- June 2020
The Glass Menagerie is a four-character memory play by Tennessee Williams. Williams worked on various drafts of the play prior to writing a version of it as a screenplay for MGM, to whom Williams was contracted. Initial ideas stemmed from one of his short stories, and the screenplay originally went under the name of 'The Gentleman Caller'.
The play premiered in Chicago in 1944. It was championed by Chicago critics Ashton Stevens and Claudia Cassidy whose enthusiasm helped build audiences so the producers could move the play to Broadway where it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1945. Laurette Taylor originated the role of the all-too-loving mother, Amanda Wingfield. In the 2004 documentary Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There, Broadway veterans nearly unanimously rank Taylor's performance as the most memorable of their entire lives. The Glass Menagerie was Williams's first successful play; he went on to become one of America's most highly regarded playwrights.
The play was reworked from one of Williams's short stories "Portrait of a Girl in Glass". The story is also written from the point of view of narrator Tom Wingfield, and many of his soliloquies from The Glass Menagerie seem lifted straight from this original. Certain elements have clearly been omitted from the play, including the reasoning for Laura's fascination with Jim's freckles. Generally the story contains the same plot as the play, with certain sections given more emphasis, and character details edited.
- March 2020
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. Set in the Kingdom of Denmark, the play dramatizes the revenge Prince Hamlet exacts on his uncle Claudius for murdering King Hamlet, Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father, and then succeeding to the throne and taking as his wife Gertrude, the old king's widow and Prince Hamlet's mother. The play vividly portrays both true and feigned madness – from overwhelming grief to seething rage – and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.
Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in English literature, with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others." The play was one of Shakespeare's most popular works during his lifetime and still ranks among his most-performed, topping the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance list since 1879. It has inspired writers from Goethe and Dickens to Joyce and Murdoch, and has been described as "the world's most filmed story after Cinderella".
Shakespeare based Hamlet on the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum as subsequently retold by 16th-century scholar François de Belleforest. He may also have drawn on or perhaps written an earlier Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet. He almost certainly created the title role for Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time. In the 400 years since, the role has been performed by highly acclaimed actors and actresses from each successive age.
- March 2020
Guys and Dolls is a musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It is based on "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure" – two short stories by Damon Runyon, – and also borrows characters and plot elements from other Runyon stories – most notably "Pick the Winner".
The premiere on Broadway was in 1950. It ran for 1200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical has had several Broadway and London revivals, as well as a 1955 film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.
Guys and Dolls was selected as the winner of the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. However, because of writer Abe Burrows' troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Trustees of Columbia University vetoed the selection, and no Pulitzer for Drama was awarded that year.
- February 2020
Bye Bye Birdie is a stage musical with a book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse.
Originally titled Let's Go Steady, the satire on American society is set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the Army in 1957. The rock star character's name, "Conrad Birdie," is word play on the name of Conway Twitty. Twitty is best remembered today for his long career as a country music star, but in the late 1950s, he was one of Presley's rock 'n' roll rivals.
The original Broadway production was a Tony Award-winning success. It spawned a London production and several major revivals, a sequel, a 1963 film and a 1995 television production. The show also became a popular choice for high school and college productions.
- January 2020
Prometheus Bound is an Ancient Greek tragedy. In Antiquity, this drama was attributed to Aeschylus, but is now considered by some scholars to be the work of another hand, perhaps one as late as ca. 415 BC. Despite these doubts of authorship, the play's designation as Aeschylean has remained conventional. The tragedy is based on the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who was punished by the god Zeus for giving fire to mankind.
- November 2019
Show Boat is a 1927 musical in two acts, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on Edna Ferber's bestselling novel of the same name, the musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dock workers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, over forty years, from 1887 to 1927. Its themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love. The musical contributed such classic songs as "Ol' Man River", "Make Believe", and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man".
The arrival of Show Boat on Broadway was a watershed moment in the history of American musicals. Compared to the trivial and unrealistic operettas, light musical comedies, and "Follies"-type musical revues that defined Broadway in the 1890s and early 20th century, Show Boat "was a radical departure in musical storytelling, marrying spectacle with seriousness". According to The Complete Book of Light Opera:
"Here we come to a completely new genre – the musical play as distinguished from musical comedy. Now... the play was the thing, and everything else was subservient to that play. Now... came complete integration of song, humor and production numbers into a single and inextricable artistic entity."
- October 2019
Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in Tsarist Russia in 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters by Sholem Aleichem. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters—each one's choice of husband moves further away from the customs of his faith—and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village.
The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, had the first musical theatre run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. It remains Broadway's fifteenth longest-running show in history. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning nine, including Best Musical, score, book, direction and choreography. It spawned four Broadway revivals, a successful 1971 film adaptation, and the show has enjoyed enduring international popularity. It is also a very popular choice for school and community productions.
- August 2019
Camelot is a musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. It is based on the King Arthur legend as adapted from the T. H. White tetralogy novel The Once and Future King.
The original 1960 production, directed by Moss Hart and orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J. Lang, ran on Broadway for 873 performances, winning four Tony Awards and spawning several revivals, foreign productions and a 1967 film version. The original cast album was America's top-selling LP for 60 weeks. The musical has become associated with the Kennedy Administration, which is sometimes referred to as the Camelot era, stressing its glamorous, media culture image.
- July 2019
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1592.
The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself. The nobleman then has the play performed for Sly's diversion.
The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, and Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio tempers her with various psychological torments—the "taming"—until she becomes a compliant and obedient bride. The subplot features a competition between the suitors of Katherina's more desirable sister, Bianca.
The play's apparent misogynistic elements have become the subject of considerable controversy, particularly among modern audiences and readers. It has been adapted numerous times for stage, screen, opera, and musical theatre; perhaps the most famous adaptations being Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me, Kate and the 1967 film version of the original play, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The film 10 Things I Hate About You is also loosely based on the play.
- May 2019
Macbeth is a play written by William Shakespeare. It is considered one of his darkest and most powerful tragedies. Set in Scotland, the play dramatizes the corrosive psychological and political effects produced when its protagonist, the Scottish lord Macbeth, chooses evil as the way to fulfill his ambition for power. He commits regicide to become king and then furthers his moral descent with a reign of murderous terror to stay in power, eventually plunging the country into civil war. In the end, he loses everything that gives meaning and purpose to his life, before losing his life itself.
The play is believed to have been written between 1603 and 1607, and is most commonly dated 1606. The earliest account of a performance of what was probably Shakespeare's play is April 1611, when Simon Forman recorded seeing such a play at the Globe Theatre. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book. It was most likely written during the reign of James I, who had been James VI of Scotland before he succeeded to the English throne in 1603. James was a patron of Shakespeare’s acting company, and of all the plays Shakespeare wrote during James’s reign, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwright’s relationship with the sovereign.