Theatre yesterday and today



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Yesterday marked the birthday of Richard Rodgers, who, if pressed, I would have to cite as my favorite Broadway composer. Was anyone better at composing such romantically lush music that pierce the heart? The melodies that poured out of him over a career that spanned from the early 1920s to the late 1970s influenced every writer for the musical theatre who followed. With a variety of partners, he published a staggering 900 songs and contributed to 40 Broadway musicals: a record (it’s very safe to say) that will never be broken. And it’s not just about quantity. An overwhelming number of those songs contain a quality that will charm audiences for as long as there are artists to reinterpret th

JUNE 17, 1972

On the night of, June 17, 1972, Fiddler on the Roof became the longest running show in Broadway history. It had broken the record as the longest running musical close to a year earlier when it surpassed Hello, Dolly! but producer Harold Prince wasn’t content with that. He set his sights on overtaking Life with Father, the play that held the overall record (and still does for a play) since closing in 1947! Newsworthy: the front page of the New York Times June 18, 1972. That a Jewish musical that entirely took place in a Russian shtetl became the longest running show in Broadway history is significant, but so was the historic eight-year run of Life with Father. Also mind-boggling in that it ma


June 8, 2020: Theatre Yesterday and Today, by Ron Fassler The actor Robert Preston was born 102 years ago today. His name has snuck his way into a number of the columns I’ve been writing for the past four years due to my ample admiration and affection for him, serving as he did for my inspiration to become an actor. I wrote extensively of the effect his performance in The Music Man had on me in my book Up in the Cheap Seats, when as a five-year old I first saw him in the 1962 film version of the fabled Broadway production. I was awestruck at how the intense energy of his “Professor” Harold Hill leaped off the screen of the Radio City Music Hall and how I wished that he would have come to my


June 7, 2010: Theatre Yesterday and Today, by Ron Fassler In my previous column last week on Laurence Olivier’s appearance with the Old Vic in May of 1946, many readers commented how entranced they were by the ABC’s I posted — the New York Times listings of the shows then currently on Broadway. What with there being no ABC’s at all in the Times these days (so depressing), just looking at the overwhelming variety of choices back then was astounding, what with everything from dramas, comedies, musicals, revues… even an ice show! As impressive as the ’46 season was with the original productions of The Glass Menagerie, Annie Get Your Gun, and so many more, the 1948–49 season was REALLY something


With the month of May in the rearview mirror (and not a minute too soon), I’ve taken the last few days to look further backward to May of 1946. This was when London’s Old Vic Theatre came to New York to present a series of classic plays in six weeks of repertory: Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and, on a double bill, Sophocles’ Oedipus and Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Critic, (he of such witty Restoration comedies as The Rivals and The School for Scandal). The company had already played the West End, Paris, Hamburg, and even a British military post at the remains of the concentration camp at Belsen, but Broadway still beckoned. It had only been less than a yea

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