The decade simply known as the seventies is remembered by a great deal of the population, yet, there are people who are well into their adulthood that have no recollection or were even born during this controversial time.
Following the hippie counterculture and sexual freedom of the late 1960’s the seventies were a grand extension of the excess in drugs and sex that was established in the late sixties and the demonstrations and political rallies continued.
It is the decade where the United States finally got out of Vietnam and the same one that introduced us to the oxymoron of punk rock music and disco concurrently. Women and minorities were experiencing some advancements in equality but very little.
Called the “Me decade” in an essay by novelist Tom Wolfe suggested that society took on an innovative approach in the direction of “atomized individualism” and was steering “away from communitarianism”, or in other words, people were more focused on themselves and their own needs opposed to the sense of community preached by hippies in the sixties.
It is in celebration of all that is “me!” that we would like to take a look at some musicals released in the 1970’s.
This musical from the 1970’s premiered on Broadway on March 30, 1970 and had nearly nine hundred performances. That year it was given the Tony Award for Best Musical, and Best Actress in a Musical, awarded to Lauren Bacall.
After working together on Bye Bye Birdie, the composers of Applause, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams were interested in creating a musical based on the 1950 film All About Eve, which was based on a short story by Mary Orr called “The Wisdom of Eve.” They were unable to get the rights to the movie script from Twentieth Century Fox so they worked around it and bought the stage rights to the short story.
They found out that ultimately they were not allowed to use any original characters or discourse used in the movie but they could use any shared material from the original short story. In 1969 Bacall was cast as Margo Channing, who was the character played by Bette Davis in the movie version. Bacall said the character and herself were, “ideally suited.” She went on to say she identified personally with the aging star.
The legendary Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for this 1970’s musical with book by James Goldman. With direction by Harold Prince and Michael Bennet, this musical premiered on April 4, 1971. That year it won seven Tony Awards of the eleven it was nominated for. Still, the original production was a financial flop only running for just over five hundred shows. They didn’t even make back the money put into it. Still, it has had frequent revivals and many songs like, “Broadway Baby” and “Losing my Mind” are revered today.
The plot surrounds a Broadway theatre that is in its last days. Several of the performers that have played there return for a reunion. The center theme is around a pair of couples, Buddy and Sally Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Stone.
The women were once show girls in the Follies. It isn’t long before we realize both marriages are in trouble. Buddy is cheating on Sally and Sally is in love with Benjamin. Ben is only driven by his ego and Phyllis is lacking emotionally in their relationship.
Also winner of several Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards the original production of this musical was the thirty-third longest running show on Broadway in November of 2015. Book written by Roger O. Hirson with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz this work was initially imagined by students at Carnegie Melon University.
Their Scotch’n’Soda theatre troupe created it and Ron Strauss worked with Schwartz and the latter wanted to expand on the idea. Once Strauss stopped working on it the result is something Schwartz claims is nothing like the one produced at Carnegie Melon.
Premiering at the Imperial Theater Pippin held an astounding nineteen hundred and forty-four performances before closing five years later. The cast of the original production include, John Rubinstein, Vereen, Christopher Chadman, Eric Berry, and Jill Clayburgh.
In October of 1973 Pippin premiered at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End. It ran for nearly one hundred performances and Bob Fosse, who directed the Broadway run, was also the director of this production.
With music by Frederick Loewe and book/lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner this is a lovely musical for all ages. The inspiration came from a story written by Colette, a French novelist, and the 1958 film by the same name.
The title character is a young girl in Paris who lives with her grandmother and flighty mother. She is given lessons on how to be a lady and attract the proper man by her aunt. Still, she is bull headed and deems the whole thing silly.
Enter Gaston Lachaille, who is a wealthy playboy growing weary of his many mistresses and adventures in “love.” He truly enjoys spending time with Mamita, his nickname for Gigi’ grandmother, and the young Gigi.
But Gaston is shocked when he sees her growing into a lovely young woman and he is helpless as he falls deeply in love with her.
This musical is the birth of the iconic song “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”, which sounds strange in any other voice than Maurice Chevaliers heavy French accent. In 1974 Gigi, the stage musical, was nominated for four Tony Awards. It took home the trophy for Best Original Score.
The Good Companions
Based on the 1929 J. B. Priestley novel of the same name this plot surrounds the Dinky-Doos, a touring “concert party” who are stuck in the English country because their manager steals all the money they have made so far. A concert party is also known as a Pierrot troupe, who traveled performing a variety show.
They meet Jess Oakroyd, who leaves his shrill of a bride to join the troupe as a handyman. Elizabeth Trant is another character the troupe is introduced to and she donates her entire inheritance to support their tour. IT is her attempt to get away from her boring life.
Premiering at Her Majesty’s Theatre on London’s West End on July 11, 1974 this production ran for nearly three hundred performances. The cast included John Mills, Dame Judi Dench, Christopher Gable, Marti Webb, Malcolm Rennie, and Ray C. Davis.
The Broadway production never came to fruition due to the fact that a stage version without music of the Priestly novel in 1931 didn’t do well because American audiences weren’t’ familiar with the idea of a “concert party”, although it sounds a lot like vaudeville of our day. It closed after a mere sixty-eight shows. So the idea of reviving the musical was forgotten.
The Robber Bridegroom (1975-76)
Inspired by a novella released in 1942 by Eudora Welty this story has a hero that closely resembles the famed Robin Hood but is far more erratic. We start out in current time and meet the hero of the story, Jamie Lockhart, who tells us a story as the setting changes to Mississippi during the seventeen hundreds.
Our focus switches to Clemment Musgrove, coming upon a town on the Natchez Trace as the residents of the village try to rob him of his money. He reaches his lodgings free from robbery but two criminal brothers, Little Harp and Big Harp, conspire to rob and Kill Mr. Musgrove.
Lockhart comes to Musgrove’s rescue and as payment for his bravery Musgrove offers marriage to his daughter Rosamund. Little does Musgrove know that Lockhart is a stealthy thief better equipped to rob him than the two he caught. To disguise his true identity, Lockhart covers his face with berry juice and becomes The Bandit Of The Woods.
Salome is Musgrove’s second wife and she despises her step-daughter Rosamund. So much so the step-mother hires a hitman who follows Rosamund into the woods. It is here that Rosamund meets The Bandit Of The Woods and inadvertently saves her from being murdered. They end up falling in love.
Yet Salome is intent on killing Rosamund while Lockhart, as The Bandit Of The Woods, tells her that he is be married to another girl. Little does he know that the girl his is promised to is the same girl he met in the woods.
This 1970’s musical takes a lot of interesting twists and turns before everyone’s identities are revealed. Salome persists in her plans to do away with Rosamund while Lockhart and Rosamund are destined to find out who they truly are.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
This story, which was eventually made into a movie starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds in the early eighties, is based on a true life house of ill repute in south-central Texas called The Chicken Ranch.
Our story is based around a working-girl farm of the same name outside Gilbert, Texas that has become a revered place that the locals have cherished for over one hundred years. The Madame of the house, Miss Mona, is also a close personal friend of sheriff Ed Earl Dodd.
Meanwhile, Houston religious leader Melvin P. Thorpe learns about The Chicken Ranch and makes it the center of a high profile expose. When the general, God-fearing public becomes more aware of what goes on at The Chicken Ranch they call to the Governor to shut it down.
Sheriff Dodd, who realizes he is in love with Miss Mona, travels to Austin with hopes to save this Texas institution. Votes mean more to the Governor than right and The Chicken Ranch is closed forever. Still, the characters live happily ever after because, after all, this is a lighthearted musical from the 1970’s.
Watch some of the most intriguing and diverse musicals in the globe today!