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Did you ever hear of a book called Gadsby? It's a 50,110-word novel that Ernest Vincent Wright wrote in 1939 about a man who thought his hometown would fare better if kids ran it. But the book's most distinguishing feature is that Wright didn't include any word with the letter "e" in it. He even tied down the "e" key on his typewriter to make sure one didn't sneak in. This started me wondering: Could one write a History of Musical Theater without using a single "e"? Hmmm, probably not. But in honor of My Fair Lady's 50th anniversary, I thought I'd at least try to do a survey of the last 50 years in musical theater in 1,000 words or less. Here goes:

1956: My Fair Lady got huzzahs. Happy Hunting didn't. Shangri-la stank and sank.

1957: Jamaica was a hit but Ricardo Montalban, though outstanding in his part, wasn't why.

1958: Tony Randall did a turn in Oh, Captain! Poor putrid Portofino was punishing. Say, Darling was kind of darling. Stritch did Goldilocks. And Whoop-up? Good Lord! But, oh, that Susan Johnson!

1959: Juno was jarring to many. Gypsy had a sinful Sandra Church.

1960: Richard Burton was King Arthur, and Lucy was in Wildcat.

1961: Ah, Carnival! Carol Channing's Show Girl did okay, Donnybrook! was dour and ran two months -- but oh, that Susan Johnson again! And oh, that Stritch in Sail Away. Kwamina, though it ran a month, got a Tony nomination for its words and music.

1962: Diahann Carroll was a wow in No Strings. But Bravo Giovanni, not A Funny Thing..., got a Tony nod for its music and lyrics. As for A Family Affair, who thought that Morris Carnovsky could sing?

1963: Tovarich's chic star was nifty, so it ran six months. Judy Holliday's last show was Hot Spot, an H-bomb of a show.

1964: Rugantino, a musical sung all in Italian, was a flop, as was Foxy, though Lahr won a Tony. Barbra you-know-who had a star-making part in (and Mr. Robbins was a show-doctor for) Funny Girl, though this lady lost a Tony to Carol Channing. High Spirits was high-flying, but Bajour with Chita and I Had a Ball? Not as high.

1965: Mr. Abbott's Anya was a flop. Ditto Pickwick, which took a trip from London to us. But Man of La Mancha was a smash hit.

1966: Wait a Minim was a minor hit. London star Norman Wisdom was Walking Happy. Mary Martin's last musical gig was I Do! I Do!

1967: Illya Darling was disappointing and dull. A musical got a columnist to say, "How Now, Dow Wow!" but it couldn't run. Ragni and Rado's Hair? Cool, hot, groovy, and Broadway-bound.

1968: Dick Shawn got top-billing in I'm Solomon, a show that was appalling. Zorba got nods from most critics. Crowds got fantastic and forward-sounding sounds from Bacharach and David. Alas, Judy Garland didn't land a part in that musical about that zany aunt.

1969: 1776's smash status was a shock to many savants who thought it could not fly. Billy (as in Budd) and La Strada ran a night. Was Oh! Calcutta! a musical? It got a cast album. Jimmy, with Frank Gorshin, was lousy. Coco was out of fashion.

1970: Gantry ran a night. Cry for Us All got us all sobbing. Making a musical about Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx wasn't duck soup. Park did not park long. Danny K.O.'d Two by Two, and Ari was arid. Musical chaos: Bock and Harnick split up. But Company (with Stritch) was ironic, cynical, and astonishing.

1971: Oh boy, what girls in 70, Girls, 70! (If you didn't catch it, do it soon.)

1972: Crowds saw two guys play two girls in Sugar. Hurry, Harry did only two shows. Ambassador (a show about gay Paris) was monotonous. Via Galactica was God-awful. Pippin had an amazing production, and Schwartz soon had 3 shows on Broadway.

1973: Tricks, Gigi, and Smith didn't do it. Cyrano did, a bit. Raisin was a tasty Tony victor. Molly had Kay [sic] Ballard.

1974: Liza was in top form. Brava!

1975: Doctor Jazz was a dud. Chicago did okay, but a show about chorus boys and girls, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, was a smash. Truckload didn't allow critics in. Bocaccio did. (Oh, my God!)

1976: Music Is, a musical adaptation of 12th Night, didn't sing. Two black musicals, Bubbling Brown Sugar and Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, got armfuls of acclamations. Broadway's rock musicals? Not worth citing.

1977: A most magical musical had an orphan sing "Tomorrow."

1978: Timbuktu wasn't tops. Dancin' was solid. Runaways didn't run. Platinum was cubic zirconium. Working was a flop but has had many productions. (A Broadway Musical hasn't). Ballroom had fabulous dancing and a just-as-fabulous Dorothy Loudon, though it was a touch and go proposition for months.

1979: Sarava had a sizzling Tovah, but Got tu Go Disco had nothing. Comin' Uptown didn't stay in midtown for long. "Oh, what a circus," sang Mandy Patinkin, who got a Tony, as did Patti.

1980: Barnum was a circus, too, sporting 3 rings. Champion's last staging was 42nd St.. Onward Victoria didn't go forward.

1981: Frank and Mary didn't work out in that backwards musical that ran only half a month.

1982: Critics thought Cats was a dog, but it ran -- though it wasn't as immortal as it originally thought it was.

1983: Anthony Quinn brought back Zorba. What can you say about Marilyn, which was an insult to musicals? Hail to Richard Maltby's good lyrics in Baby.

1984: Chita and Liza in a musical? Wouldn't you think both in a show could land a hit? Alas, no.

1985: Harrigan 'n Hart was horrid, and Grind ground to a halt.

1986: Uptown...It's Hot! wasn't. Honky Tonk Nights was an atrocity, but Rags was a flop worth mourning.

1987: Stardust sang Mitch Parrish's songs. Roza was rank.

1988: Sarafina was soaring but Mail was D.O.A.

1989: Larry (for book), Cy (for music), David (for lyrics), and Randy (for supporting) all won Tonys for this City.

1990: Oh, Kay! wasn't. Buddy was boring. Shogun was sorry and stupid.

1991: Miss Saigon was a Tony-miss, but ran. Critics said nix to Nick & Nora.

1992: Crazy for You got good ink -- and Tonys -- as did Nathan and Faith for Guys and Dolls.

1993: Ain't Broadway Grand? It is, but this show wasn't. A Grand Night for Singing? Hardly. A Dutch Cyrano was -- what's a Dutch word for dull?

1994: Donna Murphy got a big hand and a Tony for Passion, but it was too atypical a show for many.

1995: An adaptation of that film Victor/Victoria was not victorious.

1996: An adaptation of Big? Small. Chicago finally had its day -- and months upon months upon months at S.R.O.

1997: Titanic didn't sink, as many thought it would.

1998: Paul Simon's musical spurs him to say bad things about Broadway.

1999: Swing! swung.

2000: Was Susan Stroman's Contact a musical? Tony thought so. Aida had its fans. What was Squonk? LaChiusa vs. Lippa; which Wild Party was for you?

2001: A Class Act was a classy musical about a lyricist who was unhappy. Blast! was, umm, a blast. Mamma Mia! was a musical anthology with a book built around ABBA songs. Harry Connick, Jr.'s Broadway bow was not actually in a show about pajamas, but through his music and lyrics for Thou Shalt Not, a monstrosity.

2002: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman had a big hit with Hairspray, in which a fat girl has a fat load of fun. Amour didn't last, which was a pity. Movin' Out was Twyla Tharp's triumph.

2003: Urban Cowboy was old (cowboy) hat. Boy, Taboo cost and lost millions.

2004: Assassins finally got to Broadway. Dracula (you know what I'm going to say, don't you?) bit. Brooklyn brought no glory to its borough.

2005: A damn thing known as Good Vibrations was not good. Monty Python's Spamalot was a flying circus of fun. All Shook Up shook up not too many. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had no punch. William Finn had a hit. John Lloyd Young was a boy from a N.J. Valli.

2006: And that brings us to Tarzan.

This won't do, will it? There's no musical theater history without Rodgers, Hammerstein, Bernstein, Comden, Green, Lerner and Loewe, Loesser, Styne, Strouse, Herman, Kander and Ebb, Ahrens and Flaherty, not to mention Sondheim, Fosse, and Bennett. No Phantom of the Opera,Rent, and The Lion King. Also, leaving an "e" out of musical theater means that we can't use the words "excellence" and "excitement," and that's just not acceptable.


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]


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