Think you know your showtunes? If you're a fan of John Kander and Fred Ebb deep cuts, then the new Broadway musical New York, New York is for you.
The musical is based on the 1977 film of the same name. While one half of the collaboration, Fred Ebb, passed away in 2004, that has not stopped new material from coming to light—Curtains, The Scottsboro Boys, and The Visit have all premiered after Ebb's passing. This time around, Emmy-, Grammy-, and Tony-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda is on hand to help Kander refine the material. The show tells the story of four musicians (a percussionist, a trumpet player, a violinist, and a multi-instrumentalist) and a singer as they attempt to live the Major Chord of life in New York City: Music, Money, and Love. While the majority of the songs within the musical are Kander and Ebb collaborations, Miranda has stepped in to write lyrics to Kander's music in select cases.
In celebration of New York, New York's opening on Broadway April 26, Playbill is diving deep into the Kander and Ebb canon to showcase the original home of many of the songs interpolated within the new musical. Do not worry, we do not spoil where the songs fall in the show or which characters sing them, or even what the new context of the songs are.
How many of these songs do you already know?
1. "Cheering for Me Now"—a Miranda and Kander original for the Hamildrops series
New York, New York's opening number will sound familiar to any eagle-eared Miranda fans! In 2018, Miranda and Kander released their first public collaboration, "Cheering For Me Now," as a part of the Hamildrops series of original songs inspired by Hamilton. The song was originally written to represent Alexander Hamilton's reaction to New York ratifying the United States Constitution, while also serving as a meta reflection on the success of the mega musical.
2. "One of the Smart Ones"—Golden Gate
Golden Gate, Kander and Ebb's unproduced first collaboration is a musical about a man who declares himself Emperor of San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th century. When the pair showed the score to Hal Prince, he saw enough promise in their work to encourage a second collaboration, kickstarting one of the most legendary writing duos in Broadway history. Songs from Golden Gate have popped up in multiple musicals over the years, such as "Maybe This Time," which was interpolated into the film of Cabaret, placed in the 2014 Broadway revival, and turned into a modern standard.
3. "Wine and Peaches"—The Rink
"Wine and Peaches" was originally written for the mother-daughter musical The Rink, which came to Broadway in 1984 starring Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli. While the song was cut prior to the show coming to New York, it was recorded by Metropolitan Opera baritone (and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood regular) John Reardon in 1985. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman has transformed the song into a highlight of the new musical.
4. "I Love Music"—Wait For Me, World
Wait For Me, World is a fascinating example of a musical theatre what-if. Featuring a score by Kander and Ebb, and a book by Dale Wasserman (of Man of La Mancha fame), the unproduced collaboration was intended to be a musical for television. It was based on Horatio Alger Jr.'s young adult novels, whose rags-to-riches narratives were hugely successful during the Gilded Age. With an aim to write a new Guys and Dolls for their generation, the score and script of Wait For Me, World were completed and revised thrice before being rejected by ABC. Several songs from the scuttled show have since been interpolated into other Kander and Ebb offerings, such as The Act and 70, Girls, 70. But the jaunty "I Love Music" is one of the stronger songs to have trickled out over the years.
5. "I'm What's Happening Now"—The Rink
"I'm What's Happening Now" is another cut song from The Rink, the musical that provided the most material to New York, New York. The musical, which is set in a dilapidated roller rink, centers on the return of the owner's daughter after many years of estrangement, just before the rink is sold to real estate developers and razed. Of all the songs in New York, New York, "I'm What's Happening Now" was never released in demo form or even recorded, making it nearly a Kander and Ebb original for the show!
6. "A Simple Thing Like That"—Golden Gate
This second offering from Golden Gate was released to the world via a demo recording offered by Kander on his 2015 record Hidden Treasures. The song has been significantly transformed by Kander for the stage version of New York, New York, with the original waltz-inspired instrumentation reimagined with a new arrangement.
7. "Happy Endings/Let's Hear It for Me"—New York, New York the film/Funny Lady
New York, New York mashes up two Kander and Ebb songs to create this medley, which includes a cut song from the film of New York, New York and a song from Funny Lady, the sequel to Funny Girl that Kander and Ebb composed for Barbra Streisand in 1975. While both songs have been publicly available for decades ("Happy Endings" was released as a bonus on the original soundtrack of New York, New York), this marks their first time on stage.
8. "A Quiet Thing"—Flora The Red Menace
One of the most recognizable interpolations in New York, New York is this delightful song from Kander and Ebb's first Broadway show, Flora The Red Menace. The musical, which launched Liza Minnelli into the stratosphere of Broadway stars, was full of bombastic moments. But this gentle ode to love showed the tenderness Kander and Ebb would continue to exhibit in later collaborations. Minnelli performed the song in concert for many years, including this appearance on The Muppet Show in 1979, when Kermit served as her private eye investigator during a backstage murder mystery.
9. "Just When You Least Expect It"—The Act
This song is the second near-original Kander and Ebb song in New York, New York. Originally written for The Act, the song was never recorded or released. The musical, which was a vehicle for Kander and Ebb favorite Liza Minnelli, centered on a fading film star attempting a comeback in Las Vegas. For her efforts, Minnelli won her second Tony Award.
10. Marry Me—The Rink
This fan favorite from The Rink was introduced to the world by Jason Alexander (pre-Seinfeld fame) in 1984, causing him to capture the attention of the theatre industry ahead of his Tony-winning turn in Jerome Robbins Broadway in 1989. The proposal may be lushly orchestrated, but listen close to the lyrics; thing's aren't all fairytales in this relationship.
11. "Sorry I Asked"—Liza Minnelli
Susan Stroman and Liza Minnelli crossed paths in the early '90s when Stroman was called upon to choreograph Minnelli's engagement at Radio City Music Hall. The resulting concert, which was released on PBS (netting Stroman an Emmy nomination) has become one of legend, including the song "Sorry I Asked," which depicts a woman realizing her husband is having an affair.
12. "But the World Goes 'Round'"—New York, New York (the film)
New York, New York was originally a feature film starring Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro, combining Kander and Ebb originals with jazz standards to produce Martin Scorsese's only movie musical (the film also almost killed Scorsese because it exacerbated his cocaine addiction). This song from the original film later became the title track for a revue of Kander and Ebb material, which was the first in the long line of the duo's collaborations with Susan Stroman.
13. "New York, New York"
You knew it was coming. This song, which has become the anthem of New York City, has been recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Freddie Mercury. But there will only ever be one Liza Minnelli. If you've never seen this video of Minnelli performing the song as the cap off to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, you're in for a treat.