Based on the classic King Arthur legend, the original production of “Camelot” opened in December, 1960, at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. Featured members of the cast included Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet. Goulet, in his first Broadway role, found his signature song in the show-stopper, “If Ever I Would Leave You”. The production finally closed in January, 1963, following 873 performances.
The development of the show faced some setbacks. Lerner later explained that Loewe had no interest in the project, but agreed to write the music on the condition that it would be his final score if the show fared poorly. Lerner and director Moss Hart were both hospitalized during preview performances. The show was also running extremely long, with more than 90 minutes of material being cut before the premiere.
The show was successful at the 1961 Tony Awards, winning for four of its five nominations: Best Actor in a Musical (Burton), Scenic Design in a Musical, Costume Design in a Musical, and Best Conductor and Musical Director. Subsequent productions have included three Broadway revivals, two U.S. tours, and the 1967 film. The 1961 Original Cast Recording was a top-selling album throughout that year.
Paint Your Wagon
This musical set in California during the Gold Rush was unsuccessful in its initial incarnation, with the Broadway version only lasting a few months from 1951-52. A West End production in 1953 was more successful, running about twice as long. A heavily altered 1969 film version was equally middling, failing to fully recoup its budget.
In spite of this, “Wagon” remains a common selection for youth theatre productions, and recent reinterpretations have been received more warmly. Popular songs from this show include “Wand’rin’ Star”, “They Call the Wind Maria”, and “I Talk to the Trees”.
Until recent years, it was common for musicals to start life on the stage, before being adapted for the movie screen. With Lerner & Loewe’s “Gigi”, that pattern was reversed. The 1973 Broadway production was an adaptation of their successful 1958 film, which had been sourced from a novella of the same name. The story of a girl being groomed for life as a courtesan in early 20th century Paris, whose suitor soon falls in love with her, bears some resemblance to the pair’s “My Fair Lady”.
Regardless of any resemblance to other shows, the original Broadway production proved to be a disappointment, running for just 103 performances before closing. Still, it managed to capture a Tony Award for Best Original Score, and a West End production in 1985 fared much better, running for seven months. A new take on the adaptation, currently in a pre-Broadway state, is scheduled to run at the Kennedy Center beginning in January, 2015.
This 1947 musical, centering on the discovery of a mythical Scottish village that appears for only one day every century, was the first success in the Lerner & Loewe oeuvre. After one show that closed during previews, and two others that made little impact among theatergoers, the pair decided to emulate elements of recent Rodgers & Hammerstein hits, particularly “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel”. Featuring a pair of romantic plots and using the same choreographer as the aforementioned R&H productions, “Brigadoon” proved to be the show that established L&L as the next musical heavyweights.
The show was very successful in its initial Broadway & West End incarnations, running for 581 & 685 performances, respectively. An extended North American tour was also very successful. The show has been revived several times since then, though most of the productions had very limited runs. A film version was produced in 1954, though it was a box office failure, losing MGM about $1.5 million (over $13 million in 2014 dollars). Critical reception was mixed at the time, but has grown more positive over the years.
It has been observed that Lerner’s book bears some resemblance to an older German tale about a town that falls under a magic curse, but Lerner claimed no knowledge of that story until after he had completed a draft of his book. And an interesting bit of trivia: “Brigadoon” (the film version) inspired a 1994 episode of the science fiction drama “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, entitled “Meridian”.
My Fair Lady
This Lerner and Loewe classic first premiered on Broadway in March, 1956. An adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion”, several attempts to create a musical version had been made. Lerner and Loewe initially worked together on the project in 1950, but abandoned work for two years. Oscar Hammerstein II had shared word of his own failed attempt, working with Richard Rodgers, declaring that “Pygmalion” was impossible to adapt.
Lerner reconsidered, reuniting with Loewe and resuming the work. Things quickly fell into place, and the project headed into production. Julie Andrews was offered the role of Eliza Doolittle after being ‘discovered’ in her Broadway debut, “The Boy Friend”. The title “My Fair Lady” derived from one of Shaw’s working titles for “Pygmalion”, “Fair Eliza”. The initial production ran for over six years, closing in 1962 after 2,717 performances, a record for a musical at the time.