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Musical of the Month

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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: 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.

Herbert 

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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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Musical of the Month: "Babes in Toyland"

A Guest Blog by Larry Moore

Original cast of "Babes in Toyland"In the NYPL Rare Books Division, among the Townsend Walsh correspondence, there is an undated 1902 letter from director Julian Mitchell to his publicist/business manager, Townsend Walsh, informing Walsh in confidence that he had asked Glen MacDonough to rewrite the libretto for The Wizard of Oz before it opened at New York's Majestic Theatre at 

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Musical of the Month: "The Wizard of Oz" and Victor Herbert

A Guest Post By Professor William Everett

Billboard advertising "The Wizard of Oz" at the Majestic TheaterThe Wizard of Oz, this month’s Musical of the Month, has ties to one of the most important musical theater composers of its day, Victor Herbert (1859-1924). The Irish-born and German-trained cellist, conductor, and composer had written several significant works for the musical theater in the years leading up to the appearance of The Wizard of Oz, most notably The Fortune Teller (1898).

After producer Fred R. Hamlin and director Julian Mitchell scored 

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Musical of the Month: "Ozma of Oz"

(From "The Tik-Tok Man of Oz" keysheets in the Billy Rose Theatre Division) The end of the year frequently inspires an introspective comparison of one’s ambitions against one’s accomplishments and an increased (if temporary) resolve to close the distance between the two. I suspect among the crowd celebrating in Times Square this Saturday night, there will be at least a few web designers who wish they were actors, bloggers who wish they were novelists, and bankers who wish they were rock stars. Hopefully this will be the year for some of them.

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Musical of the Month: A Production History of the 1903 Oz

A Guest Blog By David Maxine of Hungry Tiger Press

The Wizard of Oz is one of the best-loved fairy tales and one of the best-loved films of all time. Yet few people know that it was a Broadway musical in 1903 that made Oz, Dorothy Gale, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman household names. L. Frank Baum’s children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, forever securing Baum’s reputation as an author for children. But Baum’s first love was the theatre. In the summer of 

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Musical of the Month: The Wizard of Oz (1903)

Like many who spent their early childhood in those years before home video technology (VCRs, DVDs, Netflix, etc.) became ubquitous, I have fond memories of watching the annual television broadcasts of the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz with my family.  Unlike most children, though, I spent much of my later childhood obsessed with the story.  As a six year old, I became a card-carrying member of The International Wizard of Oz Club, read 

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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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Musical of the Month: "The Prince of Pilsen"

A Guest Blog by Project Co-Director, William Everett

Caricature of the Prince from the July 16, 1904 Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic NewsThe German-born composer Gustav Luders (1865-1913) was firmly established in the U.S. when he teamed with librettist-lyricist Frank Pixley (1867-1919) to create The Prince of Pilsen in 1902. The musical comedy, the third of their seven collaborations, was the team's most successful undertaking. (They also created The Burgomeister, 1900; King Dodo, 1901; Woodland, 1904; The Grand Mogul, 1906; Marcelle, 1908; and The Gypsy, 

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