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Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959 

Of the musicals listed below, which is your Top Musical of 1950-1959?
MY FAIR LADY 26%  26%  [ 5 ]
GYPSY 32%  32%  [ 6 ]
WEST SIDE STORY 37%  37%  [ 7 ]
GUYS AND DOLLS 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
THE KING AND I 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
THE SOUND OF MUSIC 5%  5%  [ 1 ]
THE MUSIC MAN 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
LI'L ABNER 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
DAMN YANKEES 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
THE PAJAMA GAME 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 19

Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959 
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Post Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
Some time ago, we did a series of weekly polls where we voted for our Top 10 musicals of each decade and then I compiled a list working out statistically what the Top 10 musicals were for each decade. I thought it might be fun to revisit the topic as those threads were among those lost when the board was moved. However, I thought we would take a slightly different approach this time. I saved the lists when I did the stats and so I have the ordered lists for each decade. I thought that we could, week by week, revisit each decade, this time using a polling feature with a vote for your favourite musical out of the Top 10 we collectively chose last time and then a few questions. I will start with the the most recent decade this weekend and post a new decade each Sunday morning. Participation will be open ended in each thread, in other words there will never be a cut off date and new members can vote and respond whenever they like. Please don't skip ahead and try to start a new decade earlier. This can be great fun if we work together. As I remember, the discussions last time around became very interesting.

TOP 10 MUSICALS: 1950 - 1959

Vote for your number one musical of the decade, listed above in the order in which they ranked during the previous polls and answer the questions below.

1. Which is your favourite musical from this decade? Why?

2. Which musical on the Top 10 list is least deserving of a spot? Why?

3. Which musical from this decade that didn't make the list do you think should have appeared in the Top 10? Why?

4. Which cast recording of a show that premiered in this decade is your favourite? Why can't you stop listening to it?

5. If you could pitch a film version, television adaptation or revival for a musical from this decade, which would you choose? Who would you cast? Discuss.

For the sake of having an easy reference, other musicals that featured in the old poll included:
Once Upon a Mattress; Fiorello; Candide; Can Can; Kismet; Cinderella; Saturday Night (though there was some debate about this being an authentic 1950s musical owing to its orchestrations and decades later stage debut); The Boyfriend; Wonderful Town; Peter Pan; The Golden Apple; Flower Drum Song; Out of This World; Silk Stockings; Call Me Madam; Paint Your Wagon; Plain and Fancy; The Most Happy Fella and Bells Are Ringing.

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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
1. Which is your favourite musical from this decade? Why?
It's a toss-up between West Side Story and Gypsy. Gypsy has one of the best libretti musical theater has ever seen -- very well-constructed. It's easy to see why some people call it the greatest musical ever written. I certainly rank it personally as the best backstage musical I've ever seen. West Side Story got my vote, however, because it was one of the first (for lack of a better word) conventional theater shows I discovered after Jesus Christ Superstar was my springboard into the world of Broadway. I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet at the time, don't ask why (I was only in second grade, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast), and was interested in the modern twist. I fell in love with it.

2. Which musical on the Top 10 list is least deserving of a spot? Why?
Li'l Abner. Just... Li'l Abner. Good God, what a piece of sh*t.

3. Which musical from this decade that didn't make the list do you think should have appeared in the Top 10? Why?
I think Candide deserves a spot in there somewhere, although as with Chess in the Eighties thread, one would be tempted to ask what version. The score is beautiful, and even if no one has quite figured out which iteration of that score or which script is the definitive one, it's still a very interesting show. (Granted, I just read the Voltaire novella and flip through the score as necessary on my iPod rather than attempt to choose a version that works.)

4. Which cast recording of a show that premiered in this decade is your favourite? Why can't you stop listening to it?
My favorite has got to be the OBC of West Side Story. There's a freshness and vitality about it that belies its age. You just don't hear anyone deliver performances of that caliber in this show anymore. (Compare it to the revival recording some time and see what I mean. Larry Kert's performance chops Matt Cavenaugh into tiny Italian meatballs.)

5. If you could pitch a film version, television adaptation or revival for a musical from this decade, which would you choose? Who would you cast? Discuss.
Of the two in this thread, I have firm ideas for what I would do with the proposed Gypsy remake starring Barbra Streisand, and my own revival of West Side Story, the former because one of the first things I learned as a producer was how to package material for a star, the latter because I saw Arthur Laurents' 2009 revival and found that what I didn't like far outweighed what I liked.

To summarize what I'd do with Gypsy, in a nutshell: restoring some cut numbers and deleting some set numbers. Since she's looking for a comparable star for Herbie (Tom Hanks was one name batted around), you need to give Herbie more singing material, to build up his role a bit. "Nice She Ain't" (which seems to have been cut simply because Jack Klugman couldn't learn it before opening, and then never instated again) would handle that nicely. Similarly, I would restore "Momma's Talkin' Soft" and the scene surrounding that, to give us more of a glimpse into the characters of June and Louise. Sondheim has always carped about the lyric to "Mr. Goldstone," so cut that, leaving the first line as dialogue, and to give Rose another solo to make up for that, restore "Smile, Girls" at an appropriate point. Put back Minsky's Salute to Christmas (it's film, it'll work) and with that "Three Wishes for Christmas," but add Louise's "ecdysiast" dialogue to the scene, woven in carefully. Finally, another change depends on how Barbra wishes to play it. If she wants a warmer, more vulnerable Rose so she doesn't lose her fans, cut the line "Go to hell!" (or something like that) in the scene where Herbie leaves and move the "Small World" reprise to the moment where that line occurs in the stage play. If she wants to play Rose as a total psychotic, keep the dialogue and follow it with "Who Needs Him?" replacing the reprise.

West Side Story is a little more involved, and it's my opinion that my ideas for it could only work on stage; the time has passed when West Side Story could be taken seriously on film in a faithful stage-to-screen transfer. It's too involved to write about here, but maybe one day I'll elaborate.

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Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:43 am
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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
1. Which is your favourite musical from this decade? Why?

Of the ones in the poll, I'd go for West Side Story. It has brilliand music, and the text for the less flowery numbers are as both relevant and as funny today as they were fifty years ago.

2. Which musical on the Top 10 list is least deserving of a spot? Why?

I don't know anything about The Panama Game or Damn Yankees, but of the rest, I'd say Li'l Abner. Maybe it's fun if you have a certain American background, but it doesn't do it for me.

3. Which musical from this decade that didn't make the list do you think should have appeared in the Top 10? Why?

Candide all over the place. It has funky plot problems, and probably too much good material to cram into one comprehensible show, but the music is extremely sensational, as are the text at times, and I adore the story and humour (the novel is one of my favourites).

4. Which cast recording of a show that premiered in this decade is your favourite? Why can't you stop listening to it?

Candide. Can't decide between the OBCR and the one Bernstein conducted. The material is so awesome, and there's most of it on the Bernstein album, but it is funner on the OBCR

5. If you could pitch a film version, television adaptation or revival for a musical from this decade, which would you choose? Who would you cast? Discuss.

Candide again, it seems. I'd like a film that acknowledges the absurd humour of the book and some way twiches the show so that its flawed structure is used to its absurd advantage.

Perhaps Kenneth Branagh could do it, I liked the style he brought to the film adaptation of The Magic Flute.

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Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:51 am
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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
^ Incidentally, have you tried the 1999 Royal National Theatre version? PM me. It uses the bulk of Bernstein's final wishes for the score (with some new Wilbur and Sondheim lyrics thrown in here and there), and is the closest to Voltaire of any of the versions. It also seems like it would adapt itself very well to the absurdist sort of film you envision.

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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
Brother Marvin Hinten, S. wrote:
^ Incidentally, have you tried the 1999 Royal National Theatre version? PM me. It uses the bulk of Bernstein's final wishes for the score (with some new Wilbur and Sondheim lyrics thrown in here and there), and is the closest to Voltaire of any of the versions. It also seems like it would adapt itself very well to the absurdist sort of film you envision.


No. Is there anything wrong with the Amazon.com entry? According to that, it has very few songs, and the songs are very strangely chosen. I thought Bernstein's wishes were preserved on the recording he conducted (in a very slow tempo...)?

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Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:03 pm
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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
Check the small print. The Amazon.com entry I think you're referring to isn't even remotely accurate; this is the correct one.

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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
1. Which is your favourite musical from this decade? Why? I hate to be un-original, but Gypsy. It simply can't be topped.

2. Which musical on the Top 10 list is least deserving of a spot? Why? Pajama Game. It is one of the most unremarkable shows that gives us nothing new.

3. Which musical from this decade that didn't make the list do you think should have appeared in the Top 10? Why? Once Upon a Mattress. It takes one of the more forgettable fairy tales and brings it back to memory in a fun and jazzy way.

4. Which cast recording of a show that premiered in this decade is your favourite? Why can't you stop listening to it? OBC's of King and I, Gypsy and OUAM.

5. If you could pitch a film version, television adaptation or revival for a musical from this decade, which would you choose? Who would you cast? Discuss. I want an extremely faithful film version of Once Upon a Mattress with the Minstrel acting as narrator and an original song written as a solo for Larken.

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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
Brother Marvin Hinten, S. wrote:
Check the small print. The Amazon.com entry I think you're referring to isn't even remotely accurate; this is the correct one.


That's what I suspected. What makes it different from the version Bernstein conducted?

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Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:35 am
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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
"Quiet" is cut (the new editor John Caird tried to put it in and even says where it went in the introduction to his version, but the show was running long), there are some new Wilbur and Sondheim lyrics (for Caird's closer-to-the-novella plot purposes), some songs are shifted around (see the reason for new lyrics), some of the instrumental or incidental choral music is either cut or goes uncredited in the song list, and that's about it.

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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
Brother Marvin Hinten, S. wrote:
^ Incidentally, have you tried the 1999 Royal National Theatre version? PM me. It uses the bulk of Bernstein's final wishes for the score (with some new Wilbur and Sondheim lyrics thrown in here and there), and is the closest to Voltaire of any of the versions. It also seems like it would adapt itself very well to the absurdist sort of film you envision.


I received the cast recording yesterday, and you know what - I enjoy it immensly. Thanks for the tip :)

It's sort of the opposite of the approach Bernstein took when conducting his almost oriatorio-like version. Neither of them (nor the original cast recording) seems to be the ideal version, as that would both have to include all of Bernsteins music as well as being dramaturgically satisfying. Obviously that is not possible. This version seems to be dramaturgically satisfying, so we'll just have to live with the show exsisting as mutually exclusive definitive versions.

I guess that if this is what they'd have presented in 1956, Candide would have been a great success, yet about the half as intriguing, hehe (though of course a show half as intriguing as Candide turned out to be still is twice as intriguing as most other shows).

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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
1. Which is your favourite musical from this decade? Why?
I'm gonna be a populist and go with West Side Story. One of my all-time musical loves, featuring some of my favorite music from Leonard Bernstein and overall great lyrics from a young Stephen Sondheim (though I agree with him that the lyrics have a lot of weak points, especially compared to his later works).

2. Which musical on the Top 10 list is least deserving of a spot? Why?
Of the ones I've seen/heard, Li'l Abner. It's a fun, quirky show, but doesn't really hold up to the others on the list (or out of the other musicals that premiered in the '50s) that I'm familiar with.

3. Which musical from this decade that didn't make the list do you think should have appeared in the Top 10? Why?
I agree with those who said Candide, though it's tough to pick a single version that worked best.

4. Which cast recording of a show that premiered in this decade is your favourite? Why can't you stop listening to it?
This will have to be a tie between the OBC of West Side Story (gorgeous orchestration and fantastic cast) and the OLC of My Fair Lady (Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison... need I say more?).

5. If you could pitch a film version, television adaptation or revival for a musical from this decade, which would you choose? Who would you cast? Discuss.
That's a tough one... I'd love a film remake of My Fair Lady (Rex Harrison was the only one who really did anything for me in the original), but I'm not a fan of the idea of Keira Knightley as Eliza. I'd go for someone like Amy Nuttall instead.

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Post Re: Top 10 Musicals Revisited: 1950 - 1959
I love how you skipped all the 80s musicals. Just lol.


Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:11 am
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