People that you consider Geniuses?

mjohnson2
Broadway Star
joined:11/2/13
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 06:08pm
Hello all,
So I was reading the FINDING NEVERLAND thread, and saw the mini discussion on people in musical theatre who should be considered geniuses, so I wondering who you guys think should be on that list? (I'm excluding playwrights because there are just too many that could be considered)

My definitive list:

Cole Porter
Stephen Sondheim
Michael John LaChiusa
Richard Rogers
John Kander
Fred Ebb
Kurt Weill
Harold Prince
George C. Wolfe
Ira Gershwin
Jerome Kern
Robert Russell Bennett
Anything regarding shows stated by this account is an attempt to convey opinion and not fact.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 06:22pm
None of the above, and most certainly not one particular one of the above.

Please, let's use this word sparingly and judiciously, lest it lose whatever value it has.

In other words, it should be bestowed only upon those on the order of Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Mozart...
promisespromises2
Broadway Star
joined:5/23/13
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 06:37pm
To me Sondheim is an emotional genius. He has a beautiful gift of really understanding human nature. Maybe he's just extremely intuitive and introspective. Maybe it's just his experiences from his past. But either way, I find him exceptionally talented. I know a lot of people on here would disagree (I'm well aware of people who are obsessed with Sondheim/abhor him). I think of a genius as someone having an extraordinary gift, and personally I put Sondheim there.
GlindatheGood22
Broadway Legend
joined:7/17/07
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 06:51pm
Great question. For me:

Sondheim
Tracy Letts
Audra
Tennessee Williams
Arthur Miller
I leave the room smiling.
jv92
Broadway Legend
joined:11/4/05
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 06:56pm
Oh, of course After Death had to chirp in because "you know who" made someone's list and will likely make lists of others, so now's the perfect opportunity for him to tear him apart and sing the praises of DEAR WORLD and its misunderstood title song.

I said there were three-- Jerome Robbins, Frank Loesser, and Stephen Sondheim. For me, it's defined by endless invention, creativity and surprise. I certainly think Kander and Ebb and Hal Prince are tremendously talented, brilliant guys, and I think Rodgers was the most gifted melodist the theater's ever seen (OK, maybe Kern...I have that argument with myself a lot), but only the three gentleman I listed meet my qualifications. Porter and Gershwin had a facility with words. That doesn't make you a genius. That means you know how to write cleverly and well. (For the record, I love Cole Porter. Ira Gershwin...not so much.)

Also, I think geniuses tend to be insane control freaks and egomaniacs. Sometimes their own brilliance stands in their way. Does that sound like Robbins and Loesser? I think so. Sondheim has been called a great collaborator, and likes working with other people, so I suppose he's a rare exception.

ALSO, we were discussing geniuses in the Musical Theater earlier. In non-musical plays, I have a different list.


Updated On: 7/24/14 at 06:56 PM
jnb9872
Broadway Legend
joined:11/24/08
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 07:12pm
I'm inclined to be conservative with such hyperbole like genius. To me, a genius is a person who's brain makes intuitive leaps that no one else would even be able to consider and make them seem self-evident. That's why an Einstein comes to mind, because relativity is a fairly intuitive concept when you've been introduced to it, but to conceive of it when he did was to connect about eight or nine dots that were farther than the greatest minds of his time had even recognized.

So, in achieving greatness that seems effortless and beyond all others simultaneously (think Mozart vs. Salieri), I'm not sure anyone stands out to me as obvious, perfect candidates. Rodgers had a melodic genius (what makes so many of those songs so brilliant is how simple they are. They are perfect, yet no one else wrote them, and he wrote so damn many songs you could say that about.) Sondheim has a lyrical and character genius, but I often feel him straining in a way that you never see Mozart strain. Kander & Ebb have a conceptual genius, their pieces mean so much more when the sum of their parts are added to the context.

What about a Jonathan Tunick, whose work always seems to suit the score in such a way that you can almost never imagine an alternative orchestration for that production?

I'm not sure I can say without qualification that pure Genius has graced the field, but then again I like to reserve my hyperbole so that it means more when it's employed.
Words don't deserve that kind of malarkey. They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good anymore…I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.
HogansHero
Featured Actor
joined:2/26/12
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 07:16pm
Obviously you don't mean literally (since that wouldn't call for anyone's opinion), and it seems you really just mean talented. To me, if we are going to assess genius subjectively instead of objectively, I would define it as someone possessing native intuition. Under that definition, I don't think you've listed any.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 07:18pm
"In other words, it should be bestowed only upon those on the order of Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Mozart..."

In other words, After Eight wants to save the term "genius" for his childhood neighbors.

I don't think it's a stretch to put Sondheim, Hammerstein, Rodgers and Kern in their company. I think a lot of musicians would put George Gershwin in the same category.

If we restrict the term "genius" so severely that it only applies to the greatest practitioner of any field (Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Mozart, arguably), then we really don't need the word at all, do we?

Updated On: 7/24/14 at 07:18 PM
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 07:20pm
^


Ha, ha, ha! Best laugh I've had in a long time.

Updated On: 7/24/14 at 07:20 PM
Cupid Boy2
Stand-by
joined:1/5/13
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 07:21pm
Audra also came to mind for me. There really are no words to describe the work she does on stage, which to me always outshines everything and everyone around her. I've never seen another actor with the ability to breathe life into a character the way she does; the performances of hers that I've seen first-hand were frighteningly real.
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 07:24pm
I think you have to categorize the term genius. ie After8 is a genius at being miserable.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 07:29pm
"then we really don't need the word at all, do we?"

We most certainly do. To describe those who merit it.

And only those.

Updated On: 7/24/14 at 07:29 PM
Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/12
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:13pm
I can't imagine a list of musical theater geniuses that doesn't include George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein at the top. The musical scores for PORGY AND BESS or WEST SIDE STORY alone are to mind among the most beautiful things ever written in the last 2 centuries. There are works by Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern, and Richard Rogers that come close. But I agree that the genius label needs to be saved for the very few.

Of our contemporaries, only Sondheim approaches genius levels for me, and then only for that sustained decade and a half of true greatness from 1970 to 1984 (COMPANY to SUNDAY).

I have a prejudice against naming lyricists geniuses-- irrational, I know, but there we are. Similarly, I can't muster the same breathless awe for a great Loesser or Kander musical comedy score that I can for the composers of "serious" shows. We all have our blind spots. :)


Updated On: 7/24/14 at 08:13 PM
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:18pm
Someone in a Tree, one aspect of a "genius" in this context would seem to be his/her influence over the art form.

On that basis, Kern is actually bigger than Bernstein, regardless of which one prefers. (And Hammerstein as a librettist is as important as Rodgers as a composer.)

But unlike After Eight, I'd rather err on the side of too many geniuses than too few. We aren't talking about summer blockbusters at the multiplex.

If we throw a little praise at Bernstein and Weill, where's the harm?
GlindatheGood22
Broadway Legend
joined:7/17/07
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:19pm
Good lord I forgot to say Tim Minchin. The wisdom and importance of the Matilda score never fails to amaze me and there are always new things to marvel at. Every song is note-and letter-perfect. When I Grow Up is obviously the gem but one that gets overlooked a lot is This Little Girl. That steely determination and insistence upon kindness, especially to children, is something that has changed my outlook and my behavior quite a bit.

I can forgive the Best Musical loss but will never be all right with the one for Best Score.
I leave the room smiling.
dreaming
Broadway Legend
joined:4/24/09
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:23pm
Haha, very funny. Tim Minchin has yet to prove himself.

For my own part, I think Sondheim, Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Burnstein, Kern and Porter for musicals.

For plays: O'Neill, Williams, Miller

Set design/Lighting: Jo Mielziner-the impressive body of work he left behind...staggering and varied

madbrian
Broadway Legend
joined:6/1/06
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:32pm
Comden & Green
"It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg." -- Thomas Jefferson
Reginald Tresilian
Broadway Legend
joined:6/12/08
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:42pm
Here is a possibly useful definition: A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of an unprecedented leap of insight.

I found it, of all places, on Wikipedia. But I think it's at the very least a good starting point for discussion.

There have been many, many extremely, exceptionally, talented people. But I don't think that's quite the same thing as genius. Of course, who we find exceptionally talented is subjective; so, I imagine, is the definition of genius. I assume more so.

But it's a fun idea to discuss.





Updated On: 7/24/14 at 08:42 PM
GlindatheGood22
Broadway Legend
joined:7/17/07
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:44pm
It occurred to me to say Gwen Verdon, then I figured Bob Fosse deserves the title above her.
I leave the room smiling.
ScottyDoesn'tKnow2
Swing
joined:1/22/14
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:46pm
GlindatheGood22, for some reason, I also wanted to say Gwen Verdon before Bob Fosse. I don't know why.
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:49pm
"Of our contemporaries, only Sondheim approaches genius levels for me, and then only for that sustained decade and a half of true greatness from 1970 to 1984 (COMPANY to SUNDAY)."

While I would raise that an extra decade due to Assassins and Passion, personally, isn't that true of many geniuses? That they have a two or so decade era of their best work? I have a lot of love and respect for Tenn Williams' later, commercial failures, but his big prime period really goes from Glass Menagerie in 1945 to Night of the Iguana in 1961, just over fifteen years. I can think of many examples. (Even Shakespeare's plays, roughly, go from 1590 to 1610.)
MVintheheartland
Chorus Member
joined:11/19/13
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:51pm
Steven Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein.
adam.peterson44
Broadway Star
joined:9/7/11
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:53pm
For musicals, I would put Hammerstein, Rodgers, and Menken at the top of the list, with Shwartz and Sondheim also deserving the label.

In the "it's too soon to say definitively due to the early career stage but certainly there is already evidence of it" category, I would put Yorkey and Kitt.

And i agree with the votes for Williams and Miller for plays.
mjohnson2
Broadway Star
joined:11/2/13
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:53pm
Well, since people seem to think that genius needs to be extremely selective, if I were to narrow down my list it would be these:

Cole Porter
Michael John LaChiusa
Kurt Weill
Anything regarding shows stated by this account is an attempt to convey opinion and not fact.
HogansHero
Featured Actor
joined:2/26/12
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 08:53pm
A lot of the discussion in this thread seems to confound the word "genius" with talent. There is, to be sure, a vernacular use of the word that depreciates it but perhaps it's well to ponder what Wilde said: "I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works."
ggersten
Broadway Legend
joined:5/11/06
People that you consider Geniuses?
Posted: 7/24/14 at 09:00pm
I think of genius as someone who has made some kind of leap over the others in the field and changed the field - redefined what is possible. Someone who has crafted a production in a way that only in retrospect seems right - who had the insight to create something not just new - but completely new. The ones whose work causes others in the field to think - my field will never be the same. Someone to whom everyone is constantly compared to and generally found to not have achieved.

This doesn't mean that others aren't great - or creative - or even groundbreakers. I think the genius is someone is not only a gamechager - but almost unrivaled.
The names which come to mind are: Porter, Rodgers, Robbins and Fosse.



Updated On: 7/24/14 at 09:00 PM

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