Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Remembering Adolph Green at 100

A report from NPR's Jeff Lunden today on "All Things Considered" recalls that today marks the 100th birthday of Broadway lyricist and Hollywood screenwriter Adolph Green, whose works include On the Town, Wonderful Town, Bells Are Ringing, Singing in the Rain, The Bandwagon, and about half of the 1954 version of Peter Pan.  That last show will be presented on NBC-TV this coming Thursday as Peter Pan Live!

The 1954 Peter Pan had one set of songs by composer Mark Charlap and lyricist Carolyn Leigh, which included "I've Got to Crow," "I'm Flying," and "I Won't Grow Up," among others.  (The use of first-person nominative in those song titles must indicate something about the character of Peter Pan's embedded egoism.)

Along with his lyric-writing partner, Betty Comden, and composer Jule Styne, Green contributed a number of songs to Peter Pan, including "Wendy," "Ugg-a-Wugg," "Distant Melody," and the haunting "Neverland," sung in the clip below by Mary Martin in a kinescope of the 1955 live NBC-TV production.  (Kathleen Nolan appears as Wendy Darling in this production, which was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.)

In the rare clip below, from a 1957 broadcast on the Dumont network of Art Ford's Greenwich Village Party, Comden and Green sing their duet from On the Town, "I Get Carried Away." Art Ford reminds his viewers that Comden and Green had worked with Judy Holliday in a nightclub act in the 1940s called The Revuers, which led to their collaboration with Leonard Bernstein on On the Town, and that Holliday was then starring in their latest collaboration (with Jule Styne), Bells Are Ringing.

After Green sets up the number, it begins at the 3:30 mark on the video.

Another snippet of Comden and Green and performers can be seen in this compilation of songs from the 1985 Follies in Concert.  They sing "Rain on the Roof" beginning at 2:00 (and, sadly, ending at 2:10).  The video clip also includes the late Elaine Stritch singing "Broadway Baby" and Adolph Green's wife, Phyllis Newman, as part of the ensemble on "Who's That Woman?" as well as Carol Burnett proclaiming "I'm Still Here" -- along with leading players Barbara Cook, George Hearn, Mandy Patinkin, and Lee Remick.

A look at Adolph Green's credits on IBDB shows how prolific an artist he was. In addition to the shows already mentioned, he contributed either book or lyrics (or, sometimes, both) to Billion Dollar Baby, with David Burns and Helen Gallagher (1945), Two on the Aisle, with Bert Lahr and Dolores Gray (1951), Say, Darling (1958), A Party with Betty Comden & Adolph Green (1958 and 1977), Do Re Mi, with Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker (1960), Subways Are for Sleeping, with Carol Lawrence and Sydney Chaplin (1961), Fade Out-Fade In, with Carol Burnett and Jack Cassidy (1964), Hallelujah, Baby!, with Leslie Uggams (1967), Applause, with Lauren Bacall and Len Cariou (1970), Lorelei, with Carol Channing (1974), On the Twentieth Century, with Imogene Coca, John Cullum, Madeline Kahn, and Kevin Kline (1978), A Doll's Life, with what seems like the cast of Sweeney Todd -- George Hearn, Betsy Joslyn, and Edmund Lyndeck (1982), and The Will Rogers Follies, with Keith Carradine, Dee Hoty, and the voice of Gregory Peck (1991).

The list of Adolph Green's collaborators could itself be a book about the history of the musical theatre:  George Abbott, Lee Adams, Richard Bissell, Abe Burrows, Jerome Chodorov, Cy Coleman, William and Jean Eckart, Lehman Engel, Ron Field, Joseph A. Fields, Bob Fosse, Paul Gemignani, Garson Kanin, Michael Kidd, Arthur Laurents, David Merrick, Harold Prince, Burt Shevelove, Irene Sharaff, Oliver Smith, Peter Stone, Charles Strouse, Tommy Tune, Robin Wagner, and Freddie Wittop -- to name just a few.

Considering that Peter Pan Live! goes on the air this week, that there is a current revival of On the Town on Broadway, and the first full Broadway revival of On the Twentieth Century opens early next year, Adolph Green is having a pretty good season for a centenarian who has been dead for twelve years.

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