FLASH SPECIAL: A Helluva Guy! An Adolph Green Centennial Celebration - ON THE TOWN, PETER PAN, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, Etc.
Today we turn our attention to a Golden Age master who was celebrated earlier this week via PETER PAN LIVE! and rightly so given this is now his centennial year, Adolph Green.
Some Other Time
Born on December 2, 1914, Adolph Green found early success as part of the colorful theatrical troupe that often performed at Greenwich Village hotspot the Village Vanguard, named the Revuers. Among the participants in the company were other young talents such as Judy Holliday and Leonard Bernstein, both of whom Green would famously go on to collaborate with later on in his illustrious and long career onstage and onscreen. He actually appeared in a film about the era which boasted members from the group itself titled GREENWICH VILLAGE, but it did not lead to any major film follow-ups at that time. As a result, Green returned to New York City and embarked on a new musical with his fellow Revuers Betty Comden and Leonard Bernstein, ON THE TOWN. Both Green and Comden not only supplied the book and lyrics, but also appeared in the original stage production directed by George Abbott and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Comden and Green then utilized the hit status of the show to spin off into two other musical projects immediately following that, BILLION DOLLAR BABY and BONANZA BOUND. While neither show was a success, Comden and Green continued to produce works for the stage and screen as partners for the next 50 years, becoming one of the most successful and recognizable showbiz duos of all time.
Comden and Green next turned to Hollywood, creating witty screenplays for three movie musicals in quick succession - GOOD NEWS, starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford; THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY, featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; and, the heavily revised and rewritten screen adaptation of ON THE TOWN starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin. The most notable entry on their resume came next via the iconic movie musical SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, starring Gene Kelly and co-directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen. Another hit came following that - and many would argue it was just as artistically sound and entertaining as its forbearer - the Vincente Minnelli-directed THE BAND WAGON, starring Fred Astaire. Undoubtedly, both SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and THE BAND WAGON are among the finest movie musical ever made and mark a highpoint for the MGM Arthur Freed Unit, displaying Comden and Green's penchant for music, comedy and effervescent entertainment.
Comden and Green themselves took Broadway by storm near the end of the 1950s with the hit revue A PARTY WITH BETTY COMDEN AND ADOLPH GREEN soon thereafter. Stage musicals of the ensuing decade also included three major Jule Styne collaborations byway of TWO ON THE AISLE, starring Bert Lahr and Delores Gray, as well as BELLS ARE RINGING, which teamed Comden and Green up yet again with their old Revuers compatriot Judy Holliday, and, of course, PETER PAN, which Comden, Green and Styne became involved with following an unsuccessful out-of-town tryout spearheaded by master director and choreographer Jerome Robbins. So, too, did WONDERFUL TOWN present Comden and Green with the chance to once again revisit a familiar face with whom they had created a landmark entertainment years earlier - Leonard Bernstein. Following that, Comden and Green endeavored to create many more musicals with Styne throughout the 1960s, including the Carol Burnett star showpiece FADE OUT - FADE IN, Tony Award-winning Best Musical HALLELUJAH, BABY!, plus SUBWAYS ARE FOR SLEEPING and SAY, DARLING.
ALL ABOUT EVE musical adaptation APPLAUSE starring Lauren Bacall kicked off the 1970s in grand Tony Award-winning fashion, while LORELEI found Comden and Green joining Jule Styne yet again, this time to rework his perennial favorite GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES for original star Carol Channing. Then, a Cy Coleman collaboration came after that via the operetta-ish ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, set for a revival later this season starring Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher. Green's wife, notable stage star Phyllis Newman, was celebrated in a one-woman show by Arthur Laurents highlighting many of her best moments from her Tony Award-winning career via THE MADWOMAN OF CENTRAL PARK WEST in 1979, too, reintroducing some Comden and Green showstoppers in the process.
The 1980s proved a less fruitful era for the wordy duo, with the Hal Prince-directed A DOLL'S LIFE, inspired by the classic Henrik Ibsen play A DOLL'S HOUSE, becoming an unfortunate quick-run flop. The duo then helped in bringing their celluloid classic SINGIN' IN THE RAIN to the Broadway stage in 1985 alongside Twyla Tharp, while Green also embarked on playing the role of Dr. Pangloss in the 1989 revival production of Leonard Bernstein's CANDIDE to close the decade, conducted by the maestro himself. Additionally, the duo ended their career on an enviable high note thanks to the award-winning THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES, another Cy Coleman collaboration, directed by Tommy Tune, which won not only the 1991 Tony Award for Best Musical but also Best Original Score for the estimable work by Coleman, Comden and Green.
With PETER PAN LIVE! lighting up TV screens across America this week, a brand new Broadway revival of ON THE TOWN wowing critics and audiences alike currently on Broadway and a brand new production of ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY set for later this season, the centennial of Adolph Green is certainly being feted with style, flair and fireworks - just as he unquestionably would have wanted it.
Now, let's take a look at some highlights from the incredible career of Adolph Green.
First up, view this vintage footage of Comden and Green from 1956.
Adolph Green appears as a special guest on WHAT'S MY LINE?
GOOD NEWS was an early film hit for Comden and Green.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers shine in THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY.
IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER was another movie musical hit.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is as good as musicals get.
As is THE BAND WAGON.
BELLS ARE RINGING was yet another Vincente Minnelli collaboration.
Without a doubt, Lauren Bacall is diva dynamite in APPLAUSE.
Kristin Chenoweth stops the show with TWO ON THE AISLE's "If".
Carol Burnett and Jane Lynch tribute WONDERFUL TOWN with "Ohio" on GLEE.
Barbra Streisand sends a HALLELUJAH, BABY! song into the stratosphere.
Judy Garland soars on DO RE MI standout "Make Someone Happy".
Also, Mrs. Adolph Green aka Phyllis Newman with a SUBWAYS ARE FOR SLEEPING gem.
Carol Channing recreates LORELEI on the 1974 Tony Awards.
THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES was a late-career success for the duo.
Now, see Adolph Green in CANDIDE conducted by Bernstein himself.
A fascinating discussion with Comden and Green about their illustrious careers.
ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY is poised for a Broadway return in 2015.
Next, see the spectacular ON THE TOWN 2014 promo video.
PETER PAN LIVE! gave a new generation their take on the classic.
Lastly, Comden and Green introduce their iconic "New York, New York".
So, what is your absolute favorite Adolph Green property to date, whether onstage or onscreen? Furthermore, what is your choice for best song from the countless classic tunes he and Betty Comden contributed to over the course of their astonishing careers on Broadway and in Hollywood? With so many great choices to choose from, the list of worthy candidates could easily number much more than merely 100.
Photo Credits: Masterworks Broadway