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Musical of the Month


Each month, a libretto of an important early American musical in a variety of electronic formats, plus associated photographs, vocal scores, and the occasional audio file.

Musical of the Month: Make Mine Manhattan

A guest post by UnsungMusicalsCo director, Ben West

The CompanyPhotograph © Dixie Sheridan Currently in its fifth year, UnsungMusicalsCo. (UMC) is a not-for-profit production company that I founded with the aim of researching, restoring and presenting obscure but artistically sound works from the Golden Age of musical theatre. It should be noted upfront that I am perhaps more liberal than most in my definition of the Golden Age, by which I mean those 40 glorious years between the Follies: Mr. Florenz Ziegfeld's in 1931 and Mr. Stephen 

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Musical of the Month: Night Boat

A guest post by Levi Branson

Ernest Torrence and the chorus (Theater Photo File B)

By 1920 Jerome Kern had achieved success as a noteworthy American composer with a uniquely American career. His melodies graced many entertainment platforms, but he was most prominently represented on the musical stage. His early composing career included scores for the successful Princess Theatre musicals as well as song interpolations into others' musicals. In 1919 a Charles Dillingham production paired him with a songwriter and librettist who would become a frequent collaborator in the 

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Musical of the Month: Sally

A guest post by Maya Cantu

Marilyn Miller in "Sally" "America at the close of the Great War was a Cinderella magically clothed in the most stunning dress at the ball... immense gains with no visible price tag seemed to be the American destiny," as historian Ann Douglas has noted. In the expansively optimistic and prosperous America of 1920, there could hardly have been a musical — or heroine — more suited to its times than Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton's Sally, a Jazz Age Cinderella story clothed in opulent enchantment.

At the dawn of the 

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Musical of the Month: Evangeline

A guest post by Brian D. Valencia

Evangeline Ad - Ann Arbor Courier 1-18-1888 (Old News, Ann Arbor)

Evangeline, or The Belle of Acadia rounds out the Musical of the Month blog's consideration of the four most popular American-devised musicals of the late 19th century. Only The Black Crook  (1866) surpassed Evangeline in frequency, longevity, and popularity—and  

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Musical of the Month: Dorothy

A guest post by Tracy C. Davis, Barber Professor of Performing Arts — Northwestern University.

Extracted from the preface to Dorothy in Tracy C. Davis, ed., The Broadview Anthology of Nineteenth-Century British Performance (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2012). The full text of the book and lyrics (based on the British Library's manuscript) appears for the first time in this volume.

Florence Dysart as Lydia [Victoria & Albert Museum]Dorothy premiered in 1886 it was billed as a 

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The Music of Oh, Boy!

A guest post by Professor William Everett

Part of the innate appeal of the Princess Theatre musicals comes from the songs, which famously emerge out of the plots. Musical numbers in these shows illuminate some dimension of the story; characters often reflect on what is happening at the time or offer insights into their personalities and desires. As Stephen Banfield asserts in his extraordinary study of Kern and his music, songs in the Princess Theatre musicals constitute the middle parts of sequences that generally move from dialogue to song to dance. (Banfield,

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Musical of the Month: Erminie

A guest post and edition by Andrew Lamb.

Irene Williams and Warren Proctor as Erminie and Eugène in the 1921 revival (*T PHO B) The works of Gilbert and Sullivan dominated nineteenth-century British comic opera from the start. Yet in neither London nor New York was a work of theirs the longest-running British comic opera of its time. Indeed, in New York The Mikado wasn't even the most successful British comic opera of its year.

That distinction belongs to a work now virtually forgotten — Erminie, a comic opera with libretto by Claxson Bellamy and 

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Musical of the Month: Oh, Boy!

A guest post By Laura Frankos Oh, Boy!: Kern, Bolton, Wodehouse and the Princess Theatre Musicals The Genesis of the Series

Image ID: th-56990In 1913, the Shuberts added another theatre to their empire at 104 West 39th Street, on the edge of the theatre district. Architect William Albert Swaney, who had built the Winter Garden for the brothers, designed an intimate 299-seat house, with an understated Georgian exterior of red brick and limestone and five stories of office space for rental income. The theatre, dubbed the Princess, spent its first seasons as "the Theatre of 

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Musical of the Month: A Biography of George M. Cohan

A guest post by Professor William Everett.

Wikimedia CommonsHis statue stands in Times Square, the only one located at the "Crossroads of the World." This legendary showman did it all—actor, writer, composer, producer, manager, sheet music publisher. If one individual had to be chosen as an embodiment of the breadth of the stage entertainment industry at the turn of the twentieth century, an ideal choice would be George M. Cohan 

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Musical of the Month: Little Johnny Jones

A guest post by Elizabeth Titrington Craft.

"I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy / A Yankee Doodle do or die / A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam / Born on the Fourth of July." If these lines conjure up a familiar patriotic ditty, perhaps learned in school or heard at Independence Day celebrations, then you already know one of the hit songs from George M. Cohan's 1904 musical Little Johnny Jones. This landmark show tapped into the nationalism of the day and fashioned Cohan's public persona, earning him his 

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Musical of the Month: A Trip To Chinatown

Cover of souvenir program, November 9, 1892 (MWEZ + nc 25,015)A quiz for musical theater fans: Name a musical, set at the close of the 19th century, in which two young men deceive a crotchety old man in order to escape his oversight and seek love and adventure in the big city. The young men, together with their female romantic partners and a romantically available widow, go to a fancy restaurant where, through a somewhat improbable chain of events, the old man is also present and expecting to meet a potential romantic partner himself. A scuffle breaks out at the restaurant, and at the 

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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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Musical of the Month: Naughty Marietta

From the White Studio photographs of the original cast (keysheet image id: g98f719_001)A Guest Blog By Ellen Peck

To music historian Richard Traubner, operetta evokes “gaiety and lightheartedness, sentiment and Schmalz” (Traubner, Operetta: A Theatrical History, revised edition, 2003). If any song in the history of American musical theatre has earned a reputation for schmaltz, it would have to be

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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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Musical of the Month: The Pink Lady

When I asked Miles Kreuger, founder of the Institute of the American Musical in Hollywood, if there were any pre-1923 (out-of-copyright) titles he would especially like to see online, he replied, "Ohhh, the Pink Lady" with the sort of fond recollection usually reserved for a dear, departed loved one. I was embarrassed that I had never heard of it. Asking around amongst my friends and fellow musical theater scholars, I found, somewhat salving my pride, that I was not alone. 

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The Echo of a Sigh: Noël Coward's "Bitter Sweet"

A Guest Post By Brad Rosenstein

Bitter Sweet, an operetta that features wall-to-wall music, ironically began its life as a silent film scenario. Noël Coward’s tremendous theatrical successes of the 1920s were a lure to movie producers, and no fewer than three of his plays were translated into films in 1927 alone. But given that it was still the era of silent movies, all three adaptations unsurprisingly flopped, bereft of Coward’s scintillating comic dialogue.

Producer Michael Balcon, who had undertaken all three of the films, then suggested to 

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Musical of the Month: "Bitter Sweet"

A Guest Post by Project Co-Director Professor William Everett

Nöel Coward's Bitter Sweet is in many ways an ode to the world of romantic operetta. In 1929, when the show first appeared, operetta was all too often thought of as embodying some sort of sentimental nostalgia for a time entrenched in the pathos of nevermore. Ivor Novello (1893-1951), who, like Coward, was an actor, composer, and singer, wrote to the show's creator: "The whole thing is so full of regret — not only for that darling lover who died but for a vanished kindly silly darling age" (Barry 

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Musical of the Month: Shuffle Along

A guest post & edition by Brian D. Valencia

When Shuffle Along opened at the 63rd Street Music Hall on May 23, 1921, it marked the return of all-black musical shows to Broadway after nearly a decade-long silence. The last successful musical wholly written and performed by African Americans to be performed south of Harlem had been the George Walker–Bert Williams vehicle Bandanna Land in 1908. When Walker fell ill on its tour, Williams was left to star alone in the following year’s Mr. Lode of Koal, which ran only half as long as its predecessor with half of its 

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Musical of the Month: A Few Thoughts on "Babes in Toyland" and the World of Operetta

A Guest Blog on Victor Herbert's Birthday by Professor William Everett Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland is typical of turn-of-the-century musical theater in that it encompasses various musical styles and tropes drawn from multiple genres. Musical comedy, as Babes in Toyland is described in the libretto, is evident in the comedic dialogue and contemporary references. Extravaganza, the designator it shares with The Wizard of Oz, comes through dazzling spectacle. But it is operetta, the quintessential Continental European style, that concerns us here.


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Musical of the Month: A Word from a Music Director

A Guest Blog by Adam Roberts, Music Director

Adam Roberts, Music DirectorGreetings! My name is Adam Roberts, and I serve as Music Director of the Music Theatre Online archive. If you're a theater professional, you're probably already aware of the responsibilities traditionally assumed by a music director (MD). But perhaps you're new to the musical theater world and are unfamiliar with the term. This entry will focus on my general approach to the musical direction of this specific initiative, both for readers who already have a solid handle on 

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