Wednesday, August 10, 2016

10 Things You Should Know About Lerner and Loewe

By AnnaBeth Crittenden
Marketing Intern


In the coming months, the Playhouse will be celebrating the legacy of musical legends Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe through two ambitious & exciting theatrical events.

Our 2016 gala, The Night They Invented Champagne: Celebrating Lerner & Loewe, will be held on Mon., Sept 19 and will feature musical tributes to this amazing songwriting team from some of Broadway's brightest.

Our 2016 season ends with of the lush, romantic Lerner & Loewe musical Camelot, directed by Mark Lamos. The musical will be re-imagined on the Playhouse stage from October 4-30. Theatergoers will be able to fall in love again with the soaring songs by these two musical geniuses.

As we prepare to honor this legendary team, here are ten reasons why their work is so revered throughout the world.



1. Alan Jay Lerner was a lyricist and librettist.
Frederick Loewe was a composer.


L-R Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

The two wrote 7 Broadway musicals, including Camelot, My Fair Lady, and Brigadoon. Their songs are still widely known and include The Night They Invented Champagne, I Could Have Danced All Night, If Ever I Would Leave You, and Almost Like Being in Love.



2. They met at the New York Lambs Club in 1942
and became really good friends.



Poster from the Lambs Club

Loewe joined the Lambs Club, a group of theater professionals, in 1935 to become well-versed in the world of musical theater. Almost 10 years later he introduced himself to Alan Lerner, a librettist who Loewe admired. At the time they met, Loewe was 17 years older than Lerner. The two joined up to write a score for the play The Patsy.



3. At age 13, Loewe became the
youngest piano soloist in the history of
the Berlin Philharmonic


Frederick Loewe
Although Loewe had a distinguished childhood performing in Europe's symphony orchestra, he lost his acclaim after moving to America. There he worked odd jobs: riding instructor, gold miner, mail carrier, and busboy. He finally found work as a piano player and wrote for the musicals Petticoat Fever and Great Lady. Great Lady did open on Broadway, but only ran for 20 performances in 1938.



4. Lerner and Loewe’s first musical was called
Life of the Party.


Marion Davies in a film adaptation of The Patsy

Life of the Party was created from the script from The Patsy. Although the musical received favorable reviews, it never made it to Broadway. However, it urged the partners to write What's Up, a musical comedy that opened on Broadway. It ran for 63 performances and was followed by the 1945 show, The Day Before Spring.




5. They were most famous for their musicals
Brigadoon and My Fair Lady.

Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady
It wasn't until their 1947 blockbuster musical, Brigadoon, that the musical duo made a name for themselves. The show ran for 581 performances on Broadway, a national tours, several revivals, and a movie of the same name. It also was awarded "Best Musical" from the New York Drama Critics Circle. In 1951, they wrote Paint Your Wagon which was followed by one of the most successful American musicals: My Fair Lady. They then wrote the music for the film version of Gigi.



6. In 1952, Westport Country Playhouse
inspired Lerner and Loewe’s musical My Fair Lady.

Dolores Gray as Eliza in Shaw's Pygmalion at WCP
In 1952, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, who had achieved great success with Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon, were struggling to create a musical from George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion. Years later Lerner wrote, "The [Theatre] Guild, which ran the Westport Playhouse in Connecticut, decided it would help all of us if we could see Pygmalion again on the stage and included a production of it during the summer season. It was a joy to see again." Four years later, My Fair Lady became a smash hit on Broadway.


7. Camelot was the last Broadway musical
that they wrote together.

Julie Andrews and the original Broadway cast of Camelot
Lerner & Loewe's sweepingly romantic musical Camelot was the final show that the legendary team created in tandem. Loewe had suffered a heart attack two years before the show opened, and retired due to health concerns. About his former partner, Lerner wrote, “Writing will never again be as much fun. A collaboration as intense as ours inescapably had to be complex. But I loved him more than I understood or misunderstood him, and I know he loved me more than he understood or misunderstood me."


8. After Camelot, Lerner worked with
a variety of other partners for film and stage.


Jessica Mueller and the 2011 revival cast of
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
Following Loewe's retirement, Lerner's creative output continued, as he went on to write the book and lyrics for the films Love Life, Royal Wedding and An American in Paris, winning an Oscar in 1951 for the latter. He then worked with other composers including Leonard Bernstein (1600 Pensylvania Ave), John Barry (Lolita and My Love), and Burton Lane (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever). However, none of these collaborations reached the critical heights that Lerner and Loewe saw together.


9. Lerner and Loewe reunited
to write The Little Prince.

Trailer for the 1974 movie, The Little Prince.
The film was released in November 1974 and featured the talents of Gene Wilder and Bob Fosse. It was based on the 1943 children's book Le Petit Prince.


10. Loewe died in 1988,
two years after Lerner passed.


Salute to Lerner and Loewe on the Julie Andrews Show in 1973
When Lerner died of lung cancer in 1986, Loewe was too ill to attend the funeral. However, he delivered a message stating, “'I was always amazed how good we were and how simple it was… I loved you once in silence. Farewell, my boy.'' Loewe died two years later of cardiac arrest. After Lerner and Loewe died, a tribute was performed for them at the Schubert Theatre featuring the talents of Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet, Rex Harrison, and Richard Kiley. “Alan Jay Lerner was one of the great contributors to the American theater,” Kiley said. “His urbane and witty lyrics will be as bright as ever when we are all dust.”

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