Theatre yesterday and today



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Today marks the birthdate of the playwrights Anthony and Peter Shaffer. Not only were they twin brothers, but they shared the unique distinction of having each won Tonys for Best Play (Peter did so twice). Anthony got there first with his inventive and smash hit mystery Sleuth (1970). Peter won for Equus (1974) and for Amadeus (1980), each running more than 1,000 performances. Peter also went on to win the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay when Amadeus was made into a 1984 film that also won Best Picture, in addition to six other Oscars. I’ve always been fascinated by the interaction between twins and how their lives intertwine (or dissect), as I have a twin brother and sister. Somet


May 8, 2020: Theatre Yesterday and Today, by Ron Fassler My long and abiding affection for the Larry Gelbart, Burt Shevelove, Stephen Sondheim musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is because it’s so true to its title: Funny Stuff Happens. When it opened fifty-eight years ago tonight, critics were mad for what was described by one as being “about as crazy as anything you’ve ever seen in old-time vaudeville.” When The Producers, with its similar style of low-comedy opened nineteen years ago, it was deemed the most hilarious show to hit town since the original Forum back in 1962. And with Nathan Lane, then the closest thing to bringing back the memory of Zero Mostel, it


Stories of theatrical lore often slip into legend, and many come with an extra dollop of “un-truthiness” that make for a better tale. But the one that occurred at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre on the May 7, 1953 — the opening night of Abe Burrows and Cole Porter’s Can-Can, sixty-seven years ago this evening, was witnessed by not only the sold-out audience of approximately 1,500, but by the multitude of critics there as well (this in the days when it was mandatory for critics to attend opening nights only). What this means is that with so many jotting it down by pen, and then transferring their scribblings to their typewriters when writing their reviews, that there’s no question that this really


The scores Frank Loesser composed for Broadway (both music and lyrics) include Where’s Charley?, Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying — significant benchmarks anyone with serious ambitions of writing for the theatre would be wise to follow. When The Most Happy Fella premiered on Broadway in 1956, sixty-four years ago today, Loesser’s attempt at near-opera added his name to the few who had previously tried, such as George Gershwin (Porgy and Bess), Kurt Weill (Street Scene) and Marc Blizstein (Regina). Sadly, like Loesser’s attempt, none were big hits in their original productions. Many things contributed to why, but one consistent element

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© 2016 Ron Fassler - All rights Reserved

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