Who's Who in Musicals: So-Su
With Company (1970), he and director/producer Hal Prince began a decade long series of musicals that dominated the Broadway musical scene. Follies (1973), A Little Night Music (1974) and Pacific Overtures (1976) were "concept" musicals multi-character shows that center around a particular event rather than a more traditional plot. With the neo-operatic Sweeney Todd (1979), these Sondheim masterworks form one of the most impressive bodies of work in the history of musical theater adventurous, moving shows with intense theatrical power. The Sondheim-Prince partnership ended with the failure of the backwards musical Merrily We Roll Along (1981).
Teaming with director/librettist James Lapine, Sondheim composed Sunday in the Park With George (1983), Into The Woods (1987), and Passion (1994). His Assassins (1991) is a cult favorite, but has only managed brief runs in New York and London. His long-neglected Saturday Night enjoyed short-lived but warmly received productions on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1990s. Sondheim's musical comedy Wise Guys was revised and re-titled Bounce (2003), then closed after regional try-outs. Further revised and re-titled Road Show, it had a brief off-Broadway run in 2008. The 2000s also brought major London and New York revivals of Sondheim's most popular musicals, and his works are discussed passionately by fans, critics and scholars. A man of surprising contradictions (he confessed in a 2000 NY Times interview that he has hardly ever read a complete book since his college years), Sondheim is the undisputed dean of theatre composers.
Steele played the title role in the popular London stage adaptation of Frank Loesser's Hans Christian Andersen (1974), repeating the role in a successful revival three years later. After an unsuccessful attempt to revise the ill-fated musical Ziegfeld (1988), he directed and starred in the London version of Singing in the Rain (1989). He had less success with Some Like It Hot (1992), his version of the 1972 Broadway musical Sugar. In recent years, he has played the title roles in Doctor Doolittle and Scrooge in British tours and regional productions. Steele has also demonstrated his talents as a composer, painter and sculptor.
Stewart could craft a script to fit any era and any style, from farce to high drama. Expanding his efforts, he contributed both book and lyrics for the witty I Love My Wife (1977), then book alone for The Grand Tour (1979). He collaborated with Mark Bramble on the libretti for Barnum (1980) and the mega-hit 42nd Street (1980). His final years were marked by a frustrating series of Broadway failures, including Bring Back Birdie (1981), Harrigan and Hart (1985), and Jule Styne's Pieces of Eight a musical version of Treasure Island that never came to New York. Stewart's sister is the author Francine Pascal. He died of pneumonia at age 63.
Stone went on to a triumphant solo career, starring in the title role of the musical Jack O' Lantern (1917) and Tip Top (1920) before his gift for physical comedy led to stardom on the silent screen. He survived a plane crash in 1928, but injuries forced Stone to curtail his stage acrobatics. Ray Bolger proudly modeled his performance as "The Scarecrow" in MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939) after Stone, who had been his longtime idol. Stone himself remained active on both stage and screen through the 1940s, making his final New York stage appearance as the grandfather in a 1945 revival of You Can't Take It With You. His daughters Dorothy and Paula became popular actresses. Blind and in generally poor health during his final years, Stone died at his home at age 85.
Stone's solid librettos for Two By Two (1970), Sugar (1972) and Woman of the Year (1981) received shrugging reviews the last brought him his second Tony for Best Book. After Tommy Tune's My One and Only (1983) underwent radical preview revisions, critics heaped abuse on Stone's often hilarious script and he chalked up yet another Tony nomination. Stone collaborated once again with Tune on the musical version of Grand Hotel (1989), providing a new and effective book for a show that had closed on the road thirty years earlier. His book for the problematic Will Roger Follies (1991) brought scathing reviews but earned yet another Tony nomination. Few writers have ever had to face anything like the blind critical contempt heaped on Stone's masterful script for the musical Titanic (1997), which nevertheless won the Tony for Best Musical, and brought Stone his third Tony for best book. He revised the libretto for the Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun (1999), and did not live to see his book for Curtains (2007) receive a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination.
Streisand, Barbra Joan
Concert appearances and a memorable TV duet with Judy Garland made Streisand a household name nationwide. Even so, many were surprised when Streisand was cast as "Fanny Brice" in the biographical Broadway musical Funny Girl. Tempestuous previews, rave reviews and the best-selling Jule Styne- Bob Merrill songs "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "People" made the show a tremendous personal triumph for Streisand, who received an Oscar for Best Actress when she repeated the role in the 1967 film version. More best selling albums and a string of innovative TV specials added to her fame. Less successful big screen appearances in Hello Dolly (1969) and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) and a reputation for being hell to work with did not diminish her status as a superstar.
Streisand became a top film star, appearing in numerous comedies and dramas, as well as a second Fanny Brice bio pic, Funny Lady (1975). For her rock remake of A Star is Born (1976), she received an Academy Award for co-writing the song "Evergreen" with composer Paul Williams. Her last musical film to date was Yentl (1983), which she both starred in and directed. She directed other feature films, including The Prince of Tides. Her many solo albums include two acclaimed collections of Broadway standards presented in her trademark style. Streisand made several concert tours in the late 1990s, culminating with her official retirement from live performance.
Noel Coward cast Stritch as "Mimi Paragon" in the luxury cruise musical comedy Sail Away (1961), which featured her hilarious rendition of "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" She repeated the role in London the following year, then toured in Mame in the late 1960s, playing both the title role and "Vera Charles." Stritch eventually returned to Broadway as the acerbic "Joanne" in Company (1970), stopping that show with her searing rendition of Stephen Sondheim's "Ladies Who Lunch." After winning acclaim in the 1972 London production, she spent the next ten years in Britain, where she married actor John Bay and starred in the hit television sitcom Two's Company.
After her husband's death, Stritch returned to New York for an all-star concert of Follies (1985), where her "Broadway Baby" was one of the highlights of the evening. Hal Prince cast her as "Parthy Hawks" in his lavish revival of Show Boat (1994), where she gave a touching rendition of "Why Do I Love You?" Her non-musical performances include "Claire" in an acclaimed revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1996) and appearances on the NBC-TV series Law and Order. She scored a personal triumph with Elaine Stritch at Liberty, a one woman show at the Public Theater in 2001 that moved to Broadway the following year and received a special Tony. She took over the role of "Madame Armfeldt" in the New York revival of A Little Night Music (2010).
Stroman's inventive dances for the Broadway smash-hit Crazy for You (1992) won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Olivier awards for Best Choreography. She married that show's director, Mike Ockrent. After winning a second Tony two years later for choreographing the Hal Prince revival of Show Boat (1994), she collaborated with Ockrent on staging the lavish Lynn Ahrens- Alan Menken version of A Christmas Carol for Madison Square Garden Theater. Stroman's outstanding work on Big (1996) and Steel Pier (1997) was not enough to save either project. She created new choreography for Oklahoma!, winning acclaim for the 1998 London revival and its 2002 Broadway incarnation.
Stroman's creative use of props (inspired by her hero, Fred Astaire) has become a proud trademark. Who else would make such brilliant use of ropes, swings, trombones and aluminum walkers, and yet always make sure that every dance served the dramatic needs of the show? Mike Ockrent's untimely death sent Stroman into a frenzy of creative activity. She conceived and choreographed Contact (2000), an experimental dance project that wowed the critics, won the Tony for Best Musical and brought Stroman Tonys for choreography and direction. That same season saw her stage a magnificent revival of The Music Man (2000).
The following year, Mel Brooks selected Stroman to direct and choreograph the hilarious stage version of his classic screen comedy The Producers. The most acclaimed musical comedy to hit Broadway in decades, it received rave reviews and won a record-setting number of Tonys including another director-choreographer combo for Stroman. This made her the only person ever to win both Tonys two years in a row. Her staging of the uneven Thou Shalt Not (2001) received a cold response, as did her staging of Mel Brooks second Broadway adaptation, Young Frankenstein (2007). Strohman received far better reviews for her innovative work on Kander and Ebb's short-lived The Scottsboro Boys (2010).
Styne first conquered Broadway by teaming with Cahn on the successful High Button Shoes (1947). He followed this with more than a dozen noteworthy stage scores. He collaborated with Leo Robin on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), in which Carol Channing introduced "Little Girl From Little Rock" and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Styne composed eight scores with co-lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, including Peter Pan (1954) and Bells Are Ringing (1956) with the latter including the hit songs "Just In Time" and "The Party's Over."
Stephen Sondheim provided lyrics only for Styne's most acclaimed work, Gypsy (1959), which featured the hits "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Let Me Entertain You." Styne teamed up with lyricist Bob Merrill to create the score for Funny Girl (1964), in which newcomer Barbra Streisand introduced "Don't Rain On My Parade" and "People." Styne and Merrill also collaborated on two outstanding TV musicals Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, and the Liza Minnelli vehicle The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood. They also worked together on the Boston flop Prettybelle (1971) starring Angela Lansbury, and the modestly successful Sugar (1972) starring Robert Morse. Styne received his only Tony Award for the score to the commercial failure Hallelujah Baby (1967). Styne co-produced several musicals, including Make a Wish (1951) and First Impressions (1959), and directed the disastrous Something More (1964). His last score was for the ill-fated Red Shoes (1993); Pieces of Eight, Styne's musical version of "Treasure Island," never made it beyond regional productions. He enjoyed fresh acclaim in his final years thanks to revivals of Gypsy. Six weeks after undergoing open heart surgery, he died of coronary failure at age 88.
Sullivan, Arthur Seymour
Gilbert and Sullivan turned out a dozen musicals (which the team called "light operas"), including the international hits H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1880), Iolanthe (1882), The Mikado (1885), Yeoman of the Guard (1888) and The Gondoliers (1889). Sullivan's lilting melodies have a timeless appeal. His operettas forever changed the artistic standards for musical theater in Britain and the USA. Sullivan's classical works include the rarely heard grand opera Ivanhoe (1891) and the popular hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." Sullivan was knighted by Queen Victoria (a great fan of his musicals) in 1883. His self-indulgent lifestyle contributed to the kidney disease which plagued his adult years and led to his untimely death at age 58. You can learn far more about Gilbert and Sullivan in our special sub-site G&S101.
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