Ken Lyen's Home
About
Ken's Links
Hakkas
London Revisited 2000
Letter from London 2006
Singapore Musical Theatre
Making the Grade
Exodus
Other
Writing Musicals
Musicals from Movies
Fred Ebb
The Story of Chess
Mama Mia
Bad Vibrations
Chestnuts 2003
Chestnuts 2004
Chestnuts 2005
Incubating New Musicals
List of Musicals on Film
Is Musical Theatre Dead?
Is Classical Music Dead?
Is Poetry Dead?
Why Read Poetry?
Etymology
New Words
Cull
Nothing's Wrong
Hippie Dictionary
Singlish Dictionary
Blog Dictionary
Best of the Best
English Spoke
Bilingualism
Reading in Decline
Too Many Books
Magic of Reading
Pablo Neruda
Graphic Novels
Writers Bar
Lost For Words
Encyclopedia Wars
Library in Cyberspace
The Bridge
Growing A Film Industry
Critics
Great Levellers
Rote Rites and Rongs
Beautiful Minds
Intelligence
Creativity
Create Talented Individuals?
Rise of the Creative Class
Perchance to Dream
Children's EQ
Gifted Education
Gifted Children
Mozart Effect
Confucius and Multiple Intelligences
Predicting Your Future
Mistyping Personality
Messy Homes
Does Age Matter?
Too Young for Philosophy?
Philosopher for Hire
Deconstructing Derrida
University Quotas
Ranking Universities
University Ranking Continued
The Future of Universities
If Thine Eye Offends Thee
If It Ain't Broke
New Exams for Old!
Too Many Test
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Childhood Memories
Voluntarism
Signs of Success
Follow Your Dreams
First Impressions
Handphone Etiquette
Handphones Silenced
Nanotechnology
Apple Of My i
Sex and the Media
The Greeks
Geographic Clangers
Domino Theory
Hello Kitty
Heels on Wheels
What a Racket!
Potty Training
Skip to the Loo
Corporal Punishment
Is Modern Art Rubbish?
Mona Lisa Grins
Vermeer
Sunday in the Park
Vision and Art
Fake
Gmail
Spam Glorious Spam!
Humble Pie
Sour Grapes?
Murphy's Law Calculator
Perfect Search
False Logic
Noah's Ark
Who Discovered America?
Palaces of Dictators
Queues
Backup
Joys of Stress
Games Academics Play
Virtual Reality Treatmemt
Autism
Autistic Underconnectivity
Asperger Syndrome
Pay Attention!
Attention Deficit
Dyslexia
Speech Delay
Almost Normal
Prozac Nation
Gilles de la Tourette
Singapore Medicine
Ignorance
Virtual Dissection
War Against Malaria
Into the Frying Pan
Back to Methuselah
Poetic Medicine
Cigarettes
Far Eastern Economic Review
History of the Singapore Musical
My Research
Singapore Idle
Best Countries
Brain Drain
Greatest Happiness
Remaking Singapore
Singapore Nobel Prize
Singapore MRT Map
National Day
Caste System
Doctors' Fees
Leadership and Teambuilding
Doctor Do-Much
Interview
Play it Again, Doc
A Dose of Music
Prescription for the Heart
Multiple Personality
Sayang
Fly By Night
Muggle
Rape of Nanking
Iris Chang
Anne Frank
Angela's Ashes
The Notebook
Hollywood Insider
Fahrenheit 9/11 Pirates
The Front
The Barbarian Invasions
Les Choristes
The Return
Road Home
Shower
2046
Farewell My Concubine
So You Want to be a Nurse
Roulette
Fences
School House Rockz
Makan Place
e-mail me

Fred Ebb


 

Fred Ebb

by Kenneth Lyen

Today I mourn the passage of Fred Ebb, a great lyricist of the American musical theater. He was 76 years old.

Born in New York City, he became enthralled with the theater from a young age. He graduated from New York University and did a Masters degree in English Literature at Columbia University. His major interest was in theater and he attended as many performances as opportunity would entertain.

In 1962 Fred Ebb was introduced to John Kander by his music publisher, Tommy Valando.

One of their first successful songs was "My Coloring Book" which became a hit for Barbra Streisand. They auditioned for George Abbot’s 1965 musical "Flora the Red Menace," and were invited to write the songs. While working on Flora, they were introduced to 19-year-old Liza Minnelli, who was keen to perform the lead role. Kander and Ebb persuaded Abbott to cast Minnelli, and the production became her Broadway debut. It was also the start of a lifelong relationship between Minnelli and the songwriters, who have created some of their best materials for her. While Flora was not a hit, it was a praiseworthy inauguration for Kander and Ebb.

In 1966, Kander and Ebb had their first major success. Harold Prince, who produced "Flora," invited them to collaborate on a musical adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s "Berlin Stories." The result was "Cabaret," which became a hit and ran for 1,166 performances on Broadway. It earned Kander and Ebb the Tony Award for Best Score and won several Tony’s, including Best Musical. Its concept was innovative, and the production was stylized. It also carried a political message as it was set in Weimar Germany during the rise of the Nazi party and showed scenes of antisemitism. A few years later, in 1972, Cabaret was made into a movie, and although it was not as politically sharp-edged as the stage production, it nevertheless won 8 Academy Awards.

In 1968, Kander and Ebb wrote "The Happy Time," but unfortunately the show failed commercially. Their next two shows, Zorba the Greek and "70, Girls, 70" were also not commercial successes.

Then came "Chicago," directed by Bob Fosse and starring Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon premiered in 1975. The show was based on Maurine Dallas Watkins’ 1926 play about two murderesses, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. It included many hit numbers, including "All That Jazz," and the dances choreographed by Bob Fosse were absolutely stunning. The show ran for 898 performances, and although it garnered 11 Tony nominations, it did not win a single one. That year, "A Chorus Line" walked off with 9 Tony’s. However, in 2002, Chicago was made into a film. The screenplay tells the story through Roxie’s eyes, and the musical world becomes a fantasy in her imagination. I prefer this approach to the stage version. The film won 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

In 1977, Kander and Ebb wrote the title song for Martin Scorsese’s film "New York, New York," sung by Liza Minnelli. It is now considered the theme song for New York City.

That year they staged "The Act" starring Liza Minnelli, but it was a flop. In 1981, they wrote Woman of the Year" featuring Lauren Bacall. This show gave them their second Tony award. "The Rink" was another vehicle for Liza Minnelli, and was staged in 1984.

The next big hit was "Kiss of the Spider Woman," based on the novel by Manuel Puig. It reunited Kander and Ebb with director Harold Prince. It opened in 1993 and ran for 904 performances. The story was about the relationship between a political prisoner and a gay window dresser obsessed with movies. It won 7 Tony Awards including Best Score for Kander and Ebb, their third Tony.

In 1997 they wrote "Steel Pier," their last original musical to open on Broadway, but it was a flop and closed after 76 performances.

Kander and Ebb occupy a unique place in the history of musical theater. Fred’s lyrics are are intelligent, provocative, and he is not afraid to tackle controversial themes. They will always be remembered for their hit songs like "All That Jazz" and "Cabaret." Luckily there is a record of them singing their own songs in the Songwriters series. This is a must watch video for all Kander and Ebb aficionados. The partnership has survived almost five decades, making it the longest in Broadway musical history. Fred was inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983.

"Life is a cabaret," Fred wrote. A cabaret that entertains and enriches our lives. I will miss you, Fred. Rest in peace.

11 September 2004