Broadway Close Up: The Musicals of Kander & Ebb

Sean Hartley – Kaufman Music Center

One of longest-running collaborations in the history of show business, John Kander (b.1927) and Fred Ebb (1928-2004) wrote 14 shows together over 42 years, including Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman, as well as music for the Martin Scorsese film New York, New York. Kander and Ebb stretched the limits of musical theater by addressing some of the most daring subjects ever to be tackled on Broadway, but the scores themselves tend to be solidly in the Broadway mainstream. Learn the stories behind the musicals, and hear songs from Cabaret, Flora the Red Menace70, Girls, 70,  The Happy Time and New York, New York. Tony winner Karen Ziemba will share the inside scoop on the 1997 musical Steel Pier, written for her by Kander and Ebb.

 

Discussion Questions:

 

1. Many of Kander & Ebb’s shows have unusual subjects for a musical: the rise of Nazism, racial prejudice in the American south, political dictatorships in South America, etc. When do you think it is appropriate to musicalize a subject, and are there any subjects too serious to be approached that way?

 

2. A writing partnership is like a marriage, and few of either have lasted as long as Kander & Ebb’s partnership. What are some of the qualities in a good marriage that are also necessary for a good partnership?

 

3. Although Kander & Ebb spent most of their careers writing for Broadway, it is through their films that they are best known, particularly Chicago and Cabaret. What are some of your favorite movie musicals, and how many of them were also based on stage plays?