Monday, 16 June 2008
John Kander and Fred Ebb
Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb have forged one of the longest-running and most successful creative partnerships in Broadway history; their bold, brassy style giving rise to a series of enormously popular and provocative musicals including Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Kander was born March 18, 1927, in Kansas City, MO, and began studying music as a child; he started his professional career in 1950 with Second Square, and between 1955 and 1957 served as choral director and conductor for Rhode Island's Warwick Musical Theatre. From there, he arranged the dance music for Gypsy and Irma la Douce, and made his Broadway composing debut with the 1962 flop A Family Affair. Later that same year, Kander met Ebb, with whom he soon collaborated on the songs "My Coloring Book" and "I Don't Care Much," both later recorded by Barbra Streisand. The duo's first stage musical, Golden Gate, went unrealized, but it did convince producer Harold Prince to hire them for his Flora, The Red Menace, a satire of bohemian culture and radical politics which also featured Liza Minnelli in her Tony Award-winning Broadway debut. Kander and Ebb's next collaboration continued in the political vein of Flora, but with much more serious overtones; 1966's Cabaret, a brilliant examination of fascism in pre-war Berlin, rocketed the duo to massive critical and commercial success, winning seven Tony awards (including Best Musical) on its way to a run of 1,166 performances and an Oscar-winning film adaptation. Kander and Ebb resurfaced in 1968 with two new musicals, The Happy Time and Zorba, followed three years later by 70, Girls, 70; in 1972, they also composed a number of songs for Minnelli's Emmy-winning television special Liza With a Z. After contributing material to Streisand's 1975 film Funny Girl, later that same year Kander and Ebb launched Chicago, which was largely overlooked during its original run but was revived to massive success two decades later. In 1977, they scored Martin Scorsese's film musical New York, New York; the title song later became a signature hit for Frank Sinatra as well as the Big Apple's unofficial theme. Also that year, the duo launched The Act on Broadway; both projects starred Liza.