In 1959, when I was 5 years old, my Uncle Ted took me to see my first Broadway musical – Robert Preston and Barbara Cook in “The Music Man”. From 1959 through the early 1970s the two of us saw just about every new “age-appropriate” Broadway musical – always a Saturday matinee and always sitting in the front row of the Mezzanine.
I have seen, in addition to traditional Broadway royalty past and present, the Andrew Sisters (2 of them), Lucille Ball, Richard Burton (with and without Elizabeth Taylor), Sammy Davis Jr, Andy Griffith, Monkee Davy Jones, Bette Midler (not as Dolly but as one of Tevye’s daughters), and the original “Match Game” host Gene Rayburn (as Albert Peterson in “Bye Bye Birdie”) on Broadway.
I saw Barbra Streisand’s Broadway debut, at age 19, in “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” (which starred Elliot Gould, who Streisand would marry) and Liza Minelli’s Broadway debut, also at, I believe, age 19, in “Flora the Red Menace”. I have seen every Mama Rose except Merman, and I have seen every, I believe, Annie the gun-getter including Merman (in the 1966 revival).
In my 60 years of going to Broadway musicals it is my sincere belief that the greatest and most thoroughly entertaining production number written for a musical is “A Musical” from 2015’s “Something Rotten!”.
As Wikipedia explains –
“Something Rotten! is an original musical comedy with a book by John O'Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Set in 1595, the story follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, who struggle to find success in the theatrical world, as they compete with the wild popularity of their contemporary William Shakespeare.”
Sadly “Something Rotten!”, a textbook example of the traditional musical comedy, did not win the Tony for Best Musical (it was nominated for 10 awards but only won one), losing to “Fun Home”, which I did not see, nor want to see.
“Something Rotten” was scheduled as part of the Summer 2020 season at the Forestburgh Playhouse in Forestburgh NY, not far from me (I have seen many shows there since moving to Northeast PA, including Loretta Swit from “M*A*S*H” as “Mame”), but, of course, the pandemic has shut down all live theatre. Hopefully they will try again next summer. FYI – next year the Forestburgh will be celebrating 75 years of summer theatre!
Listen to this recording of “A Musical” from the original cast album – click here – and try to identify all the references in the lyrics and music to previous Broadway musicals.
And when things get back to normal, if “Something Rotten” plays at a regional or local theatre near you do go and see it – you will not be disappointed.