A Broadway classic, a call to action, and an incredibly malleable popular song, "Ol' Man River" is not your typical musical theater standard. Written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in the 1920s for Show Boat, "Ol Man River" perfectly blends two seemingly incongruous traits-the gravity of a Negro spiritual and the crowd-pleasing power of a Broadway anthem. Inspired by the voice of African American singer Paul Robeson, who adopted the tune for his own goals as an activist, "Ol' Man River" is both iconic and transformative.
In Who Should Sing "Ol' Man River"? The Lives of an American Song, author Todd Decker examines how the song has shaped, and been shaped by, the African American experience. Yet "Ol' Man River" also transcends both its genre and original conception as a song written for an African American male. Beyond musical theater, this Broadway ballad has been reworked in musical genres from pop to jazz, opera to doo wop, rhythm and blues to gospel to reggae. Pop singers such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland made "Ol' Man River" one of their signature songs. Jazz artists such as Bix Biederbecke, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, and Keith Jarrett have all played "Ol' Man River," as have stars of the rock and roll era, such as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Cher, and Rod Stewart. Black or white, male or female-anyone who sings "Ol' Man River" must confront and consider its charged racial content and activist history.
Performers and fans of musical theater as well as students of the Civil Rights movement will find Who Should Sing "Ol' Man River" an unprecedented examination of a song that's played a groundbreaking role in American history.
Angela Allen, a seasoned mindfulness practitioner and holistic wellness advocate, has announced the release of her latest book, The Mental Activity Workbook: Practices to Enhance Well-being and Present-Living.
This very special Bonus episode highlights the co-writers and director of the stunning new musical, FIGARO. Songwriter Ashley Jana and co-writer and director Will Nunziata come together to share their experience creating this new show, including recording an entire cast album, ahead of the show's world premiere concert on March 4th at the Greenroom 42 in New York City.
Bishop Arts Theatre Center (BATC) has announced that New York Times bestselling author Heather McGhee will be traveling to Dallas to attend BATC's banned books festival inspired by her book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together. Learn more about the festival here!
The American Theatre Wing and The Drama Book Shop have partnered to launch of The Playreaders Club, a tiered, monthly in-person and virtual events-based club for theater enthusiasts. Learn more about how to join!
On Friday, March 8, 2024, New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) will release an album drawn from its archives, NYFOS Records: The Singles, Vol. 1 featuring guest artists performing together with pianist and NYFOS Artistic Director Steven Blier on NYFOS Records. Learn more here!
Melissa Errico will release a new Sondheim album, 'Sondheim in the City,' on February 16. She will also offer a 10-performance residency at Birdland Jazz Feb 14-18, titled “A Manhattan Valentine”. Learn more about the album and residency here!
Jesse Sakari Hyttinen has announced the release of his new book, Collection Algebra: The Formal Theory of Rooted Tree Generation and Its Extension to Sum Form Equations. Learn more about the book here!
Gregory Maguire – who wrote the 1995 novel that inspired the Broadway musical Wicked – is releasing a new prequel to the beloved story. While plot details for the upcoming 272-page installment are under wraps, Elphie: A Wicked Childhood will seemingly delve deeper into the childhood of the story's heroine, Elphaba.