10 Theatre Artists Whose Work Earned Them Revues

Lists   10 Theatre Artists Whose Work Earned Them Revues
 
Which award-winning Broadway composers, lyricists, choreographers, and more inspired these “best of” musicals?
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Prince of Broadway is currently bringing the work of director-producer Hal Prince back to the stage, a chance for theatre fans to revisit Prince’s incredible body of work. Though Broadway fans certainly thrill for new material, it’s important to take stock of theatre history—whether it’s a trip down memory lane or an introduction. And when a cast recording or a YouTube clip just isn’t cutting it, thankfully Broadway has been there to periodically give us a retrospective anthology or “best of” revue, focusing on a particular writer or theatre artist.

We’re taking a look at ten times Broadway paid homage with anthology revues—in no particular order.

1. Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, 1989

Jerome Robbins
Jerome Robbins

Jerome Robbins was one of the biggest choreographers of Broadway’s Golden Age, and he defined the concept of the director-choreographer, with shows like Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story. His work made great material for a compilation show, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, which was put together by Robbins himself, with the help of some of his original dancers. The show featured such numbers as “Shall We Dance?” from The King and I, “New York, New York” from On the Town, “I’m Flying” from Peter Pan, and extended sequences from West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.

Jerome Robbins’ Broadway opened on Broadway in February 1989. The show took home six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical for Robbins—his fifth Award.

2. Jerry’s Girls, 1985

Jerry_Herman_HR.jpg
Jerry Herman

The Jerry in question for this anthology was Jerry Herman, the composer behind Broadway favorites like Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Mack and Mabel, and La Cage Aux Folles. Jerry’s Girls started as a modest nightclub performance in 1981, featuring four performers and Herman himself. When La Cage Aux Folles became a big hit on Broadway a few years later, the decision was made to mount an all-star version of the revue that eventually made it to Broadway. The show looked at the composer’s body of work with an all-female cast that was led by Leslie Uggams, Dorothy Loudon, and Chita Rivera.

Jerry’s Girls opened on Broadway in December 1985. Rivera received a Tony nomination for her performance.

3. Fosse, 1999

Bob Fosse
Bob Fosse

When it comes to Broadway choreographers, there may be no one better known than the great Bob Fosse, the director-choreographer behind such shows as Sweet Charity, Chicago, and the film of Cabaret. Fosse collected some of the choreographer’s greatest numbers from Fosse’s work on stage and screen, including “Big Spender” and “Rich Man’s Frug” from Sweet Charity, “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago, and “Steam Heat” from The Pajama Game. Rather than recreate the original settings and costumes, Fosse presented each number simply with dancers dressed in black and white—with hats, of course.

Fosse opened on Broadway in January 1999, and won the Best Musical Tony Award later that year.

4. The Sondheim Revues

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim

When it comes to reflecting on the work of one of musical theatre’s greatest composers of the last 40 years, theatre artists can’t seem to get enough. If you’re looking for a Sondheim revue, you have your choice of Side by Side by Sondheim, which began in the West End in 1976 and moved to Broadway a year later; Marry Me a Little, an Off-Broadway two-hander that uses songs cut from Sondheim musicals to vaguely tell the story of a man and woman who live in the smart apartment building; You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, an intimate concert evening of lesser-known Sondheim songs first performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City; Putting It Together, which sets Sondheim tunes at an elegant dinner party; and Sondheim on Sondheim, which uses video interviews with Sondheim himself to illuminate the composer’s writing process. There have been a handful of others, as well, thanks to the breadth of work to revisit.

5. Hundreds of Hats, 1995

Howard Ashman
Howard Ashman

In a relatively short career, lyricist, playwright, and director Howard Ashman made a huge impact on theatre. He wrote and directed Little Shop of Horrors in 1982, and a few years later worked with Disney to create a string of animated movie musical hits that redefined the genre, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Ashman’s life was tragically cut short, falling victim to the AIDS crisis in 1991. A few years later, producers assembled an Off-Broadway compilation show of his work—both well-known and otherwise—called Hundreds of Hats. Works from his complete repertoire of stage musicals, including Little Shop, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and Smile were represented, along with material from his movies and unfinished works. The piece featured direction by Michael Mayer, and a cast that included John Ellison Conlee and Nancy Opel.

Hundreds of Hats opened Off-Broadway in May 1995.

6. A Grand Night for Singing, 1993

Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Hammerstein II Courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein: An Imagem Company

The names Rodgers and Hammerstein are synonymous with the Golden Age of Broadway. Their roster of shows, including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, have come to define a classic musical, and with good reason. Rodgers and Hammerstein received a Broadway revue looking at their body of work, and they got just that in 1993, with A Grand Night for Singing. While the roster of songs focused on the duo’s best-loved works, A Grand Night for Singing also touched on songs from their lesser-known scores, including Allegro, Me and Juliet, and Pipe Dream. The original cast included Victoria Clark, Jason Graae, and Alyson Reed.

A Grand Night for Singing opened on Broadway in November 1993, and received two Tony Award nominations.

7. Eubie!, 1978

Eubie Blake
Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake completed the bulk of his Broadway writing in the early 20th century. His musical Shuffle Along, written with Noble Sissle, was among the first on Broadway to feature an all-black cast and writing team—and the behind-the-musical story was told in 2016’s Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Songs of Blake’s like “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find a Way” became a part of the American musical lexicon. By 1978, Blake had been away from Broadway for many years, but returned for Eubie!, a revue that featured many of his iconic songs along with new tunes. The cast included the Hines brothers, Gregory and Maurice.

Eubie! Opened on Broadway in September 1978 and was nominated for three Tony Awards.

8. A Party with Betty Comden & Adolph Green, 1958 and 1977

 Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Betty Comden and Adolph Green John Jonas Gruen

Betty Comden and Adolph Green cemented their careers as a book and lyric-writing duo, working on such shows and movies as On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain, Peter Pan, Do Re Mi, Applause, The Band Wagon, On the Twentieth Century, and The Will Roger’s Follies. The team got their start, however, as performers—they even wrote themselves roles in their first Broadway show, On the Town. Comden and Green returned to performing with A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, featuring the pair singing their own material and sharing anecdotes of their long careers. The show was such a hit that it has played Broadway twice, in 1958 and 1977.

A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green opened on Broadway in December 1958 and February 1977.

9. Rodgers & Hart, 1975

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart Library of Congress

Before Rodgers and Hammerstein, there was Rodgers and Hart, the song-writing duo of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. During the 28 years the two worked together, Rodgers and Hart wrote 28 musicals for the stage—often more than one a season—and over 500 songs. Outside of Pal Joey, most of their shows are a little too old-fashioned to be produced today, but many of their songs are standards today, including such hits as “My Funny Valentine,” “My Romance,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and “My Heart Stood Still.” Those songs and many others became the starting point for a 1975 Broadway revue, aptly named Rodgers & Hart. The show featured a cast of 12 (including Tovah Feldshuh) singing over 70 Rodgers and Hart songs, some of which were obviously not performed in their entirety.

10. And The World Goes ‘Round, 1992

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb.
John Kander and Fred Ebb

’s long list of beloved musicals spans 45 years and includes Cabaret, Chicago, Flora the Red Menace, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. In the early 1990s, a then relatively-unknown team of director Scott Ellis, choreographer Susan Stroman, and librettist David Thompson put together a revue of Kander and Ebb songs, with a cast that included Karen Ziemba, Robert Cuccioli, Karen Mason, and Jim Walton. The production won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, and the careers of Ellis, Stroman, and Thompson were launched, as was their association with Kander and Ebb. The trio went on to work with Kander and Ebb on Steel Pier, the 1996 revival of Chicago, and The Scottsboro Boys.

And the World Goes ‘Round opened Off-Broadway in March 1992, and won the Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical.

Logan Culwell-Block is a musical theatre historian, Playbill's manager of research, and curator of Playbill Vault. @loganculwell

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