The U.S. Postal Service will strike up the band Sept. 21 when six Broadway Songwriters postage stamps, representing nine writers, are issued at New York City's Broadhurst Theatre.
The stamps -- six stamps sold in a pane of 20 -- include composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (pictured together), lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe (together), composer George Gershwin and lyricist Ira Gershwin (together), lyricist Lorenz Hart, composer-lyricist Meredith Willson and composer-lyricist Frank Loesser.
Show tune fans who question Willson's inclusion and not Jerome Kern, for example, should know that Kern was honored with an individual stamp in the past. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady and Hammerstein and Kern's Show Boat were previously honored with a solo stamps. George Gershwin was previously honored with a solo stamp.
Those eligible to appear on commemorative stamps won't see their faces on envelopes soon: Those honored have to be dead at least 10 years, according to USPS's Cathy Yarosky. That leaves late, great theatrical giants Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, George Abbott, Kurt Weill, Jule Styne and Irving Berlin waiting in the wings. Ironically, the 10th anniversary of Berlin's death is Sept. 22, 1999.
Willson, the least known of the nine, wrote three Broadway shows, including one smash: 1957-58's The Music Man, which is expected to have a Broadway revival in 2000. His enduring Americana tunes, including "76 Trombones," "My White Knight" and "(Ya Got) Trouble," kept the former marching band musician-composer on the map all these years. The noon Sept. 21 unveiling of the stamps will include appearances by producer Gerald Schoenfeld, theatre legend Kitty Carlisle-Hart and (so far) almost a dozen Broadway stars, including musical theatre legend Barbara Cook (Marian of The Music Man). As many as 12 songs by the writers will be sung at the event, which is open to the public (doors open at 11:30 AM). Relatives of some of the songwriters will be present.
The stamps will be available in New York City Sept. 21, and in the rest of the country the next day. The print run is 42.5 million stamps.
The 33-cent Broadway Songwriters stamps are the last in a series called Legends of American Music. A Hollywood Composers series is released Sept. 16 in Hollywood.
Here is a quick look at the writers and their selected show and song credits:
• The Gershwins: Strike Up the Band, Girl Crazy, Lady, Be Good!, "Fascinating Rhythm," "I Got Rhythm," "'S'wonderful."
• Lerner & Loewe: Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Camelot, "If Ever I Would Leave You," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "They Call the Wind Maria."
• Lorenz Hart: A Connecticut Yankee, Pal Joey, Babes in Arms, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "The Lady is a Tramp," "My Funny Valentine" (all with composer Richard Rodgers).
• Rodgers & Hammerstein: Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "Some Enchanted Evening," "My Favorite Things."
• Meredith Willson: The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Here's Love, 1491, "Shipoopi," "My White Knight," "Wells Fargo Wagon," "Gary, Indiana," "I Ain't Down Yet," "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys."
• Frank Loesser: Where's Charley?, How to Succeed in Business..., Guys and Dolls, Greenwillow, "I'll Know," "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," "I Believe in You," "Once in Love With Amy."
The Broadhurst Theatre is at 235 W. 44th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
-- By Kenneth Jones