Richard Rodgers on Broadway
Has each and every Broadway theater at one time resounded with a Richard Rodgers melody?
John Lahr's recent article on Richard Rodgers in The New Yorker was something wonderful, and his statement that the esteemed composer has enjoyed 20,457 performances on Broadway (so far) started me thinking. Has Richard Rodgers managed to have at least one of his melodies heard in each and every one of Broadway's theaters?
Richard C. Norton's new A Chronology of American Musical Theater made the task much easier for me. Plenty of books tell you at which theater a production opens, but Norton's is one of the comparatively few that also details when a show picked up stakes from its original home and moved to another (and, in some cases, yet another).
And so, I learned that the most Rodgers musicals were ensconced at the Majestic--eight in all. Rodgers' first three stints at the house were all transfers: Simple Simon, On Your Toes, and Babes in Arms finished up there. But in the Rodgers and Hammerstein era, the Majestic was the original home to three consecutive shows by the pair: Carousel (1945), Allegro (1947), and South Pacific (1949). Their Me and Juliet was there in 1953, too, and Rodgers' last show, I Remember Mama, made its home there in 1979.
The Shubert, next with six shows, was where Rodgers and Hart heard their first song on Broadway: "Any Old Place with You," in A Lonely Romeo in 1919. They'd return to that esteemed house for Babes in Arms (1937), I Married an Angel (1938), Higher and Higher (1940), Pal Joey (which moved here in 1941), and By Jupiter (1942). But Rodgers wasn't done with the Shubert; in 1955, Pipe Dream, his seventh musical with Hammerstein, played here, too.
The Alvin (now the Neil Simon) had five Rodgers shows: Spring Is Here, 1929; Heads Up, 1929; I'd Rather Be Right, 1937; The Boys from Syracuse, 1938, and The King and I, 1996 revival. Rodgers never had a new show at the Broadway Theatre but Too Many Girls and South Pacific used the house to conclude their runs, and two revivals--Oklahoma! in 1951 and The King and I in 1985--lived here, too. The St. James has had four as well: Pal Joey moved here in 1941 before the house saw the openings of the original productions of Oklahoma! in 1943, The King and I in 1951, and Flower Drum Song in 1958.
The Imperial housed three: On Your Toes, 1936; Too Many Girls, 1939; Two by Two, 1970. The Lunt-Fontanne had three as well: She's My Baby (in 1928, when the theater was the Globe), The Sound of Music (1959), and Rex (1974). The Broadhurst saw three, too: one original production (America's Sweetheart, 1931) one revival (Pal Joey, 1952), and one transfer (No Strings, 1962).
Ringing in with two each are the Virginia (The Garrick Gaieties in 1930, when the theater was the Guild, and On Your Toes, 1983); the Martin Beck (A Connecticut Yankee, 1942, and The Sound of Music, 1998); and the Music Box (I'd Rather Be Right moved there in 1938; State Fair originated there in 1996). Rodgers never had a tune heard at the Brooks Atkinson after the theater was given that name, but two of his 1928 shows, Present Arms and Chee-Chee, played that house when it was known as the Mansfield. The Uris had The King and I revival in 1977 and now, as the Gershwin, has the Oklahoma! revival. Then there were the On Your Toes revival in 1954 and Do I Hear a Waltz? in 1965, both at the 46th Street Theatre--now known as the Richard Rodgers. Ironically, since the renaming, no Rodgers' show has played the Rodgers.
Theaters that were host to one and only one Rodgers' show include the Barrymore (Pal Joey, 1940), the Circle-in-the-Square (Pal Joey, 1976 revival), the New Amsterdam (Betsy, 1926), the Palace (Oklahoma!, 1979 revival). Lord knows how many entertainers sang Rodgers' songs when they played the Palace. (Every Judy Garland fan is aware that she sang "This Can't Be Love" in her famous 1967 concert there.) The Vivian Beaumont played host to Carousel in 1994, and now, Rodgers' "My Heart Stood Still" can be heard there in Contact. While there hasn't yet been any Richard Rodgers music at the American Airlines Theatre, there sure will be pretty soon when The Boys from Syracuse takes the stage.
That still leaves a peck of Broadway theaters in which Rodgers didn't have a show. You'd think that he would have had at least one proclaimed on that glorious sign over the Winter Garden, but the best the composer could do was to get one song in The Show is On in 1936, and another--"Bewitched"--in Eddie Fisher's appearance there in 1962. But plenty of other Broadway houses have heard a melody or two from Rodgers. At the Golden, T.C. Jones sang "Ten Cents a Dance" in Mask and Gown in 1955, and Michael Feinstein did "I Have Dreamed" in 1990. Maurice Chevalier sang "Mimi" at Henry Miller's in 1947. Lena Horne warbled "The Lady is a Tramp" in 1981 at the Nederlander. Patti LuPone concluded her 1995 concert at the Walter Kerr with "Bewitched." At the Lyceum, Michael Feinstein opened his 1988 concert with "Isn't It Romantic?" Mandy Patinkin did "Soliloquy" in his 1989 concert at the Helen Hayes. Most drolly, at the Minskoff in 1975, Bette Midler began her Clams on the Half Shell revue by having her orchestra play the overture from Oklahoma!
That still leaves the Ambassador, Belasco, Booth, Cort, Ford, Longacre, Marquis, O'Neill, Plymouth, and Royale. The irony is that, at least, Rodgers's name has been on the marquees of the Booth and Plymouth, for Rodgers and Hammerstein presented plays at those theaters: The former housed John Loves Mary in 1947 and the latter sported The Happy Time in 1950. But you know something? I'll still bet that a Rodgers' melody has been sung on each of those stages, too. For just as Jason Alexander sang a few bars from "Some Enchanted Evening" in Merrily We Roll Along at the Alvin in 1981, I'm sure that some play or musical at these other theaters has included a snatch or two of a melody, or some recording played over the sound system between scenes of a tune that Richard Rodgers' wrote during his illustrious, 60-year career on Broadway.