The Composers, Lyricists, Lybrettists, Choreographers, and other creators
There have been so many great contributors to the theatre including songwriters, lyricists, librettists, directors, producers, choreographers, or so many others. Though a list of all of the wonderful artists who have contributed so richly to musical theatre is beyond the scope of this site, we pay tribute to a few of the great artists of the musical stage! The list is by no means exhaustive or in any particular order; others will be added in the future; feel free to email me with those you would like to see added.
Gilbert and Sullivan: Their names are used together as though they are one, librettist W.S. Gilbert teamed up with composer Arthur Sullivan to create some of the greatest works of the 19th Century. Written during the Victorian era, their operettas are often performed to this day. Some of the greatest works of this British duo include H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, Patience, Iolanthe, The Mikado, The Yeoman of the Guard, and The Gondoliers. Though much of their work was directed to the politics of their day, Gilbert’s biting humor still convicts the politics of today. Through innovations such as integrating the music, lyrics, and story into one story, Gilbert and Sullivan influenced musical theatre for generations to come.
Victor Herbert: A cellist, conductor, and composer. While he composed a variety of classical music, Victor Herbert is best known for his Broadway operettas from 1897 to 1917, the most successful of which were The Serenade, The Fortune Teller, Babes in Toyland with “The March of the Toys,” Mlle. Modiste with “Kiss Me Again,” The Red Mill that included “Moonbeams” and “The Streets of New York” (sometimes called “In Old New York”), Naughty Marietta that featured “I'm Falling in Love With Someone" and "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life”, Sweethearts and Eileen. Until WWI, he was a dominant force on Broadway. But as jazz became more popular, Broadway went with it and Herbert’s music was less in demand. He made the transition, and though it was not his forte, he contributed to the Ziegfield Follies each year from 1917 to 1924. Two of his songs, “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life” and “I’m Falling in Love With Someone” were included in the 2002 stage musical version of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
George M. Cohan: We often hear performers who can sing, dance, and act called a triple threat. George M. Cohan was a multi-threat; he could sing, dance, act, compose music, write lyrics, write shows, and produce. He grew up in show business as part of his family’s touring vaudeville act, The Four Cohans with his father, mother, and sister. They eventually made the jump to the New York stage and George wrote, directed and produced his first Broadway musical for his family, The Governors Son in 1901. Little Johnny Jones was his first Broadway hit in 1904 with the songs “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Boy.” Other Cohan hits included 45 Minutes from Broadway which included the song “Mary is a Grand Old Name” and Fifty Miles from Broadway which produced “Harrigan.” He wrote over 300 songs including what became the American anthem for WWI, “Over There.” In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt presented Cohan with the Congressional Medal of Honor for WWI efforts, including the songs “Over There” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, the first performer to receive the high honor. He played FDR in the hit show I’d Rather Be Right. In 1959, Oscar Hammerstein II presented a statue of George M Cohan that stands right in the heart of the Broadway theatre district.
Jerome Kern: One of the most important composers ever, his songs became standards that are familiar today and his shows were groundbreaking. His best known work was Showboat, which he teamed up with librettist Oscar Hammerstein to write. Jerome Kern wrote music for over 100 Broadway shows and musicals, including His shows included Roberta, Sally, Sweet Adeline, Very Good Eddie, and multiple Zeigfield Follies. His songs have been recorded many times outside of the shows they came from and include “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “Ole Man River,” “The Last Time That I Saw Paris,” “All The Things You Are,” “Long Ago And Far Away,” and “Can’t Help Loving.” In his autobiography, Richard Rodgers wrote of his seeing Very Good Eddie as , “...it was the Kern score that captivated me and made me a Kern worshiper...it pointed the way I wanted to be led.” Rodgers wrote, “I must have seen Very Good Eddie at a least a half dozen times.” Jerome Kern wrote many great songs and inspired even more.
Irving Berlin: While he was born in Russia, Irving Berlin’s songs had a simple way of getting to the heart of America. Jerome Kern stated, "Irving Berlin has no place in American music - he is American music." His Broadway hits include The Cocoanuts, This is the Army, Miss Liberty, Mr. President, Annie Get Your Gun, and Call Me Madam. His first big hit, Alexander’s Rag Time Band, was just a taste of things to come. He went on to write some of the great classics in American music, including “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Anything You Can Do, Blue Skies,” “Putting on the Ritz,” “They Say Its Wonderful,” and “What’ll I Do.” Unlike most composers of his day, Irving Berlin wrote the words as well the music, which gave his songs a cohesiveness that brought out the meaning and connected with listener.
Richard Rodgers: Any composer would love to be part of one of the greatest songwriting teams ever; Richard Rodgers was part of two, and continued to make compose great music even beyond those partnerships. His career lasted over 6 decades and included 43 musicals. With his first partner, Lorenz Hart, he wrote A Connecticut Yankee, By Jupiter, The Boys from Syracuse, Babes In Arms, On Your Toes, and Pal Joey. With his second partner, Oscar Hammerstein, he wrote Oklahoma, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, and Flower Drum Song, among other musicals. Rodgers and Hammerstein also produced many great plays and musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun. After Hammerstein passed away, Richard Rodgers continued to create wonderful musicals including No Strings (as his own lyricist), a collaboration with Stephen Sondheim for Do I Hear a Waltz, with Sheldon Harnick for Rex, and with Martin Charnin for Two by Two and his final show, I Remember Mama. Richard Rodgers was a prolific composer who showed great respect for other composers. The songs he wrote include “Blue Moon,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “My Favorite Things,” “Oklahoma,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” “Where or When,” “Lady Is a Tramp,” “My Funny Valentine,” “It Might As Well Be Spring,” “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” just to name a few of his more than 900 songs.
Lorenz Hart: While only 5 feet tall, Lorenz Hart was one of the giants of musical theatre. One of the tragic figures of show business, he was an alcoholic who was never able to embrace sobriety and his life was too short as a result. With Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart wrote the lyrics for many of the great musicals of the 1920’s and 30’s. Their musicals included The Boys from Syracuse, On Your Toes, A Connecticut Yankee, By Jupiter, Jumbo, and Pal Joey. Known as Larry to his friends, some might have thought that his first name was “Rodgers and” because of the long partnership of Rodgers and Hart. Lorenz Hart set a standard with his masterful use of internal rhymes and multi-syllable rhymes. His lyrics were witty, sophisticated, and at the same time often playful. An example is found in “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from Pal Joey
- “I'm wild again
- Beguiled again
- A simpering, whimpering child again
- Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I”
Among his other songs are, “Where or When,” “Falling in Love with Love,” “Blue Moon,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Manhattan,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Isn’t It Romantic.” “Thou Swell,” and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”
Oscar Hammerstein II: Best known for his 17 year collaboration with Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics for so many great musicals. He teamed up with Jerome Kern to create Showboat and four other musicals. He also teamed up with Vincent Youmans, Sigmund Romberg, Otto Harbach, and Rudolf Friml, among others. While he was a Broadway legend, his greatest success was with Rodgers, Together they created Oklahoma, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, and several others. Their collaboration came to an end only with Hammerstein’s death. He was a mentor to Stephen Sondheim among others.
George and Ira Gershwin: Brothers George, the composer, and Ira, the lyricist, teamed up to create such classic musical theatre as Porgy and Bess, Lady Be Good, Tip-Toes, Oh Kay, Funny Face, Of Thee I Sing, and Strike Up the Band. George was the better known of the duo. Prior to teaming up with brother, George was had hit songs such as “Swanee” from Sinbad that was sung by Al Jolson. George Gershwin was attracted to African-American music and combined with his classical abilities, it influenced his songwriting to give it a jazzy, rhythmic feel. While George and Ira were prolific in their compositions, they also found time to work on projects apart, George on his classical works and Ira with other composers. George’s classical works included “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris” (written long before the movie musical). Their songs together include “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Do Do Do,” “Embraceable You,” “S’Wonderful,” “He Loves and She Loves,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “Oh Lady Be Good,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and Summertime. After George’s death in 1937, Ira continued to work with the best composers of the day including Kurt Weill and Jerome Kern.
Leonard Bernstein: Leonard Bernstein was a gifted musician, whether as a conductor, pianist, teacher, or composer. He composed symphonies, ballets, and a variety of other classical music and received acclaim from around world. Some of his greatest compositions were his Broadway musicals, including On the Town, WonderfulTown, Candide, and his own Mass. But his most renowned work was West Side Story. In collaborating with choreographer Jerome Robbins, librettist Arthur Laurents, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, Bernstein’s created an outstanding and innovative score that included what are now known as classics. America alternative 3/4 time with 6/8 time that gave the song a distinctive feel. “Gee Officer Krupke” creatively provided comic relief, “Cool” and “The Jet Song” combined bebop and ballet for the ensemble to dance to. “Maria,” “Tonight,” and “Somewhere” touched the audience as few songs can.
Cole Porter: Like Irving Berlin and unlike most of his contemporary composers, Cole Porter wrote his own lyrics. His style was sophisticated, witty, and sometimes a bit naughty. His Broadway musicals include Paris, The Gay Divorce, Anything Goes, Panama Hattie, Kiss Me Kate, Can-Can, and over 30 others. Many of his songs became standards and have been recorded by numerous artists. Among his treasure trove of songs are “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love),” “You’ve Got that Thing,” “Love for Sale,” “Night and Day,” “Anything Goes,” “All Through the Night,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Begin the Beguine,” “It’s Delovely,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Another Opening Another Show,” “Always True to You (in My Fashion),” and “True Love” - and that list just touches the surface.
Meredith Willson: Meredith Wilson wrote composed symphonies, songs, and movie scores, but he is best known for writing the book, lyrics, and music for The Music Man. The songs from this iconic musical include ‘Seventy-six Trombones,” “’Til There Was You,” “Goodnight My Someone,’ and “Gary Indiana.” He also wrote the Unsinkable Molly Brown and Here’s Love, a musical version of Miracle on 34th Street. Meredith Willson wrote the lyrics and music for all three of his Broadway musicals and wrote the book on two of the three, with Richard Morris handling the book for the Unsinkable Molly Brown.
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe: Though they did work separately, Lerner and Loewe were one of the most creative duos in musical theatre. Alan Jay Lerner was the lyricist and librettist of the team and Frederick Loewe the composer. Among their stage shows were My Fair Lady, Camelot, Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, and Gigi (which they first created as a movie and then as a stage musical). Many of their stage shows were made into movie musicals. The songs from their musical collaboration are some of the best known in Broadway history: “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “Get Me to the Church On Time,” “ With a Little Bit of Luck,” “On The Street Where You Live,” “Guys and Dolls,” “What Do the Simple Folk Do,” “Camelot,” and “If Ever I Would Leave You.” After the success of Camelot, Frederick Loewe decided to retire, while Alan Jay Lerner continued to write with Burton Lane for On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with the song “Come Back to Me.” He also collaborated with Leonard Bernstein for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Lerner and Loewe reunited for the stage adaptation of Gigi in 1973.
Frank Loesser: While much of Frank Loesser’s early success was in writing scores for films, he is best known for his gifts to musical theatre. His first Broadway success was Where’s Charley, a musical adaptation of Charlie’s Aunt with a wonderful score including “Once in Love with Amy.” Loesser followed that up with his biggest hit, Guys and Dolls. The songs in Guys and Dolls are widely recognized, such as “Fugue of the Tinhorns,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “I’ll Know,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” Loesser also wrote The Most Happy Fella that included “Standing On The Corner” and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying included “I Believe In You.”
Stephen Sondheim: Stephen Sondheim’s works have spanned over a half century. A lyricist and often the composer of his musicals, his best known running collaboration was with director Hal Prince, but the books for Sondheim’s musicals have often come from John Weidman or James Lapine. He has also teamed up with Richard Rodgers, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, Jule Styne, and many others. His shows include West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Follies, Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Assassins. Sondheim developed his ability as a lyricist with mentoring from Oscar Hammerstein II, who recommended him for West Side Story. His lyrics combined with the music for West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein or the music for Gypsy by Jule Styne are some of the best known of his songs, including “Maria,” “Tonight,” “Somewhere,” “Cool, The Jet Song,” “Let Me Entertain You”, and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Of music that he has composed, his best known songs include “Send in The Clowns” and “Comedy Tonight.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Andrew Lloyd Webber has achieved great success as a musical theatre composer and producer. His music are grand spectacles with catchy tunes that were more often rock and roll early in his career and expanded to other genres over time. His musicals include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, and Sunset Boulevard. Among his best known songs are “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” “Memory,” “Think of Me,” “The Music of the Night,” and “All I Ask of You.”
Stephen Schwartz: Stephen Schwartz is the composer and lyricist of numerous shows for stage and screen, including the hit musicals in Godspell, Pippin, The Magic Show, and Wicked. His songs include “Day by Day,” “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “All Good Gifts,” “Defying Gravity,” “What Is This Feeling,” “Popular,” “Magic To Do,” and “Morning Glow.”
Dorothy Fields: A lyricist and librettist, Dorothy Field’s gift to music in addition to her wonderful lyrics was to her ability to make the spoken word fit the music. She was part of so many great musicals, like, Annie Get Your Gun, Sweet Charity, Seesaw, Something for the Boys, Her songs included, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Big Spender,” “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” “I’m In the Mood for Love,” She collaborated with Jimmy McHugh, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, and Cy Coleman.
Cy Coleman: A jazz pianist (though classically trained) and composer, Cy Coleman brought to a special fun to his Broadway scores. His musicals included Wildcat, Little Me, Sweet Charity, Seesaw, I Love My Wife, Barnum, City of Angels, and Will Rogers Follies. His hits from those shows, “ Big Spender,” “If They Could See Me Now ,” “I’m a Brass Band,” “Real Live Girl,” “Come Follow the Band,” and “Come Follow the Band.” Cy Coleman had quite a few hit songs outside of Broadway as well, including, “Witchcraft,” “The Playboy Theme,” “Pass Me By,” and “The Best Is Yet to Come.”
Betty Comden and Adolph Green: As lyricists and librettists, Betty Comden and Adolph were one of the greatest teams of all time. They had success on Broadway and in Hollywood. Their Broadway musicals included On the Town and Wonderful Town with Leonard Bernstein, and Do Re Mi, Peter Pan, and Bells are Ringing with Jule Style, as well as, Applause, Lorelei, and Will Rogers Follies. Their Hollywood musicals included film productions of their stage shows, but also one song in Singing in the Rain, “Moses Supposes,” The Barkleys of Broadway, and The Band Wagon. Their most popular songs include, “Make Someone Happy,” “Lonely Town,” “New York, New York,” “It’s Love,” “The Party’s Over,” “Just in Time,” and “It’s Love.”
Jule Styne: Jule Styne started as a child piano prodigy and grew into one of Broadway’s great composers. Among Mr. Styne’s Broadway shows are Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bells Are Ringing, Gypsy, Do Re Mi, Funny Girl, and Hallelujah Baby. His songs include, ”Don't Rain on My Parade,” “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “People,” “The Party’s Over,” “Make Someone Happy,” and “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.”
Jerome Robbins: Jerome Robbins is one of the most revered choreographers in the history of musical theatre and ballet. Among the musical stage shows that he choreographed were On the Town, Billion Dollar Baby, West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Call Me Madam, Fiddler on the Roof and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. He also directed The Pajama Game, West Side Story, Peter Pan, Fiddler on the Roof, and many of the musicals that he choreographed. Though he was an expert in a variety of dance disciplines, his greatest love was ballet. He created more than 60 ballets, many of which are part of the now standard repertoire for many of the world’s great ballet companies. His style of teaching and choreographing dance was to go beyond the technique and to use it for expressing the character’s feelings, thoughts, and way of being.
Bob Fosse: One of the best known choreographers in Broadway history, Bob Fosse created a jazz dance style that is identified with him. The style is expressively sexual with rolling shoulders and grinding hips, bowl hats, white gloves, and most notably a turn-in move rather than the turn out. While he was also an actor, dancer, writer, and director, he will always be best known for his choreography of shows such as the Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Bells Are Ringing, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Sweet Charity, and Chicago. Away from Broadway, Fosse choreographed and/or directed several of his stage successes on film, as well as the film version of Cabaret, and wrote and directed All That Jazz and Star 80.
Jerry Herman: As a composer and lyricist, Jerry Herman created musicals that moved and entertained theatre audiences. His shows included Milk and Honey, Hello Dolly, Mame, Mack and Mabel, and La Cage aux Folles. From these show come some of his best songs, “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Movies were Movies,” “Look What Happened to Mabel,” “Time Heals Everything,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Hello Dolly,” “If He Walked Into My Life,” and “So Long Dearie.”
Florence Ziegfeld: Flo Ziegfeld was a Broadway producer, theatre manager and owner who produced elaborate and glitzy revues called The Ziegfeld Follies. There was a new Ziegfield Follies each year from 1907 through 1931 and included the best of everything, the best performers, the best sets, the best music, and the most beautiful girls. Ziegfeld called himself the “Glorifier of the American Girl” and the Ziegfeld Girl became the standard of beauty. The performers who appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies were a Who’s Who of entertainers of the day, such as Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Bryce, W.C. Fields, Sophie Tucker, Marilyn Miller, and Marion Davies. The composers included Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin. In addition to his follies, Ziegeld also produced an amazing string of hit musicals: Sally, The Three Musketeers, Rosalie, Whoopee, Rio Rita, and culminating with the groundbreaking Show Boat. While Show Boat was done with as much grandeur as the Ziegfeld Follies, it was quite a departure from the revues, light operattas, and musical comedies of the day. It is often considered the first American musical play, with an involved and controversial story line.
Marvin Hamlisch: Marvin Hamlisch has left his mark on both Broadway and Hollywood. Two of his Broadway shows became hits, A Chorus Line and They’re Playing Our Song. A Chorus Line was the longest running musical in Broadway history, a record that stood for over decade, but has since been surpassed many times over. It was filled with show stoppers, “I Hope I Get It,” “ I Can Do That,” “At the Ballet,” “Hello Twelve,” “The Music and the Mirror,” “One,” “Dance Ten, Looks Three,” and “What I Did For Love.” They’re Playing Our Song included the title song as well as, “Working It Out,” “Right,” and “I Still Believe in Love.” Away from the musical stage, Hamlisch has arranged the Scott Joplin hits for The Sting, wrote the music including the title song for The Way We Were, the music for Ice Castles including, “Through the Eyes of Love,” “Nobody Does It Better,” from The Spy Who Loved Me, “The Last Time I Felt Like This,” from Same Time Next Year, and a host of movie scores.