Three Excerpts from “The Band’s Visit”

At last Sunday’s 72nd annual Tony Awards, The Band’s Visit came away with a special distinction. In addition to sweeping the Tonys by winning ten awards, it was one of only four musicals in the history of Broadway to win these six big awards: Best Musical, Best Book (Itamar Moses), Best Score (David Yazbek wrote both music and lyrics), Best Actor in a Musical (Tony Shalhoub), Best Actress in a Musical (Katrina Lenk), and Best Direction of …

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The Art of the List Song

Here at The Listeners’ Club, lyrics normally take a backseat to music. But today, let’s bring some of the Broadway musical theater’s most exhilarating lyrics into focus with a brief survey of the list song. List songs are built around extensive inventories of people, places, and things. They open the door to lyric writing filled with sparkling virtuosity and unexpected rhyme. Surprise is a key element of humor, and in this respect the …

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Tossing Off Melodies: Leonard Bernstein’s “Lucky to Be Me”

The jubilant, infectious melody and gushing lyrics of the song, Lucky to Be Me, from Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 Broadway musical, On the Town, seem appropriate for any Valentine’s Day playlist. (The lyrics are by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and the show’s inspiration came from Jerome Robbins’ ballet, Fancy Free, produced the same year with a score by Bernstein). Listen to the way the contour of Bernstein’s melody, beginning around the 35 second mark, mirrors the carefree euphoria …

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year! The songwriter Frank Loesser may be best known for creating the music and lyrics for the 1950 Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. Three years before that show opened, Loesser wrote the stand-alone song, What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? It has been recorded by countless performers- The Orioles, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Barbra Streisand, to name a few. This 1947 recording featuring Margaret Whiting was the first. The photo, above, taken …

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Nutcracker Rag: A Sweet Travesty On Tchaikovsky

One of my biggest pet peeves is “cutesy” holiday music which weaves in references to classical music. This time of year, there seems to be no shortage of these kinds of cheap, gimmicky arrangements.  I’m sure you’ve already fallen victim. The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra’s premiere recording of Rick Benjamin’s Nutcracker Rag: A Sweet Travesty On Tchaikovsky doesn’t fall into this category. It transforms Tchaikovsky’s familiar themes into something new with an infectious sense of …

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Broadway’s Jerry Goldberg Remembers Barbara Cook

Yesterday, my friend Jerry Goldberg shared with me his memories of Barbara Cook, the legendary singer who passed way earlier this week. Jerry spent decades in the Broadway theater as a pianist and conductor, working on such notable shows as A Chorus Line and rubbing shoulders with some of Broadway’s greatest performers. He worked with Cook on two occasions. The first was in preparation for Cook’s appearance in the leading role of Fanny Brice in Jule Styne’s Funny …

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Remembering Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook, the Tony Award-winning lyric soprano who came to prominence during Broadway’s Golden Age and later re-emerged as a star of cabaret and concert hall, passed away yesterday. She was 89. Cook was known for her wide vocal range and her magical ability to color musical phrases and shape lyrics. In her later years, her voice darkened and she performed to great acclaim into her eighties. In 1956, she played the …

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