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Posts from the Billy Rose Theatre Division

Naughty Marietta: A Production History

A Guest Blog By Project Co-Director, Professor William Everett

In 1910 impresario Oscar Hammerstein sold his interests in his Manhattan Opera Company to his chief rival, the Metropolitan Opera, and agreed not to produce any opera in New York City for a decade. Instead, he turned his attention toward the related genre of operetta and commissioned the noted composer-conductor Victor Herbert to write a new work that would feature two of his Manhattan Opera Company stars, Emma Trentini and Orville Harrold. Hammerstein wanted a highly operatic operetta, and Herbert more than 

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African American Composers and Conductors: Ford T. Dabney

The exhibition, The Great American Revue, focuses on Broadway revue series, 1907–1938. But they were not the only shows on Broadway. During those three decades, dozens of musical comedies by African American songwriters, featuring African American casts were presented successfully in Broadway theaters. They were musical comedies, not revues. They were written for (and, frequently by) the African American character comedians and had complicated plots setting 

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King of Jazz? Paul Whiteman and Hollywood's Rave Revues

Join us on Tuesday afternoon for a screening of King of Jazz (Universal, 1930) at LPA. Hollywood's Rave Revues is a film series programmed by John Calhoun in conjunction with the exhibition The Great American Revue, across the lobby in the Vincent Astor 

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Musical of the Month: A History of The Pink Lady

A guest blog by project co-director, Professor William Everett

The Women of the Pink Lady Touring Company (MWEZ8969)The Pink Lady (1911) is one of those delightful gems from a century ago with a title that suggests something eminently enjoyable. This is indeed the case for the English-language musical version of the French farce Le Satyre by Georges Berr and Marcel Guillemaud. The Pink Lady's creative team included several significant names of the era, as did the original cast. The music and plot were closely intertwined, with musical numbers advancing the storyline and 

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The Lost Musicals: Joel Grey's Star Vehicles, Part One: "Goodtime Charley"

I recently processed the papers of one of the musical theater's greatest stars, Joel Grey. His Tony and Oscar winning performances as the bizarre, androgynous master of ceremonies of a nightclub in Hitler's Berlin in Kander and Ebb's Cabaret (1966) and its 1972 film adaptation made him a star; and Grey has had a long, successful career, highlighted by hits like

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A Room with a ?: Noël Coward Parodies

The topical revues of 1907 – 1938 satirized performance, society and politics. Everything happening in and around New York was fair game. So, it should not be surprising that Noël Coward came in for his share of parodies. Since LPA's current exhibition in the Donald & Mary Oenslager Gallery is Star Quality: The World of Noël Coward and our neighbors, Film Society of Lincoln Center, will dedicate next weekend to

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Color and The Great American Revue

Design by Robert Ten Eyck Stevenson for the Greenwich Village Follies

This blog channel is inspired by the current exhibition at the Library for the Performing Arts, The Great American Revue: How Florenz Ziegfeld, George White and their Rivals Remade Broadway, which is on view through July 27, 2012. The material on display is drawn from the collections of LPA’s Research Divisions.

“Color,” our key image, is one of a 

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The Importance of Earthworms: Darwin’s Last Manuscript

Charles Darwin died 130 years ago today, leaving an intellectual legacy which has profoundly influenced the general course of Western thought. He is best known for his work On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), both of which 

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Frank McHugh: A Beloved Character Actor Who Played an Important Role in World War II

Unless you’re a classic film buff, you’ve probably never heard of Frank McHugh, and most of the hundred odd movies he appeared in during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s have fallen into obscurity. Born into a theatrical family, McHugh (1898-1981) grew up touring in a Vaudeville act with his brother and sister. He honed his acting skills in the 1920s, performing in regional/stock productions and on the Broadway stage. He landed in Hollywood in 1930, along with the rash of New York theatre actors talking pictures created a demand for.

McHugh quickly became 

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When They Trod the Boards: "Star Trek" Edition

STAR TREK. The Musical! OK, not really, but even Mr. Spock would find fascinating what we dug up in the Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division about the original Star Trek actors before they went stellar. Who knew that Nichelle Nichols sizzled in the local cabaret scene before taking up her earpiece on the starship Enterprise? Or that George Takei was an activist (OK, not surprising), or that William Shatner, of Shatner's World; We Just Live in It..., first 

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The Lost Musicals: "Skyscraper"

The successful casting of non-singing stars (or at least stars not known for singing) such as Rosalind Russell in Wonderful Town, Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, and Richard Burton in Camelot inspired a trend in 1950s and 60s musicals. In his book

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The Lost Musicals, Hollywood Edition: Comden and Green’s "Wonderland"

Wonderland isn’t technically lost — it was never made, but I found a rare script for this would-be film musical in the Betty Comden Papers. Betty Comden and Adolph Green were the two halves of the longest-running writing partnership in Broadway history. They met in 1933 at New York University and first worked together in the late 30s, writing sketches for the comedy group the Revuers, in which both also performed. They continued writing lyrics and scripts together until Green’s death in 2002. They are known for their lyrics to great Broadway shows like

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Ghost Light: Illuminating Our City's Theaters: RKO Coliseum

A thing of beauty is a joy forever... — Keats

(quoted in opening night program, B. S. Moss' Coliseum Theatre, 1920)

The end of 2011 also brought the quiet demise of the last movie theater in WashingtonHeights, Coliseum Cinemas. Known to most residents as the RKO Coliseum, the large theater, occupying the entire corner of 181st and Broadway, has been a fixture of the neighborhood for over 90 years. As the community now debates the future of the Coliseum 

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When They Trod the Boards: "I Love Lucy" Edition

This series is designed to showcase the often little-known stage background of popular TV and movie stars. In this installment, we'll explore the Broadway origins of the cast of I Love Lucy, including the secret life of Ethel Mertz!

Who didn’t grow up with Lucy? I Love Lucy, one of the most popular television programs of all time, has been in continuous syndication since it premiered in 1951. Ever since the first television signals of Lucy began to leak out of our atmosphere, now heading towards distant star systems 60 light years away, here on earth the 

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The Lost Musicals: Make Mine Manhattan

Richard Lewine and Arnold B. Horwitt’s Make Mine Manhattan, which clocked in 429 performances at the Broadhurst in 1948 might be the longest-running musical you’ve never heard of. I had never heard of it until I processed the Richard Lewine Papers in 2007. The collection includes scores and scripts from many musicals and revues Lewine composed before becoming a successful television producer. Make Mine Manhattan intrigued me the 

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Musical of the Month: "Katinka"

A Guest Blog by Project Co-Director, William Everett

A scene from Katinka (photograph by White Studios)Orientalism* and propaganda were common themes in American musical theater and popular song during the years surrounding World War I. Revues frequently included scenes set in the Middle East, and some of Broadway’s most famous composer-lyricists wrote music in direct response to the conflict. Orientalist manifestations include Irving Berlin’s “In My Harem” (1913) 

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"Stories of the Wands"

I needed a couple of extra archival boxes a few weeks ago, so I went over to a building where the Library keeps materials that do not fit in the main storage areas. While I was there, the reference archivist, Annemarie van Roessel, showed me a collection that made me feel like I had taken a wrong turn on 64th Street and wandered down Diagon Alley. It was a set of

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Wikipedia! The Musical! A Review!

Wikipedia! The Musical! design created by Lauren Lampasone

On October 22, “Wikipedia! The Musical!” was staged at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Despite its whimsical name, it was not really a musical but an editathon — a chance to edit Wikipedia with a group of people in an inspiring location. Though its focus was improving articles on musical theater, anyone interested in the performing arts was welcome.

For me, 

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I ♥ G-Dubs: A Love Letter to the George Washington Bridge on Its 80th Birthday

The George Washington Bridge (Photo: Jason Megraw)

Most New Yorkers, when asked to name NYC landmarks, will conjure up the familiar array of iconographic symbols that make up our city: the Statue Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Ground Zero Memorial, etc. — but having grown up in Washington Heights, I can’t help but place the George Washington Bridge among the great monuments of Gotham pride. Ever since its completion in 1931, this stunning suspension bridge has remained a sight that never gets old, one which 

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Jeepers Creepers, It's Boris Karloff!

Boris Karloff, who will be paid tribute to in a Thursday, October 27 program at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, played Frankenstein’s Monster in three films, the first of which was released 80 years ago next month.

Karloff played the title characters in

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