Monday, November 22, 2004

How Musicals Get Lost

As I've mentioned before, "Hooray For What!" was a particularly challenging "lost" musical. All of the orchestral arrangements were gone, few vocal arrangements survived. There was a lot of restoration work to be done.

I learned some more interesting info during last week's 'Talk-Back' session about how so many golden era musicals ended up being "lost" to begin with:

1. Back in the day there were simply a lot MORE Broadway musicals. Rodgers & Hart might open 6 musicals in one season! So, musicals may not exactly have been disposable entertainment, they were not considered lasting works of art, suitable for long-term archiving.

2. Once shows closed on Broadway, they would go out on the road, often with original everything. They'd pack up all the scores and music and send it out on the road. And they didn't just hit big cities, they hit a lot of smaller hamlets in between the big cities. Now, when the tour shut down...that's where stuff was left. The last stop on a tour ended up being the repository for all sorts of material from a show, including the music scores. There have been treasure troves of music found in the basements of playhouses all around the country.

3. Even when material does get sent to storage, human error can still get in the way. Material might get shoved in a storage room without being reviewed or codified in any way...think of the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Or sometimes it is even codified incorrectly. One of the songs in "Hooray For What!" was found literally two days before rehearsals started. It had been archived at the Shubert organization under the wrong song title. So someone had to not only look through the box of music, but look in the incorrectly marked folder, and recognize that the music within didn't match the title under which it had been filed.

Anyway, it was interesting to learn a little more about why these great pieces might go missing to begin with. Gives you a little more insight, and a little more appreciation of the kind of effort involved to re-mount works such as "Hooray For What!"

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