The Saturday List: 5 Cookin’ Musicals of the 1950s

What’s buzzin, cuzzins? This is a list of 5 of my favourite musicals of the 1950s, with slang courtesy of Fifties Web. Click on the title of each musical to view other blogs on Musical Cyberspace about each show.

5. My Fair Lady

Some people will tell you that My Fair Lady is perfect. I hate to be the party pooper, but it isn’t. It’s almost perfect and is certainly excellent for the most part, but in the opening number Higgins says that people who use English badly should be hung. And with that one lyric, Alan Jay Lerner contradicts every given circumstance of the character. In, say, Paint Your Wagon the mistake might not matter, given the character in whose mouth the words might be put. But here it matters in spades. It’s not the only linguistic error given to Higgins either, but I suppose we should just remember that Lerner was the Tim Rice of his day and be done with it. (Take a look at “On the Street Where You Live”, where a number of different lyric-writing sins can be found, if you have any doubts.) After all, there is a great deal to appreciate in the show: one of the most joyous overtures ever created, a book that is literary in its quality (thanks to the source material, natch) and many great songs (“I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”, “Show Me”, and the list goes on.) It’s a classic, and it deserves to be. But it’s not perfect.

4. Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls. One of the most popular musicals of all time; people go ape for it. Even I’ve been involved in two productions: in high school I played the drunk and the Hot Box MC and danced in “Havana” and “The Crap Shooter’s Ballet” and a few years ago I choreographed a high school production of the show. In the decade between, I’ve seen countless productions announced and produced. Generally, there’s a perception that it’s flop-proof, but I guess the most recent Broadway revival proved that theory wrong. People are ambivalent about the film and, while it’s not perfect, there’s much to enjoy: Brando as Sky, the stunning scene between Sarah and Sky in the mission, Michael Kidd’s choreography and so on. The show itself has a super book by Abe Burrows and the score is – in a word – fantastic. Every number is memorable. For a special treat, get yourself a copy of the African-American 1976 Broadway Revival’s. It’s super, and the numbers are reborn in their new disco and gospel influences arrangements. Of course this is a supplement to either the original Broadway cast recording or the excellent 1995 studio recording of the complete score – one that perhaps sets the standard for all Guys and Dolls recordings.

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