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Judith A. Sebesta

(b New York, NY, Nov 24, 1934). American lyricist and director. Charnin graduated from Cooper Union in New York and began his career as an actor, appearing as a Jet in the original production of West Side Story. He first worked as a lyricist with Mary Rodgers on Hot Spot (1963), then focused on writing and directing for television, particularly variety shows, in the 1960s and 70s. In 1972, he won two primetime Emmy Awards for S’Wonderful, S’Marvelous, S’Gershwin. After his stage directorial debut in 1968, he went on to write (with Charles Strouse) and direct one of the longest running musicals in Broadway history, Annie (1977), for which he and Strouse won the Tony Award for Best Original Score. Charnin wrote the optimistic show to counteract the prevailing cynicism in the United States brought on by such events as the Vietnam War and Watergate. Its sequel, ...

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

Kimberly Greene

(b Perth Amboy, NJ, Feb 19, 1766; d New York, NY, Sep 28, 1839). American playwright, librettist, theater manager, historian, and painter. Despite losing his sight in one eye due to an accident, Dunlap became a professional portrait painter in his youth, and he was noted for his paintings of George Washington. In 1784 he traveled to London and studied painting with Benjamin West. Upon his return to the United States in 1787, he began writing plays and became America’s first professional playwright. Over a period of 40 years he translated, adapted, or wrote more than 70 plays, many of which used music by composers such as Benjamin Carr, Alexander Reinagle, Victor Pelissier, and James Hewitt. He was influenced by the plays of German dramatist August von Kotzebue, whose works he translated and made popular in the United States.

Dunlap’s The Archers, or Mountaineers of Switzerland (1796...

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 ...