1. Today we’re playing an excerpt of Terry’s interview with Elaine Stritch, a performer lucky enough to have debuted songs by Noel Coward and Stephen Sondheim, and to have been coached by each of them.  She died last Thursday at the age of 89. 
Stritch used to describe herself as “a Catholic, diabetic, alcoholic, pain in the ass.”  Her Broadway career began in 1946.  She was Ethel Merman’s understudy in the Irving Berlin musical Call Me Madam in the early 50s, and starred in Noel Coward’s 1961 Broadway musical Sail Away, in a role that he expanded to suit her large talent.   In 1970 she co-starred in the Sondheim musical Company, where she sang what became one of her signature songs, The Ladies Who Lunch.  In 2002, she was on Broadway in her autobiographical one woman show Elaine Stritch At Liberty.   In 2010, she replaced Angela Lansbury in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.  TV audiences knew her from 30 Rock playing Alec Baldwin’s mother. 
Terry spoke with Stritch in 1999, when she was starring in a revival of Sail Away, in honor of Noel Coward’s centennial.  View in High-Res

    Today we’re playing an excerpt of Terry’s interview with Elaine Stritch, a performer lucky enough to have debuted songs by Noel Coward and Stephen Sondheim, and to have been coached by each of them.  She died last Thursday at the age of 89. 

    Stritch used to describe herself as “a Catholic, diabetic, alcoholic, pain in the ass.”  Her Broadway career began in 1946.  She was Ethel Merman’s understudy in the Irving Berlin musical Call Me Madam in the early 50s, and starred in Noel Coward’s 1961 Broadway musical Sail Away, in a role that he expanded to suit her large talent.   In 1970 she co-starred in the Sondheim musical Company, where she sang what became one of her signature songs, The Ladies Who Lunch.  In 2002, she was on Broadway in her autobiographical one woman show Elaine Stritch At Liberty.   In 2010, she replaced Angela Lansbury in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.  TV audiences knew her from 30 Rock playing Alec Baldwin’s mother. 

    Terry spoke with Stritch in 1999, when she was starring in a revival of Sail Away, in honor of Noel Coward’s centennial. 

  2. elaine stritch

    sail away

    broadway

    30 rock

    At Liberty

    noel coward

    stephen sondheim

  1. It’s like music, you have the sheet music but then you play it and there’s different rhythms to it — there’s different things you hear — there’s things you hear for the first time," he says. "The mistakes are the best part, sometimes.

    — Denzel Washington on performing A Raisin in the Sun every night 

  2. a raisin in the sun

    denzel washington

    theater

    acting

    broadway

    lorraine hansberry

  1. Fresh Air Monday: Denzel Washington and LaTanya Richardson Jackson join us to talk about doing ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ on Broadway.  View in High-Res

    Fresh Air Monday: Denzel Washington and LaTanya Richardson Jackson join us to talk about doing ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ on Broadway. 

  2. denzel washington

    laTanya richardson jackson

    a raisin in the sun

    broadway

    fresh air

    interview

  1. Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick is best known for co-writing the music for Fiddler on the Roof. Now at the age of 90 he is releasing a collection of rarities and demos from his early career, including songs that got cut from musicals. In today’s interview he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross about how Fiddler came to be: 

"When [director] Jerome Robbins became our director he told us this story, he said when he was six his parents took him to that part of Poland where their ancestors came from and even at the age of six he remembers it being a very emotional experience.
 Then, during World War II as he read about the extermination of these little villages by the Nazis, he was certain that the village that he had visited when he was six was one of those villages that had been obliterated.
 So when we gave him the opportunity to direct Fiddler he said, ‘I want to put that culture back on stage. I want to give it a theatrical life of another 25 years.’ He was being modest because now it’s almost 50 years and it’s still going strong. But he was a man obsessed with restoring that culture. He did enormous research. I think [Jerome] more than anyone else is responsible for the success that Fiddler's had.”


Photo via Masterworks Broadway of Sheldon Harnick and Zero Mostel (Tevje), Original Cast Recording of Fiddler on the Roof 1964 credit: Marvin Lichtner View in High-Res

    Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick is best known for co-writing the music for Fiddler on the Roof. Now at the age of 90 he is releasing a collection of rarities and demos from his early career, including songs that got cut from musicals. In today’s interview he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross about how Fiddler came to be: 

    "When [director] Jerome Robbins became our director he told us this story, he said when he was six his parents took him to that part of Poland where their ancestors came from and even at the age of six he remembers it being a very emotional experience.

    Then, during World War II as he read about the extermination of these little villages by the Nazis, he was certain that the village that he had visited when he was six was one of those villages that had been obliterated.

    So when we gave him the opportunity to direct Fiddler he said, ‘I want to put that culture back on stage. I want to give it a theatrical life of another 25 years.’ He was being modest because now it’s almost 50 years and it’s still going strong. But he was a man obsessed with restoring that culture. He did enormous research. I think [Jerome] more than anyone else is responsible for the success that Fiddler's had.”

    Photo via Masterworks Broadway of Sheldon Harnick and Zero Mostel (Tevje), Original Cast Recording of Fiddler on the Roof 1964 credit: Marvin Lichtner

  2. theater

    broadway

    fiddler on the roof

    Sheldon Harnick

    jewish

  1. Alan Cumming spoke to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about how the current revival of Cabaret differs from the 1998 revival (in which he also starred): 

"It’s very much darker, I think partly because I’m older but also because the sex element of the show — the thing in 1998 when we came to America [that] was so shocking and took up so much of people’s perception of the whole show was the depiction of sexual freedom and Hedonism and gay sex and bisexuality and all sorts of things. That, I think in a way, took over a little too much and now, I think, partly because of that production and but partly because a lot has changed … it’s still fun and very much what the story is about, but it doesn’t overshadow everything."


Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair  View in High-Res

    Alan Cumming spoke to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about how the current revival of Cabaret differs from the 1998 revival (in which he also starred): 

    "It’s very much darker, I think partly because I’m older but also because the sex element of the show — the thing in 1998 when we came to America [that] was so shocking and took up so much of people’s perception of the whole show was the depiction of sexual freedom and Hedonism and gay sex and bisexuality and all sorts of things. That, I think in a way, took over a little too much and now, I think, partly because of that production and but partly because a lot has changed … it’s still fun and very much what the story is about, but it doesn’t overshadow everything."

    Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair 

  2. alan cumming

    cabaret

    sexuality

    broadway

    theater

  1. Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim speaking to Terry Gross in 2010:

I’m interested in the theater because I’m interested in communication with audiences, otherwise I would be in concert music. I’d be in another kind of profession. I love the theater as much as music, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry — just making them feel — is paramount to me.




image of the Stephen Sondheim theater in NYC via VIP tickets View in High-Res

    Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim speaking to Terry Gross in 2010:

    I’m interested in the theater because I’m interested in communication with audiences, otherwise I would be in concert music. I’d be in another kind of profession. I love the theater as much as music, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry — just making them feel — is paramount to me.

    image of the Stephen Sondheim theater in NYC via VIP tickets

  2. fresh air

    stephen sondheim

    broadway

    musicals

  1. Tomorrow’s Fresh Air is about the golden age of industrial musicals, when full Broadway style musicals were written for corporate conventions. As in, yes, Broadway-style ballads about bathroom tiles, tractors, air conditioners, and plant fertilizer etc.
 Steve Young first came across these absurd records when he was choosing records for the reoccurring segment “Dave’s Record Collection" for David Letterman. When he couldn’t get the songs out of his head he decided to learn more about them. His book, “Everything’s Coming Up Profits" is about the history of these "Industrials." 

Musical writer Sheldon Harnick and Industrials performer John Russell join Young tomorrow to look back on this hilarious songs. 




image via anjou

    Tomorrow’s Fresh Air is about the golden age of industrial musicals, when full Broadway style musicals were written for corporate conventions. As in, yes, Broadway-style ballads about bathroom tiles, tractors, air conditioners, and plant fertilizer etc.

    Steve Young first came across these absurd records when he was choosing records for the reoccurring segment “Dave’s Record Collection" for David Letterman. When he couldn’t get the songs out of his head he decided to learn more about them. His book, “Everything’s Coming Up Profits" is about the history of these "Industrials."

    Musical writer Sheldon Harnick and Industrials performer John Russell join Young tomorrow to look back on this hilarious songs.

    image via anjou

  2. fresh air

    steve young

    industrial musicals

    musicals

    broadway

    everything's coming up profits

  1. Neil Patrick Harris is getting excellent reviews for his opening number at the Tony Awards Sunday night. It’s definitely “bigger.” What do you think? 

    Here’s a link to his interview on Fresh Air a little while back. 

  2. tony awards

    neil patrick harris

    broadway

    Fresh Air

  1. [With his lyrics,] you expect him to take a right and he takes a left. He does that with melodies as well. And actually, when you’re learning the music — and I’m sure I can speak for every actor who’s learned a Sondheim song — you’re secretly cursing Stephen Sondheim. Because it’s so damn hard to learn his music.

    — Danny Burstein on Stephen Sondheim

  2. danny burstein

    stephen sondheim

    broadway

    follies

  1. From the Archives: Bernadette Peters

  2. bernadette peters

    broadway

  1. Music For Your Morning: NPRMusic is streaming the new cast recording of Follies. [added bonus: Danny Burstein will be on Fresh Air next Monday!] View in High-Res

    Music For Your Morning: NPRMusic is streaming the new cast recording of Follies. [added bonus: Danny Burstein will be on Fresh Air next Monday!]

  2. follies

    first listen

    broadway

    sondheim

  1. Stephen Colbert on performing in Sondheim’s Company: "I tell a lot of young performers, ‘Go  get in trouble. Go commit yourself to something you’re not sure you can  do. And I followed my own advice. It was something I  desperately wanted to do — not as a career — but an invitation I knew I  couldn’t refuse and yet had no sense of whether or not I could do it.  And that is trouble — but it was all so joyful. I’m very grateful to Mr.  Sondheim that he got me in such trouble." [complete Colbert interview here] View in High-Res

    Stephen Colbert on performing in Sondheim’s Company: "I tell a lot of young performers, ‘Go get in trouble. Go commit yourself to something you’re not sure you can do. And I followed my own advice. It was something I desperately wanted to do — not as a career — but an invitation I knew I couldn’t refuse and yet had no sense of whether or not I could do it. And that is trouble — but it was all so joyful. I’m very grateful to Mr. Sondheim that he got me in such trouble." [complete Colbert interview here]

  2. stephen colbert

    stephen sondheim

    the colbert report

    broadway

  1. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk to Terry Gross about their hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon: "I don’t think anybody would want to see a two-hour-long Mormon-bashing, and we wouldn’t want to see that either. We love the goofiness of Mormon stories. Some of them are incredulous, and we loved almost all the Mormons that we had ever met. So this was sort of this conundrum that we like to talk about — we think what they believe is really, really ridiculous, and yet they seem like pretty happy people." [full interview here] View in High-Res

    South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk to Terry Gross about their hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon: "I don’t think anybody would want to see a two-hour-long Mormon-bashing, and we wouldn’t want to see that either. We love the goofiness of Mormon stories. Some of them are incredulous, and we loved almost all the Mormons that we had ever met. So this was sort of this conundrum that we like to talk about — we think what they believe is really, really ridiculous, and yet they seem like pretty happy people." [full interview here]

  2. trey parker

    matt stone

    the book of mormon

    broadway

    south park

  1. Tomorrow: Trey Parker and Matt Stone, on The Book of Mormon musical. 
Previously: Trey Parker and Matt Stone: Celebrating 14 Years of Fart Jokes

    Tomorrow: Trey Parker and Matt Stone, on The Book of Mormon musical. 

    Previously: Trey Parker and Matt Stone: Celebrating 14 Years of Fart Jokes

  2. trey parker

    matt stone

    broadway

    musical

    the book of mormon

    south park

  1. 
Fresh Air remembers playwright Arthur Laurents (center) who died on Thursday. Laurents wrote the books for Gypsy and West Side Story. In 1990, he explained to Terry Gross how the original pitch for West Side Story was a bit…different: "It was about a Jewish girl and a  Catholic boy in New   York over Easter and Passover. And I wanted no  part of it. And then several years passed and I happened to be in  California and Lenny Bernstein was in California. By that time, juvenile  delinquent gangs had come into being … That’s where the idea came  from — the front page. And then Lenny and I called Jerry and said,  ‘We’re ready to go.’" View in High-Res

    Fresh Air remembers playwright Arthur Laurents (center) who died on Thursday. Laurents wrote the books for Gypsy and West Side Story. In 1990, he explained to Terry Gross how the original pitch for West Side Story was a bit…different: "It was about a Jewish girl and a Catholic boy in New York over Easter and Passover. And I wanted no part of it. And then several years passed and I happened to be in California and Lenny Bernstein was in California. By that time, juvenile delinquent gangs had come into being … That’s where the idea came from — the front page. And then Lenny and I called Jerry and said, ‘We’re ready to go.’"

  2. arthur laurents

    broadway

    west side story

    gypsy

    stephen sondheim