Saturday, June 23, 2012

Remembering Richard Adler and Happy Birthday, Bob Fosse!

Richard Adler and wife Sally Anne Howes, 1961, Associated Press
I know I'd go from rags to riches
If you would only say you care
And though my pocket may be empty
I'd be a millionaire

 Written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross


Happy Saturday!
 I hope you have had a great week. A gorgeous Saturday morning here in New York setting out to write my blog today and I just read the following in The New York Times,"Richard Adler, a composer and lyricist whose towering early successes on Broadway in the 1950s — the smash hits “The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees” — were followed abruptly by the death of his creative collaborator, died on Thursday at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 90." His family announced the death but did not disclose the cause.
 Damn Yankees is a musical comedy with a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. The story is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball.
The musical is based on Wallop's novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.
Brimming with memorable songs, “Damn Yankees” and “The Pajama Game” were Broadway powerhouses in the 1950s, became Hollywood films and have been in theatrical revival ever since. They catapulted Mr. Adler and his collaborator, composer and lyricist Jerry Ross, to the front rank of theatrical songwriters for several years.

With his partner, Jerry Ross, Adler wrote his way into musical history with the two Tony Award-winning shows, which included several hit tunes, including "You Gotta Have Heart" and "Whatever Lola Wants" from "Damn Yankees" and "Hey, There," "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway" from "Pajama Game."
The original Broadway productions each ran for more than 1,000 performances and later had successful revivals.

Brimming with memorable songs, “Damn Yankees” and “The Pajama Game” were Broadway powerhouses in the 1950s, became Hollywood films and have been in theatrical revival ever since.
They catapulted Mr. Adler and his collaborator, composer and lyricist Jerry Ross, to the front rank of theatrical songwriters for several years.
 Between them, “Damn Yankees” and “The Pajama Game” provided hit parade standards for a bevy of pop singers. Singers as varied as the Shirelles and Burl Ives have interpreted the duo’s work.
 Ross died six months after the opening of "Damn Yankees," leaving Adler to struggle on his own or with new writing partners. Although successful movies based on the two smash hits were made, Adler had no more triumphs on Broadway during his career, which included attempts to bring the musical form to television.
 In the early 1960s, he staged and produced star-studded programs for the White House, including the one at Madison Square Garden in 1962 when a breathy Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" to President Kennedy. Adler called the shows "Presidenticals."
 I know his name might not be a household name, but his music is. After establishing their partnership, Adler and Ross quickly became protégés of composer/lyricist/publisher Frank Loesser (just as Jerry Herman did). Their first notable composition was the song Rags to Riches, which was recorded by Tony Bennett and reached number 1 on the charts in late 1953.
 At the same time Bennett's recording was topping the charts, Adler and Ross began their career in the Broadway Theater with John Murray Anderson's Almanac, a revue for which they provided most of the songs.

Adler and Ross's second Broadway effort, The Pajama Game, opened in May 1954 and was a popular as well as a critical success, winning Tony Awards as well as the Donaldson Award and the Variety Drama Critics Award. Three songs from the show were covered by popular artists and made the upper reaches of the US Hit Parade: Patti Page's version of "Steam Heat" reached #9; Archie Bleyer took "Hernando's Hideaway" to #2; and Rosemary Clooney's recording of "Hey There" made it to #1.
 Opening almost exactly a year later, their next vehicle, Damn Yankees replicated the awards and success of the earlier show. Cross-over hits from the show were "Heart", recorded by Eddie Fisher and "Whatever Lola Wants", by Sarah Vaughan.
 The duo had authored the music and lyrics for three great Broadway successes in three years, and had seen over a half-dozen of their songs reach the US top ten, two of them peaking at #1. However, their partnership was cut short when Ross died of a lung ailment in November 1955, aged 29.

Adler continued to write both alone and with other partners, and composed a major 1958 hit in collaboration with Robert Allen: "Everybody Loves a Lover", as recorded by Doris Day.
However, after 1955 Adler had no further successes on Broadway either as a composer or a producer, although revivals of The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees have proved popular. He wrote the musical Olympus 7-0000 for the show ABC Stage 67.
The 1973 revival of The Pajama Game included one new Adler song, which was retained for the 2006 revival.
I was lucky enough to play Vernon Heinz in a Bronx production MANY years ago. When I was in high school, my theme song was Steam Heat! I had heard the Pointer Sisters sing it on The Carol Burnett Show and I sang it all the time.
People from my high school days still remember that song from my repertoire in my lunch break concerts! I am a huge fan of Richard Adler's work. If you want to learn more about Richard Adler, I highly recommend his autobiography, "You Gotta Have Heart" written with my friend Lee Davis.
Songwriter, composer, lothario, philanthropist and half of the team that created the world famous smash-hit musicals The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, Richard Adler IS one of America's most beloved and creative figures.
Peter Kramer/Getty Images
Mr. Adler in 2005 with Harry Connick Jr., a star in a revival of “The Pajama Game.”
From his early days as a fledgling tunesmith scribbling out songs in a $60-a-month studio and pounding the pavements of Tin Pan Alley, to his fateful  encounter with the man who would become his life-long collaborator, Richard Adler had a career that saw him weather four marriages; the sudden death of his partner Jerry Ross at twenty-nine, he also lost his son around the same age, he battled throat cancer, and later on a commitment to spiritual awakening.
 “I was devastated,” Richard Adler said in 2006, of songwriting collaborator Jerry Ross's death in 1955.
"I’m still devastated.”


George Abbott, who produced many of Adler's musicals, wrote in the preface of Richard's book, "Richard Adler is a good looking man. Those of you who know him don't have to be told that but for those of you who have never seen Richard Adler it should be stated."

George goes on to say that he has always called Richard Dick and so it has a certain warmness for him.
Only those who work in the collaborative effort to create something wonderful only knows what a bond that creates. An intimacy develops that is hard to describe. You learn to trust your fellow worker.  
Richard said writing his story, the life he led, was interesting to him.

He simply dictated his story into tapes, off and on, over a five year period. The book was published in 1990.  His life was a roller coaster ride through life-full of peaks and lots of valleys and
some plateaus too, though few.
He knew then, in 1990, that in order for him to get where he was then, spiritually, that he had to encounter the obstacles-the challenges that were placed in his path. That can be a lesson for us all. He asked that dissonance be limited to musical expression.

Everybody who crossed his path, who wrote a syllable he read, who did something he admired or disdained, who taught him, nudged him, loved him, hated him, helped him, should rightfully be thanked for they contributed to his life.
Adler was born in New York City, the son of Elsa Adrienne (Richard) and Clarence Adler. His mother was a "debutante" from Mobile, Alabama. Adler had a musical upbringing, his father being a concert pianist. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II. After his Navy service he began his career as a lyricist, teaming up with Jerry Ross in 1950. As a duo they worked in tandem, both taking credit for lyrics and music.

Today is also the birthday of Bob Fosse.
Bob was an integral part of the collaboration of both  Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game.   
Robert Louis “Bob” Fosse (June 23, 1927 – September 23, 1987) was an American actor, dancer, musical theater choreographer, director, screenwriter, film editor and film director. He won an unprecedented eight Tony Awards for choreography, as well as one for direction. He was nominated for an Academy Award four times, winning for his direction of Cabaret (beating Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather). He was closely identified with his third wife, Broadway dancing star Gwen Verdon. She was the dancer/collaborator/muse upon whom he choreographed much of his work and, together with dancer/choreographer Ann Reinking, a significant guardian of the Fosse legacy after his death. (Source: Wikipedia)

Fosse was born in Chicago, Illinois, to a Norwegian American father, Cyril K. Fosse, and Irish-born mother, Sara Alice (Stanton), the second youngest of six .He teamed up with Charles Grass, another young dancer, and began a collaboration under the name The Riff Brothers. They toured theatres throughout the Chicago area. Eventually Fosse was hired for Tough Situation, which toured military and naval bases in the Pacific.
 Fosse moved to New York with the ambition of being the new Fred Astaire. His appearance with his first wife and dance partner Mary Ann Niles (1923–1987) in Call Me Mister brought him to the attention of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Fosse and Niles were regular performers on Your Hit Parade during its 1950-51 season, and during this season Martin and Lewis caught their act in New York's Pierre Hotel and scheduled them to appear on the Colgate Comedy Hour. His early screen appearances included Give A Girl A Break, The Affairs of Dobie Gillis and Kiss Me Kate, all released in 1953. A short sequence that he choreographed in the latter (and danced with Carol Haney) brought him to the attention of Broadway producers.
 Although Fosse's acting career in film was cut short by premature balding, which limited the roles he could take, he was reluctant to move from Hollywood to theatre. Nevertheless, he made the move, and in 1954, he choreographed his first musical, The Pajama Game, followed by George Abbott's Damn Yankees in 1955. It was while working on the latter show that he first met the red-headed rising star whom he was to marry in 1960, Gwen Verdon and the rest is history!

Squeezed into a rabbit hutch of a studio one afternoon were Frank Loesser; George Abbott; producers Brisson, Griffith and Prince, the musical director Hal Hastings, set and costume designer Lem Ayers, Jerome Robbins, who was assisting George Abbott; and a young, quiet choreographer, whose first show this was going to be: Bob Fosse.
Adler and Ross began, and before they'd finished their third song, they knew they were in.
In less than a year, Adler and Ross had gone from horse meat to Broadway-or at least to the edge of Broadway.

I have utilized obituaries and Wikipedia to compile this blog. I am just skimming the surface. Read up on these incredible men. They are a very rich part of our musical theater history.  This is by no means the entire history. It is an appetizer to whet your appetite.  
Thank you to Richard Adler and Bob Fosse for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!



With grateful XOXOXs ,
Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!
Do you have any pics? If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!


Join me and Ron Young! (original cast of Hello, Dolly!)
June 29
7-9pm
BARNES AND NOBLE UPPER EAST SIDE, 150 East 86th Street
RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES Ronald Young
In his new memoir, "The Only Boy Who Danced: A Journey from Oklahoma to Broadway and Beyond", Ronald Young details an eventful life in the theater. The Only Boy Who Danced: A Journey from Oklahoma to Broadway and Beyond.


Sometimes Broadway dreams do come true. Fresh from the obscurity of living in the small farming community of Grove, Oklahoma, Ronald Young, at 22, is catapulted onto New York City's "Great White Way"... BROADWAY. After arriving in Manhattan on a Friday, he auditions for his first Broadway show on Monday. Bingo! After three call back auditions he snags his first dancing role in the soon to be mega hit "HELLO, DOLLY!" directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and starring Carol Channing. Armed with three music degrees and lots of enthusiasm he embarks on his career on Broadway.
His resume includes working with some of the legends of the theater: Ethel Merman, Shirley Booth, Angela Lansbury, Tommy Tune, Bernadette Peters, Joel Gray, Chita Rivera, Sandy Duncan, Georgia Engel and many others. He appeared in a host of shows: "MAME," "GEORGE M!" "THE BOY FRIEND," "MY ONE AND ONLY," "A CHORUS LINE" and the films "HAIR" and "ANNIE."
"THE ONLY BOY WHO DANCED" is a series of compelling, riveting stories about Ronald Young's personal quest to make it on Broadway. If you or a friend have hidden aspirations to make it on the New York theatrical scene, you will enjoy his tips and suggestions on how to break through this tough barrier.
Richard Skipper and Ronald Young are sitting down for an exploration of Ronald's incredible career in show business. Email Richard at Richard@RichardSkipper.com for more info



Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
                 
My blog tomorrow will be..My exclusive interview with Marni Nixon!



Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!








  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!







TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!




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