Theatre yesterday and today



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Carolyn Leigh was as smart and tough a lyricist who has ever written for the theatre. Better known today for her pop songs, and though only credited with four Broadway shows, she was nonetheless a talent to be reckoned with. Born on this date in 1926, she collaborated with a number of different composers over the course of her career and wrote dozens of songs which bared her distinctive stamp: a mix of the sweet and sour. There was an air of Dorothy Parker about her. Leigh’s lyrics were often barbed and witty, but unlike Parker, she had the ability to be crushingly romantic. Carolyn Leigh (circa 1960s) Her best known works for the stage included the Mary Martin Peter Pan (a complicated legac


A slightly modified column based on one written three years ago today. Yes, it was a mere 101 years ago tonight that the musical revue Yip Yip Yaphank opened on Broadway. Well, not really Broadway. The theatre was the Century, and its location was at Central Park West and 62nd Street, which puts it outside the parameters of the Broadway we know today (with the exception of Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Broadway and 65th Street — which has always been an exception). Sheet music from 1918’s Yip Yip Yaphank. I love envisioning what theatres off-the-beaten-path like the Century must have looked like, nestled as they were in neighborhoods, as opposed to commercial districts. Photos


Having written about Alfred Lunt yesterday, I thought digging up this column from 5.5.17 would be a nice follow-up: When on May 5, 1958, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne opened in a new Broadway play, no one knew (let alone the two of them), that it would be their swan song: a grand finale to their thirty-five year run as the premier acting team of the American stage. And how fitting that this illustrious couple, genuine theatre royalty, went out with a bang and not a whimper. Their final Broadway visit was The Visit, by Swiss playwright and author Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and they each received the reviews of their careers. I’ve often been asked, “What play might I like to go back in time to see?


A slightly modified column based on one written three years ago today. Laurence Olivier once said, “Everything I know about acting I learned from Alfred Lunt.” And if Olivier’s name isn’t quite the be all and end all it once was when the names of great actors are summoned, then the name of Lunt is even far less so. This is mainly due to the fact that (as opposed to Olivier) close to all of Lunt’s triumphs were on the stage. Considering that 1958 was the last time he was in a play, there is practically no one under the age of sixty who could have conceivably seen his work live. The same goes for his wife, Lynn Fontanne, with whom he acted almost exclusively. With but one film they made togeth

AUGUST 8, 1974

This is amended from when first posted 8/8/16: “So it’s really happening,” smiled Willie, the guy with the whitest teeth I’d ever seen. “Pretty hard to believe.” “There was never going to be any other outcome,” Nancy snorted, which she did a lot. Then she crushed her cigarette out on a paper plate and sighed, “What I’m surprised at is that it took so long.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. No one at the lunch table was looking at the bigger picture. Didn’t they realize we all had a personal stake in this? I held up the headline that was lying on the table right in front of them; the front page of the New York Post which read: “Nixon Quits Tonight. Addresses Nation at 9.” They looked at


As a kid in the 1960s and 70s and totally infatuated with Broadway, listening to a cast album was as close as I could get to the real thing. There was no internet to go on YouTube and watch clips, and no such thing as streaming on your television screen. There wasn't Google, so if you wondered about who this Tammy Grimes with the odd voice was in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, you needed to go to the library and look her up (and believe me, I did). No, the only real way to enter the world of the Broadway musical was by listening to records (yes, records!), which I did with joy and abandon (and still do). Bob Martin as "Man in Chair" in The Drowsy Chaperone (and lover of records). But there was

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