With its feet firmly planted on the live stage, Broadway music is exciting, dynamic and enthralling. And you can find every style of music on the Broadway stage today. The first show to truly launch the concept of musical theater was something called 'The Black Crook'.
This musical production was over five hours long and ran for 474 performances, starting on September 12, 1866 in New York City's Niblo's Gardens. Though it wasn't a musical in the same sense as we know them today, it WAS the production that launched the idea of incorporating music into a show with plot and situation relevance. Most of the musicals that followed during the 1800s and early 1900s were more in the genre of musical reviews with cabaret type staging and feel.
Musical selections followed one another with no real book or persistent story line. Then came 'Show Boat' which opened on December, 12th, 1927, at the Ziegfeld Theater. The music was integrated into the story, with the musical numbers scattered throughout, and it was designed to advance the plot and characters.
The show and the lyrics by were based on an Edna Ferber novel. The show ran 572 performances and was a groundbreaker at the Ziegfeld, where Flo Ziegfeld's previous shows had included lots of music, costumes and choreography but NO stories. From then on, the stage was set! In 1935, 'Porgy and Bess' opened at the Alvin Theater with music by George Gershwin, and songs like 'Summertime', and 'It Ain't Necessarily So', breaking the color barrier for the Broadway musical stage.
The musical 'Oklahoma' was originally called 'Away we Go'. It opened in 1943 at the St. James Theater (home of today's hit Broadway musical, 'The Producers').
With music by Oscar Hammerstein II, who had also contributed to 'Show Boat', it became an instant classic that is still revived today in community and regional theaters all across the country In 1950, 'Guys and Dolls' hit the stage for the first time. With music by Frank Loesser and songs like 'Luck Be a Lady' and 'A Bushel and a Peck', Guys and Dolls was sharp, and romantic. Everything a Broadway audience wanted in music and story! Then in 1957, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for 'West Side Story', ushering in the age of Sondheim, who would go on to become the best known Broadway composer of his time, writing shows like 'Company', 'Marry Me a Little', 'Sweeney Todd', 'Assassins', and 'The Frogs'. His music has been performed by cabaret performers everywhere and recorded by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Barbara Cook, Mandy Patinkin and many more. With the advent of rock operas and contemporary musicals like 'Hair', 'Cats', and 'Rent', the music of Broadway changed yet again. Today, Disney has brought many of its most famous animated films to Broadway: 'Beauty and the Beast', 'The Lion King' and others, and the Juke Box Musical craze has spawned shows like 'Movin' Out, the 'Jersey Boys', 'Mama Mia', and more.
Today's Broadway music has something for every taste. Teenagers love 'Wicked', and romantic shows like 'The Phantom of the Opera' continue to sell out. If you are not yet a fan of Broadway musicals, hop on a plane and take a week to see the best that Broadway has to offer. If you ARE a fan, take a look on your favorite CD websites to see a sampling of the newest musical show cast recordings. From revivals of the haunting 'Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris', to new musicals by up and coming composer Adam Guettel ('The Light in the Piazza') today's Broadway music reflects all tastes and all times.
Learn about all kinds of music, including the historical and current music of Broadway at our web site: Broadway Musicals