to the United States in 1956, Layton was a featured dancer in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s televised Cinderella (1957) and worked in summer stock. His New York choreography debut was an off-Broadway revival of On the Town (1959). Layton choreographed Once Upon a Mattress off-Broadway and then on Broadway and in London, and continued his work on Broadway with dances for ...

Article

Paul R. Laird

[Mitchnick, Irwin ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, Jan 30, 1928). American composer, producer, and director. After earning a BA and MA from the Yale School, where he studied with paul Hindemith , he worked as a jazz musician and from 1954 wrote music for television and commercial jingles, such as “Nobody doesn’t Like Sara Lee.” In 1957 Leigh formed the company Music Makers as a focus for these efforts. He wrote incidental music for two plays, Too Good to be True (1963) and Never Live over a Pretzel Factory (1964), and then composed with the lyricist Joe Darion the score for the Broadway hit Man of La Mancha (1965). Their Tony Award-winning score includes spirited “Spanish” gestures and songs that effectively describe characters and situations. The show itself, which won a Tony Award for Best Musical, ran 2328 performances and has remained popular. Leigh also wrote the scores for ...