ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Special Events

DAMN YANKEES: About the Show

Posted on: December 5th, 2017 by Roundabout

 

In 1994, when the New York Rangers won hockey’s Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940, a man in the stands held up a sign that read: “Now I Can Die in Peace.” Does that seem extreme? Then you must not be a sports fan.

The highs and lows that come with loyalty to a team have more in common with the dramas seen on a Broadway stage than you might initially think. There are heroes and villains, twists and turns, agonies and ecstasies. A standing ovation is just as well learned by a spectacular catch as by a show-stopping dance number. For the truest of fans, sports can feel like the stuff of life and death, and the need to see a beloved team become victorious can take on epic proportions.

That’s how Douglas Wallop was feeling in the 1950s as he watched his Washington Senators play baseball. At the time, the saying around town was, “Washington: first in peace, first in war, last in the American League.” Watching his team lose, particularly to the dynastic Yankees, over and over again, Wallop wondered what a fan might be willing to do to save his team. To be a fan is to be without control, and while you might observe some superstitions in the hope of influencing an outcome (wearing the same socks, eating the same food), there’s little to do but yell at the television when things go awry.

But what if a fan were given the chance to actually change something? Somehow this question made Wallop land on a German legend dating back to the 16th century—that of Faust, who made a deal with the devil himself, trading in his soul as the price for getting what he wanted. In his novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, Wallop brought that same deal into the world of baseball and told the story of a fan who bargained his soul to help the Washington Senators win.

Musicals thrive on high stakes, and what could be more dramatic than a ticket straight to hell? Wallop’s novel was published in 1954, and by 1955 he had teamed up with director/librettist George Abbott and the songwriting team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (hot off the success of The Pajama Game) to bring this story to the stage under the title of Damn Yankees. With choreography by Bob Fosse and a breakout turn by Gwen Verdon as the devil’s henchwoman Lola, the show was a huge success. It won 7 Tony Awards® and ran for more than 1,000 performances.

Damn Yankees remains a beloved show today partially because of its incredible score, packed full of hits like “Whatever Lola Wants” and “Heart.” But it also speaks to the passion that a sports fan of any era feels for their team. The Washington Senators may not be around anymore (they long ago became the Minnesota Twins), but that desperate need to see your team win will never go away. After all, “Now I Can Die in Peace” isn’t so far off from giving your soul to the devil for a pennant, is it?


Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, Special Events


No Comments

Kiss Me Kate: About the Show

Posted on: December 6th, 2016 by Roundabout

 

Kiss Me, Kate

While Shakespeare’s plays are regularly turned into musicals these days, the origins of Kiss Me, Kate go far beyond the notion of making The Taming of the Shrew sing.

Back in 1935, there was perhaps no bigger pair of theatrical stars than the husband and wife team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. But while they sparkled on the stage, they had a different kind of spark behind the scenes. As the two performed in a production of Shrew, the verbal sparring between their characters became almost impossible to separate from the bickering between the Lunts themselves. A young stagehand named Arnold Saint Subber witnessed the backstage arguing and realized that it had a great deal of dramatic potential all its own.

Years later, Saint Subber, now a producer, decided to pursue the idea of this onstage/offstage marital fight in the form of a musical. He and partner Lemuel Ayers thought of the husband and wife writing team of Samuel and Bella Spewack to create the script. As fate would have it, the Spewacks were in a marital dispute of their own at the time, so Bella was approached on her own first. She jumped at the idea and knew exactly who should do the music and lyrics: Cole Porter.

Porter was already a wildly popular songwriter, but he had never composed a score that was fully integrated with the book of a show. In fact, almost no one had attempted to do so, with one major exception: Oklahoma! When that musical opened on Broadway in 1943, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score caused a sensation. Their songs didn’t just divert – they actually advanced the plot. Porter was eager to try his hand at this approach himself, and he was intrigued by the duality offered by the onstage/offstage story. He immediately saw what fun could be had with writing songs both for the Shrew characters and for the people playing them.

As work on the show progressed, Bella Spewack realized that that her estranged husband could make a contribution, so they put aside their differences and began collaborating again, with Bella working on the structure and Sam concentrating on the humor, particularly for the gangster characters. Happily, life would later imitate art, with the Spewacks rekindling their own romance in time for the show to open in 1948, remaining together for the rest of their lives.

When Kiss Me, Kate opened, it was an immediate hit, with the New York Times praising it as “terribly enjoyable” and Variety declaring it “unquestionably a smash.” The show would win the first Tony Award for Best Musical ever given out, and it would run for more than 1000 performances on Broadway. Even in a career as fantastic as Cole Porter’s, it would be this show that was considered his greatest success.


A benefit reading of Kiss Me, Kate is being performed at Studio 54 on December 12. For more information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Special Events


No Comments

 

Donors Paula Davis and Eileen Kaminsky with Holiday Inn star Corbin Bleu

Donors Paula Davis and Eileen Kaminsky with Holiday Inn star Corbin Bleu

 

On Monday, November 14, Todd Haimes (Artistic Director/CEO) joined with Roundabout’s major donors and some of Roundabout’s artists for the annual Artistic Director’s Circle Dinner. This year’s dinner was held on stage at historic Studio 54 on the set of the hit Holiday Inn: the New Irving Berlin Musical. This event is just one of the ways Roundabout thanks our highest level donors—the Artistic Director's Circle—for their generous support.

Lauren and Danny Stein, Andy Cowin, and The Cherry Orchard’s Stephen Karam and John Glover

Lauren and Danny Stein, Andy Cowin, and THE
CHERRY ORCHARD's Stephen Karam and
John Glover

The exclusive evening included cocktails, dinner and mingling with Roundabout artists including: Cherry Jones, Diane Lane, Tony Shalhoub, John Glover, Stephen Karam, Richard Armitage, Corbin Bleu, Jenny Rachel Weiner, Scott Ellis, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jessica Hecht, Lora Lee Gayer, and Gordon Greenberg.

Adams Associate Artistic Director, Scott Ellis, director of last season’s award-winning She Loves Me, welcomed guests to the titular Connecticut inn, designed by Tony-nominee Anna Louizos. Catering and décor by Sonnier & Castle featured a festive holiday meal on rustic, autumnal table-settings, with table centerpieces by Seasons A Floral.

Donors Jeffrey McClendon and Sharon Richey-McClendon with Cherry Jones and Tony Shalhoub

Donors Jeffrey McClendon and Sharon
Richey-McClendon with Cherry Jones and Tony Shalhoub

Todd Haimes welcomed all of the artists and provided the donors with an exclusive glimpse into the 2017-2018 season that is to come.

Other special guests included Board of Directors members John Gordon, Meryl Hartzband, Mary Cadagin and Leadership Council chair Carmen Grossman and member Cynthia Wainwright.

For more information about the dinner or joining the Artistic Director's Circle, learn more online or contact Christopher Nave, Associate Director of Development at 212.719.9393, ext. 314 or christophern@roundabouttheatre.org.

 

On the set of Holiday Inn at Studio 54

On the set of HOLIDAY INN at Studio 54


Related Categories:
Special Events


1 Comment