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Gillian M. Rodger

(b London, England, Feb 1834; d New York, NY, April 11, 1905). American composer, theater orchestra director, and arranger. Born in London’s East End, Braham’s musical education was gained largely through his early education at the British Union School. He initially played the harp, but switched to the violin and became a skilled performer by the time he was 18. Rather than embarking on a career as a professional musician, Braham became a brass turner, making tubing for brass instruments, and supplemented his income by performing in theatrical orchestras in the evenings. In 1856, in the wake of a cholera epidemic that took his mother’s life, he emigrated to New York, where he quickly found employment in theater orchestras. By 1857 he was a regular member of the orchestra attached to Matt Peel’s Campbell Minstrels, and remained with this company, despite personnel conflicts and the reforming of the troupe under a modified name, until ...

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Commercial name for the New York theater district. Few of the theaters are actually on Broadway, but many are in the Times Square area. The “Broadway” designation as a term, according to Actor’s Equity, refers to a theater with at least 500 seats; off-Broadway houses are smaller.

See Musical theater.

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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....

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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 ...

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Ellen Marie Peck

(b New York, NY, Jan 28, 1880; d New York, Jan 4, 1928). American lyricist, librettist, and actress. Born into a theatrical family, she spent her entire life in the theater. A meticulous actress, Donnelly was particularly known for her ability to interpret a role with depth and sensitivity at a rather young age, as she demonstrated with title roles in Candida (1903) and Madame X (1909). However, chronic illness and years of touring took an early toll on Donnelly, forcing her to transition to a writing career in her late 30s. In 1916 Donnelly penned the libretto for an Americanized German operetta, Flora Bella. She soon teamed up with composer sigmund Romberg , with whom she wrote some of the most successful operettas of the 1920s. Donnelly and Romberg enjoyed a close friendship and a symbiotic collaborative process, which lay behind the overwhelming success of ...

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James Leve

(b New York, NY, c8 April 1928–33; d New York, NY, Sept 11, 2004). American lyricist. He received a BA from New York University and a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University. In the 1950s he collaborated with Phil Springer and placed several song lyrics with record companies in the Brill Building. He also collaborated with Paul Klein on three musicals, one of which, Morning Sun, appeared Off-Broadway in 1963. Ebb’s first Broadway experience was as a contributor to the 1960 revue From A to Z.

He is best known for his work with john Kander , with whom he started working in 1962. Within months they had their first hit, “My Coloring Book,” which garnered them a Grammy nomination. Their collaboration lasted more than four decades and resulted in 13 Broadway musicals, including two produced after Ebb’s death. Their first, Flora, the Red Menace (...

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Ronald J. Zank

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 6, 1954). American performer, playwright and librettist. Fierstein grew up in New York and worked as an actor; he also pursued his interest in painting and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He was both lead actor and playwright for Torch Song Trilogy, which originated off-off Broadway before transferring to off-Broadway and finally to Broadway (1982). He wrote the libretto for the musical adaptation of the French play and film La Cage Aux Folles (1983, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman), about a gay couple dealing with their son’s marriage into a conservative family. Fierstein also crafted the book for the short-lived Legs Diamond, a production that featured the songs and performance of Peter Allen as the title gangster. As a performer Fierstein originated the role of plus-sized mother Edna Turnblad in the musical ...

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Sharon O’Connell Campbell

(Lenore )

(b Statesboro, GA, March 18, 1975). American performer. Embodying the “triple-threat” performance model of singer, actor, and dancer, Sutton Foster enjoyed a rapid rise to musical theater stardom. Foster debuted on Broadway in 1993 as a chorus member and understudy for Eponine in Les Misérables (opened 1987), then played Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease (1994). She appeared in Annie (1997) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1997). Foster created the role of Thoroughly Modern Millie’s Millie Dillmount in California tryouts in 2000. Despite being little-known, she was cast for the show’s Broadway (2002) opening; her performance earned Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical, and an Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer. Subsequently, Foster created the roles of Jo in Little Women (2005), Janet Van De Graaff in The Drowsy Chaperone (...

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Judith A. Sebesta

(Simon )

(b Chicago, IL, Feb 25, 1928; d Beverly Hills, CA, Sept 11, 2009). American librettist. He began his prolific and diverse career at 16 writing for radio. After moving to television in the 1950s, he collaborated with such well-known early television actors as Sid Caesar and Mel Brooks. His career in that medium peaked with M*A*S*H, for which he wrote the pilot and subsequently wrote, produced, and occasionally directed the hit series. His screenwriting credits include Tootsie (1982) and Oh, God! (1977), for which he was nominated for an Oscar. His librettos for A Funny Thing Happened on to the Way to the Forum (1962) and City of Angels (1989) both won Tony Awards. After Gelbart’s death from cancer in 2009, Jack Lemmon, Carl Reiner, and Woody Allen all named him the best American comedy writer they had ever known....

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Ian Bradley

English comic-opera collaborators. The impact of the comic operas of the librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) in the United States was immediate and lasting. H.M.S. Pinafore, the team’s second significant collaboration, established its transatlantic reputation. In the absence of international copyright agreements, a pirate production opened in Boston on 25 November 1878, exactly six months after the London first night. Within a few months Pinafore mania was sweeping the country. The opera was at one point being performed simultaneously in eight New York theaters within five blocks of each other. By the time the “authorized” version opened at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York on 1 December 1879, more than 150 productions had played across the United States.

It was a mark of the instant and intense popularity of the first of the major Savoy operas, as Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas became known, that the next work in the canon, ...

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Sharon O’Connell Campbell

(b Winnipeg, MB, June 2, 1950). Canadian actress. A character actress, she has worked in film and television and on stage in both musical and non-musical theater. She made her Broadway debut playing Monica in the musical I Love My Wife (1977). Her next four performances, all recognized by awards or nominations, were for non-musical plays: The Real Thing (1984), Joe Egg (1985), and Social Security (1986) on Broadway and It’s Only a Play (1986) off-Broadway. For her portrayal of the Baker’s Wife in Sondheim’s Into the Woods (1987), Gleason received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards. She played Nora in the short-lived Nick & Nora (1991) and was nominated again for a Tony Award for Muriel in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005). Gleason’s off-Broadway stage, television, and film credits are numerous; her films include Woody Allen’s movies ...

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(b New York, NY, Dec 2, 1914; d New York, NY, Oct 24, 2002). American lyricist, librettist, and actor. He sustained a lifelong writing partnership with Betty Comden. Among their joint works were the musicals Wonderful Town (1953) and Bells Are Ringing (1956), and the film script ...

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Paula Morga

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, May 29, 1923; d New York, NY, Dec 16, 1990). American writer on music. He attended Union College (BA 1943) and participated in the Army Special Training Program at the University of Nebraska (1944). His principal interest is the American musical theater. It was the subject of his radio program “The World of Musical Comedy” (WBAI, New York, 1961–5) and of Salute to American Musical Theater (1967), a revue that was presented both at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and at the White House. He was involved in two programs given at Lincoln Center, writing the script for “The Music of Kurt Weill” (1969) and advising on the music for “Review of Reviews” (1973). Green was a contributing editor for HiFi/Stereo Review (1957–63), wrote articles for the Saturday Review, the New York Times...

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Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins

(David )

(b Cleveland, OH April 11, 1932). American actor. Son of comedian and musician Mickey Katz, Grey began his performing career in nightclubs in Cleveland in 1951. Realizing that playing the Copacobana would not help him to pursue a serious acting career, Grey quit the clubs and began to work in regional theater. He was hired to replace Anthony Newley as Littlechap in Stop the World—I Want to Get Off (opened 1962) on Broadway. This engagement followed with another replacement part in Half a Sixpence (opened 1965). Typecast a character actor, Grey confronted various obstacles in securing starring roles. This changed when Hal Prince hired him to play the Emcee in Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret (1966). Walter Kerr of the New York Times reviewed Grey’s Emcee as “cheerful, charming, soulless, and conspiratorially wicked.” Grey creatively cloaked his tenor voice in a bright androgynous color for the nightclub numbers. As the Emcee he danced with seductive charm. Grey received the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and later earned an Oscar for the film version (...

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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 ...

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Scott Warfield

(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1964). American composer, lyricist, and orchestrator. The son and grandson, respectively, of Broadway composers mary Rodgers and richard Rodgers , Guettel first sang professionally as a boy soloist with the New York Metropolitan Opera and other companies. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1987. Early in his adult career, Guettel assisted conductor John Mauceri in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance, composed music for the off-Broadway show Love and Anger, and also performed as a bassist and singer. His first compositions include songs, symphonic works, and an unperformed one-act opera.

Guettel’s initial success was the off-Broadway production Floyd Collins, which won him and book author Tina Landau the 1996 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. The show also earned Guettel and his orchestrator Bruce Coughlin that year’s Obie Award for Music. It is based on the ...

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Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins

[John Joseph, Jr. ]

(b Boston, MA, Aug 10, 1898; d Los Angeles, CA, June 6, 1979). American actor and performer. Haley initially became an electrician in the Boston area. However, he soon left that career to pursue vaudeville and toured in the team Krafts and Haley. He began his Broadway career in the 1924 original musical revue Round the Town. In 1929 Haley starred as Jack Martin in the musical comedy Follow Thru with lyrics by DeSylva and Brown and music by Henderson. He and his costar, Zelma O’Neal, performed the hit number “Button up your Overcoat.” Haley was later cast in the 1932 musical comedy Take a Chance by DeSylva and Schwab. In the 1948 musical revue Inside USA, Haley’s character displayed effective physical comedy while portraying a weary traveler booked in a room with a trick bed. Haley served as the radio host of Wonder Show (1938–9), a show sponsored by Wonder Bread, which featured Gale Gordon as the announcer and regular appearances by Lucille Ball. Haley replaced Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man in the film ...

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Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(Abels )

(b Salt Lake City, UT, Aug 18, 1873; d New York, NY, Jan 24, 1963). American librettist and lyricist. He was educated at Knox College, then taught English for six years at Whitman College before going to New York for further study at Columbia University. In 1902 he became a newspaper journalist and the following year a copywriter for an advertising agency. His friendship with the composer Karl Hoschna led him to try his hand at writing musicals, and their collaboration Three Twins (1908, including the song “Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine”) was a great success. Harbach soon became a prolific writer; he produced over 40 works for Broadway and also wrote occasionally for films. After Hoschna’s death in 1911 he entered into a successful partnership with Rudolf Friml. Many of his best lyrics and librettos, however, were written after 1920 in collaboration with his younger protégé Oscar Hammerstein II. Among his best-known songs are “Rose-Marie” and “Indian Love Call” (...

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Jessica Hillman

(b Chicago, IL, April 30, 1924). American lyricist. After serving in the Army, he attended Northwestern University, where he studied violin and received a Bachelor of Music degree. His first song on Broadway, for which he wrote both the music and the lyrics, appeared in New Faces of 1952. After teaming with composer Jerry Bock on The Body Beautiful (1958), Harnick concentrated on lyrics only for a string of highly successful Broadway musicals featuring Bock’s tuneful music and Harnick’s character-driven lyrics. The pair gained acclaim when Fiorello (1959), about the charismatic titular mayor of New York, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Their most acclaimed collaboration, Fiddler on the Roof (1964), often considered the last of the “Golden Age” musicals, for a time became the longest running musical on Broadway before it closed in 1972. Other works include Tenderloin (1960), ...