The immortal 1942 film “Yankee Doodle Dandy” only hinted at the complexity of George M. Cohan, the first great figure of the American musical. We’ll get at the truth of Cohan’s life by deconstructing the movie – and then follow the amazing, dramatic tale of how the movie got made.
Jerome Kern and the Birth of the American Musical
Starting in 1915, a series of innovative shows at the tiny Princess Theatre in Manhattan, all with music by Jerome Kern, gave birth to the American Musical, authorities agree. The influence of these shows at the time, and going forward, was huge -- alas, due to their badly dated scripts, they're unproducible and forgotten today. But wait till you hear the delightful, melodious songs written by Kern and his collaborators, in a presentation that recreates an entire era!
The Creation of "Show Boat"
"Show Boat" has been unanimously acclaimed the first great American musical, so far ahead of its time that there would be no comparable achievement for nearly two decades. This presentation examines how composer Jerome Kern and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II created their monumental 1927 masterpiece from Edna Ferber's sprawling contemporary novel. It will also touch upon early musical comedy and operetta —and not so incidentally, America’s tortured racial history in the twentieth century.
The Creation of "The Music Man”
This singular musical theatre classic was written by a single person –– Meredith Willson, a fellow with a most unusual background before his monster hit first show opened in 1957, when he was 55. This presentation examines the range of Willson’s many talents, and follows his five-year struggle to write a musical about his beloved Iowa hometown, and then to find a producer for it, and finally a star.