In the 1946 Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun, Ethel Merman famously belted out, “There’s no business like show business.” Music theater legends Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber would no doubt agree.
Rodgers and Hammerstein transformed the world of sound and stage, lighting up Broadway with one legendary success after another—think Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific and The Sound of Music—and doing their lyrical, tuneful best to revolutionize musicals in the 1940s and 1950s. Villainy, tragedy and romance colored their productions, creating a new mix of sentiment and gravitas, studded with catchy, memorable tunes and innovative melodies.
Come backstage in Todd S. Purdum’s Something Wonderful as he introduces the musical stars and up-and-comers of the day—Mary Martin, Yul Brynner, Julie Andrews and Gene Kelly, to name a few. Become part of the Big Black Giant (show business’s apt moniker for the audience) and live the drama of opening nights, when anything could happen—and often did, from train wrecks to triumphant debuts. Discover the complexities of the duo’s very different personalities and their decades-long partnership, all tied into the entangling business of Broadway. It’s all here in Purdum’s book. From describing the real-life moment that inspired “Some Enchanted Evening” to detailing the drafts for “Edelweiss,” Purdum has produced Something Wonderful indeed.
The iconic composer Andrew Lloyd Webber celebrates his 70th birthday with the publication of his memoir, Unmasked. Filled with wit, self-deprecating humor and dollops of gossip, Lloyd Webber chronicles his decades of work in musical theater. The prolific composer (Evita, Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Sunset Boulevard, among others) claims Richard Rodgers as his hero, and like him, Lloyd Webber has become rich, famous, controversial and revered. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1992, he has earned seven Tonys, three Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Oscar.
Lloyd Weber goes behind the scenes during a time when the Beatles were changing 1960s London and the song “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris first fused rock with orchestral music. Lloyd Webber ran with the idea of applying this new sound to a musical, while friend and lyricist Tim Rice took his story material from the Bible. Together they created Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. While some critics were agog at such seeming irreverence, audiences loved the sound and lined up for the shows.
“Even if I haven’t got near to writing ‘Some Enchanted Evening,’” Lloyd Webber modestly concludes, “I hope I’ve given a few people some reasonably OK ones. I’d like to give them some more.” Wouldn’t that be something wonderful?