In Anything Goes, Broadway historian Ethan Mordden takes us on a tour of the history of Broadway musicals over the past 100 years. From classical shows such as the 1903 production of The Wizard of Oz, to Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s original production of Showboat, and leading right up to Bernadette Peters’s recent turn in the 2011 production of Follies, take a tour of the evolution of the musical through the years and “all that jazz” that is has captivated audiences for ages.
Rather Be Right
George M. Cohan as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in I’d Rather Be Right was the outstanding headliner musical of the 1930s. Cohan treats the show’s sweethearts (Austin Marshall, Joy Hodges) to a snack in Central Park. ROOSEVELT: This is the way I like to eat ice cream. At the White House, we have to have [Vice-President John Nance] Garner with it.
Ethel Merman leads the cast in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” (Note “Gabriel” tooting at rear.)
Before Alfred Drake (from the 1940s on) and Robert Preston (from the 1950s), the musical’s male stars were comics. One exception was the singing Shakespearean Dennis King. Playing the beggar-poet François Villon in The Vagabond King, he has been bathed, groomed, and perfumed for presentation at court (here with pompous courtier Julian Winter).
The Wizard of Oz
The Star Comic. Irish-accented Bobby Gaylor sings “On a Pay Night Evening” in the title role of The Wizard of Oz, way back in 1903.
Big Rosie and Jimmy Durante in Jumbo, in 1935. By then, minority-group stereotype humor was losing traction; Durante’s persona, as a proletarian Noo Yawk rogue, was social rather than ethnic.
Bells Are Ringing
The First Couple. Boy Meets Girl in Bells Are Ringing (Judy Holliday, Sydney Chaplin).
Boy Gets Girl in Seventeen (Kenneth Nelson, Ann Crowley) as the cast reprises the big ballad, “After All, It’s Spring.”
I Married An Angel
I Married Angel’s Second Couple (Walter Slezak, Vivienne Segal, right) is truly offbeat, as soigné cutups of Budapest. They’re old flames reunited. SLEZAK: You’ve been waiting for me for fifteen years?…Didn’t you get married? SEGAL: A little. Only four times.
The first-act finale, as Parthy Ann Hawks discovers her incipient son-in-law is a murderer. Left to right, boat captain Charles Winninger, fiancés Howard Marsh and Norma Terris, Second Couple Sammy White and Eva Puck again, a pointing Edna May Oliver, sheriff Thomas Gunn, evil whistleblower Bert Chapman. Note the error above; it should be “Hawks’ Cotton Blossom.”
Porgy and Bess
After Show Boat, there was nowhere to go but opera, in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, seen as Catfish Row departs for the picnic on Kittiwah Island in “Oh, I Can’t Sit Down.” First Couple Todd Duncan and Anne Brown at far right.