This lesson explores the Broadway careers of Rodgers & Hart, Bernstein, and Porter. It highlights famous musicals like 'Anything Goes,' 'Kiss Me Kate,' and 'West Side Story.'
Many musicians rocket to fame, but then fizzle out as quickly as legwarmers or New Coke. Still others stand the test of time, delighting audiences even long after their deaths. Rock has Elvis and the Beatles. Jazz has Fitzgerald. Broadway has Rodgers & Hart, Bernstein, and Porter.
To give a nod to the amazing cultural force that is Broadway, today's lesson will focus on the iconic works of these latter four men: the famous partnership of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, the long-enduring works of Leonard Bernstein, and the smash hits of Cole Porter. With so many hits and legends to cover, today's lesson just may read like the 'Who's Who of Broadway Musicals.' With this, let's get going with the renowned partnership of Rodgers & Hart.
Rodgers & Hart
As two college buddies from Columbia University, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart created some of the most famous musical comedies of the 20s and the 30s. With their debut song, 'Any Old Place with You,' the duo kicked off a composing career that included the 1920s musical hits, Betsy, Chee-Chee, Dearest Enemy, and perhaps their most famous, Connecticut Yankee.
Conquering the 1920s Broadway scene, the pair spent the early 30s in Hollywood crafting music for the Silver Screen. However, the mid-30s drew them back to the lights of Broadway. Returning to the Big Apple, they spent the late 30s and into the 40s writing smash hit shows, like Babe in Arms, which contained the famous song, 'The Lady is a Tramp,' and Pal Joey, whose playlist included the catchy tune, 'Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.'
In the early 40s, the famous pair delighted audiences with a revision of their late 20s hit, Connecticut Yankee. Sadly, only a few days after its opening, Lorenzo Hart succumbed to illness. With his death in 1943, the famed team of Rodgers & Hart came to an end. However, Richard Rodgers kept their legacy alive, partnering with Oscar Hammerstein II to create the celebrated Sound of Music, South Pacific, and The King and I. Rodgers continued to churn out hits until his death in 1979.
Leaving our famous duo, we come to Leonard Bernstein. Born in 1918 to a hardworking Russian immigrant, Bernstein definitely paid his dues as a struggling musician. Defying the odds, this son of a fish-cleaner attended Harvard University and Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. With the knowledge he gained from these years, he became one of the first American conductors to command world-class orchestras. His resume even included the famed Philharmonic.
Bernstein also took on opera. In the early 50s, his work Trouble in Tahiti hit the stage. Considered one of Bernstein's darkest works, this opera proved the multi-dimensionality of his musical prowess. Now with all this talk of conducting orchestras and operas, you may be wondering why we're talking about Bernstein in a lesson about Broadway?
I'll answer this question with three words: West Side Story. Debuting in 1957, this take-off of Romeo & Juliet cemented Bernstein's place in American musical history. Still performed in theaters from New York City to high school auditoriums everywhere, West Side Story continues to make fingers snap and eyes water. Succumbing to emphysema at the age of 72, this work and his many others rightly place Bernstein in a conversation concerning Broadway.
Last, we come to Cole Porter. Unlike Bernstein, Cole Porter was born into extreme wealth. Porter's early life was full of every musical advantage. Studying at Yale, he composed hundreds of songs and many musicals. After a stint gallivanting around Europe (in which he lied and told his family he was fighting in World War I), Cole Porter wowed Broadway with Gay Divorce, his 1932 musical starring Fred Astaire. In 1934, he did it again with Anything Goes, with a playlist including the hit song 'I Get a Kick Out of You.'
Like Rodgers & Hart, Porter also delighted movie goers with hit songs like 'Delovely' and 'In the Still of the Night.' However, he couldn't resist the lure of Broadway. The 40s saw him master Broadway with Kiss Me Kate, a take-off of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. From this celebrated musical came the sizzling melody 'Too Darn Hot.' Perhaps one of the most prolific composers of modern times, Cole Porter died in 1964. To music lovers of all ages, he left behind such works as 'Come Fly Away', 'High Society', 'Night and Day', and 'Mr. Wonderful'.
The names Rodgers & Hart, along with Leonard Bernstein and Cole Porter, are synonymous with Broadway. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart created some of the most famous musical comedies of the 20s and the 30s. With their debut song, 'Any Old Place with You,' they began a partnership for the ages. It included hits like Betsy, Chee-Chee, Dearest Enemy, and Connecticut Yankee. Their catalog also includes Babe in Arms, with its famous song 'The Lady is a Tramp,' and Pal Joey, whose songs included 'Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.'
Born in 1918, Leonard Bernstein was a classically trained musician who became one of the first American conductors to command world-class orchestras. The early 50s saw his opera Trouble in Tahiti gain fame. However, Bernstein is perhaps most remembered for West Side Story, which debuted in 1957, as a take-off of Romeo & Juliet.
Born into wealth, Cole Porter gave Broadway Gay Divorce, a 1932 musical starring Fred Astaire. He also created Anything Goes, whose playlist includes the hit song 'I Get a Kick Out of You.' Adding to his credits, there is Kiss Me Kate, a take-off of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, which included 'Too Darn Hot.'
Lesson at a Glance
Broadway has its legendary artists whose works stood through the test of time. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart created some of the most famous musical comedies of the 20s and the 30s. Leonard Bernstein was a classically trained musician who became one of the first American conductors to command world-class orchestras. Cole Porter created such works as 'Come Fly Away', 'High Society', 'Night and Day', and 'Mr. Wonderful'.
From comedic works to world-class orchestras to sizzling melodies, these legends still delight the stage.
After reviewing this lesson, you should be able to identify and describe the works of Rodgers & Hart, Leonard Bernstein, and Cole Porter.