42nd Street Lyrics
42ND STREET HISTORY Lyrics
42nd Street is the second longest running American musical in Broadway history. The longest running American show is the legendary A Chorus Line. Both shows have backstage stories, both shows won The Tony Award for Best Musical, and both have the same designers; Robin Wagner (scenic design), Theoni V. Aldredge (costumes) and Tharon Musser (lighting design). But here the similarities end. A Chorus Line, which opened in 1975, has a cast of 27 and is played on a simple set in basic costumes. In 1980, 42nd Street ushered in the new age of theatrical spectacle with a cast of 54, 750 costumes and dozens of stage effects. The making of 42nd Street, and its unforgettable opening at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway on August 25, 1980, created one of the most memorable theatrical events of the Twentieth Century.
From the opening of the pre-Broadway engagement at the Kennedy Center Opera House, in July of 1980, there has hardly been a week when 42nd Street hasn't been playing somewhere in the world.
"Mike Stewart and Mark Bramble were sitting in the Carnegie Hall Cinema watching the 1933 movie musical 42nd Street back during the production period of The Grand Tour, circa 1978 B.V. (Before Videocassette). "I wish we were working on this instead," said one to the other, and Broadway's grandest "Song and Dance Extravaganza" was born. Jerry Herman demurred, insisting they had to keep the original score -- couldn't do it without "Shuffle Off To Buffalo," "You're Getting to be a Habit with Me," and the gaudy, bawdy title tune - so they dusted off the Harry Warren/Al Dubin catalogue to supplement the five songs used in the film. They gave the show to David Merrick - a mixed blessing, but they knew that if he said he would come up with thirty-six girls, he would indeed come up with thirty-six girls, amidst, as the early teaser ads said, "a cast of 54 (some younger). "When potential investors told Merrick the project was doomed, he decided to mount it out of his own pocket and began to run up $2.4 million worth of costs. (He bought out three small investors already in place, giving him complete control without any fiscal oversight whatsoever.) Things looked dire when 42nd Street's Kennedy Center tryout met a poor response. The show needed polishing, and Gower Champion was unable to do it. Champion had been ill for several years; a mysterious, lingering condition had first appeared during Mark & Mabel in 1974, postponing rehearsals, cutting short that show's tryout, and apparently contributing to its fatalistic outlook. When Champion appeared stuck for 42nd Street improvements, Merrick "surreptitiously" imported director/choreographers Joe Layton and Ron Field for advice - and placed them in the audience, where the unsuspecting Gower haplessly stumbled upon them (a typical Merrick trick). What Merrick didn't know was just how ill Champion was - the director was undergoing constant blood transfusions in his Watergate Hotel room. 42nd Street came to Broadway and mysteriously went back into rehearsal, as previews were postponed and the opening date was changed and changed and changed. The producer issued illogical statements, explaining that he was waiting for "the Great Man way up there" to send a courier telling him when to open. Merrick has finally gone nuts was the inference - and the press glefully covered the story. (In fact, Merrick decided late in the Washington run that the two big pivoting towers on either side of the set had to be cleared totally off stage for the grand finale. It can't be done, he was told, because the pivoting mechanism was built into the onstage base of the towers. "Do it," he said. "We'll have to rebuild the whole thing," he was told. "Do it," he said. The show moved to New York without its set, causing the postponement. Other producers would have blamed the delay on technical problems; by issuing "crazy" pronouncements, Merrick kept the show in the news and interest mounting.) Merrick also decided to change the billing to reflect the style of old movie musicals; thus, the opening night program credited the librettists for "Lead-ins and Crossovers." The authors readily agreed, little knowing it would be interpreted as a nasty slam. Merrick quickly reinstated the "book" billing but the harm was done; at Tony time he apologized for costing the authors the award. 42nd Street opened dramatically, with the curtain-call announcement of Champion's death earlier that day at the age of sixty. The combination of the show's ebullience and Champion's tragic but timely exit pushed 42nd Street into quick sellout status and immense financial success throughout the English-speaking world."
Several months into the Broadway run, producer David Merrick moved 42nd Street from The Winter Garden Theater downtown to the bigger Majestic Theater on West 44th Street.
At the Majestic, 42nd Street played across the street from Barnum, the hit musical with book by Mark Bramble, lyrics by Michael Stewart and music by Cy Coleman.
Later, 42nd Street moved from The Majestic Theatre to the St. James where it completed the original Broadway run after 3,486 performances.
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