In this interview with Professor Nancy Deihl, Master Teacher of Costume Studies at New York University, we look back in history to discuss and discover the life and accomplishments of Zelda Wynn Valdes, celebrity dressmaker and designer of the original Playboy bunny costume.
Why did the US State Department sponsor international dance tours during the Cold War? An official government narrative was sanctioned and framed by the US State Department and its partner organization, the United States Information Agency (USIA—and USIS abroad). However, the tours countered that narrative.
Fifty-nine years ago this month, My Fair Lady made its debut on Broadway to a rapturous critical response. It became the longest-running musical to date, and was a landmark in the genre.
As we approach 26 March 2015, the centenary of the publication of Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, it seems apposite to consider how her writing resonates in the twenty-first century. In the performing and filmic arts, there certainly seems to be something lupine in the air.
On Tower Hill, 25 February 1601, Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was beheaded with three blows of an axe before some 150 spectators. The headsman held the head up for the spectators to see. He called out, “God save the Queen.” This beheading and others of that time color an important question for Shakespeare scholars. Severed heads populate many Elizabethan period plays. What objects represented those heads on stage?
Who was Nicolas Nabokov? The Russian-born American composer had a huge impact on music and culture globally, but his name remains relatively unknown. He had friends and acquaintances in a variety of circles, whether his cousin the writer Vladimir, the poet Auden, or the choreographer Balanchine.
Listing the ten best shows for a music director to work on is as subjective as choosing the ten greatest composers, or painters, or novelists, so it’s worthwhile to stipulate some qualities the winners must have, subjectively speaking. Yet these qualities can only reveal themselves by working through the reasoning of what makes a show a music director’s favorite.
With the catchy melodies of Richard Rodgers’ music, and the cheeky wit of Lorenz Hart’s lyrics, the early collaborative songs of Rodgers-and-Hart are characteristic of 1920s jazz at its finest — and some of the best examples of early classics from the Great American Songbook. Most of the shows from this period have sunk into obscurity, but the songs have stood the test of time. You won’t be able to resist tapping your feet along to these ten great hits!
For ballet rehearsals in theatres around the world the piano has long been the musical instrument of choice. To engage orchestras to do the detailed, volatile work required in routine rehearsals would be impractical and prohibitively costly, and only at the dress rehearsal will dancers and the orchestra finally come together. The music at all earlier rehearsals is provided through a specially written version of the score called a ‘piano reduction’.
On 12 January 1959, Berry Gordy, Jr. founded Tamla Records in Detroit, Michigan. A year later it would be incorporated with a new name that became synonymous with a sound, style, and generation of music: Motown. All this week we’re looking the great artists and tracks that emerged from those recording studios.
This final post on my collection of the lyricist Alan Jay Lerner focuses on another exciting series of letters: correspondence with famous composers with whom Lerner hoped to work, but never completed a musical. Some of these letters reveal how certain figures – such as Hoagy Carmichael – wrote to Lerner but were politely declined.
The musical version of little orphan Annie – as distinct from her original, cartoon incarnation – was born a fully formed ten-year-old in 1977, and she quickly became an icon of girlhood.
Christmas is a time for music, and music directors’ calendars typically fill up in December. In academic circles, there are Christmas pageants, holiday musicals, end-of-term recitals, and Christmas music concerts. On the professional scene, performers take advantage of both the celebratory and melancholy sides of the season to present concerts, charity events, and special performances (full-length or one-off).
Amongst the many famous people Lerner corresponded with, Frederick Loewe is naturally the most important in terms of musical collaborators. Yet sadly, correspondence between Lerner and Loewe is quite rare. I found only a few letters between them during the course of the research for the book, and was particularly disappointed by the lack of letters from their early years.
One of the joys of editing the correspondence of Alan Jay Lerner has been discovering his letters to and from the major stars with whom he worked. As the lyricist, librettist, and screenwriter of Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, An American in Paris, My Fair Lady, Gigi, Camelot, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and many more, he worked with the finest performers of his time.
A stunning new production of On the Town, directed by John Rando, opened in October at the Lyric Theatre on Broadway. It transports a viewer back to the golden age of American musical theater, when highly skilled orchestras delivered a robust sound while extended segments of dance were central to telling the story.